Letters From People You Don’t Know
February 24, 2012
Today is going to be a bunch of my flash fiction. This is all unedited, all short, and all from my G+ stream (it’s my fiction, just stuff I’ve posted there).
At some point today I’ll be working on something, probably, but for right now I’m gonna relax a bit and try to let the ol’ machine between my ears rest a little. The frustrations of life, the body, and the mind are taking their toll this week.
Thunder. That’s the only way to describe it. It’s not the crack and peal of thunder right above you or the howl of the clouds splitting with rain, the heralds of a coming storm out here on the plains. No, it’s the thunder of a far off storm. The sound, though, isn’t the thunder of a storm far away on the plains, but far away in time. The thunder of lightning and storm clouds from long ago, reaching forward every time I hear it. Thunder is the sound of the temple doors opening and then closing, the single clamorous sound that breaks the everlasting silence of the temple. The only thing that disturbs the dark, the dust, and the dreariness of this place.
The taste of Iron is how they knew war. At first it was the taste of blood in the air. Then it was the taste of the hearthfire and the smithy making weapons. Armor. Ammunition. Then it was the warship and the cavalry, the taste of metal and paint and smoke. Finally, it was the taste of their blood in their mouths, the taste of blood on the air, the taste of blood in the dirt. Iron is how they knew war, and iron always made them hear it, see it, and feel it again. It is a grim world where the only colors are grey and black, where the only sights are death and hopelessness, where the only taste is iron.
The cigarette was always the period at the end. There was a half-breath afterward, I’d run my hands over his shoulders and try to pull him close and he’d gently shrug me off. It was always the same, that sharp intake afterward. Once it was done. It was always so he could say no, though. Always so he could tell me he was tired. Then I would get dressed, I’d smile and ask him if he wanted me to come back next week and he’d say that we’d see later, once he looked at his schedule. Then I’d leave, exactly as I had come, with him sitting in that chair, smoking that cigarette. For just the one sentence in between, I was his fantasy. Now, though, I can go home and just be myself. I can try to hold someone that probably won’t say no, someone who I don’t want to say no, rather than someone that I can always trust to say no. Someone worth holding, not just worth seeing.
Anyone who says this isn’t like sex has never really done it before. Sex I mean, the good kind. The kind that makes you wonder whether God is real or not, the kind that makes you grin so hard you can feel your heart beating in your ears. The soft but exhilarating smell of sweat in the air, the dank mugginess of the air, it’s just like good sex. The music too, oh the sounds we make, it’s like making love to the perfect woman, the perfect man, just they’re made of brass and hide, strings and wood. Good jazz is good sex, and a good jazz club is warm and wet and messy, just like a good bedroom. You should come out exhausted, even if you’re just listening, even if you’re just watching. And, just like sex, most of us love it when you watch well enough to be just as tired as us.
I have killed many men in my time behind the sword. I cannot say I have hated a single one of them, however, even those who purported to be my rivals or my enemies. There are two reasons for this; one, I cannot hate someone who dances as well as I do, two, I can only be disappointed in those who don’t. It is an incredible feeling to be trapped in a timeless waltz, in those places where two masters of the blade square off with each other and each movement, each reaction, is choreographed in the endless halls of experience and training. Where they stop being separate fighters and lift themselves up to the field of fencers, of dancers, of artists. There is no greater treasure to me than to be in that moment. To either live or die in that moment. To be part of living, breathing music made of steel and footwork. And those who do not take me to that moment? I cannot hate them for being unprepared, much like I cannot hate a child for being young and immature. So no, I have never hated any man I have killed. I can only say that I hate that I must continue to do so. C’est la vie, it is for King and Country.
Science does not teach us, I think, not to fear god. It does not teach us that we are our own gods. It does not teach us that there is no power greater than us. No, I have stood on the precipice of life. I have stitched together again the necrotic flesh of men and I have returned life to those weary bones and I have seen the folly that was. I stare out now, into space, after finishing work by my contemporaries. Hearing of great beasts beneath the ocean that dwarf the understanding of science. Of hearing devices capable of destruction and creation that was unimaginable to primitive peoples whose fear of god was paramount. No, science has taught me to fear nature. To fear that which is real and whole and present before me. It has taught me that there are far greater laws than those of man, than those of the clergy and their god, than those of the constable and his state, than those of my mother and her hearth. Even laws greater than those I sought to wield. There are laws, ancient and powerful laws, that pin what is real down. Laws and rules that define what it is we can know. Those laws, I now know, are the things to truly fear and look upon with awe. To truly respect and seek enlightenment from. V. Frankenstein
There’s an unbroken chain from the very earliest runners to me. Every time I push down my clutch, I can feel their feet hit the dirt. When I pull the shifter I feel their breath. When my car roars I can feel the horses that came after them, when my car pulls forward I can feel the race inside of me. The race that hasn’t ended. When I take those turns and I feel the car strain, the generations of technology threatening to buckle under the weight of the world, I can see the future where the race is faster, harder, and in bigger places. I can feel the heartbeat of the contestants, I can see the flecks of spit and blood that separate a champion from a participant. That separate a racer from a winner. The race has gone on since we had to run for our lives, and for gals like me we still do.
I still smile like a fool when I see her. It’s been over a year and we’ve just gotten closer, despite our arguments. We’ve just gotten more entwined with each other, despite our passions. We’ve just grown to be a better with each other, despite our rough edges. While it may have seemed we were matched for one another before, it feels more true now as those places where we are different we have gradually worn away with each other, helped each other understand. Sometimes, most times, it’s making me a better person but there’s the occasional reflection on her as well. Because of all of this, I still feel as heady with love as I did the first time I realized that’s what this was. Now, every time I see her I smile. Every time I hear her come home, my day brightens. No matter how far she is, no matter how long she’s gone, I still smile when I think of her. And, perhaps, I always will.
You don’t know who I am and yet you’ve figured out how to hurt me. You don’t even know that you’re doing it and you don’t even know why, and yet you hurt me every day. It’s okay, though, because it’s just a part of the job. You see, every time you eek out that next buck for your boss, it hurts me. Every extra coffee you buy from that fancy coffee shop with the silly name instead of spending on helping us, you’re hurting us. Every dollar that you spent on those guys in the suits that tell you that we’re leaching money from the public pool is hurting us. Every time you ignore us, every time you walk past us, every time you refuse to listen to our story you’re hurting us. Ever dollar that’s sat there, in your bank account, for years upon years doing nothing but staying in that bank account is hurting us. ‘Cause you might not need it, you might not even want it. You’ve got what you want – the pretty wife, the cute kids, the good education, the nice house, the good suits. You go to Europe every year. You’ve taken your kids to Disneyworld. You’ve made a good life. You did this, though, while taking from us. By standing on the shoulders of the rest of us, the people on the bottom, the people that need that dollar. Your bosses dangled that dollar in front of us and when we asked for it they told you to tell us no. And you’ve gotten used to that, you’ve gotten used to ignoring us, ’cause they do the same thing with you. Dangle that dollar in front of you. The difference, though, is you just think you need it. That raise, that better house, that nicer car. You don’t need it like us, though. You don’t hurt like we do. Now I don’t want you to think I hate you – I don’t. You’re a brother, you’re just as broken and backwards and in need as me. It’s just a different need. I need to eat, sure, but you need to dream. Dream of a world where we don’t need to have this conversation, where your boss doesn’t teach you to ignore us, a world where we’re able to have this talk at that fancy coffee shop with the funny name and enjoy the life we’re given. You need to survive too, you know. I can’t just replace you, we gotta help each other out of this.