“la forme d’une ville change plus vite que le coeur” — baudelaire
The sky is throbbing. There is nothing perfect about it, except it is alive. The bruising does not heal or shrink, just spreads. A person stands at the window and imagines sweets. In a basket on the overgrown lawn. Unpicked soft and swollen along the branches overhead. Bobbing and twisting on the breeze. Bloating until their stems snap. Bursting as they hit the ground.
The sky acts as scaffolding for the fantasy: a little wind dragging through the skinny trees.
When this does not work the person closes their eyes. Grazes the small hairs on top of their forearm. Slips their finger in and around the cleft at the top of the sternum, a groove like the one at the centre of a peach.
Juice pools inside.
The sky goes rancid. Purple then black.
The person considers where they are, and for how long.
It is very like a ventricular system here. Fluid is necessary. In this structure it is chemicals. It is not a bodily compound, but it functions similarly in that it sustains life. Something cerebrospinal. It flows up and through the interconnected channels, soaking the soil in every wall and every floor. Each as absorbent as a neuroepithelial lining.
This is perhaps how irrigation systems have always worked. This is perhaps how they have always developed. Since books, records and archives are no longer kept, there is no way to verify this.
There is nothing left for comparison, apart from the bodies.
In the human brain the cavities responsible for the production and distribution of coolant are found in the head, at the base of the neck, behind the skin. In this structure those same cavities are found submerged in the ground. Encased in metal and joists. Stones laid over that.
They do not fit together. Mortar fills the space between them.
From afar the person sees their home as a bulb in a shallow hole. A drab stalk, containing the dwellings, rises from it. A column that never flowers or decays.
A plant loses ninety percent of its body and continues. This is life without vital organs. The human body, and any structure that mimics it, is not so versatile.
The person marvels at the raised blue along the underside of their arms. A feat of organic engineering, like the sharp currents splitting the sky. A memory is recalled, much like a file, or a defunct and dangerous product. It is also a reimagination, and takes on the dimensions of any room it enters. This one is of a red leak from the blue line. The shock and the surprise. How, even then, almost gone, bewildered the person felt that they could stay.
Now, holding their arms pressed against the long window, above their head just so, they can align their blue streaks with the sky’s. Blood and electricity meet.
The person knows there are more bodies, though they hardly ever see them and never touch them. They are almost always on screens or in the distance, travelling in packs. From these sightings, the person surmises –There must still be at least enough left on earth to sustain smaller life without elaborate supplementary infrastructure.
Glimpses of other persons are even rarer. They appear on the horizon in elegant, smooth vehicles. The solitary person barely grasps what they are seeing. But they understand its price.
The person has never had a visitor here. There were some before but not here, not now. Accommodating another body requires equipment of a kind the person cannot construct, even in their mind. Desire without an accompanying image or hypothesis becomes memory.
A body, just one. Very near. Asleep or at least silent. Having expressed itself into exhaustion. Warm unworried quiet of the extinguished.
Another’s knotless hair slick with feelings. Doubt, even then. An event that, even as it is happening, must be happening elsewhere, and to someone else. Turning away from joys too severe.
Sudden knowledge, even as the body swivels, of having refused something precious on a dying planet.
A green light flickers in the corner of the room. It is a great relief. The person can feel the plants straining with unusual force today. That is how they know they’re unwell.
At the outset of this isolation there was nothing to take time, apart from the body and the plot. At first the body’s noise was deafening, and the person could do little but lie in the plush dirt extending, rescinding and twisting their limbs, so that all the dormant pain might become known.
Until it is no longer buried by, but crucial to, intellect.
Gradually, the person loses emotions and gains sensations.
The person thinks of each nerve as a hole, or a mouth. The more the body’s needs remain unmet, the larger its holes. The hungrier it is, the thirstier it is, the less rested and desired it is, the wider its mouths must open. The body agape until all holes and the membrane that separates them, without which they could not even be holes, is barely there at all.
It is during times like these, when the body is lacking, desperately contorted and splitting open, that the person is surest they are not alone. A dissolution happens. The body’s capacity to register life explodes. Reaches unprecedented proportions. Each limb in the room–furled, unfurled, outstretched, reaching, climbing, dropping, winding, swirling, entangled, bifurcating, blooming, fading–is imprinted on the person’s skin, although of course no appendage has moved drastically enough to swaddle the body. But they have, when the body is poised to receive such treatment.
These are the times when what few tufts remain beyond the glass can be heard above, or through, the sun’s asphyxiating feedback. The footprints of the others all reverberate beneath the crust. The alternating force and tone of the vibrations suggests many feet. Some land in the dust with delicacy, others with precision and others with unabashed ferocity. They demarcate different movements and routes. Different clusters and formations, patterns and velocities. Separate and distinct habits and habitats. All detectable by the intricate and numerous feet, and the various animals they must belong to that pass this way still.
The green light speeds up. Even without turning to look the person knows exactly which faucets water now begins to seep from, and at what speed. From every corner of the room, roots creep in its direction. The thick lichens lining the window bristle.
As is their custom, the person finds the dryest patch of dirt and stands there. The room gets damp. As soon as their soles are wet they leap away, so as not to absorb any of the water into the skin.
They wait. Then make their way along the perimeter of the room and stroke it.
There is no bedroom, only tall clumsy grass. The person lowers themselves inside and the strands envelop the body, curling and twining themselves around arms and legs. Looping around the neck, across the shoulders and chest, insulate the core.
They are ideal for sleeping in because they produce oxygen at night.
The more oxygen is available the more easily the dreams come.
It is not that the dreams never come when the oxygen wanes. In fact, they arrive faithfully. They are fragments seizing, discernible between the body’s convulsions. Skies full of cormorants. Suddenly ablaze mid flight. Ash that falls to earth and lands in neat spires.
Gales that rip each trunk, and all its roots from their filth. The sun rises and keeps rising and each morning reveals a horizon of kaliedescopic plastics all churning like a chest in troubled sleep.
Heat hits this ocean and synthetic colors are recast in all directions. The magnificent light is constant. The sun’s rays are fortified and torch the uprooted trees.
Water everywhere it shouldn’t be. Nowhere it was. In the people’s mouths, throats, nostrils, eyes. Each rivulet an engraving, or an engraver. Their careful works exposed and crumbling.
Just rows and rows of dust. Dust, which is soil, robbed of all its life.
When there is an excess of oxygen: the same dream, always, of leaving.
Aja Moore is an amateur farmer living and working on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Kwantlen First Nation. Their work has appeared in Lemonhound, Sad Mag, Bad Nudes, Peach Mag and The Puritan. Their first book is out with Metatron Press.