They ducked into the stoop of the closed cafe a second before the sky opened up with the wrath of an unseen god. The ferocity of the thunder rattled Cynthia’s bones. Next to her, George didn’t seem phased in the slightest, having spent a lifetime amidst the cornfields of Iowa. Storms there meant life and food on the table. He never gave them a regretful thought.
The two were practically strangers and tucked in close, elbow to elbow. They’d “talked” for months through various forms of social media. Cynthia regretted this was the only way people like to meet anymore and longed for the bygone times when their awkwardness fleshed out in person. It was easier to weed out the weirdos that way.
Electronically, the two had investigated each other. They checked off lists and probabilities weighed before deciding to appear in human form. They both were more gregarious and brave through the glowing screens in front of their noses. They could be themselves without fear of rejection or ridicule, however, they hadn’t planned on reality.
Cynthia found George handsome and rugged, but in person his charm was lacking and his conversation skills stunted. She spent much of the dinner driving their exchanges and waited for him to lead, just once. It made her feel like she was boring and that whatever interest he’d had in her approximation was squandered sitting across from him.
Huddled under the awning, their bodies were close, but with so much silence between their mouths.
When George leaned over to whisper in Cynthia’s ear he felt his heart rip out of his chest onto the sidewalk with the rain washing away his blood and courage. He tried to find a shadow of his online bravado to tell her how much he loved listening to her speak, watching her mouth form words, and the way she bit her bottom lip when she was nervous. George liked her, a lot. He choked on his words as his mind went blank. Now, he was just a weirdo breathing heavy in her ear.
Cynthia felt something strange tickling her ear and turned her head quick. Almost in slow motion her skull collided with George’s nose with a deafening crack, followed by blood rushing down his clean white Oxford shirt.
“Oh, god. Oh, I’m so sorry,” Cynthia said, trying to stop the hemorrhage.
He clutched his nose, embarrassed. Great, she thought, I mortally wounded him. There goes that.
“Do you ever have those days when you feel so disconnected you aren’t sure you exist?” asked Sound.
“But you do exist, because I see you sitting there. I hear your voice. I can reach out and smack your pouty mouth if I want to,” said Fury.
Sound sighed. “I know I exist, you asshole… I’m just saying that sensation of utter despair and complete invisibility gives the impression of non-existence.”
“How do you know you exist?” Fury asked.
He challenged her to explain the things in the world that couldn’t be captured. He made her furious for sure and smiled knowing he was aptly named.
“Didn’t you just confirm my existence a few minutes ago? Why do I have to prove it to you if you have already proved it to yourself?”
The space between them filled with an electric and violent silence. The conversation went nowhere fast. Each of them lived their lives as separate sides of a coin. Neither of their faces could be seen at the same time unless the universe stood on its head.
Sound loved her brother just as much as she hated him. She knew Fury felt the same about her, but what were twins supposed to do with that indelible mark? That gossamer seam stitched them together whether they liked it or not.
“You have to prove it because I know you love the musicality of your own voice. Why do you think we are having this conversation in the first place?”
Jorge climbed the stairs of the tenement apartment building whose walls were as thin as whispers. He heard snippets of each family’s life as he ascended. His feet bowed the worn wood making them groan and creak.The dark hallways were scattered with mouse droppings and smelled of decay. Garbage cluttered the corners, broken toys scattered across the dirty floors like orphans.
The death of sounds was common here. No one cared where they went or who made them unless it disturbed their sleeping habits. It wasn’t unusual to eat lunch with gunfire or hang the clothes in the apartment to dry, listening to the sound of fists contacting a face.
He lamented the fact that life took away their compassion and left them numb to the atrocities in their own backyards. But this place was what he could afford on his meager pension from the mill. He couldn’t do better than this. It gave him pause, his head hanging for a moment.
On the fourth floor, he stopped. From apartment 22 came a noise he wasn’t accustomed to hearing. It drew him closer to the door with its peeling burgundy paint and lopsided, black metal numbers.
It was music.
Tender and passionate, he hovered at the door, fingers just grazing the paint. The space around his body filled with his own excited warmth. He leaned in with his ear pressed to the jamb forgetting about the building’s filth, forgetting many would sooner shoot you than look at you if you came close to their doors. He couldn’t draw away… not yet.
Jorge held his breath to not miss a sound. His entire body set afired right there in the dirty hallway. His cock twinged between his legs the louder the music got. For the first time in years, he felt like a man. Jorge wandered through thoughts of his youth and the nights spent with women clutched in his arms. How he’d slide into them deep, enjoying the musk of their bodies. Their mouths betraying the music of their sex.
Notes escaped from the cracks around the door spilling into the stale, heavy air. They were sweet melodic effluvia that danced in the air, kissing his face, and Jorge knew at once it was a woodwind. He listened carefully as the woman, yes….he was sure it was a woman playing, blew into the instrument.
He imagined the delicious pout of her lips pursed over the curved hole. The deftness of her fingers flew over the padded keys pressing them into the silver body. As she covered the holes the air stretched into music. Jorge heard the sole of her show tapping the hardwood, imagined her graceful neck and slender fingers.
Jorge closed his eyes and drank her in imagining the swell of her breasts as she inhaled to put strength behind the notes. He wanted to run his hand up her knee while she played a melody for him and watch her body stiffen at his touch.
His body betrayed him. His face flushed. Jorge’s body trembled and he was hard as stone, standing like a lecherous old man at a young girl’s door. The landlord lumbered up the stairs and his heart froze.
She was drunk and Jorge smelled the stale alcohol pouring from her skin from where she stood at the top of the stairs. Her body swayed and she held herself steady with the railing. The look in her eye devious as a vultures.
“What the hell are you doing over there?” she slurred.
“By the looks of the party in your pants, it doesn’t look like nothing, Jorge. You’re a dirty old man leaning against the door, huddled in the corner stroking yourself like a peeping Tom.” The landlord scolded, “I should kick you out, or better yet post your sad face in the lobby as a pervert. But you pay on time so I’ll just remember this. You will owe me.”
Something in the way she looked at Jorge made his stomach sick. He wanted nothing to do with being under her thumb or any other part of her body.
“I’m going now, up to my apartment. Sorry. I meant nothing. The music put me in a trance.” Jorge tried to explain, but the landlord just looked at his pants with a grin of a wolf.
She licked her lips and smiled, showing her poorly kept teeth. Another wave of her pickled insides came toward him as she spoke. He held back the vomit in his throat. Jorge looked down to see the pleats of his trousers tented like the pants of an adolescent, a wet spot forming there like a lewd death for everyone to see.
Jorge’s excitement faded and wished his cock would shrivel back into its cotton grave. He wanted nothing to do with this weak excuse for a woman and her wasted life. He wanted the dove behind the door, wanted to kiss her skin and please her….take her from this wretched place. But he said nothing more as he looked at the door again.
He hung his head as he walked past the landlord avoiding her intentions. Now he would never know the beauty behind the door. Reluctant, Jorge left the woman of his dreams with her music, her body of grace, her answer to the reawakening of his heart, and trudged past more death, to his own.
Liridona fidgeted uncomfortably in her fanciest dress. It was hot in Altdorf, blistering in unusual calidity, as she waited for the symphony to begin. The forest surrounding them normally barred the heat from bringing a flush to their faces. Liridona fanned herself with the white silk charm her father had brought back from China. It did little against the pinching of her corset beneath her gown. Her mother had scolded her when she originally refused to go. These chances for culture ran through their valley scarcely.
She was here against her will with Petrus, whom Liridona had never looked at twice with any agreeable feelings. She wished she was with her friends in the wilderness around the Reuss or fireside watching the moon at Lake Lucerne. But she was stuck here, with him being held without right cause to view the orchestra perform Honegger’s “Liturgique”.
The lights dimmed only making the heat black, but no less powerful. Perspiration gathered at the back of her neck to make her appear like a lower class woman poured into a lady’s dress. The corset dug into her ribs which cried for space against the stifling air. The music was turbulent and excitable. Liridona had an insidious tingle crawl through her body that mingled with the swelter inside the music hall. It tasted dangerous and otherworldly on her tongue as she breathed it in.
Petrus’ fingers rested on her knee with an almost imperceptible tremble, shaking his fingerprints off onto the silken blue fabric of her dress. Liridona angled her face ever so slightly, peered at him from the corner of her eye, and saw for the first time the effervescence about his eyes. She noted the way his mouth wanted to devour every inch of her if given the chance. She sat a little straighter in her chair waiting for his next advance.
“You don’t lay claim to an inch of me, no one does,” Sarah shouted to the ravine below her.
She dangled there with one hand gripping the root of a small tree. One small misstep and there she was with the river ready to swallow her in a moment’s notice.
This is what I get, she thought, shoulder aching from holding her own weight.
The burn was so beautiful and painful. Her mind delirious from nearly drowning in the river the day before, from swollen knees and a continually bruised ego. Sarah hadn’t slept in 36 hours. Everything about her existed on fumes and all she could do was dangle there and laugh.
The fine line of dying and living was juicy and present, more so than it had ever been. Sarah didn’t care if she fell to her death, it was that simple. She let herself sway there until the tiny fibers of her rotator cuff frayed like cheap twine.
She swung her body slightly, just enough to reach her other arm up to the branch. This arm was fresh and new to the texture of the bark. The other arm had been more intimate with its bite.
“Today isn’t the day,” she yelled across the river and the temperate forest, “you can’t have me today.”
Sarah flung a leg over the branch, working silently to pull the bulk of her body to a more terrestrial footing. On solid ground, she collected her thoughts, looked back at the death she could have succumbed to. Sarah leaned back onto the wet leaves and inhaled the smell of loam and worms. She smiled at the feeling of her heart racing inside her chest. She would have to stand up and find the trail she had so carelessly lost.
“You don’t lay claim to me.” Her voice fading into the air. “Not this time.”
Life is a series of submersions into sound. It creeps into the psyche and takes up space in vacant gray matter. The noises register there like squatters—alarms for work, alarms at work, the sound of a child breathing, the cat’s impossible half cry, the washing machine, the balloon stuck to the heating duct—all of them attached to some innocuous memory that never seems to elevate the heart rate. Never causes a sense of fear.
But the noise of too many humans crammed together in a small space serves to derail every nerve ending in the body. It causes synapses to vault into high gear and the world becomes amplified. Hypersensitivity bleeds all of it together into sonic chaos.
What if we could float to the ceiling away from their voices, rip ourselves apart with bare hands until it all goes into a state of lucid cataplexy? People talk, machines work. Movement for which we know makes sounds, but none register. It’s a struggle to recover the senses, to convince the ears to work again.
Stepping into the evening air there was a silence that caused every lost thought drip from the brain. Reality was maddening. Who knows how it will continue?