The Intricate Voids – John Whitman
February 15, 2019
It was eons prior to the dawn of time when, from out of a sky that reached a forenoon chartreuse, a form of siliceous stone with great momentum stretched and scraped the horizon and hurdled downward upon the reigns of endless granite. Its mere presence, trekking from beyond the heavens, scarred the very atmosphere in which it cut, and from this came a shocking and ever-immersing orange shade that swept over the firmament. It was a sight which most of modern man would perceive as beautiful, but no life was present to bear witness.
This astronomical hulking rock that plunged into the earth was about the size of a modern vehicle and fell into the surface of our globe with an indifference from which the magnitude’s innards would not disassociate.
The asteroid predated mankind and all prehistoric creatures and predated the bacteria that would eventually encompass it. It was there before the endless gallons of saltwater that would eventually form around it. But as inevitable as time itself, water formed, and the shapeless monument became doused and surrounded and submerged and was eventually at the bottom depths of later became known as the Atlantic Ocean.
Upon the passing of a multitude of generations, with growth and development, evolution and prosperity, and finally the time of its eventual decay, a young Nordic convict who proudly bore the name Mobius Shade looked over his shoulder and with quick short breaths untied the bearings of the simple rowboat on the pier. It was with watchful and interrogative eyes that he scanned the pier over and over again, attempting to gauge his surroundings despite the fog, and despite the boiling rage that caused his fingertips to almost scratch at the seemingly endless rope. “Superare,” he whispered with haste, spittle dripping from his teeth onto his lower lip. Rustling in the faraway bushes and the incessant crumbling of sand around him sent several paranoid pangs of adrenaline into his heart, and shots of high pitch rang in his ears. He finally grabbed the freed rope with rejoice and leapt into the boat. He grabbed the oars filed underneath the seat, and began paddling vigorously, his mind racing and wondering what he would’ve done had they not been there.
What Shade planned to do in his sprawling across the median of the globe, I am uncertain. But when he looked upon the Faroese islands he had called home his entire life as an insignificant speck upon the horizon, he felt his lips pull into the smirk of a young man who perceived the world to be nothing short of his oyster. The more morbid catacombs of his mind perceived an image of smoke crawling up the sky into the morning light, as he wished a fiery blaze upon his native land.
But there wasn’t a spark to be found on the island that morning, and Shade knew this as he knew he was not so vindictive to everybody on that island. He turned back to his own edition of the New World, which on this powerful morn was an endless cascade of a dark navy blue, bobbing up and down, distraught as the rest of the planet. Safely away from the shores, he laid down and stared at the landscape in which his rowboat was headed. Still wide-eyed at twenty-four, he peered his global orbs past the rising sun and into the sky as he lazily contemplated a name for his vessel. He shuffled through a list of female names both literary and historical, searching for one that was not only as equally sophisticated as it was unpretentious, but one that showed a level of fierceness, a no-holds-barred quality, of the single man aboard.
When the excitement of his takeoff and his escapades withered away, he felt the familiar anger begin to boil in his chest and do a steady climb to the grit in his teeth. He ran a hand through jet-black hair and maintained a stoic cool as this happened, muttering the Latin word again. His fingers twitched.
Lying down in the boat, he cast a long stare at the knapsack he’d brought, contemplating its contents, a bowie knife, a fishing rod, and about three days’ worth of bread and water. In this, along with his lack of possession of a compass and with only the most basic sense of geography, he felt the odd and melancholic presence of hopelessness there on the boat with him, amongst the squawking of the remaining seagulls flying to the shore.
The young man shut his eyes to do away with this uninvited party and took the salty air deep into his lungs. He rested his hand over his eyes, to block the orange glow. Restless and reeking of the arrogance of a man newly freed, Shade finally felt a tiredness begin to wrap itself around his psyche. He didn’t fight it, and allowed the sliver of light entering his retinas to close as his eyelids drooped down, as he fell into a slumbering stupor.
First, there was the ongoing depth of ebony that sat in the blankness of his eyelids. The desolation of nothingness. Then, as if the eyelids themselves were canvasses or screens, and the mechanisms and gears of his psychological makeup were cannisters of film, a projection played before the very eyes of Mobius Shade, and he began to dream.
The hardwood of the canoe on which he lay now bore a rougher exterior, and when he mindlessly performed the action in which he interpreted as the opening of his eyes, he saw the glimmer of millions upon millions of heavenly bodies in an inordinate and awe-inspiring mess over the cluster of Earth which he was laying.
Feeling the contours and curves of something in his left hand, Shade gently glided his right hand over his face and felt he had regained a certain boyishness, without the faintest coarseness of hair nor the most basic of masculine features formulated in any adolescence. He twitched his knees and his feet to realize they were short, and that he had regressed to his boyhood.
Continuing to stroke the smooth damp membrane in the confines of his left hand, and upon realization that it was a hand as small as his own, Shade turned his head to his left to discern who it was next to him, only to find his similarly aged twin sister Greta, smiling a childish smile with baby teeth in a glow to be adored. He felt the muscles in his mouth stretch toward his ears, unable to resist smiling back at the girl.
In the mind of Mobius Shade arose consciousness, realization, and acceptance that his surroundings were those of figments of imagination. He understood a discerning between the fantasies of his imagination and the realities of what was to be when something awoke him. He recalled the events prior to his slumber and resolved to face them once again upon his awakening, but shut the eyes within eyes of the dream, wanting to lie in the remembrance of his prepubescence, in pure relaxation with his equally innocent sister. He’d return to the saltwater and the lack of resources, and the utter confrontations of what would likely be the end of his life in only a moment.
But when he looked back up at the star-studded sky, there was something new. Silence struck in a new wave, sound had been sucked out of this fallacy twice now, as there never was any sound to begin with. There was an unsettlement in the bouts of oxygen he breathed. Perspiration accumulated on his forehead and he repeatedly glossed his fingers over his sister’s palm and turned to her again, as if in a final acknowledgement of the comfort and overarching support she provided him in both the age they were in this very moment and in the years they’d have to come.
She continued to wear the same toothy beam. It was not one borne out of ignorance but a knowing smile, possibly all-knowing if he understood it correctly.
“It’s okay, brother,” she said. “Don’t worry.”
Her word filled Shade typically with the utmost comfort, and did so here for an instant, but in him he felt a gradual inflation of a dark terror that he could not shake as he looked back toward a sky that, while certainly grand, somehow rang the word Godless to him, the word striking like a stake into his heart.
Contemplating this, from under the stacks of stars off in the distance of millions of forgotten light-years, came a tunneling light more gargantuan than that of all the distant stars at once. As it expanded to an inexplicable length, near consuming the sky, Shade came of recognition of the astronomical body plunging toward Earth.
Wrought with panic and new sense of hopelessness and despair, Shade, with a desperation akin to that of those escaping from the covers of a burning bed, gave way to struggles and movements to get up, grab his sister, and dart from the landscape of pure Earth, but of this he found himself entirely unable.
He gazed again, with forlorn dismay to the sky as the turbulent being (being?) continued to propel toward him growing larger and larger. He watched with dread, frustration, and most of all awe as the light cascading from the monolith expanded and overtook his entire line of sight.
In the quiet depths of a blackened night Mobius Shade awoke once again to the patting of waves on his still-unnamed rowboat. There was a calamity in his heart but it didn’t render the cool façade with which he had nobody around to fool. He smiled and took in the salty air, chuckling with a drunkenness to a new life, drifting upon a vast and endless ocean.
It was upon examining this world beyond the bow of the boat, however, that he saw what appeared to be a light, streaming from the depths of the black water, into the night sky. Shade could hardly differentiate between the sky or the water, but he knew could see the light on the horizon bounce to and fro with the beat of the waves. In observing this Shade felt not an interest nor even a curiosity—but a pull. The way animals are lured to their slaughter, Shade lifted up the oars once more and began to dip and push them against whatever currents present to guide himself toward the luminous mystery that was before him.
Upon reaching the upwards gleam that he’d found, he began to speculate on just how deep the waters before him were. Carefully and with great hesitation, he tilted his head over the bow of the boat and gazed down into the light that was so confidently striking out of the water and into the heavens.
As his eyes became increasingly bathed in the golden light, he felt a bizarre string of new emotions overcome him; a psychological strength that was seemingly in the foreground of his consciousness rose to the surface, and what Shade believed to be a strange wit and sense of wonderment toward the dark and untapped corners of the New World, and, somehow, self-knowledge was attained as in this light he saw the writhing of his mother and father and the tears of his darling sister, paired with the poor girl’s howls of despair.
He felt hypnotized by light, strangely controlled by the luminescence. He was being fed sheer knowledge as if against his will, a hungry infant suckling at its mother’s teat. Upon this realization, he struggled to pull himself away from the light, and made yanking motions at his neck to release its strain upon him. When he broke free, he fell back into the boat, a thud in his spine and anguish and frustration in his heart.
Long and deep breaths characterized the forthcoming moments of Mobius Shade’s recollections of the monolithic grandeur he’d just discovered, as he laid down on the planks of the boat he could still see the light at the bottom of his line of sight, as if mocking what seemed to be hiss weakness. He sat back up and stared at the cylinder of yellow going upwards into the midnight blackness.
Feeling the overcoming of an adventurous and near-suicidal spirit, Shade stripped himself of his coat, his shirt, his shoes and socks, and his jeans. He peered down into the sea that bore such a wonderous light and, with no care nor thought for the belongings on the boat, he dove into the ocean seeking not the source of the beam, but to further grasp the understanding the rays granted him.
In doing this, Shade understood the act to be a fool’s errand as he unofficially and with a mind uneducated in the field had gauged the water to be particularly deep, and he understood himself to be a rather weak swimmer. But he also knew he had been overcome with a new sense of determination and a growing thirst for the understanding of what he had stumbled upon. So downward he plunged, into the unspeakable and the uncharted, to satisfy this newfound craving.
The peculiar glow being the only illumination of the otherwise black water, he stroked and swatted the water in all directions, and kicked and yearned his way downward as far as he could see to heighten his perspective of the light’s origins.
Squinting and struggling to maintain consciousness, Shade felt a depletion of ego and certainty in his task as he watched the defeated spheres of air from his larynges float up in front of him. He was ready to give up hope and struggle his way back to the surface. But it was the vast base glow that he identified at the ocean’s bottom that made his strokes increase in velocity and his chest begin to beat at an accelerated rate. With finality and a much-earned tiredness, he had reached his destination.
There were limited amounts of oxygen pulsing through his windpipe as his open eyes began to squint from the exposure of the salt and the grime of natural waters, and from the omniscity and brightness of the peculiar glow. Nevertheless he treaded closer, wary of the possible meanings of his unearthings.
Shade approached the upward-facing tunnel from which the light was projected, a tunnel which stood on its own upon a hill several yards underneath the oceanic surface, as Shade had discovered. The tunnel, which he could only assume it to be from its cylindric formulation and what he surmised to be a certain hollowness within its opening, was about the length of a modern vehicle, with an opening the size of a vehicular tire. The illumination gave way to a hazel-scarlet color and a jagged texture that was foreign to shade, one that he could only conclude implied an ancientness, that the structure had by some means predated most of the world around it.
As his oxygen was almost entirely depleted, in a moment of haste and impatience, Mobius Shade lunged over the tunnel and thrust the entirety of his countenance before, almost within it. His eyes, almost closed from the peering of the excessive brightness, were then thrust open. The final breaths in his windpipe were immediately exhaled and into the cascade of pure shine before him. His body froze, as if he were now a part of the sculpted stone that was the meteorite that had implanted itself on Earth so long ago.
Deep within the void in which Mobius Shade had cast his gaze was, upon first glance, simply a yellow vacancy. But upon further inspection of the mesmeric universe in which he looked upon, he saw glimpses of his own; there were flashes of Earth, flashes that predated and followed the decline and fall of mankind, the fall in which Shade was currently navigating. He saw the fall of various entities and emperors of worship, he witnessed the Big Bang in all its glory and the formation of Earth, there was little that fell from his line of sight. He witnessed the gargantuan and spectacular losses of the Roman wars led by Spartacus, and the reigns of terror brought about by the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Ivan, and other humanoid beings which he did not recognize. There was the fall of worship and the risings of hatred and anguishes of immeasurable latitude.
He instantaneously and from a great distance foresaw a structure of grandiosity imploding with a planetary base, one which he felt in some subconscious understanding to be Earth, and was content in somehow knowing that the orb was currently devoid of any or all vibrant being, and while doing this he understood his surroundings to not be simple underwater carvings made by a divine being, but a crater made by a nonnative one. He registered that he was simply a primitive man of conquest, discovering something that Man was not present for.
Finally, Shade watched the scope of his perspective became even more overwhelmed with grandeur as it became even more outward and distant. And in this singular second, he saw figures whose bodies and structures he did not recognize—beings, as he assumed they were, which his Homo adorans intellect could not possibly fathom. He felt the walls of his psychological state deteriorate and bulge and crumble as he felt his cranium shake over the ever-infuriating light, the makeup of his mental formation becoming demented, eroded into other parts of his skull where they would have no use.
Shade found himself overwhelmed with an influx of emotional complexities, tears forming and merging with the saltwater that encompassed his being, as well as revelations overcoming him at epiphanic proportions. It was not sheer knowledge but levels of wisdom and justice that could only equate to a certain godliness which he was not accustomed to, one that he could feel drink away at his sanity, and unhinge the screws of his psyche. He felt a co-dependence to the myriad of images presented by the void, and although he had only been peering into its depths for a single instance, he felt a need to get away; but before he could even register the proper thoughts to begin to pull away from the volcanic-shaped underwater structure, he saw something that gave way to a disturbing familiarity.
Within a second beat, Mobius Shade re-envisioned the worst moments of his existence from the perspective of a bird in the uppermost corner of the room, looking down upon himself and Greta, still somehow in the shadow of their soaring father.
Although many may claim a sense of nobility with the height of one’s stature and the width of one’s shoulders, there was hardly any to be found in the dead blackened eyes of Cosmas Shade as he cast a frigid stare of pure death upon his children of nineteen years. Mobius Shade saw himself as a man slightly more youthful, and his sister with only shreds of innocence left. They were both sitting and slouching, their eyes fixed to the floor.
The breaths of Cosmas Shade, with all the spittle they sprayed, and with its implications of anger and lust in their restlessness, grew louder with every passing second synchronized by the ticking of the clock. It was only now that Mobius Shade recalled the sounds of the running television, the recurrent acknowledgements of the global collapse, and only now did he see once again from this astral view the glisten of the blood upon Cosmas’ chest and dripping off of his forehead as he looked down at his spawn.
The environment in which the three remained, at the crowning of a new age of mankind, was no longer a den, but a cathedral of sorrows and utter abhorrence. The fixtures atop the ceiling provided illumination but there was still a prevalent darkness shrouding the path between the eyes with which Cosmas Shade bathed his offspring in his hate. There was something in the atmosphere of that very moment, and it bore a certain indifference to a societal deterioration, for it was something that cut deeper into the emotional blueprints of Mobius and Greta Shade, something that an individual with a more psychoanalytic mind would spend time and effort to study at length. A certain level of turmoil had been surpassed, a switch had gone off, the beings known as Mobius and Greta were never the same thereafter.
Out of the corner of the youthful Mobius’ right eye, and from the corner of Greta’s left, they could see the torso and legs of their mother, without the faintest twitch, devoid of the slightest bit of life. Upon peering at that halve of the corpse, their minds would enter a shock that bordered on the phantasmagoric, with an inability to process the very thought of a deceased maternal parent, and the actions that led to the rupturing of her windpipe, and culminated in the flashing of an invisible light in the eyes of the twins.
When the eyes of the younger Shades drooped down away from what was unspeakable and impossible to receive, they would see the glimmer and shine of the butcher knife, seeing their own scarred faces in the silver of the metal and the crimson it was doused with. Upon stumbling across this—this reminder of the deed their father had committed, the Shade twins would close their eyes, sealing it with a furious tightness.
But then there was the modern Mobius and his aerial perspective, peering from the void of the Atlantic Ocean. With a matured perspective only hardened by the dawn of the New World, he allowed his sights to shift to the fallen matriarch, and there were no flashes nor waves of spite or denial, simply justification for the actions in-between then and the present day, and a personal anguish that these actions had not been committed sooner. And upon the blade he cast his gaze as well, looking straight into the void of the metallic fixture in his father’s hulking fist.
Then, as if time itself had become unfrozen, Cosmas Shade dropped the blade, with a clatter that rang with vigor and dismay in the eardrums of the Shade twins. He then reached out and grabbed the thin and petite arm of Greta Shade and yanked her toward him, all the while opening his mouth. He forced his face against hers, giving a violent and bizarrely impersonal kiss to his daughter, visibly feeling the walls of her cheeks with his tongue.
The shocked pupils in Greta Shade’s cranium came near to disappearing within her eyelids as she pulled herself back, in a concoction of physical and psychological turmoil, but the strength and the pull of her father’s forearm promptly resisted her efforts.
With an animosity towering over the one with which he violated his daughter, Cosmas Shade yielded back and howled toward the sky, blood spurting from his tongue and out of his mouth. He spat and cursed at the girl, uttering grievances and regrets toward giving her freedom at all. He reached out again and pulled the young girl toward the kitchen as he picked the knife back up, and, from the skyward projection from which the modern Mobius Shade cast his sights, the father and the daughter disappeared into the house, as he listened to the former cut out the latter’s tongue with a butcher’s knife, heating it on the stove beforehand to cauterize the wound.
While it was unbeknownst to the youthful Mobius what was occurring in the kitchen, with the screams and gasps of his sister and the grunts and the curses of their father, the modern twenty-four-year-old, watched as his younger self continued to stare the floorboards of their household, bearing an audible witness to the molestation of his sibling.
A daunting silence overcame the scene which Mobius Shade was overlooking. It struck an eerie chord within him upon the realization that the screams and anguish of his sibling’s cries were fading into the back of his range of hearing. It felt like the quieting of a rabid canine through use of strangulation; its howls and its screeches quietly calmed by forcible constraint.
Then the room’s various sources of illumination—the television, the lamp, the light fixtures on the wall, gradually brightened. Mobius squinted, but they soon became white masses that consumed his entire eyesight.
He shut his eyes and opened them again, the stinging salt reminding him that he had been in the depths of the ocean for what felt to be an eternity. While his eyes were shut, however, he saw something anew, an abnormality from the blackness of his eyelids. A figure, a strange glowing red silhouette and with eyes of black, eyes that projected not fear, nor any internalized torture, just the purest colors of an unfathomable disdain. A name rang into Mobius’ ears: Davos. With terror piercing his heart, Mobius opened his eyes.
Mobius felt his lungs becoming short of air as he gazed once more into the void, with sheer wonderment of why he was still looking. But now it seemed to him that what he was viewing was not out of curiosity any longer, but an internalized demand to understand the fantastical and horrific images that he had found.
Instead, he saw an eye; A scarlet hypnotic monstrosity which, as Mobius guessed, bore a circumference similar to that of his own height. It stared into Mobius’ own worldly orbs, translating an entire universe of unimaginable and impenetrable awe into Mobius’ mind, that brought about waves of terror and dread that would haunt the young man for the remainder of his life.
Then, the sides of the structure at which the young convict was casting an everlasting stare began to close into a spiral structure. Upon doing so, the light which drew the young man to this being in the first place receded. Mobius understood this action to be a slow, gradual blink and that matter he had stumbled upon would momentarily reopen its eye and paralyze him once more. He was right, and the light daunted and began to grow once again as the spiral unraveled.
With the suddenness of these notions in his psyche, Mobius Shade finally turned and swam up the towering light toward the surface of what once was the Atlantic Ocean. Stroking and pulling at the endless gallons of saltwater, he felt some of the visions and fantasies he had witnessed slipping from the pores of his memory and dissolving into the sea, never to be again uncovered. He felt the idea of sweat formulating at his forehead, if only he were back at the boat, which was a faint black oval that seemed miles away, growing as he feverishly swam.
Although there was not any noticeable movement behind him, nor groans nor growls, Mobius was convinced that whatever discovery he’d made was by some means accompanying close behind him, devoid of desperation or even hunger, but a simple base instinct to terminate the life that had unearthed it.
Mobius exploded from the surface of the water, and instantaneously latched onto the modest rowboat, the one he not only came out to this obscure location with, but the same one that had brought him to anew purpose.
He climbed over the edge and fell into the midpiece of the boat and, without thinking, lurched toward the bowie knife and wrapped his fingers around the blade with such insistence that a cut formed along the wrinkles of his fingers, a small drop of blood forming and dripping from his hand. None of this caused hesitation nor even noticeable pain to the young man as he turned and adjusted the blade to fit his hand.
He quickly shifted his gaze to the sky; there was a proverbial pinkness creeping up on the horizon, the same horizon in which he thought he would be attending to. He looked back at the waters, the bobbing indifferent waves that flowed toward nameless shores.
As Mobius caught his breath, he felt a damning silence, one that forced a weight over his shoulders, trembling his legs and the craft underneath them, a quiet calm before a storm of clear skies.
He lunged downward and caught the oar with his free hand, and, with a kinetic force similar to that of a meteorite, frantically stroked at the blue mounds of ocean, turning the vessel around to return to the forsaken island from which he’d escaped.
As the rowboat turned, and was perpendicular to where it was before the condemning silence peaked and broke as he heard something else explode from the waters.
He turned to the source, and felt insanity and psychosis rise to the forefront of his mind, as he gazed upon a tentacular organism that had risen from the depths, thrusting itself from the neighboring light over the edge of the hull, yanking at the structure.
As Mobius felt the merciless and purely uncompromised aggression of the organism, he saw no otherworldly being, nor anything of a spiritual nor epiphanic sense, but felt the energetic pulls of his father on his sister’s arm as he had dragged the poor girl into the kitchen. In this moment in reality, he froze, the stoicism and certainty that had risen from the water with him evaporating into the atmosphere.
But, in his wallowing of despair, he felt an inner personal void that had only been expressed in few instances begin to shine from the back of his eyes. As he shut them, he envisioned Cosmas Shade with the same butcher’s knife in his own throat, gasping a final gasp on the tile floor. No longer buried by the servitude of denial, he acknowledged this as a remembrance, and while being not the primary concern of the new apocalyptic order, a symptom of its occurrence.
With a final exhalation in which he accepted the demise of both his innocence, his youth, and what he had thought to be his lifelong patriarchal figure, he dropped the oar into the bow and leapt toward the appendage, thrusting the bowie knife into it with a cascade of force, exhausting all the hardships that he had endured upon it.
In the tears and wounds he inflicted in the tentacle, he also saw the ones that he, with great mountains of psychological momentum had inflicted upon his father, the fury of the man’s silencing, and the forced incestuous affair with his own daughter which followed the breakdown of society. He relived the scratches and anguish the new community had caused him after the killing, and rediscovered the coldness of the cell they had thrust him in. But above all he felt the comforting touch of Greta, muted and ever-suffering, resting her hand on his shoulder as he turned away from the betrayal of their family.
Finally, reality peered into his sights and he resolutely stared at the treacherous creature. It had become limp, made utterly impotent by the bowie knife’s efforts. It laid upon the boat with a certain piteousness, while maintaining a sense of vehement disassociation and instinct, it was nothing more than a strange metaphysical artifact waiting for discovery.
The young man leaned towards it with his blade in hand once more, with an imminent readiness, preparing to slice and carve his name across the forthcoming eons.
But, as if fate was saying his time would come at a later date, the tentacular life form promptly slid away from the estranged convict and with an ungraceful thud collapsed back into the blue.
It was upon this that Mobius’ heart leapt for the final time this morn, and with quick breaths punctuating his every thought, he inspected these waters once more for traces of this being with wonderment as to its origins, whether it be demonic or heavenly, domestic or extraterrestrial; but what he did not wonder, was its capacity to be benign; he knew in the pit of his stomach and in the concubines of his soul that it was a force of pure hostility that laid at the bottom of what was once the Atlantic Ocean. And with this he simultaneously realized the importance of conquering this presence at a later date, and also knew his true obligations to be elsewhere. His eyes also adjusted to the daylight and understood that the light peering from the void had disappeared—whether this meant that the eye within it had closed, or simply blinked, he did not know.
Mobius Shade proceeded to tend to the sculls of the boat once more, as he realized that in the preceding conflict it was not the Latin word he was so fond of that he was muttering, but the name of the departed matriarch of his family: Enna. This registered not as something that he any longer felt the need to file away and repress, but saw it as a worthy acknowledgement for a woman gone too soon. With finality, he internally declared the name of his vessel.
He began to paddle the boat to the West, and spied a small pebble on the horizon. He set forth and rowed the boat toward a sister who couldn’t speak, fully prepared to embrace the communication for them both—for him his trials, and for her journey of a psychological recovery.
Roger Martin’s Last Ballad
The stamping of the raindrops was a symphony, one which Roger Martin’s rocking chair partook as he held the cigar up to his mouth and clicked the lighter a couple times. It was somewhere after the second click when he first really noticed the yellow light, made more apparent by the dark clouds. The light allowed him to peer inside and observe his woman quietly lounging on the couch. He let out a sigh as he figured he’d allow himself this pleasantry later, and would go in to embrace her awhile.
But first, he’d watch through the window and ponder her, ponder who she was then and now. She was silently watching the news, but Roger Martin peered further through, through the lenses of his Monica’s glasses to see the disassociation of a certain light. She knew she was watching television, maybe even the news, but she could not tell her husband the anchor’s name, even though it was the same Rob Hopper that had read them the local crimes and weather every night for much of the preceding years.
The memories of Monica Martin’s mind were a comb of sand slowly being swallowed by high tides of Alzheimer’s and Roger Martin sat on his porch swing and tapped the cigar against his temple, wondering if his own sense of self was on a similar clock. This curiosity was a distraction from what racked his brain.
As he gazed into the grayness of the rain he could properly envision the drops subsiding and making way for the slender figure of Rosalind Meyer, complete with the black curls that wrapped around her neck when she laid down. Despite having read the final words on her life and a tearful salute to her memory only hours ago, Roger basked in her youthful glow a final time before allowing the rain to take over once more in his line of sight.
The fields in which Roger and Monica Martin resided had become a blank canvas for the weather to portray whatever it deemed worthy. Months earlier, it had encapsulated a serene silence, having the Martins wake up to a rising pile of snow upon its soil. Now it formulated a harsh and unforgiving wasteland of mud and puddles being stacked upon by the clapping thunder. In a wave of nostalgia, Roger saw once again the high strands of corn he’d grown, and himself running callused hands through the pillars of his product as he scaled the side of his farm.
But as the gentle folds and cracks of skin stretched through him, and as his stomach grew portlier and his hands softened, it was only bare earth that stood the test of time. All other prospects withered and decayed, as he’d expect to one day do himself. But this was not what frustrated him, compared to what he saw now, in the rain and the mist.
He thought of his bed, the small imprints left over the years by himself, and the two women he’d taken to that bed over the years. He recalled the nervous rhythms of his and Rosalind’s heartbeats as he kissed her, waiting for the screen door’s song to announce his wife’s arrival. Roger felt a clump gather in his throat as he saw this. He swallowed it; all the while trying to reimagine the diminishing swell of his wife’s belly— recreating that disappointment, the snips, the disdain, the ever-growing distance between the two of them on that couch.
He held back a river and shrugged it off as he had many times before and drank at the cool air in a long, satisfying breath.
Parts of the landscape glistened and shined from what was left of the sun, reminding Roger further of the earring Rosalind had left behind on that one occasion. He knew they had never spoken of it, but he always knew that Monica saw it. He walked into their room and saw her looking right at the jewel, sitting on the nightstand, as she gathered laundry. She simply looked away, walking thereafter with a general knowingness that Roger would now trade his hands for.
His mind hiked to the boy they didn’t have, or the girl. He saw no trucks nor vans pull up with small children to visit them, a notion he understood broke Monica, but one that he also understood to be out of their control. Monica never was interested in trying again, which Roger felt compelled to respect. But it was in remembering this that he felt the aura of whisky on his breath and a warmth in his belly. He smelled the dives and Rosalind’s perfume. He almost felt himself growl at the raindrops spraying before him.
But as Roger looked back into the house and at the disillusioned woman watching Rob Hopper, he felt forgiveness. He revisited the consolation she provided at his mother’s demise, even though it wasn’t a feeling she could relate to. He had felt her silence during the final days of her father, her sole touch being her hand on his as they silently watched the sun set beyond their fields. She was fifty-five, too old to blindly forgive a dying man. The coldest act of a warm woman, he thought. Best not to talk about it.
It was none of this, but the memories of their own thriving twenties that sent a catharsis through him. Their elopement was only days old, fresh in his mind. The late-night film screenings and quiet glances over old books. The daytime drinking and love-making, hiking trips and getaways without a single polaroid. He’d cupped the woman’s face in his hand with a wide-eyed and childlike wonder, gaping in sheer awe. There were moments and scenes colored not only by affection and gratitude, but by anger and resentment, all in which capitalized who they were. In seeing this, Roger Martin felt an epiphanic plunge of not love, but understanding. An understanding that was not to be swept up.
Roger Martin finally stood up, creaking the floorboards and slipping the cigar into his pocket. He walked into the house, with small steps of regret, but intentions resolute.