Stories

Two Glass Tombstones – Sam Machell

Subject 3 // Incoming Call // May 4, 2022

 

Well it didn’t start out like that like basically nothing happened for the most of it. It was friendly. Yeah just like, dirty feet and apple juice and herbal tobacco and… I know, I’m not into it eith-. Yeah. No well we actually went out in search of them. Ex boyfriend had watched one of the gal’s lectures on- Yeaaaah, Tribal Tat, you remember. Biiiig dick I’d follow him wherever. I know. No, no, that’s the American guy Manson not this guy. You’ve read the Vice article, right? Mason. So what do you want to know? I don’t- Ok… But I’ve already said all I have to s-. Well, yes. They were very welcoming. No, no, I’m fine but what I’m saying is- Chill out babe please for fucks sake I’m like fucking traumatised… I’d heard the stories, of course, but you give people the benefit of the doubt, right? I do. We drove out and it was only going to be a visit. Got way lost on the way. Out on the moors, yeah. Would’ve eaten anything by the time we got- would’ve eaten- God… You bitch you ask the worst- Mhm they served these like seriously great like- this… Shit, what, like egg dish? Yeah it was eggs like. Some kinda… Well it was peng like you know that place on Kit Hill that does the? Yeah. Like some fresh picked flowers or leaves or mhm all sprinkled on the- Dartmoor, yeah. I can’t tell if you’re listening or not. And we couldn’t say no. And the apple juice! I know! No concentration. No no. So the place. Did you see the pictures? I don’t understand why you want me to- Yeah, like a ranch. Yes. Me on a ranch, girl! Uh huuuuuh! Corral me up somma those cowboy janners and make sure they’re wearing those jeeeeans I like! Main building in the centre was built up from old shipping containers, like a polling station or an office at a big road work site yknow, corrugated iron, arranged in a square with this courtyard in the middle where they grew the apple trees and grapes up a trellis. Lead down into the bunker from there, down a spiral staircase. Really beautiful area. Autumn colours. Just like the whole place engulfed in gorse and heather and… Yeah! And then there were other buildings: this big old barn that was all chained up, little fenced area for the cattle, chicken coops… No, well they did have this radio tower, like for, this communication room but just for AM radio. Like morse beep beep yeah old dusty anorak enthusiast types still broadcasting. I don’t know. Well this is the first thing, like, first funny… I just don’t recall the rest of that day. We’d been made up a room. Doily sort of frilly sheets, chamber pots under the beds. No plugs though; no power. Yeah. Mhmm… I know, well fuck, I mean, he did say… I know I know. I know. He called you? But we didn’t have any reception. What did he say? You’re serious? Ok… And we went on through to the kitchen. The canteen. Kinda in a daze like confused. And… Ok so I never would hold his hand, like you know me like with public affection, but I reached out to hold his hand and it was just like totally fucking cold. Like pressing your hand to a bus window and it gets stuck. And he was sweating like. God, it still gets me, I’m sorry. Can we just leave it for now, babe? No, I’ve only just gotten off the phone with her. She wasn’t so pokey as you… And he was just sweating so much and so I looked up and at him like babe what did you get us into here and just… God. I should have noticed when we arrived. Thought it was just because of the… like that our bodies weren’t used to it because you wouldn’t think. No, never. And we ended up staying around, like, that just ended up happening, like it really was nice I can’t state that enough. It was nice to not have to worry. You know? Like it was all just sort of fine. And I don’t know if I can tell you a time before where things were just fine for a while. Everything there… and we all working together and working for each other and all self s-… And the way the air felt. And the grass. It was intoxicating. God and one night I remember they took us all down to the river. Yeah. And it was after that period of all the rain and the bank had flooded over. Boggy area anyway, with the water up to my knees. Very long grass and none of us had our legs covered up. I know and the ticks were out and hungry. And we were all standing there just out in the night, singing, whatever. We’d make fires every night. Such a cliche looking back. I know it’s embarrassing. It’s a f… Yeah. I know. No I haven’t seen that movie. But like from that position, with everything part submerged like that, encased. I don’t know. It was just… I’m sorry I’m not finding the words, let’s just, you can just read th-… I don’t understand what you want gal. And so we stayed, right? Like Atlantis out there. And I visited home, you remember that. I know and I regret that. I know. Well I’d noticed them like, going in and out of the barn at weird times, but didn’t think anything of it. It was locked up, yeah. Well you either don’t wanna think or you just presume it’s where they keep the tools or whatever. Yeah. Well you know him, and you know how this story ends, so… Yeah. Well you can guess. I never actually saw it. No. Ok well what I’ve heard is that… No no. It was a freak birth. I don’t know when it happened, but one of the cows had gotten out. Like they don’t exactly have barbed wire fences down there, that’s kinda against their principles. And it was missing for a few days and when they eventually found it, like a little ways away into the woods. It was all covered in these markings. Like drawings or writing of some kind, but not anything that means anything. Even their like, the spiritual leader there, even he couldn’t. He said it didn’t make sense. And it was bloodied and bruised and. Yeah, the throat. And pregnant, yeah. Ways along. And the calf. God. You’re really torturing me gal can we stop, please? I’ve said it all before. This is just what I’ve heard. It’s like I told them in the interview. And well they thought it was a sign, obviously. What with all the… Yeah. Didn’t think it was possible. Well, for one, all the animals were… What’s it called when it’s castration for females? Right. But the calf. It’s not like it could have happened anyway. Fingers and toes. It was dead, of course. And that’s when the whole thing kinda shifted in tone, I think, for them. I don’t know if it was good, or bad, for them. I think it was unexpected. Maybe only some of them were familiar with the reality of the rituals… I know. It just flipped. Smothered the thing and the sound… On a fucking stake! I mean I could never have known. Fuck. I’m sorry. What do you want me to describe then for fuck’s sake? I never saw it. I mean it wasn’t like it was- I know. I mean if only, right. Well that morning, I woke up and went down to the canteen… Yeah. I thought he had gone for a walk or something. He did and they’d all vanished. Not a fucking trace. Eggs burnt in the pan. The whole place filled with smoke. Smoke alarm going off. Didn’t even realise they had them installed like thought that was against their thing yknow. But no sprinklers and even the livestock. Just the eggs. Went out and looked around and of course. Yeah. Bunker door bolted shut, tree clear of leaves and fruit, big dents in all the containers like a meteor shower. It’s the same story I know, I just don’t understand what you want? To hear it in my voice? Yes. Uh huh. And the barn door was ajar. And I… Yeah I felt my heart sink. I know. It was fucking hard enough to relive it once. I know it’s a cliche. Cliche hunched over. Vomit frozen crystalline hair pulled out his scalp like… I can’t even describe. I won’t describe it more. This is my limit and I’m hanging up. Moulding apple. I know I did. That’s it. Like a scarecrow. I’m done. I know. Like I said, like a leaner, gamier pork, fruity notes, but with a bit more of a mellow, fatty flavour.

 

 

95 Lumens

 

 

Hey babe sorry I wasn’t able to message you sooner I just arrived at the place :)

(Plymouth, Pictou County, Nova Scotia)

I tried calling but I guess you’re asleep

(unfortunately not the case)

It’s pretty hard thinking across time zones

(4 hours behind)

The sun just set here and the stars are starting to appear

(her job was to notice this)

Only the first few so far

(the logs she was paid to keep were more detailed)

I don’t think I’ve seen stars with my naked eye since our honeymoon

(true; they visited Reykjavík and the skies were clear thanks to the 2021 light curfew)

Can you believe that?

(somehow, no)

Makes me sad that I have to travel so far these days

(the last of the days, little did she know)

I’m sitting on the back porch and there’s not even the sound of traffic

(the cabin was built miles from the nearest highway by an aging prepper who died of lung cancer two years prior and bought at auction by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada soon after for an arbitrary price of CA$3.99 because no one else turned up)

The trees look all crunchy and colourful as it’s getting darker

(strange to be so terrified about the approaching Armageddon yet continue to smoke one or two packs a day out on this very same porch)

And Venus is out… ;) Brighter than all the others

(this is incorrect: the light she saw was Saturn, somehow unnoticed at this time, monumentally shifted in the sky and inexplicably close to the Earth, unprecedented since medieval times)

Remember old diagrams of pinhole cameras?

(this would have meant nothing to him; she misremembered and referenced a moment with an old ex; it’s a very good job he never read these messages)

But anyway it’s very clean and well equipped inside, I think I’m going to be happy here

(a very well stocked armory equipped with melee and ranged weaponry including axes, machetes, crossbows, and pump action assault rifles… abundant firewood bundled in damp-proof plastic sheeting, gas-powered generator and canisters upon canisters of spare juice, vacuum-sealed non-perishable food to last a family of 4 up to a conservative 18 months, rainwater filtration unit, OS maps and compasses, sleeping bags, AM radio transmission station in a Faraday cage, etc)

I miss you already though

(50% true)

And also, sorry… wall of text incoming

(interesting use of the phrase in such a serious context, but she didn’t know that)

I wanted to say how sorry I am about the whole KFC thing. I’ve been thinking about how I behaved a lot and it was totally not fair of me to confiscate your card like that. You know how hard everything has been for me lately and I think I took it because I wanted to regain some feeling of control over a situation in my life. I don’t know if that makes much sense? It’s just all been too much and I need you to be there for me at the moment, especially in the evenings, and you weren’t. And it was getting a bit much and I overreacted. But tbh I’ve been really worried about you and the amount of money you were spending and your health. But anyway, it was totally out of line for me to have done that and I hope we can resolve this. I love you very much. Please go ahead and get yourself some KFC tomorrow. It’s not for me to change who you are.

(remarkably, this would have meant the world to him)

But anyway the evening is lovely and mild

(18 °C, temperate 5mph wind from the South)

I’m imagining the sounds of owls

(none in the local area)

But anyway! Goodnight! I love you! I’ll speak to you tomorrow

(the timestamps of the messages were emitted for the sake of visual clarity, however it is necessary for the understanding of the text to know that half an hour passed between these messages)

I just heard something from the woods

(a crunching sound: twigs or bones breaking, approaching)

I’m gonna head back inside

(through the sliding bulletproof glass doors)

Sorry

(closing the door behind her)

I’ll leave you alone in a minute

(pressing her face against the cool glass and scanning the bushes)

It’s lonely out here and no one’s online

(but not as lonely as she thought)

Sorry you’ll be waking up to so many messages

(if she had known about the infrared cameras installed at the perimeter, she might have been saved)

The sofa is very soft

(comes with age)

I found this artificial bear skin in the wardrobe and I’m wrapped up in front of the wood burning stove

(a sort of noise she didn’t hear)

The silence is dizzying

(suffered from mild vertigo from a young age that only increased with time and age, originally due to heights but later more attributed to horizontal space, not quite agoraphobia, but similar, like for her, vastness was a maze)

More stars are coming out

(this message did not capture her tone of surprise)

It’s milky

(the production of one glass – let’s say 200g – of cow’s milk produces: 0.62kg CO2-Ceq of carbon dioxide, consumes 131L of water, and requires 1.81㎡ of land)

I really do wish you were here

(70% true)

Honestly I feel terrible. I feel like I’ve stepped so out of line that I don’t know how you could ever forgive me

(her parents separated when she was still young and she was desperate not to continue that cycle of grief)

Oh god I can hear that noise again

(considerably louder – audible from inside even through those thick windows)

I think it’s an animal

(a reasonable assumption for a scientist not trained in zoology)

I can sort of see some shape moving around between the trees just past the lawn

(a bit further away than that, 5m back past the lawn line: the shape was very large and played tricks with scale and distance in the dark)

There’s floodlights out there but I don’t know where the switch is

(in the secret closet behind the bookcase where the fuse box is kept, along with reserve ammunition, gasoline, and a vat of industrial strength hydrochloric acid for disposing of bodies)

Hold on I’m gonna lock the door

(three deadbolts, two chains, one padlock)

Don’t know why I’m getting so spooked it’s well lit in here

(fluorescent lamps overhead, quaint antique tungsten things, tiffany ones with a gentle orange glow in the corner, fairy lights strung around the fireplace)

Like from a catalogue

(all the furniture she never ordered but always wanted; the debts she never paid)

I can see Cancer and Leo and Virgo now

(their baby boy was a Cancer Sun, Taurus Moon, Pisces Rising, but not being believers, they never checked his chart)

Oh god

(not normally one for the religious vocabulary)

There’s a light coming from the sky

(like from the crack below a door)

I think the shower is early

(it wasn’t scheduled for another few days)

I don’t even have my telescope set up

(still in her suitcase)

Shit

(it emerged from the thicket)

I’m so sorry honey

(85% true)

What is that?

(making wide strides across the lawn)

It’s so big

(leaving burnt patches where the hooves had touched)

And so bright

(94 lumens or more)

Oh god

(it is difficult to understate how out of character this wording was)

Do stags usually have smooth white skin?

(it was not a stag)

I’ll love you always

(100% true)