Sunday, March 22, 2009

Night piece (Frenzy)

High on the bluffs, in a bare room looking out on the city, a man waits for the approach of night. He stands by one window, his back against the wall, peering out as the window-shade rises and snaps down again in the oncoming wind. Already shadows are filling the labyrinth of alleys beneath him, erasing the outlines of the buildings and trees. Streetlights flicker on, advancing block by block, but their faint illumination, diffracted by dust, only deepens the blur. As the wind from the ocean gathers strength the temperature drops a few degrees, but the heat radiating up from below remains intolerable. He leaves his lookout, paces the room, sits for a moment in the single wooden chair that is his only furniture. He reaches down for a ceramic pitcher whose monochrome glaze is stained and crackled, pours tepid water into a jar, and drinks, though it brings him no relief. 

He stands again, goes to the window. He can still make out the waves cresting in the distance, but the sea is now the color of ink and is rapidly merging with the sky. Somewhere offshore a signal beacon pulses, and the red light seems to sear his pupils as he stares. He turns away and shuts his eyes, feeling sweat beading on his brow and neck. He moves to the corner of the room, to another window where the beacon can not reach him, but he still feels its pulsing as if it were the circulation of his blood. He hears music, intermittent and indistinct, something reedy and strident, until at last it is drowned by the roar of the wind. There is a hint of ashes in the air; the taste gets on his tongue and he can't get rid of it. He straightens his back and throws his arms apart as if crucified. He would scream but he knows no sound will issue from his mouth. He would throw himself out the window, onto the rooftops at the bottom of the bluffs, but he is unable to lift his feet from the floor. He can do nothing but wait, burned by the wind, until the bleakest, most silent part of the night.

Because that is the hour, he knows, when they will come for him. 

No comments: