It reaches for me with grey fingers like smoke, like ash. Tears its claws down the soft lining of my throat, my lungs. I gasp and choke, backing up, backing away. But it's hard to escape when it's everywhere. It weaves smog hands into my hair and pours out its toxicity. In desperation my mouth squeezes shut and my hand lifts to pinch my nose, but somehow it oozes its way through, grey self curling downwards where it burns me. With a harsh exhale I force it out, turn my face, but there's nowhere to breath where it's clean. Everywhere a toxic paradise.
You dare linger here, stranger? Do this place hold some appeal to you that is unbeknowst to me? You know who I am; you have met me before. Care to recall the memory? No? A pity, but that is of no surprise to me. When you came into the world, you saw me standing quietly in the corner, clear as day. Amazing how it is the newborn, not the adult, that take notice of otherwise invisible people. But, I find, it is a strained ignorance. No one is inclined to look Death in the eye. So, why did you stay here? Your time left is long. Tired of it life already? Have a care. I will collect you when it is your time, not before. And certainly not after. So you want to talk, then? Have a seat. The chair is behind you. You have five minutes. My work is never done, and not for a mortal will I be put off my duties. Death has no rest.
I was something beautiful, once. Something that used to bring others so much joy. In the summers boats would ride in my waves, Churning the water, whoops of joy like birdcalls in the air. Sometimes old men would come to my edge and throw lines In the water with a hope to catch slippery, flashing scales. But I think during the night I was most splendid, With a full moon turning my water silver. And kids would sneak away to watch me And build fires and laugh.
But much has changed. They call me the 'Death Lake', now.
Someone came and threw bodies in the water, Bodies of women and men and youth and old. They sunk to the bottom, pulled down by the iron Around their wrists and ankles. Their eyes saw nothing. After that no one swam in my waters, No one fished in my waters, No one dared come to close. I was cursed, and it wasn't my fault.
I can't seem to lift my eyes from the ground. It's as if they're glued there. I don't see anything but pavement, and I like it that way. I don't have to look anyone in the eye, at least until I cross the bridge. I'm not certain... if I'll ever come back.
My footsteps crunch on the snow as I wallk towards the first wall of winter woodland, leaving a trail of foot prints behind me. My breath clouds on the crisp, sharp air, and for a fleeting moment I imagine myself as a steam train, or a dragon. Taking a deep breath, I exhale and watch the delicate cloud hover and fade as I keep walking, leaving it behind. When I glance over my shoulder, the cloud is gone, as though it never existed. My lungs ache, and my throat stings, but somehow I'm relieved. I glance up to my left. The sun is out.
I can see, but not in the way you'de think. Not in the way sight is defined. Because there isn't just one definition. Sure, there's one popular definition. But there are others, too.
I can't see in color. Don't know what it looks like. Never have, never will. No, I see through my perception of space, Of balance, touch, distance, heat, cold and innumerable others. But especially hearing.
I can hear a storm coming long before anyone else. I can hear someone breathing in a loud room. And I can hear so many other things. I can detect a lie in a voice based on the way It leaves a person's mouth, how the words form on The tongue and the teeth, and the emotions that Leave unbidden, unconciously.
Sometime people describe some voices as emotionless Or toneless, devoid of, well, everything, but that isn't true.
"I never lied, I just never told you anything, and with good reason."
"It wasn't my fault that you were never there when I needed you. What made you think you deserved to know if you've been treating me like dirt for years? If you've been treating her like dirt for years?"
"It is the most relevant thing on Earth. And no, I could not just have 'gotten over it.' Who do you think I am?"
"I didn't know that she would jump. And why do you care all of a sudden? You weren't even here! By God, you haven't been here for most of her life!"
"You were never a dad. You are a coward and heartless fool. How dare you come here and claim that you 'deserved to know', even though you haven't even watched her grow up! You have no idea how hard it was, explaining that 'Daddy won't be coming back'."
There's this painting, on the wall of the house that has been in the family for generations. It's faded of all color and singed at one corner. I don't know why, and I've never asked. It's oddly fitting. The image is of a clearing in the woods, with an unlit firepit it its center, mountains looming tall and dark in the distance, clouds covering the moon. But only the moon. There are stars everywhere, many of them, each forming constellations that do not belong in the nightsky of this world. Beyond the wall of trees one can make out the glitter of a stream in the silver gloom, and the silhouttes of still, silent reeds. But it's night in the picture, and it's easy to hide in the dark. There is no flame in the firepit to illuminate the shadows of the surrounding trees, nothing to bring to light what hides there, if anything.
I'm on a boat, Heading to nowhere, Belonging to no one, With no one to keep me company but the night sky. I'm lost. Each turn greets me with the grim recognition that I don't belong here, That I'm a stranger, riding wearily on the blackened currents of the river, Floating aimlessly, with no one watching but Orion, the hunter in the sky. I hear no noise, head for no shore, as each is dark and unwelcoming. There is no wind in the trees, no wolfsong from the mountains, And even the birds are silent, as though they're afraid. The moon vanishes behind a screen of darkened silver. I light a lantern, though it's dangerous, the gold battling the starlight and shadow. And I drift down the river, flame in hand, like a minature sun. I will follow the water until it reaches the sea. I will never touch the shore again. I don't know who I am anymore. Maybe once I did, But I forgot.