For the first time, the farmer left the road behind him dirty but unchanged. He slowly made his way down the street, cars speeding around his girth. Some revved their engines in a show of frustration for having their stride broken. It roared: 'you don't belong here.' Their tires squealing on the shining black asphalt.
Last year, it was still dirt, as it was every year before. Cars who braved the mud tracks grumbled in leisure, and many hands slid out windows to offer a wave. The farmer would smile and nod, his treads temporarily scarring the road behind him. Children pressed their noses to windows to try to see his face, towering high above them.
Now, no matter how high the seat, he is reminded he should have disappeared with the old dirt road, the world around him growing into a stranger.
The soft brush ran over the thin enamel, so gentle she could hardly feel it. She pulled her lips taught and wide to avoid staining them. Her attendant, passed down from her mother, was trained and deft, unafraid of mistakes because she had learned better in her shaky youth. But it remained painstaking work, and art, and she almost felt bad for her lady's comfort, her lips starting to tremble, surely going uncomfortably numb. Her eyebrow twitched. Almost.
When the brush finally lowered for good, the elegantly-clad woman did her best to relax her lips gracefully, but they snapped closed like an over-extended bow. Her attendant pretended not to notice and slipped her a mirror. Her eyebrows were almost completely gone, erasing her expressions. She sorely opened her mouth to darkness, her teeth black, erasing all imperfections of yellow or rot into uniform mystery. She leaned forward to return the mirror to her attendant, edging on the extent of her motion in her layers too many to count. Unmoving, emotionless, with black teeth set in a mouth as mysterious and quiet as the night.
Her little fists were balled up, wrinkling his shirt, holding him in place. He was bigger and surely stronger than she, but it wasn't her strength that kept him glued to the spot. It was the feel of her tears, soaking through th fabric, wetting through to his chest. The feeling of utter uselessness at he hesitantly patted her head, slowly sinking her into a hug. Perhaps she wa crying so hard becuase she didn't know the words for the feeling rampaging across every inch of her insides- don't go. Every time he made the slightest move to pull away, her umoving firstfuls of shirt made him refreeze at the slightest resistance. He didn't have it in him to tear away, but the farewell had stagnated, and the door behind was still cracked open, beconing him to finish his exit. He placed his hands over hers and she loosened. She hadn't the words to stop him. The look of his back, slipping out the door- would it be the last time? There was a stunning silence behind him, punctuated only by the sound of the door creaking closed. The childish wailing was already far away, not even the sound of sniff. It was empty, a complete void behind him, growing larger as it followed his steps in retreat. It had bloomed in her the moment she released him, and as he looked down, he saw he too was being sunk into a sea of nothingness. No- he was the beginning, and everything he touched, everything he left behind, was swallowed in his wake. The last bit of him above water felt a spark of joy, that they would still be connected, if only in emptyness.
Their eyes were shifting around the room nervously, skittering around him. As they thought of the consequences of their coming words, all the while knowing they wouldn't stop them, he had already figured it all out. He knew what came next. Denying anything would any dig them in more. Shifting the blame to the true culprit would be no less suspicious than hiding a bloody candlestick behind his back. His severe, unsmiling cheeks that seemed to suck joy right out of the music flowing from the horn of a slightly discolored gramaphone. The way his avoidance of pleasantries and desire to speak privately with their gracious host now coming across as an agenda. His medals, tucked away on the inside of his off-color suit, and how before walking into evening they stood for sacrifice and valor, and now only proof of his grim abilities to look past blood and emotion. He eyed who he knew would speak first. The one looking at him now, directly, nervously. He knew behind the nervousness there was an eagerness to pin the blame on anyone else, on someone else, on someone more convenient. He took a deep breath, and he let it out, all eyes now on his dignified wrinkles, accusing each one.
How many times had he washed the same dishes? Some with the majority of the food left, all dumped into the some soddy water, chunks of filet mignon and string beans tangling in his fingers like seaweed every time his fingers dipped below the murky surface. He so wanted to clean the finished dishes one, twice, three more times, until the water spots disappeared, the dishwasher leaving its mark, but it all was reminiscent of the browning suds, thick with oil, staining the stainless steel like blood, wadding in corners like wet paper bills. He wanted to scrub the water spots right off.
He enters the room, little snowflakes gently making their way from the crown of his head down, never settling. An eternity and this was his favorite part, seeing them for the first time. He always showed up early to see them while they at peace. He takes a bit of that too, for himself, before claiming it all.
The house groans and pops in its veins to outdated radiator heaters, but not a single step creaks the aching floorboards. He is a professional, there are no nerves left to spare.
He takes one last look. The eyes don’t stir, it’s been a dreamless, fitful night. But they do not open. Strands of hair curl over the skin lazily. You’ll never have lost it, he thinks, but its’ grey tint would have only brought you closer to me. He spies a pair of glasses, thick with lens. You’ll have gone blind, he thinks, but I would have been here for you anyway. He spies stripes of daisy yellow on the neck of a pajama top sticking out from underneath an over fluffed quilt. You never would have stopped painting yourself in such bright, offensive colors, he thinks, but I would have taken you in them then as I do now.
There is no thrill to his bare bones, but he brushes the strands of hair away from the face out of habit. He turns it towards him, and the light sleeper doesn’t wake. They never do. He leans in, a soft, lipless kiss,
another promise to forever walk them home through the dark.
As the world speeds up, all the life slows down- the cells, dividing as always,
mechanic in their organics,
at the same pace since the first split in the universe,
but in the last word of the tome of existence,
the fires were lit,
burning the oil and firing the pistons,
fighting disease and making revisions,
and the cells, ripping genes from one into two,
now too slow to grow defense against the fire new.