An underlying voice corodes the soil from beneath. The ground stops being solid, just like that, decides not to carry and support, but to swallow, to relieve itself by entering a different state of matter.

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Who is here, who remains, only spectres and specs. And to be had: a collective dream of rain and manna falling from the sky. From the far side of the narrow corridor there came a voice and spoke to me as if it knew me. It brought a forecast and tried to put it mildly. The dry, warm air carries the smell of hair; it streams from hairdryers into low-pressure fronts, brings sunshine and dissipates clouds. The wet, cold air gathers altitude and folds across the ridged backs of high peaks, enveloping the exhales of the valley, the whispers and sighs of wishful thinking and the confessions spoken quietly inside churches into the ears of priests through meshes. One after another, as they knelt and spoke, perhaps even sobbed, the sinner’s breaths condensed on the mesh and one sin became part of another. What is it daughter? What is it son? You want to do something, but you know that nothing can be done? You’re glad to wake up, but you can’t fathom a future. Future puts distances between patches of land. Future has been washing up along our shorelines. The more future, the louder the sound of the ocean: so vast, so dead, populated by noone but blue-blooded crabs. The ocean waves pass between your teeth bearing salt crystals and divination orbs. The acolyte falls to his knees, the hair on the back of his neck screams, his chest opens up and reveals that there is a heart after all, but alas, no soul. Friend, you’ll need your blood thickened to preserve you. You’ll loose some groups of muscle but the perks are great, I promise. Whistle if you can hear me. Scoop up your guts and walk along.

 

My language hangs limp within the vastness of my body, my voice insulated by its folds. All of these cells, they’re mine, all mine but you can peel them off quite easily; they don’t stick too well. They’re accumulating like chalk on a chalkboard in this badly lit space where everyone looks anemic. We’re limescale, you’re scum. What matter is this? Where’s the solution? Too thick, too thin, the solution eludes me, vanishes beneath the non-reflective surface of the pool of starch, so cloudy there isn’t any reflection at all. The surface shows each and everyone a different thing and will turn some of them blind. Can you think of anything as uncanny as that? Perhaps the mouthlessness of Attacus Moths. In the thick of it you laughed so hard your teeth were shaking, rattling ‘round inside your skull.

And all those teeth and laughter chiseled away at empathy, one morsel at a time. You see, they don’t see how stuck we are, we’re so very very stuck and the drops of starch are drying and shrinking our eyeballs. That’s what starch does, it shrinks, makes crisp, it stiffens. Never you mind how it got there.

In this changing world, you have to be keen; look out for the instant the sun reveals your shadow. This shadow is a doorway through which you may stay.

 

She was human but thin as a leaf, with large veins running flatly through her. The sound of wind on her was deafening, a high-pitched note cut to shape by her edges. She moved with the shadows, like one of their kin and hid from the sun sideways. Every morning she’d carefully harvest the skins of starch that had grown overnight. She’d dip her finger in peat colored ink and let it dry.  

 

Lately, the world has been turning soft and all of the rodents perished. Open roots, constant growth. Rats lost their intelligence due to the lack of obstacles, but they didn’t loose their fervor for procreation. They chewed right through the soft stuff in straight lines, all the while increasing in numbers. There was a worry a pest may come and consume all integrity, but then their teeth grew into their necks and skulls. There was nothing solid left to abrase them and they kept on erupting from their gums. Open roots, constant growth.

 

As I breathe through my mouth, saline liquid is dripping from my nose. By not speaking I exercise my quiet power over you. I go in circles, rearranging bones, thick skin, debarking stems, peeling roots, roots fleeting, embalmed, moist naked trunks. There is something you need to do; it’s something I needed to do. I can’t shout louder then them, but I can easily out-silence them; I can out-sit them any day.

At night I watch the prehistoric shapes of silverfish slither, graze on the skin I shed onto the bathroom floor. I watch them with irk and fascination and take sips of hot water, I drink as the sink drips. I never let the slivers touch me; they come too close and I lean down and blow them away. They tumble atop my breath and scuttle back into their wall voids and subfloor areas. When asleep my body moves in unfamiliar ways; neither flesh, nor born of flesh. I cut corners and grind my teeth. Open roots, constant growth.

 

Enter: a strange light, which does not reveal, but confuses shapes, leaving you with inklings, on the edge of understanding. Just when you think you’ve considered the circumstance, it slips away from you, mockingly, and spits in your face for good measure. Last time inside this mineshaft, you found a lump of coal that looked just like you. Now you’re back down here to search for your remains. A doorway opens up into a cavern that smells of rock crystal and silt. The walls barely hold together, but you’re not afraid, because you know you cannot die; you know this is not how you will die. The humid air strokes you in the way a lukewarm tongue would lick you. And as it licks, it slowly gets colder until it is no longer alive.

 

There is two of everything: two partially burnt logs, two dried parsnip bones, two legs of horseradish, two carefully contained pools of dried starch, two eyes watery with fever, two pages conscious of their borders, two flies fallen, rendered stiff mid-flight, simultaneously at two different points of one space.

 

A continuously growing exoskeleton, my lower body’s shrunk in proportion, so that my tiny legs could not support my upper body anymore. The solution of salt and time drips from my elbows and knees; I hold up my arms awkwardly to enable the dripping; my legs are suspended, hovering, because the dripping must continue. I am wiping it away, but it keeps on oozing. And on the ground beneath a thickening is taking place. I am wittless and functional, formed of slime and actions, a bulging body with roots for veins.

 

Meat grown outside the animal makes their bones and eyes reluctant. We helped them increase in numbers by diluting their beings. They were willed into abundance, successful and tasty; we bathed their hides in starch and watched them dry under the scorching sun. The sun was good at making crackling.

© 2019 Katarina Hruskova