Ashes to Undermine the Smell
Father is draped over the windows: what is left of him, dried and stiff and burgundy-brown: somewhat wrinkled and dirty, bleeding and caked with soul.
No, this was an accident. It should be soil. Soil, parched and small and something to be washed away at night. Just soil.
Flies. Smell of rot: meat untouched for days, spoiled in the heat, swarming swimming with maggots:
the air becomes a plastic bag over his head.
the house a festering womb
His head ached. No sleep. Prey to the blinding white heat.
[many mouths]: gutless wonder
Something is incubating inside the house.
It is always night. The sun does not know that it has already burned out.
Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses . . . and when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land . . .
Mother has hung sheets smeared with Father’s blood over the windows to keep out the demons and the sun. The evil spirits must respect blood authority. But the flies still get in. They are hungry. Always hungry.
It is always night inside the house.
She will see a fly slide through the air, a spot darker than the dark. She will follow with her eyes as the fly lands among those already feasting on the bloodstained sheets. She will scream. She will call for
He walked through the house, swatting flies with a newspaper,
all afternoon, for days,
old rolled up newspaper, yellow and leathery,
in the everlasting night of the living room.
The flies kept coming.
hungry for more
Mother sat in the chair while he stalked the flies.
Take advantage of the darkness.
He moved slowly in on the fly, limp yellow whip poised until inches away the flies fell to the floor with a snap of the wrist.
A thousand black bodies swept into a pile.
ankle deep in raisin wings flies flies
She shouted again, flies
She shouted, flies
shouted. flies flies
The flies are all over the sheets. flies
He came and waved his arms.
He still had his arms. His breath. Stale air to breathe. flies
slopping in a puddle of slick black blood
in the middle of the field
I am born and no one survives in one piece.
Father: a dust-encrusted memory.
The swarm dispersed for a moment and then swirled back around to feast on the upright. He beat the ceiling the walls the windows and made little progress, stunning but not destroying.
pale gray face, blank, staring out from inside the sheets
Mother: gone into the other night of mourning.
She located flies from her chair. There’s one, in the corner, on the ceiling, right in front of you, now it’s on your shoulder. Come on, you have to look for them. You have to sneak up.
flies from her chair
His field of vision one giant blind spot.
long leaps of blood finding a way back into the earth
Look with your spiritual eyes.
heat blackened field of fission; eye of the sun tearing at bleeding sheets
Can you see the enemy’s hand at work here?
the sun cries only behind the cover of storm clouds
record heat and no rain in over two months
I sense in my spirit that this is the work of the enemy.
He’s using flies to eat your father’s blood.
hungry for light
the sun will not weep today
She began to cry and asked why the Lord allowed the devil to bring plague and pestilence upon them. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you . . . After everything we’ve been through.
He stopped waving and walked out.
Where are you going? Where are you going? Are you going to abandon me, too? I can’t do this on my own.
He tossed the coiled paper on the counter and walked through the kitchen out the back door.
He returned with an orange cord and dropped the roll on the living room floor and walked out again.
She resumes her prayers.
Lord, hear our prayer:
. . . hide this house in the hollow of your hand . . .
He returned again, carrying the black mass of the bug zapper through the house. He plugged the cord in and hung the electric blue light in the corner.
pray to the blinding white heat
Heat stalks about like a roaring lion seeking that which it may devour.
Time comes to steal, kill, and destroy.
a burnt offering to the Lord; a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the Lord
She sits on erect and rigid in the deepening gloom. The snapping and buzzing, sizzling, goes on indefinitely and out of rhythm, flicking little flashes of light into the room, casting the shadows of her prayers against the walls.
Smoke hangs in the air:
the smell of burnt flies:
a fragrant incense bearing witness to her affliction.
[Night] The fields are screaming
[Night.] The fields are screaming. Crickets. Frogs. Lost and angry spirits. Crossing from the yard into the field, he thinks he hears Mother call him. He stops. Listens. A coal snaps in the fire pit. He watches the dull red murmuring embers. He watches the surrounding area and waits to see if the sperm of the sun found fertile ground in the dry grass; he waited for the birth of a flame. He watched for some time. He awoke again and remembered Mother. He had heard her. He hadn’t heard her. The fields are screaming. The fields are moving, wandering. The fields are driving cars and getting drunk and fucking. The fields are sitting alone in the house, praying through the heat. Praying. The fields pray and scream. The fields will not witness the birth of the flame to cleanse and transform all things. Not tonight. Not until this night finally passes, however many days that will take. He looks toward the field, into the darkness hiding the combine, covering the soil containing his father’s blood, the beginning and end and eternity of all things; the dawn and duration of this endless night. He squeezes the hungry mouth of the Mason jar in his hand; the jar containing air from a moment in time when none of this had yet happened and ceased to happen, sealing in time untouched, untainted by what was coming to kill it all together. It only took the right combination of elements meeting in the chaos to set things in motion. He starts into the field. He hears a murmur from somewhere as he crosses from the yard into the field. Mother calls him. He stops. He waits. He looks at the glowing dying embers left from burning another load. The coals might pop and light the straw grass on fire and maybe burn the whole yard, maybe burn the house and the barn, spread to the field, blow into town and choke the sky with a sooty eclipse. No, the glow retreats beneath a blanket of ash. He stands there and listens for Mother, watching the dying coals wink from under the ashes, a trace of what once was. His eyes drift out of focus. The fields are screaming. He hears nothing.
Josh Maday lives among the blind (being blind himself also (they lead each other) in the part of Michigan where the long flat land plucks eyes from their sockets. His writing has appeared in Phoebe, Action Yes, Apostrophe Cast, Barrelhouse, No Colony, Dark Sky Magazine, and public places in Nashville and Baltimore. He keeps a blog chained and withering at http://joshmaday.blogspot.com