Intermission of the Dust Traffic

Rebecca Gransden

I get my foot stuck in a ribcage. Daydreams… Exhaustion… The concrete of this stretch is endless and the white lines here are fuzzy, hard to follow.

The asphalted world is getting more difficult to navigate. As the carpark surface ages and wears, the demarcation points are confused. Some days the ground is broken, great potholes appearing, a force cracking up. I think it’s diabolical.

I wriggle my ankle free of the bones, the ribs fairly small. Belonged either to a woman or teenager I’d guess. More skeletal remains in these last few weeks. I’m travelling inward, where there were people in greater numbers. They perished here, in egress. I’ll head to where they came from. It won’t do to change the way ahead. I’ve been committed to it for a long time, and swore to myself that I wouldn’t deviate, no matter what, because that would be as good as restarting.

I can’t begin again.

Every carpark space has its own character, its individual marker. Twisted grasses, some trodden, flattened weeds, spindly twiglets, cracks of course, loose stones, gravelly detritus, the remnants of metal objects bent, bleached fragments of some plastic thing. The lines.

I selected my way at random, by spinning and holding out an outstretched arm, opening my eyes, realising I was a little wonky, and then straightening myself to align with a long white line. So now I follow them.

white line, step over middle line, white line, scuttle over bare concrete to the next parking space, repeat…

Sometimes there are raised curbs to navigate, either tarmac filled or overgrown with sickly grass, other times inactive streetlights to pause underneath, or metal barriers to climb over, bollards to dodge. But only one way forward.

Precepts tangle underfoot, slats of iron pocked with ghost wormholes, the voodoo meal eaten blindfolded underneath a discontinued overpass. An exodus of film stock passengers ambling, cine captured wraiths huddled in gangs. The canine teeth stretch over the rot, slurp memories banished by the indigestible—a train of smoke bodies, tagged like hierophants.

This place manufactures vomity bile.

I don’t presuppose here.

The horizon doesn’t exist, I’ve decided. Carpark exists. Everything just is, on and on forever. I’ll stumble around this sphere to the same spot and not recognise it, because everything looks the same and is decaying alike. But the bones—these brittle remnants sleep in destroyed grey, and when there are more of them, I find some hope deep down. They’re not much, but enough to balance the white lines, without interruption.

If I had a rifle, I’d shoot the glass clouds down and let the rainbow shards fall and splinter among the bones and rusty carcasses of pushbikes. There is venom in the wind, a dispatched message, a claw. I bring up a lung regularly, purple and clotted stiff, and choke it back down with a wince. When the perfume of barbecued fences wafts by, I want to be obedient to the lace matrix hours and my anger at being left behind.

As barriers twitch, I know the red eye is out and wandering the carpark, its pupil rotating as it searches the emptiness. I can only tell when it’s night when I have its red to contrast with the dirty light. I don’t know what it’s looking for, but it isn’t me. I cross its path sometimes, and it floats.

Vacant tins rattle as they roll, taken by breezes low to the asphalt, petrichor in memory. They are holey and useless, apart from their music. Tune clatters along with the soft growl of the wind, until there’s a lull again. The silence is different since the hum went away. Now I hear myself above it all.

I pass statuesque people, petrified in a strange amalgam of crumbling stone and degrading metal, their faces drooped like melted wax. They wait in the carpark at the side of spaces, expecting their cars to be there, no doubt, but finding empty space. Some are frozen bending down, poking their hand out as if with keys ready to beep the car open. More bones too, but made of brass or metallised plastic, spokes of femurs protruding from the ground, taking root.

A stigmatic walks where the lines don’t touch, dressed in white, dusted and rubbed cloth, wounds seeping with dark liquid onto the concrete in drips, leaving a splodgy trail—dinky hands for rivulets to travel. The stigmatics traipse along, lobotomised, ecstatic, and it’s a relief when they disappear into the distance.

My bones are budding.

The cars drive. From the way ahead, between the lines, under tv screen skies, pixelated dust. Smoke cars, each one, puffing the outlines, catalytic converters, uniform automobile frames, the ideal in vehicular grace—soundless spectres come to race the stigmatic.

She weeps at last and brings her bloody hands to her face. The sight of her animated, of the return of cognisance, makes me want to puke. Still walking, she garbles, a recalcitrant lamb.

Honking and blistering close in on her, great balls of fizzing plasma about the cars, doing the job of ghost headlights.

Her imbecility hasn’t left her. She’s incapable of anything outside herself, the rush of the recall of forgotten days shocking her system into lockdown. Her motors keep her upright and in motion. The fear is insular, but the cars are coming.

I’m slender enough to hide behind a telegraph pole, being a peeker.

The cars are thick dust, howling along the asphalt.

The stigmatic scratches at her forehead with overgrown nails, as sharp and abrasive as talons. She blinds herself with blood.

The lead car screams in smoke, the wails of spirit screeching, echoing from inside its body.

It hits her and she brakes all over the ground.

They bumper each other and jam, the smoke transferring, mixing with subtle resistance until each car can define itself in dust once more.

I wait and watch until the jam flows.

I’ll sup at her, at the wetness she’s bestowed, this lamb.

The way I’m headed leads to where the cars drive from. It’s too sick a direction to persist in. I think I’ll look for the red eye and follow it the next time I encounter it. It has something to seek, something specific and certain.

Rebecca Gransden lives on an island and writes sometimes. She is published at X-R-A-Y, Burning House Press, Silent Auctions, and Muskeg, among others. Her books are anemogram, Rusticles, and Sea of Glass.

 © 2020 þ (Thorn) Literary Magazine                                                                        

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