a sincerely belated collab for Shadows and Light.
i'm lying on the futon, no frame, floor right beneath me, watching the shadows skirl across the ceiling. they take on the mein of different phantasms as they shift - first tattered ghost right out of a children's book, then goblin, then housebreaker. i shiver, despite the heat.
it's been a long time since i've been able to sleep in the dark.
over by the window, on the table, the clock is ticking. i can't see it, but i can hear it ticking off the seconds. somehow, it misses every third second. tick, tick, pause. tick, tick, pause. it reminds me of listening to the foghorn when i was much younger; the blast would be louder or softer as the foghorn swung around. i wonder if, as the seconds drop out, i'm losing time.
as i think about that and try to ignore the shadows, i gradually become aware of a deep thrumming, somewhere below. logically, i know it's likely the gas furnace, powering the hiss and click of the radiator, which ebbs and flows as the steam builds and seeps out. but instead, i see in my head a coal fire, blazing high and angry, as a sweating henchman, stripped to the waist, grunts and shovels load after load of sooty coal into the flames.
the swoop of tires on pavement draws me back, makes me realize that there are others out there in the night. i wonder what they're thinking as the headlights loop around the corners. do they wonder who else is prowling in the night? are they worried about a deadline, an arguement, some small nocturnal beast scuttling in front of the car? or are they just blank, just aiming for home? i wait for the squeal of brakes, but only hear the branches rustling, tap tap tapping against the window pane.
like an echo, there's a clicking in wall, an intermittent reply to the trees. i peer intently at the wall, as if i could see thru it, see what was going on. i picture a long aluminum pipe, about two feet high, running along the base of the wall, and in the center is a gate of sorts - it's a circle of metal folded in half, hung over a metal pipe, like a sheet on a clothes line. on either side sits a gnome; at least i think they're gnomes, as they have red hats. they're sitting on wooden stools, leaning slightly forward and staring intently at the gate. when they get the signal, they reach out both hands and insistently bat the gate back and forth. they cannot see each other.
and i cannot see the cats as they go thundering by, back and forth from one end of the apartment to the other. they are in pursuit of nothing that i can see, and they sound like an entire herd of elephants. small furry elephants, but elephants nonetheless. the image makes me smile, and for a moment, the night doesn't seem as dark.
but then i hear music. or, i think i do. it's faint and eerie. i can't make it out quite well enough to know what the tune is. i think there is a voice over the melody, but i can't quite be sure. i strain to make out the sounds, when suddenly there are voices down the hall. a man and a woman, maybe, talking. they are nearby, they are down the hall, they are on the same floor, and then there are doors slamming. and then there is quiet.
i sink back into the pillow, and go back to watching the silent figures on the ceiling, waiting for sleep to come.