She moved her hand up and down across his back three times, gave a gentle shoulder touch, and asked, “Are you getting up?”
He pulled the woven blanket up to his chin. It smelled of dog. It was not a really offensive dog odour. It was more subtle, comforting. The bird’s nest of fibre optic cable in his bone melon was passing the olfactory information through the nodes, bringing memories to the surface, but to what end?
It all seemed so pointless.
Sleep was what he needed. Good, deep, natural sleep.
“Why aren’t you getting up?” she inquired after a long pause.
From his perspective, it was as good a response as any. How is one supposed to describe the momentary state of one’s rat nest of circuitry using strings of dictionary words? It would be a more accurate description if he were to paint a picture of a thousand words by taking a swing at the glass coffee table with his head.
He wasn’t in the mood for any small talk, anyway. She sensed this and walked back upstairs, leaving him to wallow on the decades-old, threadbare couch. Among the dog blankets and pillows donning mismatched cases, he drifted away.
His dream started with a highway. An interstate. Dead deer littering the shoulder as far as the eye could see. It was dusk. Headlights in front of him. The seat of the vehicle started to recline and the headlights got brighter.
Now he was in a dentist’s chair. The headlight had become the overhead light. Surgical-masked faces like Asian occupants of waiting rooms or old western bank robbers, cloaked for anonymity. He focused on one face and another memory tried to bubble up to the surface. Something familiar. Another synapse firing and another struggle to find meaning. A sneeze that convulses, but won’t expel.
A body materialized below the now bandana-masked face. He was sitting. Across the aisle of a subway train. Click-clack. Click-clack. Click-clack. The man caught him staring. His eyes turned above the horizon made by the bandana’s folded edge as he brought a raised index finger up to his lips and made the international sign for “Shhhh”.
As he did so, the rhythmic sound, but not the rhythmic motion, of the train wheels stopped. They were still moving forward, gaining speed. Natural light poured in the window. The train was no longer a subway. They were above ground. Outside the window of the train, he could once again see the dead deer of the Michigan highway. There were dogs and small rodents among the carcasses. They became a blur as the train continued to pick up speed.
A voice in his head prompted him to make a decision, right there and then. Was he the dead deer on the side of the tracks, or was he the cold steel cowcatcher?
With that thought, a flash of light. A starry night. Full moon. Driving again. Winter. Frozen gravel crunching under the wheels. A feeling of reservation as he realizes he is the only living soul around.
He looks up among the skeletal branches of the tall, leafless, trees. The moonlight lands upon an exsanguinated deer carcass hung up on the highest branches.
Holes of the blackest black stare down at him from sockets where there should be eyes.