Friday, 8 February 2013

The Playground with Crosses (very short story)

Photo by John DiLeo

The crypt was cold; it smelled of cement and candles. I couldn't squeeze hugs from the rigid, dry hands. Through the iron bars of the window I crawled outside and wandered around on wobbly legs.

I used to eat weeds and suck the cold milk of marble crosses. After a day of wandering around, in the evening, I would go back to the crypt. I slept huddled up on a multicolored dusty rug with tassels, laid on the bare cement, close to the dead. 

One day, while hugging a cross with all my strength, I glimpsed a dog in the corner of my eye. His hungry yellow eyes measured me. His brown fur was rumpled, filled with thistles. He snarled and jumped at me savagely. I fell on my back, teeth piercing brutally through my right arm. I saw crows flying like screams in the clear blue sky. The cur chewed and ripped, growling and shaking his head. As it pulled my arm out of its socket, I slid into darkness.

I woke up after some time. Through a veil of tears I saw a bitch with saggy tits and purple nipples, crusts of bread on the ground, and women kneeling down and wailing. They were dressed in black, long hair covering their faces. I ate some funeral wheat porridge with my left hand and licked my fingers. In the back of the chapel I found a black dusty coat and a pair of old, muddy shoes. I put on the coat and buttoned it up slowly. It smelled like a corpse. The shoes were big, heavy and rough. I decided to walk barefoot. 

I remember the day when a grown-up handed me a sack with something round and solid inside. He taught me how to kick the sack with my right foot. After he left I played with it for a while. I would kick it and it would roll on the grass in front on me. Then the sack started bleeding; it left traces of blood in the dusty green of the grass. I lifted and opened it. There was a woman’s head inside. Her rumpled dark hair was filled with clotted, sticky blood. I washed her at the water pump and took her in my crypt. The shape of her face was prominent and she still had some skin on her ruined cheeks. Her eyes were deep wounds, two springs of blood. In the evenings I would kiss her decaying lips and fall asleep with her in my arms. 

Then it started raining for a long time. The crypt was humid and cold. Worms infested the head and I had to throw it out. I was so lonely and bored that I didn't even know whether I was still alive. Finally, the sun pushed through the clouds and I began wandering again. I spoke silently with my neighbors hiding under crosses, and caressed their oval sepia pictures with my pale fingers. One day, as I was kicking an empty beer can down the cemented path in the middle of the cemetery, I stumbled and fell down in a puddle. In the trembling muddy water I saw myself for the first time. My hair was dirty and ruffled and the corners of my mouth were turned down, like the mouth of a mourner. My eyes were vacant like the windows of a deserted house; two long shadows grew under them, the open wings of a bat. My wrinkles were deep as if drawn with a razor. The bones of my face were pronounced behind the rugged skin. I thought that if I carelessly fell asleep in an open casket no one would believe I was still alive, that my heart still struggled in my chest.

While I was staring at my watery reflection, the wind started blowing and my face trembled and decomposed into small ripples. The nervous wails of wooden crosses accompanied the rusty, rhythmic moans of the metallic cemetery gates. Funeral wreaths rustled like flapping, broken wings. Pushed from behind by a gust of wind I started running down the alley toward the chapel. Then I felt I’m not touching the ground with my feet anymore. In an instant I rose over the earth. I looked down and saw the muddy puddles move rapidly away. The branches of the trees lining the alley quivered in the wind. 

I was flying! 

I started shouting and crying with joy! 

I lifted my hand, stroked the wild wind and greeted the infinite skies. In response, the next gust lifted me even higher. I looked down at the cemetery and then up toward the ocean of leaden clouds. I was floating chaotically, my coat undulating in the wind, my legs pedaling through the air. Exhilarated, I closed my eyes and felt I was smiling. Painfully, the corners of my mouth moved up, my lips revealing ruined teeth. The velvet clouds caressed my wounded face, touches I had always dreamed of. Like happiness, the embrace lasted only a moment. When I opened my eyes I saw the grey cement coming toward me at enormous speed. It punched me like a concrete fist. My skull cracked. It sounded like a putrefied cross. Down a gutter of fresh blood, I slid into darkness.

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