They called it conduit, and asked her, “Do you know about trout fishing?”
God, it’s just like it was before. People get this look in their eye upon seeing her floral dress. They pull out their guns, their flashlights and their badges, but The Truth slips past the paperwork and the circles they’ve drawn on maps. No one notices the potted plant at the front desk or the sea foam green filing cabinet behind her or the sound of seagulls. “I can’t move,” she thinks. “So I don’t,” she says onto the tape recording under hypnosis.
Her body’s baked in concrete—she’s walking through the house with limbs that can’t move. She’s not out of the woods yet, but he’d promised her a nice trip to the forest. They can’t see the forest or the trees for all the potted palms that’ve been left here, trying to make it look like a jungle. The trees have been cut down now and they’re leaking out bugs, crawling with fireflies’ bioluminescence beside the campfire.
They’re not exactly doing things by the book, but that tells you a lot about the book doesn’t it? (operatic voices) He says, “Now when convention and science offer us no answers, might we not finally turn to the fantastic as a possibility?”
Grass is the most common ground covering besides asphalt. Guns and photographs are the only motifs that carry through the entire first season.
Her whole life things have not been going as planned—deaths, accidents, illness, injury, unexpected reactions to grief—overlapping indistinct conversations and shouting—and so when people talk about life resuming its normal course, she thinks maybe there is no course. Maybe the course is only the adaptations, the reorientations, the coming to terms with upheaval and unrest.
What is she supposed to tell herself? That it’s good to be back? She’s back among the living, they’ve said. Back among the breathing, the bodily fluids, the noise and the light. She remembers that other place, but it overwhelms her to think about it. She presses her head against the cool glass. She closes her eyes:
I’ve been thinking about what you said about grass. The way life and death is in the grass. The way grass grows over things, perennial. How the epidermis is the outer layer that conceals everything also. Masking it with small pheromones and grease. And the overgrown grass of cultural memory—the way it conceals and hides things. Buried pastures. Crepe bandages in plastic wrapping.
She pulls oven mitts over her burned hands.
Motorbikes, sunset hues. They follow a pack of animals to the place where something/someone is buried under rocks in a shallow grave. They can smell it.
The house was covered with creeping vines—reaching into the brick work. The lawn was covered with satellite dishes—reaching into the sky. Pulling down numbers. The police report mentions weather balloons and that residual sunscreen feeling on your skin after swimming.
They lost him, sitting there. Getting old, just like the rest of us. He locked it away in a train station somewhere. The bodies of strangers passing it by.
Sometime before sleeping she imagines her spine as a centipede, or rather a plant runner—putting down roots, writhing. She feels all the feelings sloshing around in her body, coagulating into solid forms: bars and beams of things. She is seventy-six and a half percent recycled plastic, she’s quite certain of it. She feels her melted membrane, molten, movement. She wakes up and watches the way the way the time changes her shapes in unknown ways.
She eats dry toast and shuffles the cut flowers, soothing an upset stomach. She doesn’t believe in these procedures, but follows them closely enough to go undetected.
Lush green outside of headquarters, insides made of stone and paper—American flags and Venetian blinds. Handshakes are an acceptable form of decoration.
In the basement he drops the file on her desk, throws pencils at the ceiling, walks between screen and the slide projector, reaches out—touching her face. He’d never considered this part of her. The cross on the gold chain, below the collar of her silk blouse.
The oak doors and cedar-lined trunks, the pine or plastic woodgrain panelling. She has awakened in the middle of the woods several times, her face against the forest floor. They know she’s the daughter of a small town doctor, because the blood on the green sheets matches the green of the hospital scrubs. The streets are lined with red flowering plants and more vomiting.
Just thinking about how different things would’ve been if I had—
WHAT? — if I had — IF YOU HAD WHAT?
There’s no windows inside this ocean of wooden desks pushed together. Papers and papers stacked in piles, in folders, a wire basket, thick binders, envelopes, and bulky computer monitors, drooping their heavy heads over her nail polish fingers. The room’s decorated with dying houseplants and pictures of sliced oranges. They’re sitting here eating french fries. She touches the flower-shaped broach on her left lapel.
The thing about watching him light the wallpaper on fire is that it’s a story that will just about take your knees out. It’s a story that’s as old as the hills. It’s as big as a house. A universal wild man myth. A cassette tape left on their dashboard.
We answer to an even higher authority than the U.S. Government.
“Ten-to-one you can’t dance to it.”
Paisley—no wait, floral patterns. 44 gallon drums of symbolic fear.
People rising up and viewing their own bodies. He hands over his room key to the Galaxy Gateway motel. He says, “Let’s just say this case has a… distinct smell to it. A certain… paranormal bouquet.”
Flowering occurs between July and November and the flowers are white. The fruit is a woody, a conical or hemispherical capsule 5–9 mm long and 7–11 mm wide. The insides are grey and scribbly under the skin. He bleeds green. The puncture wound leaks out a poisonous gas. Her legs are buried in the dried leaves, hiding them.
He’s wearing a cream sweater, fisherman’s knit. He’s wearing the story of his unchanged course like clothing, some steadfast set of ideals, unwavering in the wind.
–sophia bartholomew and Emma Hicks, July 2020