A harlequin night.

©2021 Michael Raven

It is a lonely kind of night. I’ve looked for other words, other ways of expressing what I feel but I keep coming back to the simple truth that it is a lonely kind of night, one of those nights where you can feel like a stranger in your own home, like you’ve forgotten the words to talk to the ghosts shuffling through the same space as you. You raise a hand, start to speak, but they are deaf to your voice, blind to your presence. Zombies shuffling through, looking for something other than what you offer, what you represent.

You change the channels, turn the page, open a new browser tab and find you are Heinlein’s stranger in a stranger land. There are ghosts there too, ghosts content to feed on the detritus and petri-dish vat-grown meat of the world. All are looking for a god to follow, waiting for their floof-god to knock things off shelves or have a Karen, white-privileged moment in a busy supermarket. Segue, staccato stutter, flicker — shuffle the deck and it all comes up the same. Low cards all.

I knocked on the door. “Is Judith in?” “She died.” “She just posted something on SpaceBook, she is most certainly alive.” “That was her ghost.” The door slams shut, bruising my nose, my ego and insulting my intelligence. It wasn’t Judith I was looking for, so this was a ruse, a lie given me. I was looking for another spirit, but disappointed them when they saw me painted red, marking me for a liar, a harlot, a whore. It’s no lie, for I’d sell myself cheap to stop the lonely leaking from my wrists in a bathtub full of spite.

It is a lonely kind of night.

The chess board comes out, the smell of wild strawberries and I set the pieces in place. I know death will win, death knows all the moves before they happen — that’s death for you. No cheating him. But he doesn’t want to play on the beach of stone I painstakingly arranged for the occasion, he said he has a date with one of the ghosts shuffling through the background. Scythe and reap. Sad state of affairs when Death can’t be bothered to beat you at chess, I’ll say. He says nothing about it — bones have no voice.

I opened and closed all of the doors in this house of cards. Empty rooms. No — voids. Void and abyss behind every card. Welcome to the machine.

I close parchment eyes, dry against the night. A lonely kind of night. Sleep laughs at me and I smile, the butt of the joke laughs along, and she is offended at my audacity.

It is a lonely kind of night.


file under: experimental

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