By Henry Martin
A room…a dust covered incandescent bulb radiates a stream of tired lumens outwards into the space framed by four walls, one ceiling, and some kind of a floor. There are neither windows nor doors—how did I enter…how am I going to exit? The floor squeaks but, since the light doesn’t reach the floorboards, I am not destined to find the source of that noise. What am I walking on?
The walls, unable to decide whether to be yellow or orange, finally settle on an awkward shade of ochre. It reminds me of the desert—the desert I never visited and never really intended to see. There is something about scorpions that makes me uneasy.
The ceiling hangs above me like heavily siliconized nipple-less breast. The plastics always scared me, unnaturally pointing forth…always forward, as if they had a place to be; like they were about to burst through the fabric and I was in the way of their freedom. Destination plasma. The ceiling bulges but remains above my head, its purple paint sparkling like a nest of freshly born stars.
I feel something warm in my hand. I take a few steps towards the light to see what it is. A Parakeet. Its pale eyes stare at me from the round hole between my thumb and index finger. Its body shivers. Pacing back and forth, I begin to hum a lullaby. In the middle of the room, where the shadow is almost impenetrable, I trip. The Parakeet flies out my hand. It smashes into the wall with a muffled thump, and falls onto the floor. It’s no longer visible—does is really exist?
What did I trip over? I lean down and flick my lighter. A dark mass of twisted wood surfaces before my eyes. Running my fingers along the curved lines, I realize it is a chair. Strange…a chair in the middle of a room. Why is it here? I grab it by the backrest, kick its legs from side to side, (not to inflict pain, just hard enough to let it know who it is that is in charge here) and mount it. It tries to spring up to kick me off. I intertwine my legs underneath the seat. After a few minutes filled with heavy breathing and wood cracking, the chair gives up. It’s calm now.
I slide off, get down on my belly, and slither across the room, feeling my way around. On the twenty-eighth pass, I stumble upon the Parakeet. I pick it up, hide it in the palm of my hand, and mount the chair again. This time it knows better than to fight back. The chair, the light bulb, the Parakeet, and I…we spend a few minutes contemplating the ochre on the walls. Neither of us likes it. The Parakeet begins to shiver.
I move my hand closer to my mouth and breathe on him. Intoxicated by the fumes, he relaxes and lets out a peep. I run my finger through the soft feathers on his head. He peeps once more, as if clearing his throat, and then lets loose, filling the room with the most intricate symphony. The chair moves its legs, the ceiling sways, and the light bulb flickers—all in perfect rhythm with the bird. For a moment, it matters not that we are together, parts of a nonsense trap. As the finale builds up, the parakeet releases the final note with an extraordinary tension, then falls silent. The room follows suit.
The chair no longer moves, the ceiling stops swaying, the light bulb once again casts its tired light. Exhausted by his performance, the bird breathes heavily. It was so beautiful! His act touched me so deeply that I want him to be a part of me…forever. I lift him up, his tiny head poking through the hole between my thumb and index finger, and bring him close to my mouth. He looks at me, his small shiny eyes full of confusion. I bring my hand to my lips. I feel his head in my mouth; I feel his sharp nails scratch at my hand. I shut my teeth together.
There is a crunch. The small bones in his neck are no match against my bite. His legs twitch…once, twice, then grow quiet. My mouth fills with a warm iron taste. I chew, crushing the little bones before swallowing. The head is inside me, part of me, one with me. The symphony is mine.
I open my mouth to release the tones, but all that comes out are a few green feathers stained with blood. Disgusted, I bring my hand closer to my eyes and stare at the neck-less body lying there. A streak of dark colored blood gushes from the cavity, staining my iridescent skin.
Suddenly inspired, I stand up and rush over to the wall. Poem, I must write a poem! I dip my fingers in the blood and set to write upon the wall. The ugly ochre is a better background than none.
His omnipresence reigns through the notes, when the orchestra pays homage to his genius.
I stop. These words have no meaning…I am a failure. How could I ever commemorate the talented bird? A feather flies out of my mouth when I try to argue with myself. I throw the dead body in to a corner and turn around.
First step, I trip over some dark mass that was hiding behind me. The chair! The damn chair followed me here. I turn ninety degrees and walk six steps to the left. Tamed and no longer rebellious, the chair follows me like a beaten dog. I turn sixty-three degrees to the right and then run until I reach the opposite wall. When I turn, the chair is right beside me. What if it bites me?
Unwilling to take a chance, I grab it by the backrest and throw it across the room. “I’ll show you who’s in charge here!” I leap forward, land next to it, roll my sleeves up, and get to work. The chair lies legs up. I grab two and start twisting them. The chair fights back, silently. The old dried wood holds together strong, but after a few well-placed kicks, the fibers give way. The chair lets out a loud crack.
I fight with it for what seems like eternity, but when I finally manage to break the joints and emerge from the fight holding one leg in each hand, the chair has no other choice but to concede. Before it does, it pays me with a large splinter under my nail. I hold my tears back and give it one more kick. The remaining two legs fall off and the spindles roll away from me.
To celebrate the victory, I kneel down, throw the legs away, and raise my hands. The ceiling looks at me with a certain suspicion, but I am already prepared for that. Audiences never bothered me. I open my mouth.
From deep within my throat, the parakeet’s beak comes up and settles on the tip of my tongue. I stick it out. The beak opens and lets out the beginning tones of a symphony more beautiful than the last one. He is part of me!
The light burns with a newfound intensity. The lumens, released from their glass prison, insanely dance around the room bouncing off the walls and the ceiling. On the tip of my tongue, the beak keeps opening and closing. Just then the ceiling splits open, and I burst into tears as I float on the heavenly tones up, up, up…toward the star-studded night sky, while the blood stained feathers drift back into the room.
Henry Martin is the author of the Mad Days of Me trilogy, a short story collection Coffee, Cigarettes, and Murderous Thoughts, and a poetry collection The Silence Before Dawn
For more of Henry’s work, check out his amazon page: Amazon.com: Henry Martin: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle
Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6583769.Henry_Martin
And Blog: http://mad-days-of-me.blogspot.com/