by Darby Hudson
The first thing to go is the engagement present from her parents: a massive Kelvinator mixer. It vanishes from the kitchen table one evening like the Queen knocked from a chessboard, unplugging a hole that drains the rest of her furniture over the coming week: books, bundles of foxed letters the hulking domestic gravity of the Fridge Anchor, and even the bath plug - gurgled up. Until the house is half hollow and I am a sieved half-shadow, ghosting belly-up on the old couch - my blank face admiring the strange dignity of the empty ceiling.
I look across the room and my cat is just sitting there staring and smiling at me. I don’t know how long she has been there just gazing at me smiling - her watchfulness carrying me up and over my addled brain-monkeys and wildest oceans like a small, furry guardian angel. Quantum physics cat. I try it on a winter flower in the gardens in the afternoon: I gaze at the flower, wondering how long it will take to notice that I’m wishing it well as I attempt to lift it into the sky.
But then, the bottomless void of a no-text response silently crushing a planet. And I am belly up again.
Sometimes a single word from the thread of an entire sentence running through my head will erupt from my mouth. Today that word I hear from myself is failure. The rest of the sentence is something mum had said to me about relationships and career. The word failure, the tip of the sentence-iceberg that I cast aloud from my lips like a spell into the world, falls over me like a weird, oversized psychic-high-viz garment that I have to wear for the rest of the day.
That night, in the empty house, I say my name aloud in attempt to counter-balance it all. But it only seems to make things worse.
I sleep and dream of all my lovers at once over my life – and they all become a blurred version of the same female. An amalgamated woman. I ask Amalgamated Woman out for a coffee on a street in Sydney (where I've never been) and she takes me to her ex-boyfriends place in a zoo enclosure with the apes where he has shelves of books. Then he picks one out and reads me poetry - and of course I love it.
It’s a week later, and I’ve moved all my stuff out of the home that became a capsized ship. And making my final run back to the new vessel at 4am in the morning, I feel something terrible and beautiful in the darkness as I ghost the space between sunset and sunrise. Not a ‘horror’ or ‘bewitching hour’. Nothing threatening. Just a strange world - a sort of lost home - a place buried deep and dark, yet to be surfaced by some uncanny tide. The night opens and flowering inside me. People asleep at maximum REM. A world within a world without routine and traffic. Not much synapse activity, analysis or thinking as everyone dreams along to the music of their own secret. Static on the car radio. Another ‘Take a Power Nap Now’ sign phantoms by. I can actually feel the stillness of ‘non-thinking’ across the land like undisturbed dust flecking a beam of sunlight in an unmappable, abandoned house - the sourceless ring of a singing wine glass. An entire city’s power grid shut down; the non-energy of human brain activity in the dark psycho-sphere; a quivering stillness. Trees buzzing like ancient technology. My hair bristles as the pulse of storm calmly spreads before me.
I reach the country in the small hours, pull over and piss on the side of the dirt road. The car's small machinery overwhelmed by the hulking, barely visible trees that sink into the black water of night. I walk down the road, 200 metres from the safety of the glowing pod that looks abandoned the farther I move from it. The engine idle and buzz of radio (barely receiving a signal) a small lighthouse of noise. The car’s ring of light from this distance appears as if I were looking up from the bottom of a deep well. I lay on the road in the blackness at the bottom of everything. Birds sleeptalking. The wind moves. The trees antenna into the sky and creak above me, picking up signals from god knows where and tell me all I need to know.
Darby Hudson has been previously printed in wet concrete, old trees and thin air.