"It's only words, and words are all I have, I ain't got any money."ó No Bread megahit

Before Your Very Eyes
By Forrest Hunter Wood ©2009

I killed her.

Isnít that how most confessions begin?

I donít even know why Iím writing this. If found, will this be used to condemn or free me? Doesnít matter. If youíre reading this, you undoubtedly already know the story. Or think you do. Iíll lay all speculations to rest: I am guilty. I killed her. Thatís all you need to know.

But thatís not enough, is it? Itís never enough to simply know of the crime and the admission by the guilty party. If youíre reading this, youíre undoubtedly asking: whatís the story?

Okay. Iíll tell you the truth. It was her fault.

I know. I know. The guilty always say that of the victim: the rapist always says she was asking for it. She wanted it to happen. Look how she was dressed. A murderer always says if god hadnít wanted an innocent dead, he would have stopped me. We all know those are the rationalizations of the guilty covering the fact they are a fucked up human being.

But thatís not my story. Above everything else, I loved her. And I know she loved me. We were supposed to marry next year. Ceremony on the beach. Bathing suits and bikinis. Her idea, not mine. If youíd seen her in (and out) of her bikini, you wouldnít have argued with her, either. You certainly wouldnít have argued when she had begged for a quick death.

But Iím getting ahead of myself.

Okay. Iíll tell you how it began. She came to me with this book. Yeah. I know. Laugh if you want. A book the root of . . .

My poor Mable.

Okay. I need to Concentrate and Stay Focused on what I am to tell you about and nothing else. No more digressions, but itís so hard to think. So hard to fight . . .

The book. I was talking about the book.

Books were her life. She always claimed books had more of a life than life itself. I wasnít much of a reader. Textbooks and trash novels were the farthest Iíd ventured into the land of bookdom. Books were the only thing we argued about. Itís important you believe me. About the arguing. And the fighting; always about books . . .

And then she brought this book to me . . .Cover bark-like, rough and brown, twinkle-flecks of gray when held under light. Pages crinkly with age. Now get this; the pages were blank. Not a single word on the spine, on the cover, and not a mark resembling language on the pages. She wouldnít let me hold it, instead sitting on the couch, book in her lap. We explored the book, page by page. I was confused by her excitement. How could she be excited by a blank book? Her answer; because the possibilities of what could be written there was endless. She told me she had bought the book at a book store. And thatís where I stopped her. Bought the book? A blank nothing of a book? For how much? Price wasnít the issue, she told me. I told her she could have bought a notebook, full of lined blankness.

I didnít hear from her for two days.

Looking over what I wrote, I hope itís not difficult to decipher. Iím going to stop and rest and think on how I will continue or if I even want to continue.

Weíll see.

***

Guess the book is as good of a place to start as any.

The book was blank. I know. I already told you that. When I asked her what the book was about, she asked if I knew what language was. I said, sure. Words. And she laughed. Language was more than words, she went on. Words are a conceptualization of a thought process invented to communicate beyond time, beyond space, and if done correctly, beyond words. Our world was nothing but the WORD with a slash mark separating the ďRĒ from the ďDĒ. I know. Too much for me, as well. I didnít know what the fuck she was talking about either. When I told her this, she went on to explain it was language that has long separated us humans from the very things we wish to communicate with; a fellow human, the earth, moon, planets, and stars.

Upon seeing my blank stare, she climbed into my arms and planted kisses upon my face and told me not to worry. The book would allow us to read what weíve long been blind and deaf to. She laid her head on my chest and suggested we take one of our Tantric ecstasy trips away from the city. Iím a man; as long as I could commune with her nature, I didnít argue with her arcane love for books. I wasnít the jealous type. I didnít mind sharing her with a book or two.

I mean, how could a book take her from me?

***

We took a weekend off. In between exams. Called out of work. Our jobs werenít paying much anyway. Minimum wage and a nickel wouldnít buy a happy meal.

Late afternoon on a Friday. Traffic light. Dark followed us. Night blanketed us in shadows before we reached our destination. Out in the country someplace. I was in and out of sleep the whole trip. We spent the night in a motel. She fucked my brains out. The book on the night table beside us, open.

Afterwards, I slept like the dead.

***

As I write this, thereís a window a few feet from me. Can see light through its dirty pane. And whatís outside.

Fence. Chain-linking.

Empty blue blemished by a planeís skywriting.

Must stay still.

Shadows on my sill.

Eye-lash quill.

Doing this against my will.

My poor Mable.

No writing.

Finish later.

***

Theyíre gone, I think.

Who are they? Hold on, now. Just hold your horses. Iím getting to that.

Slept all night and half the next day at the motel. Donít remember ever being that tired. Mable was gone. Car was gone. She came back later. Cheeseburgers and fries and watered down coke. I ate like a fiend. She didnít eat. Said sheíd already eaten. Oh. Did I mention she was a vegetarian? No. I didnít. She was a strict veggie person. Never around when I ate meat. Always excused herself. But not that time. She sat and watched and smiled. She believed everything was sentient. Especially burgers. Like I always told her; moo you.

When finished, she told me she wanted me to fuck her in the woods. Fine by me. Wilder, the better. We left the motel. Moon a guttering bowling ball. Drove to an unspecified location and turned onto a dirt road, drove a short way, stopped, and told me we were here. She went to the trunk. For a blanket to cover the ground, I thought. Once out of the car, still groggy, I looked around. The trees were silent voyeurs. Moss hung upon their shoulders like feathered boas, the wind hissing. The trunk thunked and she grabbed my hand and pulled me into the darkness, book held tightly to her left breast. No accompanying blanket. What was a little discomfort from the ground during sex? Wouldnít be the first time.

We walked a ways; spears of moonshine through the boughs stabbed the shadows, dimpling the trail. I asked her once where we were going. She told me to wait and see.

Not long after, we came to a clearing. She released my hand and sat in the center of the glade, book in her lap, and told me to sit beside her.

She opened the book, the crinkling of the paper loud, the only man-made sound battling the crickets and cicadas. Lightning bugs twinkled like gold dust within the gloom.

Mable began reading. Reading what, was my first thought. Remember I told you there were no words on the pages? I will swear on my dying breath there had been no words on any page when she had first shown me the book. But when I glanced over at the book, there were words. And more, the book was glowing. No. Thatís not quite right. But correct terminology at this point is unimportant. What she did next is important.

She released the book and it rose upon a thorny stem of light and hung in the air. She grabbed my hand and stood, pulling me to my feet. I asked her what was going on. Her answer was that all stories exist between the lines, in the imagination. Take away imagination and what was humanity left with? Blankness. Void. Nothingness only seen by the lunacity. She stopped preaching and grabbed my hand and pulled me close to the book and offered me a peek into its depths.

It was a sea of words.

I looked at her, not understanding. She told me the book would aid us in returning to our roots, to the beginning, to a simpler time. She continued, saying how we would be the first two to spread the true word, the real language, seed the love of lexigraphy to the world once more. The problem with the world was the lexeme of communication. Wars fought over misunderstandings. People killed because of misconceptions. And this book would end all that. We would rekindle the hope harbored deep within every heart.

I looked into the book, looking for meaning, looking for understanding. To be honest, I was lost. I saw small words, phrases, and letters swimming beneath, eerily looking like tadpoles. Larger bits of lingua franca ate the tadpoles, and whole concepts engulfed them all.

I asked her how a book could do what she proposed. I wasnít able to tear my attention from the alien notions spiraling in the infinite of the once-empty page.

Her answer to me was sticking her hand into the page, elbow deep. Maybe seeking to grasp a slippery idea to feed me, but all she did was upset some precarious balance of neutrality. A bubble of comprehension surfaced and burst in her face, spraying her with inspiration, causing her to cry out. I thought her crying out was part of the show, until she wouldnít stop and screamed for me to pull the book.

As I write this, I swear to you I tried with all will and muscle at my command to dislodge the book from her, but it wouldnít break free. She kept saying it hurts; over and over. Feeling out of touch, I asked her what hurt. The words, she said. Up until that moment, I never knew words could cause physical damage. But seeing her face contorting with pain . . .

I again grasped her meaning and the book and pulled. It was like moving a mountain. But of course words are ideas and ideas are what shape the world. Before anything ever existed, it first languished in space somewhere as an idea. And here I was, attempting to pull from her a new universe of ideas.

I finally released the book and thought maybe a lever would work. I went to the trees, thinking a branch. Thick as I could find. Found one and went back and was in time to see squiggly words winging from the opened wound her arm had made. They covered her like the quiet applause of spelling bees.

I swung the branch as hard as I could. Contact made my arms tingle. The branch broke. I threw the piece to the ground and, out of desperation, once more grabbed the book. Her face was a tangle of fear. I told her I loved her and pulled. This time I felt the mountainous weight of the book shift; enough for me to gain confidence and pull harder. I fell to the ground, the book in my arms.

My feeling of success was short lived when I saw that her arm was missing from the elbow down. She glanced at the bloodless stump, then at me. We shared a look of deepening confusion as flower blossoms bloomed from the injury, followed by what appeared to be a stem growing and thickening, its speed quickening in time with her attempts to shake free from the forming vegetation. Realizing her entrapment, she flung her head back and screamed.

And god help me, I couldnít do anything. I lay on the ground, book still cradled to my chest, watching the language already expelled from the book creating a new reality, her body the material used. I watched as symbols of meaning broke through her soulís windows, disappearing from sight like the crafty burglars they were, stealing everything from her.

I scrabbled back. Maybe three feet. She stopped shrieking and looked at me, pleading with only a look, as understanding birthed within her; a body hiccup, then a shake, and thatís when she screeched her last words: "Kill me. Please kill me."

I stood, shaking my head and mumbling no, no, no. Letting her know I couldnít do it. I couldnít kill her. I loved her. Before I turned from her, I saw her sneakers burst like overfed grubs, her feet rooting the earth. Her clothes shed like snakeskin, replaced by bark. One more look she afforded me, then her head split, her thoughts gifting the emerging branches with the accretion of her life; childhood through adulthood, green and supple upon the branches. Her lifeís achievements affirmed the wood. Fruit sprouted from behind the leaves and I saw, without taking a bite, her dreams and wishes and desires; the largest and ripest yielding her love for me.

Within the bookís depths her hand still moved, reaching for the surface, script scrawling upon it, overwriting its existence. Nauseated, I threw the book from me, towards what was once my Mable, and ran.

So you see? Just like I told you. I killed her. You understand, donít you? Not with knife or poison or gun, no. But by survival instinct. In the end, the same thing. Any court will tell you.

I slipped into the surrounding trees, moonlight leopard-spotting the forest floor enough for safe passage. Once out of the forest, I stumbled upon a dirt road and followed. In the distance, an electrical tower, its quadrupedal legs reminding me of the Martian machines in The War of the Worlds.

I broke into a red work-shed at the foot of the tower thinking there would be a phone. Wasnít. Just tools. And this pencil.

***

Books can change the world, Iíve learned. Theyíve changed me. You can burn them, hoping the ideas within wonít take root, but once you read what is written, youíre changed from within. As I write this, I am changing. Into what, I donít know. But my fate will be different from Mableís. When you find this and read it, youíll know what I have become.

They broke in five hours ago. Entered my eyes. Commanded my hand to finish this. Made me pretend I was hiding from them when they were already present. Right here. So they could crawl upon a new page, arrange themselves, take root, and grow.

Within you

x x x

Scare ya? It didn't scare me. I know it's just a story. If you'll excuse me, I've gotta prune my branches before I overgrow my PC. Why not send a comment about this story to our BBS--while you can still type, that is. GM



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