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Last updateTue, 06 Aug 2013 2am

Monday, 22 August 2011 05:16

Death Knell

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Amanda Gowin Amanda Gowin

It is like drowning—except where there should be water—there is my grief. I live in the shadows, always on a delay, a dull echo filling my head with murky tar. Everything is hollow around me—the apartment flickering shades of gray, boxes and spaces that make no sense to me. The harsh lighting of the diner is a magnifying glass bearing down on me, burning me to a crisp as the dishes and metal play a symphony for the dead. As a waitress I can wait for nothing, constantly itchy and unsettled. The word home has lost all of its meaning.

There are things a mother should never have to witness, and the loss of a child tops that list. In the darkness of the night my knees are back in the gravel, splinters of glass embedded in my flesh, as the boy lay broken in the street. My mouth fills with exhaust, two red eyes fading into the distance, a crowd gathering—their muttering a choir of bubbling tongues. I block it out the best I can but it seeps into my dreams and punishes me with his laughter. I collect sharp objects and wait for my strength to come back. I wait for him to come back, but that’s a cruel game that I play with myself to see if I can feel anything at all. I am in a death knell, muted screams filling my throbbing veins, a pale nausea washing over me, the world around me thin. I ask for nothing but the ability to endure, as much as I want to join my son. I cannot utter his name without breaking down into wracking sobs, my impotent hands seeking destruction.

I pray for everything imaginable—for forgiveness, understanding, and salvation. Lying on the mattress, the faded sheets in a tangled mess, I am a limp stain leaking salty misery, and there is no light to be found, no vengeance—no undoing.

And then there is something. Another lost bedraggled soul, a kindred spirit bent on the way to being broken. He is the physical manifestation of my pain, a long-limbed skeletal reminder of the real world that exists outside my vacuum. When he gives me the answers to my prayers, when he allows me to do something with these hands that betray me, to finish what has been started, it is an awakening. And I do not hesitate to lay my judgment upon him, and in the trembling of the aftermath I am reborn.

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Richard Thomas

Richard was the winner of the ChiZine Publications 2009 “Enter the World of Filaria” contest. His debut novel, a neo-noir thriller entitled Transubstantiate (Otherworld Publications) was released in July of 2010. His work is published or forthcoming in such places as Shivers VI (Cemetery Dance) with Stephen King and Peter Straub, Murky Depths, Pear Noir!, 3:AM Magazine, Word Riot, Dogmatika, Opium, Vain, and PANK. In his spare time he moderates at The Cult writer’s workshop.

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