Haunted, 1.D.1, 700 words

A tag hangs on his door that he cannot read. The milk of twilight from an early moon still nestled behind the mountains draws up the motel over the chalk court embossing the doors and windows, the roofline and arcade pillars, their flakes, gouges, paintbare baldness, their dry corners, ventifacts, matte window glass with a melancholy cadaver’s humors all flooding the valley. Twill is seated on the concrete pad. From behind his palm held before the pale motel the night manager shuffles. “That boy you were here with is here.” “What boy?” “That retarded one.” “I was here with a retarded boy? What are you talking about? I’d never been here before you waylaid me last week.” “Sure you had. You and that skinny, retarded boy who was here some long time back. You’uns stayed for a month, got to be a regular fixture so I’d see you two leave to walk out across that field every evening taking some air.” “Why haven’t you mentioned it?” “Why should I mention something you already know? You stayed in the same room for shit’s sake, and you left the same way you were planning to this time too. I told you I’d seen it all, mostly from you!” “Have we been back since?” “Oh sure, but not to stay, and not up to the office where I could get to you, mostly walking down by that road.” “And this retarded boy is here now?” “He’s walking out past the road but he’s been in your room with a man. But stay out.” Twill’s belongings are still in the room. Sand blows up and the night manager heads to his office leaving a distinct wake in the chalk. Passing across it the two men materialize, making labored progress. Sweeping tints of the setting sun wash them into the landscape without shadow. Upon reaching the arcade outside his room they halt bared by the shade. There they stand, as if daylight has burst into a crypt where draped statues protect a secret. Twill can hear the two men only in the sharper syllables that prick and slice the packed vacuum of the valley floor in such piquant slaps. In their pose, contingent both on their pairing and their distraction from another, the standing man, alike to other men, holds two chambray shirts tied into a sort of tarp over the man squatting who, after their dusk walk down into the wash, looks smeared out of slumber and verges toward it again as the standing man talks. Each seems confused in the bent of their respective loquacity and vegetation. The man on the ground looks like an invertebrate version of the erect man, though both look like versions of everyone else. Sheets of tissue as the sky grows dark are pulled from the air, each taking possibilities of the two travelers, their closing doors, coaxing, scolding, retracing in the chalk, their posing, and siphons them out toward the dunes as they duck into room ONE. The unceremonious occupation of his room is feebly pronounced by the limp drawing of the curtains. The air conditioner motor roars into the arcade beneath the window of room ONE. He watches room TWO then. Among the wreckage inside, the chair he left in front of the window wide and bare is beginning to green in the dusk sinking. Some traces of men alive in every room everywhere wait to come back. Room TWO is haunted. Its air conditioner comes to life. Twill approaches and kisses his hand upon the door above the handle; it doesn’t give to his faint touch. The air conditioners of both rooms chant and breathe. Twill searches these complete sounds, and when dark fully has settled and after some more time passes, finds that he can isolate the travelers’ voices within the song corrupting the clarity of its emptiness. As easily as he might pretermit back to the annihilating blur of the air conditioner, he clings to the voices and they claim him. Their serum of bilious panic pounds from each consonant. The copious blood of all his recollections swells against his skin. It throbs tenderly in his feet flying out across the chalk court.

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