*

A MIXED MESSAGE  by DF Lewis

 

The landscape was ink-blotted with the shadow flocks as they migrated against the seasons: a shifting archipelago of silhouettes traversing the undulants of beach.  Yet it was a beach without a noticeable sea.  She flicked her sweat in all directions with a tattered face-cloth as if that action alone could create residues of loose slime tantamount to a pond if not such a sea.  She laughed at her own fantasies.  There were enough autonomous fantasies on this trek to keep a thousand writers going for a thousand winters, so no need for her faltering attempts at waywardness and daydream.  Indeed, the sun had burnt itself into one huge orange furnace – its only margin being the horizon.  Each clutch of shadow-casters was frazzled before finding impulse enough to find its own shade.  The migrations were simply another version of holocaust and diaspora.  She had left the enclave at Noon – the worst possible time for transporting a human body.  She knew she died and if she didn’t hurry she would miss the actual death.  So life was risked just for the sake of her death.  She shrugged.  Life was funny like that.  So having already laughed, she relaughed.   Better than shrugging.  Less muscles involved.  And minimal was best, at this time of day.  Last night there had been a real dream in which the Infinite Cuckoo had exercised its parasitic droit du seigneur: a dream so unlike the open-hearted dreams that beset dreamers in the plains: a dream so real it had borne the message which instigated today’s ordeal.  Not that she died, perhaps, but was to give birth.  Or, at least, the message was a surrogate message, the ordeal itself being the true message.  Death or life.  Pain or ecstasy.  Whichever the message, her lot was confinement amid the sealess strands: beneath a sun that was merciless to everything including itself: a skyful of sun.  To be followed, the message said, by a gnawful of vultures breaking their way out through her stomach-wall, sucking her gristle as they went, without recourse to an easier exit from the uterine underworld.  And once their appetite had been assuaged they might just become one more black island of wings revolving thirstily above the breaking waters of sand.  She reshrugged.  Such raising of the shoulders in a moment of resignation at least fended off any message of death.  Yet only if they came down again to finish the shrug.

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