Turgid Sprocket

Every morning I see angels rolling out of bed. Stark torrents of men going off to fight some fight, blent from every corner of the city, acting on some communal sign that I once felt myself, but do no longer. Recently relieved of my duties, I have taken to feeling my way through the city at night, quietly passing under dark windows, imagining who was in there sleeping. Navigating the streets by touch, dragging my hands along stone walls and greasy wooden posts. I would often pass by something foul smelling, or a pack of dogs would pass by in complete darkness, only hearing and feeling them against my legs. Or sometimes the alleys would open up onto a plaza, the moon throwing me into visibility, and I would breathe in the openness, and then back up into the shadows. Finally I would make my way to the outskirts, the city gently sloping upwards to meet the land’s lip. I reached a crest I had reached before, swallows and nighthawks swell and dart in silhouette. I reached down into a crevice between rocks feeling around for the smooth arch of a bottle, but it wasn’t there so I sat down into the shelter of some cold rocks, wishing it were a hot rock.

And tonight, or rather this morning, as I looked over the city, placing my hand on my abdomen, hushing an ache under a scar, gesturing a reenactment of my puncture (sometimes the only way to make the ache stop) I could see the invisible lines of transmutation drawn all over the city, awkward by their obligatory facture, marking the collision of multiple townships (and these days the disintegration of those same townships), visible in it’s involute and veiny diagram from my last post of the night.

It is quiet and it is blue, and I sit there, sometimes feeling like I want to leave, but staying a little longer, because I like the way a rock feels underhand, because I like to watch the morning smoke rise up, the city’s long hair downwind blowing, watching something placid rouse and come to life, and feeling it sink throughout the day. I like to recall the things I have seen that night, casting them off like rocks thrown into a valley, each memory landing on a dark rooftop and skittering off into dawn’s cool shadows.

Down the hill I see a group of people with baskets and carts walking through a neighborhood and up the road to the right. They are families who had harvested fruit in the middle of the night. The orchard they harvested was planted generations ago by their migrant ancestor, on what used to be the edge of town, and as the surrounding cities became incorporated, the orchard became property of the municipality, which, over time, became disillusioned and left the orchard untended and forgotten, where it was then laid claim by the descendants of the original owners, and not to attract unwanted attention, they harvest it by night, and then sell the fruit to the military. They made their procession down the road and I wanted to applaud them, but likewise I did not want to draw unwanted attention to myself.

I traced my eye along the now glowing horizon, leading down into a square where I thought I could make out a pack of wild dogs looking for scraps. On the square is a tower with a domed roof, slightly taller than the rest of the surrounding buildings, and to the right, mud buildings hoisted, stacked, slapped plumb. The whole city a table set, the tower a decanter, condensation on stone, bowls of barbicans, knives cantilevered, bread cragged. My side still ached, I lifted my shirt to look at my scar, tracing over it tenderly, wishing I could imagine it different, the cool air nice, it resembled a khopesh, pink embossed. Unable to look at it any longer, I lowered my shirt and condensed a little on the rock, shivering up my spine, and settling into my seat, pulling my arms in tight.

Then, a flash of ignition caught my eye. I watched, entertained, as a torch moved its way down a street, tramping through urban runnels, it seemed to be tracing one of these invisible lines, a line marking the site of a skirmish from the other night, sifting through the darkness until it is quenched by a sudden turn.

I stood, took out a piece of polished glass from my pocket, and holding in both hands with my thumb and forefingers, pointed it at the tower and tilted the glass towards and away rhythmically, broadcasting a glint. Deciding that was enough to get the message across, I sat back down.

I bounced my knee, my scar did not feel any better and I had to shift my weight; the land outside of the city had been razed. Looking to the left I can see the sunken line that runs through this broad wasteland, the result of a collapsed tunnel. It was dark and sunken, and from above it just looked like a dry riverbed. Only a few months ago it had been the cause of so much tribulation.

While looking around I hummed a tune we used to sing, hum hum hum, scrubby brush matted all over the dirt, gasping stumps baked white, hum hum hum hum, there was dirt, and there was mud, hum hum hum, a pitiful tree by itself, spared from being cut down because it was so insignificant, so trivial it wasn’t even seen enough to be destroyed, hum hum hum. The land was like this surrounding the limits of the city, gone, nothing to do with anything, buttercream to chalk powder, salted. The bare chill of vastness shuddered me with a feeling of neither fear nor excitement alone, but maybe both.

And there it was, coming from the tower with the domed roof, a rhythmic flash of light: a response. Piloted over those stirring homes, those clanks in the kitchen, those creak to wake, cold-footed, rise up, the city, and the flashes are delivered to me and send me off into the day with momentum for the next.