I've got death at my fingertips. Tiny traces of the day, eager to define the way others feel about me. People don't even have to be conscious of the source of their discomfort, I can tell it's the brittle brims, milled by my nerves. Their gaze keeps stroking the same spot, the mere sight of it makes them shiver as if I'm tickling a chalkboard. My hands look unfamiliar and pale. But then again, nothing seems particularly colourful in the bleak shimmer that seeps through the crochet curtains.
A vehement shivering must have woken me up – I'm clammy and cramped up. As I reach for the duvet the gristle in my knuckles cracks. Frigid shadows from my dream make my flesh creep. What horror has haunted me in my sleep? I feel like I'm trying to read while focusing between the lines; I cannot name my demons. But their presence is undeniable, my whole physique is filled with their proximity. For several seconds, the muscles under my skin contract uncontrolled.
Soil of some sort has swaddled itself in the trenches of my extremities – as if I've been digging a grave with my bare hands – and it raises stares like meat makes maggots. If I were not alone, I would certainly be hiding these stumbling-sticks. Now I even find my own eyes unable to escape from these black holes, stretched out and curved around the interface of flesh and nail.
“All right then,” the words escape with a sigh. It's hardly audible. No tones resonate in my throat, just an articulated breeze.
Two black smiles straddle a piece of wood, shaped like an arrow or a toothpick, and bring the sharp side to one of the soiled cracks on my other hand. I press the head down in the dirt. The twig swings swiftly from one corner to the other and brushes the living pleat clean. A teeny-weeny victory, no need to cheer or celebrate – a victory nevertheless, with the appropriate amount of exaltation. Encouraged by the result I quickly wipe all four neighbours, like a nurse wiping baby buttocks in a day-nursery. Then I place the arrow between two of the purged pink pointers and repeat the process inversely.
When there's no darkness left, it still seems like my fleshy fjords catch all the scarce light in the room. I still have death at my fingertips: the mourning-borders made way for ten whited sepulchres.