Our Ghosts Read us Bedtime Stories: the sane/ mad continuum

Our Ghosts Read us Bedtime Stories

by Rhonda Eikamp


pt. 1.) The Sane/Mad Continuum

Where you are, I am alive.

Jorge was captured first, hesitating at the top of the last staircase, and I saw him go, the knife across his throat a wine shadow, a blood smile to match the winner’s gloat of the totalitarian behind him who tossed his body aside and started down after me. Hope springs eternal, you would say, my god my only love, but hope sprang away then, in spurts from Jorge’s neck, across the landing, apple streams into the masonry, soaking the edges of the books on the bottom shelves. The totalitarian wiped his knife on his cowl as he came down the stairs after me, painting a red streak near his ear, and my heart grew to encompass me; to the tips of my fingers I was its beat, breasts and womb aching syncopation, trilling death, expanding to fill every book-lined hexagon in this honeycomb of our library universe. Run now, it gasped. My author, I couldn’t.

I clutched your book to me and it anchored me.

These are my theories that Jorge’s neck smiled for, that so many others have died for, heretical, intolerable to our government:

that there are worlds above and below and in all directions beyond the darknesses at the edge of our own hexagons, other peoples and cities if one could only cross that vast unknown, a place where the books are written;

that these unfailing sequences of letters stringing nonsense in unending rows of books on shelves in rooms and levels piled atop one another forever more are not the consequence of a universe made up of every possible combination of letters as our leaders believe, meaningless gibberish without author no no no the books speak – they mean and live and yearn to tell us things.

You are proof of that, these words you have written to me.
I stood waiting, ready to die for it.

And then Paul, lovely pale Paul, my last follower, whom I have held between my legs, leapt out from a niche to block the totalitarian, but too late, too slow, and I saw Paul’s throat grin red. Dying for me, and yet in the totalitarians’ belief an act without meaning, only one possibility out of many, a million universes in which other Pauls and Jorges choose not to save me, scenarios in which they hide or run away, in which they are the totalitarians. Infinities of worlds where the totalitarian’s robe is not covered in these red streaks or there is no robe or there is no totalitarian and we live in freedom. Where every option exists, there can be no meaning.

I chose to make their deaths mean.

I turned and ran down the hall, then through a room without making the book-obeisance and then down a staircase and another and it was as if I plunged into my own intestines, groped my way through my hexagonal heart that had stopped beating, until I knew the totalitarian was no longer behind me.

You must know this, you who wrote the book I clutch, that I am dead now, nowhere to run except the uninhabited dark that flows through infinite levels below.

I stopped beneath the last gourd lamp to read your words again. My discovery, the bible of the rebellion I began. Thumbed through letter-necklaces of nonsense to the one page, tattooed into my memory from the day I first discovered it, soiled now by my fingers that have caressed these words so often, the only coherent words ever found in any book the bridge between your eyes and mine. And further down as if an afterthought your disheveled hair.

And then into the dark, my blood throbbing, no days and nights, they were only constructs anyway. Each new staircase leading down, a dip into greater night. My fingers trail spines of books I cannot see. No light to seek more of your words, wherever you are.

Where you are, my author, I will be alive. I love you.

The dark is everywhere.

I love

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