By Jacob Dimpsey
I don’t like these witching thoughts in my head. I’m my own person. I shouldn’t be bound and tethered to others’ hips like a toddler clinging to her mother’s denim slack.
Shut up, we tell the strayed thought. Shut up. Shut up. We don’t like you. Shut up.
The thought goes silent. We count it a win. I want to block the thought’s subject but its identifying markers are missing.
Spam, I inform the rest of my contacts.
The synchronous replies echo rhythmically, Spam. Spam. Spam. Spam.
God’s voice jolts me from our thoughts. I’m sitting lotus-positioned on the floor. She’s lying on the couch with an ashtray resting on her stomach, a rubber tourniquet still fastened to her arm, plunged syringe dangling loosely from her hand hanging over the edge of the couch nearly touching the coarse fabric fiber that carpets my house.
My mouth is dry. I cough. My throat burns.
“I have no money,” I say with effort.
God smiles. She drops the used needle she’d been holding to withdraw several bills from between the couch cushions. She tears them in half and in place of the separate halves swell new whole bills. God’s eyes flutter and close.
Her head slumps. I stand and walk to her. She is dressed in tattered shorts and an ash-smudged tank top. Her hair is in tangles. I yank the tourniquet from the lower swell of her bicep so her arm won’t turn black and take the money from her limp hands. I turn for the door.
“You never talk to me,” God mumbles.
I pause. The InterLace I bought her months ago is sitting on my crooked bookcase. There’s a layer of dust covering the wood, the books God wouldn’t let me throw out even though I’ve forgotten how to read, and the coin-shaped InterLace, which I pick up and wipe clean. It’s cold and heavy. She always refused to swallow it in the past, but maybe she will now. I place it in God’s hand. It warms immediately at her touch. I quickly withdraw as her fingers close around the device.
She’s staring at me.
I wonder if she knows my thoughts.
This sagged thin skin smothers me like the surface flames of a funeral pyre. I’m a greying, wilting, hunched spine, clutching breath to speak words I don’t remember.
The strayed thought again.
My contacts chant, Spam. Spam. Spam. Spam.
Spam, I repeat.
“What did you say?” God asks.
“Nothing,” I whisper hoarsely.
God reaches for me, “Are you okay?”
I pull back from her touch and rush from the house.
I like catching gazes from a distance. Retinal coupling will activate the InterLace of a non-contact. I try to couple with an approaching girl on the street who isn’t wearing sunglasses like everyone else but she glances quickly away toward my dangling bags of groceries in disdain and then to the ground, her nose tuck into her scarf, hands bunch into the front pockets of her jacket. Yes, I still eat. I couldn’t afford the hunger-staving Nutri-InterLace. I can afford it now with God’s money if I ask for it, but I still like the taste of food when I eat with God. People say they’ll still eat sometimes when they first imbibe the Nutri-InterLace, but they never do. Food tastes good only so much as you’re hungry for it.
Finally, a met gaze. I lock eyes with an old man on the other side of the street waiting for the light to change. I send him my customary cordial thought image of two people shaking hands. He smiles contentedly at my friendly gesture and sends me the same image in reply. I begin to look away but suddenly I see a series of images depicting a forest stream babbling over water-smoothed pebbles. I am stepping on large mountain stones that sit above the surface. I pause, standing between each shallow shore, I notice the water sounds like a voice. I listen. My daughter says from behind me, “Hurry up.”
I feel an ache in my chest when I turn around to look at her. I hold out my hand. But I’m also watching myself hold out my hand. I tell myself to remember this, to always remember this. My daughter grabs my wiggling, beckoning fingers by the knuckles and I steady her as we cross together.
The images end. The light changes, people begin to cross the street, and I collapse. The concrete scrapes my knees. My groceries fall and scatter across the pavement. I clutch my kneecaps as they begin to bleed. I’ve never received a memory though before. The ache in my chest is replaced by an emptiness in my stomach. The old man who sent me the memory approaches on the crosswalk. His chin is raised, he doesn’t look down as he takes the curb and proceeds past me. I reach for him. My fingers brush only the corner of his khakis. The fabric is warm like the InterLace in God’s hand.
I am only still-frames and simple phrases for you to absorb and regurgitate convincingly into a fogged mirror.
Are you there? I ask the strayed thought.
My dry throat burns.
My contacts chime in, Shut up. Shut up. Shut up. Some share images of red circles with slashes through them. Others share emoticons with angry expressions. The words and symbols stretch out like lengthening waves and then dissipate.