Monday, 20 August 2012

The Signal

An Interlude: The Signal - A Short Story

With thanks to Berit Ellingsen for the idea.

The Signal.

The shape wanders through the night, one spectral hand held high, searching for the signal. Moans rise from the alleyway below where other ghosts have congregated. Pleas for an RT or a final like whisper forth from throats that haven't the cartilage to form words.

As Stephen lies in bed, he can hear them pacing the landing, going up and down the hallway, bony digits clicking, clicking, endlessly through the night. They've lost the signal, the one they think will lead them back to life.

But it's gone and so are they. Only static and the long grass and poplar trees which buzz with hidden insectile life.

He rolls over and tries to ignore their airy cries. It's only an afterimage, Yvonne says. A magnetized echo. Like the shadows they left behind on the walls when they blew up Hiroshima.

Only our shadows, Stephen always says, are mobile ones. They make noises, they move things.

Doesn't matter, is her reply. Like everything else, they're just fading. Another season, I bet you, and they'll be gone. Rust and ruin, like all the rest. Soon we won't even notice them.

I'm not so sure. There are so many. So many still searching for the signal.

Shush, little one. Be quiet and rest. We've got to keep moving now that the well is gone off. We'll pack the vans in the morning. There's not enough fodder around here to keep the horses alive through winter anyhow.

I know, I just wish someone could tell them - could turn them off. Especially at night, Stephen says trying hard not to look.

They will, dove, she says, softer now. Over time they'll ...fade out. It's just that their implants were self-sustaining. It takes a long time for that to wind down. They've a lot of half-lives still to go through, poor things. I bet they didn't guess they'd spend their lives in the loop and still be just as disconnected at the end.

Stephen doesn't say anything more. In the closet there is a luminescent presence hunched over a broken desk, eyes that are just deeper pits locked on something that isn't there. Not for them, or anyone else. A paw moves rapidly back and forth, leaving tiny trails of light that cling to the rotten wood as if they were insects.

I just wish they'd rest sometimes, at night. His voice has grown heavy with sleep despite his claim to never close his eyes when they're around.

Poor dove, I know. But they didn't rest much then, why should they now?

Closing his eyes Stephen thinks for a moment that he can hear a humming coming from the closet, from the street below, from the dead wires on which only crows and starlings move back and forth anymore. But that's just a phantom, his imagination he knows.

Because there's a part of him, of all of us Yvonne has told him, that keeps searching for the signal even if we've never known it before. In time that too will fade, she says, and leave the world quiet once more.

Just the insects you and me, little dove, and the starlings and the crows.

1 comment:

Berit Ellingsen said...

Great execution of the idea! :)

Loved this line:

"I bet they didn't guess they'd spend their lives in the loop and still be just as disconnected at the end."

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