Palmdale Rhapsody: Part of the Consciousness Project

I lie on my bed and hear a train whistle across the night in a chill winter, owned by the dead.

            This train is like the dripping of water that will wake the dead, I think.

            This train emits the pulse of life that has gone.

            The phrases form a loop in my brain. The whistle of the train in the night is long gone now. It’s been gone for minutes but here I am, lying awake with a phrase, like the whistle, strangely sharp, strangely immediate, though it comes from a mile away.

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I lie on my bed and hear a train whistle across the night in a chill winter, owned by the dead.

            This train is like the dripping of water that will wake the dead, I think.

            This train emits the pulse of life that has gone.

            The phrases form a loop in my brain. The whistle of the train in the night is long gone now. It’s been gone for minutes but here I am, lying awake with a phrase, like the whistle, strangely sharp, strangely immediate, though it comes from a mile away.

            Because the night is cold, the sound travels. It moves on the air as if sliding across smooth, perfect crystals. The sound of the whistle as the train chirps and trundles across the intersection on icy rails reaches into my bedroom as if it were a Chinese bullet train, skating across the crystal air with no resistance, as if it would go on forever, free of gravity. Somehow my bedroom is the end of the line, platform of the Absolute Finality that the noise would claim as its territory.

            This train is an impulse running up and down my spine.

            It’s too cold to sleep. The heater is broken and the temperature outside has dipped below zero. My apartment is like an ice box everywhere above my blankets, which are pulled over my face. I fear facial frostbite.

            This train is like the dripping of water that will begin the flood.

            After the thaw, when the wind comes back and the bugs buzz in the over-watered grass of the yard of my duplex, they will kill him. Around the corner, they will find him with a plastic bag pulled over his head and pants pulled down around his ankles. He will be tied to a chair. Dead.

            His son will find him and run out of the store shouting, “They killed him! They killed him!” Later, in just an hour, I will learn that the boy was yelling about his own father. But at the time I would think it was a lesser drama.

            In an hour there will be over ten police cars, ambulances, and fire-trucks, and a tactical police vehicle, all parked at random inside the cordon of yellow police tape.

            In an hour a small, ragged group of shocked neighbors will be gathered at the edge of the yellow tape, looking past it but staying back, watching the confused activity of the police.

            Trying not to watch the family of the murdered man huddled in a car nearby.

            I can’t see the boy anymore. Someone on the inside of the rope tells us he was in the store when the boy found his father. He tells us that he saw the body. He saw everything. He is the reason I know about the plastic bag and the pants at the ankles and the man tied to the chair.

            In my bed, I lie one hundred feet from the backroom of the store where the man will be discovered by the last person in the world who should have seen such a thing. His son.

            This train is the dripping of water that will wake the dead.

            This train calls to some power that cannot be touched, whistling, a madness, not a part of this night..

            I’m freezing, awake in my bed, with this dull refrain chugging through my mind.

            I’ve turned to ice. Inside the ice is the fly, trapped, and the fly murmurs, this train, this train, this train. Like Dante’s Satan fluttering his wings. And Eliot continuing, these wings, not meant for flight, but mere fans to beat the air: the fly is unaware of suffering and beats its fans and freezes the ice, and murmurs, I am cold.  

            I wonder how it came to this. I wonder how I got here to lie under frozen blankets, so close to a murder that hovers on the horizon, pressing Dante’s fly to explain the nature of suffering.

            I wonder, oddly, how my mother is doing at this moment. Is she asleep in California? Is she tossing and turning and thinking of my departed father. Dead.

            Everyone dead but she and I.

            Is she thinking of me?

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