Wisps of white and grey strands of hair that strangled each other for air, protruded from the old man’s scalp. As he ran, these thin, peppered snakes danced and hissed atop his head in the freezing night wind. A tremendous pressure was building quickly, ferociously in his head, like the quick construction of the buildings and factories on this concrete planet called, Earth. His face muscles, underneath a layer, a mask of young skin, tightened and gripped at his mouth in a desperate clench. Pounding the streets with the flap of his feet and the slosh of his insides, light-headedness stabbed every neuron in his brain in attempts to hold in the words.
Some people, lounging on their balconies above, stood and stared at the obese bowling ball rolling through the crowd. He knocked many pins to the bleak, perfectly paved road but they were mindless beings, all of whom promptly stood and continued their march. But curiosity struck the loungers above and they surprisingly quit their lounging to study the runner more intently.
The old, fat man, running in the street felt the gaze of wonderment and suspicion of the loungers rubbing their hands over all his skin like ravenous men handling an orb or a pearl. He felt the greedy tips of their fingers stab into his brain and probe around for an answer to his sweaty, maddening dash. An amazing power these men have to delve into his mind without speaking to him, without touching him, even without being close enough to reach him with a fully extended, (and quite flabby) arm. Once again, he only pumped his legs faster, eyes in a squint with the words repeating, rhyming on his tongue.
The words at the edge begging for a breath were colliding in his mouth against his puffed cheeks like rocks in an ever-shrinking balloon. His pupils that were once serrated and cold now inflated into ovals that stretched at the seams of his veins. And as he finally slammed a shaking hand onto the screen-identifier, the brown ovals abruptly burst a bloody red pool across the dying whites of his eyes. The door to his home—his haven—slid open and he fell in. The door rushed shut, brushing his boots that were now scuffed and exhausted. Turning and flopping upon the floor like a dehydrated fish, he drove his hands into his temples in attempts to compress the thoughts, the words; but they were reluctant and too beautiful, too lively, too powerful to be kept from the deathly, dark world he lived in.
With eyes bleeding teardrops that splashed thunderously on the floor, he croaked and moaned gathering his feet and mangled body.
It started with a slow peel: a piece of elbow here and a piece of earlobe there; but quickly, it transformed into a vicious ripping: a whole arm including fingers lifted off his true skin like a glove. Very soon the soft, perfect skin sat motionless upon the floors as an empty, artificial shell.
He saw its composition; he saw its man-made chemicals; he saw his real skin, brown and wrinkled and, he cried more. Again he dug his palms into his temples yet this time he slipped his nails in too like shovels and began—without thought—reciting the forbidden words in a whisper:
Gone are Carson’s sweet-sounding birds.
Gone are poetically plump words.
Terrific turned to
Terror as thoughts flew
Away in hopeless, homeless herds.
He cried more in heaving, breathless gasps and suddenly he yelled, “Oh-So-Sweet-Sounding they were!” He pushed his nails deeper in a frantic search—“They’re here! I’m telling you . . .” and in a slicing whisper, “They’re here!”
Slamming a fist dripping with his dreadful, pleading blood on the ground, “I know! I’m telling you! The thoughts! They’re still here!”
Despite the gaping holes now in his head and the red-saturated shirt draped over his slouched, defeated body, he could not find the terrific thoughts. He could not recall who first said those forbidden words. A poet, most likely executed and in ashes he presumed.
After captivity and a washing and absorption of his brain, he could not remember it was him who wrote the limerick decades ago.
“Why?” he whimpered. All was fine earlier that morning: plotting the all important facts and figures of the previous hours; noting the percentages, the declines, the increases; gathering an official report; and doing so mundanely but comfortably. All was normal that morning. Always normal he lived counting numbers. So, “Why?” he pleaded.
And suddenly, a surge hit his brain again. Not a kind of surge from electricity but from a breathing of real life:
For you say, “It’s hard, I’m lazy.
You want me to read?! You’re crazy!”
But I’m halfway through.
You’re impatience proves
How screens serve as mindless grazing.
Screens? he pondered . . . Screens hold information, nothing else to associate them with and nothing else to label them as, he demanded to the surge deep inside him. And, mindless?! The words sat and seethed on his thinking . . . mindless grazing . . . he felt horrified! A terrible yet, terrific realization!
“No! Leave! Just leave me alone!” He would not support poetry. He would not look in awe. But the words, the sweet-sounding words like birds flapped their undaunted, magnificent wings throughout his mind. He must look in awe at the awesome, the awful.
There was a knocking, a thumping bass inside his chest.
“How could it be? The thoughts returned to me.” These words drifted from his tongue like fleecy clouds in the warming sunlight of spring.
And when the knocking inside his chest that was his heart began to calm there was a commanded knocking at his door. With the beautiful words filling the painful, empty holes of his heart, his eyes fluttered and he floated in the air without a care of the knocking at his door.
White monsters stormed into his home. They wore thick, protective suits and handled a rod with a pulsing blue, electric tip. The rod would not be needed, for the old man quietly murmured in the most peaceful state of mind, that of a poet. But, the monsters were fearful of catching the “disease” that plagued this “insane” man, and so, to them, the gear was quite necessary.
They dragged him from his dwelling—his home that would promptly be sterilized and incinerated—and threw him into a cage to be taken somewhere damp and cold beneath all else. The loungers had long-since gathered excitedly and immediately after one had “worriedly” called the monsters to the scene.
To the onlookers, who luxuriously sipped and ate the finest of liquors and breads enjoying the show—the downfall of a fellow and known lounger—the peaceful, wrinkled old man was a wide-eyed freak who had gone ballistic and rogue. They pointed and chuckled a bellowing laughter at his vulnerable, naked, foolish self. Being taken to his death, he, the renounced poet, continued to smile and whisper in the calmest of fashions:
They take my shiny shoes and jewels.
The spit, call me a naked mule.
Their smiles are wide,
But I have, I hide
What makes me laugh, “They’re the true fools!”
What’s most precious they cannot take.
The strongest shield no one can break.
My beautiful thoughts,
My very own spot!
Makes me alive, makes me awake!