Hello, Father

by Ben Marcus


Deleted from an early draft of The Flame Alphabet.


I woke up on my back.  It was minutes later, it was hours, it was days, I wasn’t sure.  Being sure seemed so optional.  Knowing my circumstances, knowing any circumstances, felt like the folly practiced by others.  Good luck, all you fuckers.  All of that energy spent perceiving, collecting information, knowing.  It was blissful to let it go.  One was freed up for far more important feelings, cut loose of all that.  I did not want to open my eyes.

Above me stood the girl.  She held my ear muffs, the dual yellow orbs reflecting back a strange man—Hello, Father, I wanted to say—and from this girl’s mouth came contortions of sound, a hard and carvable substance.

Had someone shouted into a box and then manipulated sound waves by hand to resemble an awful creature?  Could you do that?  Freeze sound into clay, then build it back up into a person, one of the terrible ones?

I knew this girl from somewhere.  From when I was alive.  This seemed funny to me.  I couldn’t bother to laugh, but if I was alive I would have sat with my friends and laughed with pleasure over this.  A sweet old friend stood over me.  We were together somehow.

From this girl’s mouth came something new.  It was no longer language, but a raw blizzard of sound.  Things are progressing!  She certainly had a gift and I could see why she seemed so excited.  If it did not hurt me so much I would be proud for her.  It wasn’t much of a stretch to root for her, to hope she got what she needed.  I wanted this girl to succeed.  I was close to being happy, the feeling was nearby.  Travel was required.  What a true bother.  The traveler was someone else who I had not managed to become yet.  This girl had come too soon!  I was very scared of what it felt like to know her.  I knew her too early!  Something thick and concentrated flooded the air and this girl was in charge of it.  She had responsibilities!

It was noxious to hear, this sludge from her mouth, and I rolled over with that terrible pressure of the body, the crushing, my gut convulsing.  If only my body was not involved I would be interested in this.  I couldn’t wait to remember it.  I would like to watch this again, but after, I thought.  After.

What I coughed up came so slowly into my throat I thought I would choke on it, but there was a final feeling of release.  I tasted that warm, salty part of me that would leak out when I died.  One just knows this.  My mouth was swimming in something loose and it flowed from my lips down my chin, where it felt soothing and medicinal, spiced with a cooling acid.  I do not even mind this feeling.  I thought, this is what I’d like to use, this liquid.  I’d like to bathe in it, submerse myself.  I will draw more of it forth and collect it.  I needed a plan to get it out of me and into a container somehow.  A bottle of this will go far.

It spilled over the floor, thick and slow, creeping around my face, and as it spread away from me all I could do was reach out and dip my hand in it.  I was proud of myself because I controlled my hand with no help from anyone.  I raised my arm and moved it so my hand could dangle down into the pool.  I let my fingers descend into the liquid and they cooled there.  This was perfect because I could watch them.  I would be in charge of this.  Don’t underestimate me, I wanted to say.

I put my fingers in my mouth, each one salty and cold, and tried to suck this substance back into me, where it belonged.  It was such a bother to complete this work, but it needed to be done.  A little bit of housekeeping.  This was nothing, this liquid, that I wanted to share with anyone ever.  It was none of their business.  I would remove it from sight and everything would be fine, all evidence destroyed.

The girl did not seem angry.

When I licked my fingers she gave me a look that unfortunately I cannot describe.