I’ll Stay Right Here
by R.T. Allenson
Cold metal and stale breath. The rhythm of breath on cold metal. It is an eternal thing to hear; forever in the mind and forever in the soul.
They say one can never save a soul once it leaves the body after death. It flutters momentarily in the living world until it comes to terms and realizes the futile, the unnerving truth. Then it goes and is pressed into oblivion, in silence.
But here, there is no solace. No silence. Only the rhythm of breath against cold metal. Otherwise, it is like noir, those old films where there is nothing but movement and all is silent against the gradient of life, drama and death. And if one’s heart beats, none can hear it, but everyone eventually knows. It’s like the black, a pastiche of this and that with no meaning other than what it is or what it was. In silent places, the foolish would hail the eternal dead; but then, there’s nothing else to say for those long gone.
She sleeps and breathes in this cold metal box – waiting and dreaming. The rhythm of her breath is the music of her world and my own as it has been for quite some time now.
In our world there is nothing to fear. Outside the walls is a different story. There are stories she whispers in her dream-prophecy of ravenous beasts and demons forever prowling the outside. And what passes for man and woman is twisted into thieving, licentious and barbaric. She speaks of the sky – ever red and the unforgiving sun and the scathing wind. She reassures me of the sanctity of our breath-box, our metal cove amidst the Tartarus of the outside. In this, I am content…
..but a part of me longs. Aspires and dreams. She sleeps and guards her dream-prophecy jealously – her promises, all empty of my turn to take fill of understanding. In this, I must be content.
She sleeps in half-death, her once beautiful form devoured by time and atrophied beyond salvation. Such things are not necessary in the box for the box sustains all who lives in it. Her hair, once the radiant gold of the dawn, reduced to the tint of ash; her skin, mottled and pale and caressed only by the breath. Tubes and metal wires curl about her form and one large pipe runs deep into an artificial orifice on her chest, pumping what remains of her bodily requirements. It is a gruesome sight and she would die if she knows she’s reduced to such degenerate state. Perhaps she has.
As for myself, I was and still am a simple footnote in all her aspirations and ambitions. Her hand, her fist when it was necessary to enact her will. She made money not by honesty but by deceit and oppression. Her empire was built on such things and she sat at the apex – a master of subterfuge and of foul, twisted tongue. She craved nothing else but absolute dominion and in the end, the world would bow down regardless if it would or no.
..but, it never came to pass. And when the world crumbled around her, she took only the few who remained loyal – myself, among them and consigned ourselves to isolation in this cold metal box. Years passed and more, hiding and waiting until the world itself ended and we feared we were the only ones left. We despaired but she didn’t rewarded the foolish who would give in such fallow emotions even though I knew she herself was mired deep into sorrow and desperation. Years and years until the toiling felt nothing at all and numbness was all that followed; many of us departed without much ceremony. She didn’t care at all.
Until all that was left was the two of us, long since she became a monster clad in steel and myself – a desiccated parody of what I was.
And still…am I still content? I do not know anymore. The line between her will and my own was long blurred in the years of servitude. I no longer act by my own volition and perhaps the only sense of freedom I have is my own troubled thoughts. But these do not let me rest, but the feeling of temporary content is consoling at least.
Her eyes open. She hasn’t opened her eyes in weeks. Her meditative slumber, broken by my own thoughts? I fear my punishment but…I steel myself, clad myself in defiance and perhaps there she may fear. I walk towards her soldered coffin and listen, quietly, for the breath against the metal.
My eyes meet hers but there is no rage, no disappointment. Something is wrong in her eyes…tears, far long since I felt my own. I imagined them to have been replaced at some point in time. She’s crying and her words come silent, only the breath against the cold metal. It resonates and I catch its meaning; a boy knows his mother’s thoughts after all.
With difficulty, I manage a smile and place my hand against her eyes, closing it.
‘I’ll stay right here.”