interlude a - you can count on life

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this was not always a calamity

; no, it would have been disingenuous for them to claim that. the awareness was not constant, not oppressive, occasionally not present in the least; James Ari Martin Jessie Frank Brian Max Bennett Shiloh Jack Talloran simply woke up and took the bus to work, finding it curious how silent the birds were but lacking the context to know they should sing.

life passes cold and quiet, sometimes with a person by his side (a woman, a man, a lover) and sometimes alone, and he finds himself writhing in his bed most nights, trying to connect stimuli to causes, lacking the words beyond why? why? why? and there's nothing to stop it, just time barreling recklessly forward, days blending strangely into one another, times, places, people clogging the drain and threatening to rise over their head and fill their lungs

the simplest and most human of tragedies (accounts drying up, an attack under the cover of dark and filthy streets, swallowing the whole bottle instead of just two with water in the morning) melted into what would be fantastical elsewhere but in her line of work you had no choice to accept (dead air at a crucial time, loved ones' melted limbs, timesick retrograde amnesiac syringes) and the result is a constant and oppressive present, at once faultless and soaked in guilt, yet impossible to question. because who else is there to be but you, James? who else could it be? whose fault could all of this be, Frank? why do you always look so strange, like you're haunted, like something's been taken from you? this is all there is, Jessie; you're having those strange nightmares again,

go back to bed.

(settle down, settle down.)

sometimes there was no terrible building with three arrows but a life lived simply and with simple horrors, a two-headed calf who never got to see the twin stars the night she was born. strange men come to take them away in the night and something stuck in their throat prevents them from resisting, whispering you deserve this, sinking them deep and relentless into this unfamiliarity, this sick and dying present that they recognize as their own only because it is their bruised knuckles they stare down at as they're taken to the executioner

; the strange numbness begins, then. she wakes up thirty-four years old in a decrepit shack and when she stares out of the window there is nothing moving or breathing, no signs of life at all but the ticking of a clock shaped like the severed head of a buck on the wall. all she thinks to say is oh, just oh, a sick and writhing resignation to the entirety of it. the weeks she spends trying and failing to starve to death mean less and less as they slip by, sinking deeper, letting it flood her chest, crawl around and drain out as an alive and hideous thing that could no longer be called Talloran but someone else's blood and bile spattered on the walls that they're beginning to recognize

and for a long while that was all the beast was. a simple falsehood, lives lived under hostility overwhelming but entirely plausible; there was nothing, never any beast at all, you're seeing things, are you feeling okay, have you eaten, have you slept?

there's something

and in their sleep they see these things, countless terrible things chomping at the bit and then experience them a few lifetimes later but again lacking the words, lacking the context, so when the birds begin to drop dead from the trees and the bus crushes heads in static between its wheels and they grow sicker and sicker it's only another on the long list

you wake up someone else again and wonder what now?

and for the first time

; the beast blinks

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