Sometimes the darkness and I walk under purple willow trees.
The bridge and the river and the giant blurry death lights are all behind us. I feel better now.
I ask “How did your bones get wrinkly? I know that my skin gets wrinkly from being in the water, but how does that work with bone?”
The darkness does not answer.
I ask “Are you going to get a new skin now? It could be fun to wear this willow tree! Or these streetlights. They give me a nice warm comfy feeling. You could wear a streetlightskin.”
The darkness does not answer.
It walks a little ahead of me. The warm light from the streetlights shines on its skull.
I am so homesick.
I ask “Are there butterflies here? You could wear a butterflyskin. That would be pretty neat.”
The darkness does not answer.
Its bones are wrinkly and its red eyes are dull, and I wonder what else is behind us now.
Sometimes the darkness and I wander through the desert for many days and nights.
The darkness never speaks, and its red eyes fade into gray. It never takes another skin, despite its wrinkled bones growing darker and more brittle.
Bits of bone have chipped off. Sometimes the darkness picks up the chips and tries to fit them back into itself, over and over. Sometimes it doesn’t.
For a long time, there is only the desert and the sky and the silence.
Then there is the little wooden sign, with the fish and the hook.
I ask the darkness if it is hungry. It does not answer.
I am hungry. But I have no hook.
I look at the darkness. It is holding a piece of toe bone in its hand. The bone would make a very good hook.
I take the piece of bone. The darkness does not resist. I am very careful to not look into the gray eyes.
I grind the bone against the nearby rocks, trying to shape it into a hook. This is going to take a while.
The darkness stands there, its skeletal hands empty. Then it begins to hiss. I’d almost forgotten what its voice sounded like, after so much silence. There are no words in the hiss. No words that I understand, anyway.
I keep grinding the toe bone against the rocks. I try to fit the chip of my soul back into myself, over and over, but it never seems to fit.
Sometimes the darkness and I sit at a picnic table in the desert. We eat the fish I caught with the bone hook I made. I grilled it on the nearby grill first. I don’t think fish would taste very good raw.
The darkness is still hissing. A long low sibilant death rattle.
I ask “Is your fish good?”
It hisses at me.
I wonder what happened to it, down in the blue brightness.
I was dying. Now I am not. Now the darkness is dying, and I am using its bones to catch fish.
I put some more fish in what’s left of its hands. Maybe eating fish will help it not die. I don’t want it to die.
It lifts the bits of fish up to its skull. I watch, expecting to see the fish fall through its rib cage, but I don’t see anything. The fish disappears.
The bones must be a skin.
If it won’t find a new skin for itself, then I will have to do it. I will do that for the darkness. It gave me its life.
I can give it a skin.
Sometimes the darkness and I think about who lived in this place before.
I see a billboard advertising large homicidal plants with heads like cows, and I wonder what it would be like to be chewed up like cud. Where would you go after being chewed? The cow-headed plant does not appear to have four stomachs.
I ask the darkness about it, if it knows the people who were here and what happened to them, and why their buildings and streets stand empty now.
It does not answer. A piece of finger bone falls from its left hand.
Perhaps the plants with the cow heads were very hungry but not very smart, so they ate up all the people and then, having exhausted their food supply, they starved to death.
I don’t think the darkness is starving. I saw it eat the fish.
I wonder what sort of skin I could find for the darkness. The cow-head plants must have been very hungry indeed, because there are not many living things left in this place.
Perhaps the darkness would like to wear the skin of a telephone pole, or a wire without any electricity. Maybe it would like to be an abandoned building, or a faded and peeling billboard sign.
Or maybe it would like to wear a humanskin.
I pick up the bit of finger bone. We will need more fish.
Sometimes the darkness and I wish that aliens would come down and take us far away from here.
I say, “Maybe that’s what happened to the people who were here before. Aliens came to save them from the cow-headed plants, and they went with them. First they made these billboards to tell their story to future passersby, and then they gave themselves up to the alien ship’s beams. Now they are probably living in luxury on a state of the art spaceship, having intraspecies romances and engaging in dramatic conflict with nefarious beings of pure energy and things like that.”
The darkness hisses, and another bit of toe bone falls to the pavement.
I wonder if it would like to wear an alienskin. I think it would look good in green.
But the aliens came and took the people and left, and they are very far away now. There are no alienskins to wear.
Perhaps I could find one of the cow-headed plants.
I look at the darkness. Its bones are even more wrinkly now, and they are jagged and discolored.
If I found a cow-headed plant and gave the darkness its skin, would the darkness eat me?
I remember it pulling me up out of the blue brightness.
I don’t think it would eat me.
I pat it on what’s left of its hand. I say, “I will find you a skin. You will be okay, and we’ll get out of here and we will find your Reality and everything will be okay.”
The dull gray eyes stare at me.
I really don’t think it would eat me.
Probably not, anyway.
Sometimes the darkness and I like to pretend that we are industrious garbage containers.
I say “Oh, what a pretty dress that is. Thank you for this empty soft drink bottle! I hope you have a good day!”
I imagine someone walking towards me, squinting against the glare of the sun on the sparkly bits on my sides, and dropping an empty packet of headache medicine into my yawning maw.
I think about all the nice people walking by me every day, generously giving me their used up treasures. I think about the grumpy people and the sad people and the people who are lusting after other people and the people who are angry at the world and who sometimes kick me and tip me over, and the morally upright people who come along after them and pick me up and put all the trash back into me.
I think about the sun and the rain and the wind and the snow, and how after years of being outside in the weather my sparkly bits would grow dull and begin to drop off.
Like the darkness and its bones.
Maybe if I gave it my skin to wear I could wear the trash can’s skin.
But could I move? The darkness has always worn skins that had some form of mobility. I don’t think I would like to be stuck as a trash can in an empty world, with a yawning maw that would never be filled. It’s fun to imagine it in a world full of people, but to actually live it in an empty world would be very sad, I think.
The darkness opens its jaws wide. Bits of bone fall to the sidewalk, where they sparkle in the sun.
It hisses, and the hiss is more than I can bear. I curl up on the ground next to the empty trash can and I put my hands over my ears, but the hiss goes on and on and on, and it’s wide and it’s empty and it’s dark and there’s nothing there.
There’s nothing there.
Sometimes the darkness and I visit booming waterfalls, so that we don’t have to hear ourselves hiss.
There is a bit of a rainbow in the mist coming off the waterfall. I remember the time that the darkness and I rode on a rainbow. And then the darkness ate it.
The green bridge near the waterfall is very different from the other bridge, the one with the death lights. This one does not have lights at all.
I hold my arms straight out as I walk across it, like I am balancing on a beam. The mist is cool on my skin.
The darkness says, “I liked the fish.”
The darkness says “Although it didn’t taste as good as the rainbow.”
The darkness says “Thank you.”
Sometimes the darkness and I lie on our backs and look for shapes in the clouds.
I say that one of the clouds looks like a clenched hand.
The darkness says that I must be angry.
I smile. I am not angry. Not at all.
The darkness says that the clouds are actually two hands reaching out in supplication. It says that the clouds desperately want to know the meaning of all things.
I ask, “What is the meaning of all things?”
The darkness says, “What do you think the hands are reaching out for?”
I cross my hands behind my head and gaze up at the clouds. I remember falling into the blue brightness. I remember the hard grip on my wrist, pulling me up and out.
I think I know what the clouds are reaching for.
I ask the darkness, “Do you want more fish?”
It nods. I stand up and look around on the ground for the bone hook. I know it’s here somewhere.
The darkness watches me search. I wonder what it thinks the hands are reaching for.
I keep looking, but I can’t find the hook anywhere. I had it in my hand, and then I put it down next to me when we sat down. It was right here.
I hear a snap. The darkness holds one of its finger bones out to me.
It says, “Make a new one.”
I take the bone. I stand there for a bit, looking at it. It is mottled and chipped and old, and I don’t know if it will make a good hook.
The darkness says, “The hands are reaching out for an end to emptiness.”
I look into the gray eyes, which are not so dull now.
The darkness sighs. It hisses at me. “Go. I want some fish.”
Sometimes the darkness and I try to decipher the ancient billboard language of long lost peoples.
I say “Maybe the yellow thing with the red spikes is the alien transdimensional spaceship, and the happy worker holding the fuel pump means that the aliens landed here because they were out of gas. And the humans, desperate for rescue from the rampaging homicidal cow-headed plants, were very happy to give the aliens all the gas they had in exchange for the aliens taking the humans away with them.”
The darkness sniffs contemptuously.
I continue on.
“The worker had to stay behind to operate the fuel pumps, and he gave a proud salute to the ship as it lifted off, knowing that he had done his part to save his people. He then turned around, faced the slavering hordes of cow-headed plants, gave a terrible war cry, and charged into them, wielding his fearsome pipe. He took great numbers of them out, but in the end they were too many for him. The last thing he saw as the cow teeth closed in was the ship full of his people, safe now, winking out of this dimension.”
The darkness sniffs again.
It says “You always assume that things are presented to you in the order that they happened and that reality is linear and rational and neatly organized. It’s one of the more annoying things about you.”
I play with the new bone hook, rolling it around with my fingers. It’s been a while since the last fish.
I ask the darkness “In what order are things happening now?”
In response, it eats a rainbow.
I’m not even sure where the rainbow came from. I look around, but the waterfall is far behind us now.
Color starts to drain from the world. The dirt goes gray. The billboard is now monochromatic, the fuel worker’s face shadowed and unreadable. The sky fades to white.
Lovesys No Colors.