Two Fictions
Kirk Nesset


Blood was blood once, then it was less so, then a broth of snow and dust. What remains yearns and dies likewise, but with rapture in contours less steeped. What's left is what has survived. No measure of mercy or pity in these; they are brash and direct. And in this they refresh. Us. We watch them, that is.
Lithe and swift, the tall one plies its advantage. Down it flies off its rock and attacks. The squat one, unsurprised, does the head-tuck routine, baring its armor-plates, spikes; it expels the awkward perfume. The tall one tosses its jointed head, shudders. Then rears, volleying its rain of fist-knives on the plate-crack where the squat head should be.
We who gather here, watching (we who are no one, and someone, and many) still feel the wanting, each echo and reverberant wave. There's no willing wanting away; just pausing to see. We pause. We witness the struggle. This side, that side, squat, tall, better, best. When the wanting is gone so are we.
The squat one jerks, rolls into Tall. Tall buckles. Hissing and rasping, Squat and Tall grapple. Teeth and toenails engage. In the red dust cloud they raise past and future collide, while is cradles all, expecting nothing.
One of the we of us watching, nearest, most intersecting, most tuned to the me in the we that is speaking -- the one humming green wants and not-wants at the same pitch as me, as the me that is we that is nobody. Pitch, frequency, cross-emanation: more blurring, easing, corresponding in kind, crests in waves impossibly like, exactly mine in some other signature. We see through identical eyes, we who are eyeless, formless, here and not-here. The I that is me in the we has known Green in some strain or song since before we began and there is no beginning. But the me keeping me from the we disallows, or repels, beholding the battle, the gasping dust, engaging Green. There's that infinitesimal pull. That jar in timbre, fiber ill-wound in the forever unwinding. The I willing to know Green as Green and as me will give and give, yes. But will not give in.
We take in the struggle. The armor and furor, the toenails and teeth. Squat and Tall flailing, heaving, upending. Over blasted stumps and outcrops they clatter, over the dry river and pit of cinders. A spike snaps on Squat's back. The sharp crack registers. In us. In the glow that is Green and me that is we. The crack a new note, it would seem. A note needed. Catastrophic. Exquisite. Extreme. Between us no words, but there is speaking.
-- As was will is.
-- Will is was.
-- Is as is as all is.
-- Is will is.
-- Is is.
Our no-word words coalesce as what happens happens. We unreel the unthinkable all, liquid life after life, backstroking streaming mirage, billboards and bone yards and ash, cattails and meals of calliope berries, dukedoms, fiefdoms, cantatas and pea pods, pockets of cactus, pockets of space, stones piled on walls on high hills where geese drag their shadows over seas of red mud. It's neither Green nor me thinking but both, none: the thinking thinking itself. What is it that comes? What comes of willing not-wanting, pausing to see?  What shift, what surpassing or coming to pass, what completed, done?
No saying. What might a flower say from its fistful of dust?
If we'd known we knew what we knew there'd have been no cause to begin. No movement, no meeting, no battle, no puzzle, no knowing by feeling or need to dissolve, nor eyes nor ears, nor dream to wake from, no journeying home.
We move along. Far, far along. This measure, this sojourn, this nocturne is done. But Green is not gone and I am not gone, transmuted, tendered. Nothing is empty because nothing is empty with all and all is flux. Gone and not gone, we feel each cell still and corpuscle, each grimace, each blow Squat and Tall barter. The contest continues. Each straining forward to undertake more, and know more again, an eye missing here, an ear there, a severed limb leaking black blood.

Dearden Bay

He's kind and good but reserved, like when she and Eugene got engaged, and she showed him, her father, the ring -- he was stunned but composed, opposed but determined to trust her, his look not unlike, she supposed, the look her mother got when she told him to go, get out, which he did, though it crushed him. At the reception today, too, his look was unnerving. Too pleasant, he seemed, nodding and beaming, tailored and trim, at once familiar and distant. Who was he, this stranger she'd always called father? And then it was over, goodnight, thanks, what a party, congrats again, wow, people stumbling to cars or to taxis, she and Eugene in the limo half-dead stepping out at the pier, the bay front, wharf, wheeling their bags up and boarding.
And here they lay in a bunk on this very full ferry, Sarah Camille, heavy with buses and trucks, she and her fiancé-turned-husband, who snores, but not loudly. They'll reach Ghost Harbor by dawn, and somewhere near noon, Dearden Bay, the windblown cove and hotel her father paid for, massage and mud baths included, kayaks, facials and nails and mountain bike rental, trips by flatboat to spy on rare birds.
At the moment, though, the swaying is weirding her out. She'd like to sneak back to the deck and sleep there; if the ship sinks she'll at least have a swimming chance, unlike the Greeks or these poor Filipinos. Eugene is wide and hot and the mattress is thin, too narrow. The room's less than a cell, a horizontal slot containing the bed and them, barely. If she can just track the swells, follow minutely, she won't get sick, sicker, irrevocably ill; she's holding on, but won't if she doesn't watch it.
And now the ship's engine's stopped. It's pitch dark and someone's yelling above. She hears clunking and clanking. The wind's howling, everything's creaking. They're into serious swells, the ship tilting and tipping.
Out and up the steel steps she goes to the deck, close to being closer to heaving, the future and past swirling inside her like seaweed, today and the week and month and year and cake and champagne unhooked and adrift on the volleying swells. With both hands she grips the wet railing. Rain and salt wave and thunder. Men in slick hats scuttle by; a battered bucket rolls toward her. Again it all feels malformed, misguided, the wedding and planning and honeymonsoon, from the beginning just one more misfire, bad impulse, error. She vomits. She's afraid he was right. Her father, that is; his face said this would necessarily fail, though he dare not say so. She vomits again, the sea rising to meet her. And Eugene her new husband, dreaming below, who loves her absurdly, who says what he thinks and admits what he feels, floats over treetops, more or less trusting what's coming, unconcerned about storms.