The Kiss
By Rico Craig

The eyes we have taken are looking at this body; the brain remembers another body, 17 years in the past; in the suburbs of Houston, at an elementary school. Fading winter light, boys yelling, the last few minutes of an intense game of stones. Two groups of boys on either side of a playground. Fear as he stands to throw. Across the playground a head is peeking out from behind wooden play equipment. A target. He feels the sharp-edged stone leaving his hand. His eyes follow the flawless arc. The perfect curve that is never going to deviate, never going to miss. His stone curving through the air, magically – better than Clemens, better than anyone, dipping around the treated wood like a textbook breaking ball. The head disappearing. Silence for a collection of instants, enough to know.

To see the image it is necessary to go to the scene. Possible, all the soldiers were wearing helmets equipped with digital sound and image recording devices. Images exist if one is willing to become the eyes, the brain behind the eyes.

Dust in air, swirling, setting. Concrete walls pocked with bullet holes. Beams of light caught in the eddy and twist of fine particles. For a moment no voices, only the heartbeat of helicopter blades. A groan, throaty and mortally terrified, as a gagged body is dragged from the room.

This was unsurprising, this was expected. In many ways war is predictable, even this war.

A beam of light swings. Others follow, six in all. Footsteps cross a worn rug.

Helmets, goggles, black flack torso, stepping toward a still body. A shape in darkness. Beams of light converge in the dust.

Words, muffled. “Confirming target.”

The image from one camera cuts through the stirring beams. This is us, our eyes. We kneel beside a prone body. Beams of light illuminate the face. A blood and brain halo on the floor. A face. Dirt and blood. Bearded. Still as ancient stone. Carved young. Eyes open, staring. Dust beginning to settle on the moisture. Entrance wound, right side of cranium. No signs of life.

Voices yelling, but his mind is calm. He doesn’t want to wish the stone back into his hand. A boy, Ken, steps from behind the play equipment, head tipped forward, staggering. A palm full of blood and what looks like a piece of gristle torn from bone.

He looks away from Ken down at his own empty hand and knows he wanted the rock to find a target. He stands and runs toward the injured boy. Blood is pulsing from what is left of Ken’s eye. Ken staggers away from the play-fortress and slumps to his knees in dirt and tufts of dry grass. Slowly, like a building, Ken topples to the side, rolls on his back in the dirt, blood coursing from his eye socket, his right leg thrashing. He arrives at Ken’s side, kneels, looks down, blood pools in the dirt.

Swirling grit continues to settle on skin. Droplets of blood are beginning to fester with dust particles. The standing figures breathe heavily. Our eyes drop forward, closer to the face, closer, until the face fills the entire frame. And closer, until skin must be touching skin. Our skin must be touching. So close facial features unravel into shapes and begin to dissolve into colours and shadows. This close our brain is lost in the haze of colours, and for a moment we are taken whole by the dusty face. Into the disappearing thoughts, our brains into the body we lean over, our brains beyond the dusty feel of his cheek against our lips, past the scent of blood that has pooled around his head. For moments we are deep in the shadows and shapes, past words.

Only moments. And the screen cuts to black.

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Stuff about me: I'm trying not to stray.

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