Tuesday, January 9, 2024
Year : 1, Issue : 19
Silmi didn’t know where she was. Her foot was heavy on the pedal, gliding down the open, hilly slopes of the backcountry—cellphone in one hand; the GPS buffered. She almost crashed twice already. Approaching from the horizon was a yellow “SLOW DOWN—SHARP TURN—15 mph” sign. Silmi pressed the clutch as the momentum picked up, and leaned forward, the seatbelt fastened behind her. The GPS was still buffering; she flew past the occasional country road on which showed: RAMSHACKLED ROAD—PASS AT OWN RISK. Then, another caught her attention as it approached: SLOW DOWN—SHARP TURN. She rolled her eyes.
A screech was followed by the percussion of thunder, which echoed off the rolling backcountry hills, into the ears of a farmer digging a plot for his garden. The farmer’s head shot up at the loud sound. He scanned the property lining the road until he noticed a plume of smoke rising above the treetops. He pressed the shovel into the earth and began the trek to the road with the hazardous turn.
Cleaving through the woods, the farmer could make out more clearly between the spikes of trees a motor truck in the ravine. He saw the uncomely wooden fence lining the bend splintered open, the fragments trailed down the precipice. The car lay in the stream, letting out a hiss, and flames that breathed through the front grill. The farmer clenched his fists and lunged forward. The door, as damaged as it was, opened. He peeked inside through the smoke and saw Silmi, her face streaming with blood, hair perfectly groomed, eyes glassy with death. The farmer knew what death looked like. Taking a deep breath, he leaned into the smoke, dragging her out like a ragdoll across the rock-studded stream onto the marshy earth. He scanned the top of the ravine, then back towards the farm. “No one,” he muttered.
It was a catatonic gaze. Silmi lay there, her body still warm, eyelids slightly ajar, revealing only the whites of her eyes—a death gaze. It was this farmer’s living eyes that were oddly comatose. Again, he scanned the top of the ravine and the woods around him, seeing and hearing nothing but the dying hiss of the motor truck.
Grabbing Silmi by both wrists, he proceeded to drag her over blades of crabgrass and jagged rock to the farm. A second percussion of thunder rang in his ears, but the farmer didn’t look back. Instead, he observed her expensive white dress dotted with blood stains, and her diamond earrings which glinted in the sunlight.
The farmer rested her up against the inside of his tool shed. The structure was old, weather-beaten and leaning to one side, settled into the soft earth where the field ascended; its windows were black. He crouched down before her, lifting some strands of hair that had gracefully come to rest over Silmi’s forehead. From where his knuckle had brushed her forehead, there was now a smudge of drying blood. The farmer noticed the blood on his finger and, as quick as a reptile, popped it into its mouth, wildly licking Silmi’s copper-tasting fluids.
“Does it hurt to be dead?” He asked with eyes locked onto her lifeless ones, as if expecting a twitch of the eyelid or a roll of those profound blue eyes.
Hours later, the dusky beams of the sun were yellow at the bend as each beam of light struggled to shine out of the dark woods lining the road. The broken wooden fence was now intact with fresh white paint, the skid marks in the dirt raked. The farmer slowly made his way down the precipice with a tool bag slung over his shoulder, a rake in one hand, a paint can, and a brush in the other. At the bottom of the ravine, he stopped in the middle of the stream and once again scanned the area: dozens of crumpled, burnt-out cars and trucks scattered along the stream. A broad grin bobbed up on his face.
The smoke now no longer plumed nor was there a hiss; the motor truck lay there like Silmi—warm in death.
Making his way back over the field to the tool shed, the farmer took notice of a congregation of goat heads at the shed door. He clapped his hands and screamed at the animals to scatter. Stepping through the door, his jaw fell in silence. One goat had a shred of Silmi’s dress in its mouth. Another’s mouth was bejewelled with blood. “Holy cow,” said the farmer.
The dusky sun had descended below the horizon and given way to a blackening sky over Goat Farm. The lights of the two-storey farmhouse at the edge of the field burned more brilliantly as the nighttime haze came. Occasionally, the passing of a truck or car could be made out, and then thunder.
There was no more thunder that night. At the farmhouse, Mushfiq lay in his bed before the television, static on the screen. The bedroom window was parted a few inches and allowed a steady, chilled breeze to enter. At the corner of his room there lay, still attached to its metal post, the yellow “SLOW DOWN” sign. Mushfiq’s attention was then taken by a screeching of tires in the distance, but no thunder. His eyes rolled from the window back to the meaningless staidness.
The beast bellowed below Mushfiq’s bedroom window, sending tingles within him. He smiled. The wind carried the hollering from other beasts that congregated at the shed. Their savage sounds were conducted by their hungry stomachs. It would have pierced the ears of any living body, save a seasoned goat farmer. The dead cannot hear. And the wind howled, rattling the tin coverings of the shed with its hidden, cold hands. Tearing the tree branches, stampeding through the fields, hurling dead leaves into the shed siding; the white-eyed corpse sat slumbered, reticent, and insensitive to the pandemonium. The beasts were desperate to get in. The tool shed was locked. Its lifeless blue-eyed inhabitant was dead to the world in rigour mortis.
The goats again congregated at the door, pressing their nostrils into it, bawling. Mushfiq could make out the yapping in the distance as his eyes rolled back to the parted window. Lifting the covers, he said aloud, “It’s time.”
Mushfiq made his way down the stairs and his oversized calves made it difficult. Keys in hand he made his way to the tool shed with a flashlight that beamed profoundly in the milky haze over the fields. At one point he shot his head back towards the farmhouse, watching it slowly disintegrate out of view into the veil of the nighttime haze, the bedroom window was a distant glow. The grass was damp, the soil soggy from the evening fog.
The rusted padlock was barely unlocked and the chains rattled. The corroded shed doorknob wobbled under his feeble grip. Mushfiq hurriedly opened the shed door, as if in trepidation, and a rush of musty air came out. Shining the beam of his light into the murkiness of the shed, the blade of the scythe glinted, as did Silmi’s diamond earrings.
Mushfiq’s flashlight dimmed till it went out, and the air turned black all around him. He vigorously shook the flashlight till the life of light came back. “I’m in Hell!” he roared with frenzied delight. His light scanned the interior of the shed for rodents. One goat pressed its head in the space between the door jamb and his leg as Mushfiq responded by striking the goat to back away.
The goat squeaked out a “Maa…” The hazy beam came to rest on the otherwise unrecognisable corpse, save for its two white eyes.
“The goats did a number on you”, Mushfiq blurted out. The whites of its eyes stood out on a pale-white face dried in crimson. Mushfiq shut the door behind him and the siding of the shed rattled. The beam of light came to rest again on the white-eyed corpse. “Compost! I need more compost!”
The sun peeked above the horizon and over the fields, bringing heavenly light to the early morning blue. The first ray to rest on Mushfiq’s face forced him to squint as he stood beside his small vegetable garden with a tobacco joint in his mouth.
The sky was dotted with blue clouds against a backdrop of brilliant pink hues. With garden equipment, Mushfiq took his eyes off the brilliant dawn and proceeded to dig the next plot in his garden. Mushfiq would turn his eyes to the tool shed on the hill and again say aloud to himself, rhythmically, “Compost! I need more compost!”