Love Note from the Damned
by Nescher Pyscher

There’s something that the dead are keeping back

     He wakes, knowing the time is upon him.

      Crawling from his mat, he wipes the sleep of ages from his eyes with a hand he cannot feel. The room is dark, forbidding, light slanting with random bars across the room from the window set high in one wall and dust settling on every surface, including the chair he moves toward with bumbling, unsteady gait.

     Chair—rickety wicket that once graced a villa in Roman Spain—desk, typewriter, sleeping mat, the only features in the room save himself, and all covered with the gently stirring dust. If it bothers him to breathe the thick flakes, he gives no sign of it.

     He sits down then, and after taking a hand-rolled cigarette from the silver-lined case in his pocket (and a solid gold lighter from the other), lights a cigarette, staring pensively at the return bar. There is a virgin sheet of paper there waiting for his wisdom, waiting for him to deliver himself of himself. It too has its covering of dust.

     The typewriter seems to be the focus of the entire room, as well it should be. It sits upon the desk like a monstrously gleaming insect, a thing of heavy metal, its keys like teeth. There has never been a typewriter like it anywhere, ever, and thank God for small favors! It seems to bend the surface of the table with its weight, to loom with malevolent intent toward him.

     The room is plain, the walls are white. There is no door, no visible exit of any kind. The light streaming into the aforementioned window seems to be flavored with tones of mid-summer, mid-day—mid-World?

     Dressed as he is in a pair of tattered leather sandals that no longer cover his feet properly, a pair of perfectly pressed and pleated khaki pants, and a sleeveless t-shirt tucked neatly into the waist of his pants, he appears to be as much a part of the room somehow as the furniture. He wears suspenders that dangle from his waist like mountain climbing equipment.

     The man himself is small and dark. His skin is an olive color, and gives us no indication of his age. It seems to glisten wetly, though the air in the room is dry and cool. A sparse covering of hair on his head seems to have been slicked there. He is unremarkable in every other way, plain of face and demeanor, the face of a “bystander”, a member of the audience, clean-shaven and perfectly clear of blemishes. His eyes are dull, hooded windows into a soul forgotten. Were it not for certain wholly, unmistakably male mannerisms, we couldn’t be totally sure even of his sex.

     The typewriter sits on an old, gouged desk that once graced the home of Rudyard Kipling. It is the nameless, forgotten man’s muse, his focus. The typewriter is a tool, the desk is the treasure. He feels the hard lines that time and inspiration have dug into it. He traces the scars in the wood and knows that someone else has once been where he is now foraging.

     It is a comfort, one of few.

     Save for the dust, the room is clean, almost sterile. There is no debris carried in on the breeze. The man himself sees to that cleanliness every single day. Every tiny bit of debris that somehow is able to track its way into this—his most sacred sanctum—is most carefully picked from its offending place and removed. The man removes the debris the only way he can—he eats it.

     He smokes and stares at the return bar until his eyes itch and burn. The pain is like a penance for being weak, for being feeble, for being unable. The burn is a self-inflicted punishment for BEING.

     He thinks about it in his methodical way, and IT takes a slow, laboring turn in his head, eddies spreading out in its wake. There is a sharp burst of bright agony that makes him close his eyes and groan.

     After a long moment, he stands and moves below the window, thinking about all the people below scurrying by on meaningless business of their own. THEY have no idea that he is up here. THEY are innocents. THEY carry no burden like his, have no idea what his “life” is like.

     IT becomes translucent and hard, then, crystallized and cold in his head. He smiles and sits down to the typewriter again and begins to type—his fingers sure, his thoughts clear.

     So this is it, I guess.

     I didn’t think I’d ever achieve this, but somehow I have.

     Oddly, I’m kind of proud. Like, “Hey! Lookit me! I’m DIFFERENT from the rest of you gnomes! I’m SPECIAL!”

     You just reach this point, and you’re like, “You know what? I don’t care any more.” And you don’t!

     You don’t care about politics, or religion, or whether that good-looking guy down the street that drives the Maserati is sleeping with your girl. You don’t care about her! You don’t care about your job, your house, your looks, your demeanor. You don’t care if the sun’s shining or if it’s even gone supernova.

     You don’t care about halitosis, or arteriosclerosis, or scoliosis, or osteoporosis, or mitosis or even dandruff.

     You don’t care about cool, or hip, or happening.

     You don’t care about the small gods of pool, grotto or woods, or sacrifices made under the summer moon.

     You don’t care about pain, life, sex, death, birth, or anything like that.

     It just doesn’t matter any more.

     Do you have any idea how wonderful and strange that is? How rare it is for an organism living in the kind of society we do to reach that state?

     It’s like that game.

     You know the one. You stack cards and try to match suits. You reach a point in the game where you’re LOOKING at the card you need, and you don’t realize it until after you’ve moved to the next suit.

     It’s like walking into a room and realizing you’ve forgotten what you came into the room to do, or standing in front of a fully-loaded refrigerator looking for light bulbs.

     It’s a moment of absolutely perfect clarity, and it’s terrifying.

     And you know what’s really scary about that moment?

     It’s so wonderfully liberating.

     I mean, it’s like, you’ve reached this place in life where nothing matters, and you’ve got absolutely nothing to lose…

     …so nothing can hurt you.

     Nothing.

     What do you say to the guy who’s about to drown after nearly starving to death?

     “Want some pudding?”

     Do you get it, yet?

     He takes the page from the typewriter and lays it gently down, smoothing it so that it lays flat, clean and even upon his cherished desk.

     He signs the page in his own blood: Invictus.

     The name bleeds onto the page, and turns the letters he has written into cold red fire. He closes his eyes with the knowledge of a job done, and done well. The sleep falls on him again, and without conscious effort he crawls back onto his sleeping mat. He sleeps the sleep of ages, and behind him the words burn into the pages.

     No one will ever read them, and soon they too will be covered in forgotten dust.

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