Grey Revell

Gashadokuro

 

 

Gashadokuro

I’m almost through. The hole I’ve been scraping next to the cell door has taken almost three months of constant labor, working though the concrete with a broken metal cup I found in the cell. The rats disappeared weeks ago, soon after I ate two of them; I’ve survived since then by eating the straw on my bed and drinking the water trickling from the small opening high above me. My only window. The straw is almost gone, though, so I don’t sleep.

The Japanese abandoned us in this tower, and left us to starve weeks ago. I’m certain now that I’m the only one left. Soon I’ll have a hole just large enough to put what’s left of my arm through, I’ll lift the latch on the door, and after that – well, I’ll die in the jungle most likely, but God help me it won’t be in here. I haven’t heard a human sound in weeks, just my scraping at this wall, and the occasional grunts of something, a wild boar maybe, in the corridor.

Ortiz, Manuel. Platoon Sergeant, 17 867 564.

It’s October, or maybe November 1943. The Japanese caught up to my platoon on the far end of Kolombangara Island a week after the battle in July, and by my best estimation, that was at least three months ago. We were ambushed and slaughtered, only three of us left at the end: Fleischer, Dawson, and me. The enemy squad that ambushed us were mean bastards too, and they started the torture as soon as they got us back to the stone tower on the top of Mt. Veve.

Ortiz, Manuel. Platoon Sergeant, 17 867 564.

I repeated it over and over again as they screamed and beat the hell out of me, doused me in water, and whipped my legs with live wires. They were relentless, and it went on forever, day after day, until my consciousness turned into a half-mad blackout/whiteout of fevered dreams in the dark, excruciating pain at the hands of my captors.

They would kick and punch us, screaming Oshiete! in our faces, their breath stale with cigarettes and sake. I’d hear them screaming it down the hall at Dawson or Fleischer, and I heard them in my head long after they left me shivering in the rat-chittering dark. Oshiete! “Ortiz, Manuel. Platoon Sergeant, 17 867 564.” One of them wrenched my arms back with ropes, almost dislocating my shoulders. Oshiete! “Ortiz, Manuel. Platoon Sergeant, 17 867 564.” Again the water and the live wires and the pain, lashing across my legs like pit vipers. I screamed out, the agony of my every muscle contorting in shock, but my screams were in the distance, too. Oshiete! Who else was screaming? Oshiete! “Ortiz, Manuel. Platoon Sergeant, 17 867 564.”

They separated me from Fleischer and Dawson early on, and the only time I heard either of them was when they were marched from their cells to the end of the corridor, to what I called the Happy Place. Their screams sounded to my addled brain like the most insane kind of laughter, and often mingled with the actual laughter of our torturers, hence the name. A muttered curse in English here or there as one of them walked near my cell was all I needed to know someone was still alive. It was all I’d ever have.

I never saw Fleischer or Dawson again. Not as God intended them.

I couldn’t tell you the hour my hand finally burst through the wall, but I shouted as much with surprise as with elation. Forgetting all fatigue, I punched and scraped more, and got my entire arm all the way through, frantically reaching out for the latch on the cell door. I found it immediately, and within seconds, it released. The cell door swung wide open, and I scrambled out. Free.

“Fleischer! Dawson!” My voice sounded strange.

I was sure they were dead, having no doubt starved to death weeks ago, but I needed to search anyway. The other cells in the corridor were open, too. I stumbled forward and looked inside. Even in the dark, I could tell they were empty. Had they escaped? They would’ve taken me with them, though. I was sure of it. The entire corridor stank.

Something moved and groaned inside the Happy Place.

I limped over to the door at the end of the corridor. Fleischer or Dawson must have moved to this room at some point, and been living on whatever the enemy left behind. I swung the metal door open, and went in.

Two pieces of charcoal glowing in the dark. A smell I can’t even begin to describe. Labored breathing, rattled and slow.

“Dawson? Fleischer? That you?”

I remembered the light switch on the wall. It turned on the solitary bulb in the corner, and powered the wires they used to shock us. I flipped the switch.

It attacked immediately.

***

I'm in a cave on the far end of Kolmbangara. No chance of rescue. As I gaze into the fire, all I keep seeing is the thing that rushed at me the instant I flipped that light switch.

It was at least ten feet tall, its face a desiccated skull with eye sockets aflame, and it made this sound - like cats shrieking through grinding gears. In a blur of motion, it yanked my head into a vise-grip, and took off my right ear with one bite.

Fleischer’s dog tags hung from its neck, and after kicking free to run from the Happy Place, I saw its feet. Dawson had lost three of his toes last December to a landmine. I’d treated his wounds myself.

I stare into the fire, waiting for it to come back and finish me. The thing that seized me like a doll had Fleischer’s arms, and ran on Dawson's feet. Which part of me, I wonder, will it choose to take?

- Grey Revell

Belmont, NC. 2018

 

 

Of Red Giants and Skip James

 

I remember a story about how a local shop owner told Skip James to stop singing outside his store. The spectral quality of his voice was freaking out the customers. What is it about certain people that makes folks uncomfortable, and forces them to retreat or resort to less savory ways of keeping the ghosts at bay? What is it about some individuals that compels people to slink back into their most tribal instincts, and hold the truth at arms length?

Sometimes it feels like some of us are karma bound to live lives on the periphery, forever looking into the lit windows from outside, listening to the laughs around the fires, while we stamp our feet, to keep out the cold. With frosted breath, we watch and listen, catching the details lost in the din and the comfort. If it's someone's destiny to tell the tales, doesn't it stand to reason that the majority of that life will be spent on the edges?

That being said, it may not make it easier to the poor bastard who's tapped to be the sooth-sayer, the bard, the shaman. At least in some cultures, these people were given their place, and even some merit. But here, in 21st Century Western Wonderland, they're more likely sweeping floors in a Subway Sandwich shop, or sleeping in a weekly motel. 

What happens to a soul consigned to the borderlands? What happens to a heart not watered by empathy, and the fellowship of it's own? Does it grow stronger with every injury? Does the resolve crystallize like coal underground, into a diamond, solitary and beautiful? Or does it gradually collapse, brilliantly maybe, from a flaming star to a red giant, and finally into the cold void of a black hole? 

Perhaps it sings it's song, on dusty street corners, until the shop keeper shoos them away. Scares the customers. 

- GR

Charlotte, September 2018

 

 

 

 

Memphis

 

 

Pharaoh built a Sphinx to weather 4000 years of wind and sand..

We can build one that no one needs to see to last us through

40 more years of heartbreak,

and our own cracked hearts will see us through it.

Waiting for the rays of the morning sun.

Ready to reach once more, and pull something beautiful and dangerous,

screaming

out of America's starry Egyptian womb.

- GR,

Belmont NC. 2018