CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
Crickets
Ian Goodale





Her hands began to run limping crickets over the wounds of the body before her, the nimble nibs of her knuckles wearied by the continuous (from the commencement of the evening prior to her present predicament) nature of the work the woman so nimbly performed, thimbles of effort-laden expression of benevolence, if not veritable generosity: as her lack of any natural instinct towards the donation of that within the sphere of her possession—when juxtaposed, by circumstance, with the fact of her fingers’ fatigue—but made her labors near impossible to perform.

     The injured lay before her in neatly ordered rows and columns, spaced evenly apart from one another and situated squarely in the symphony of simple beds: each mattress measured approximately three feet across, with its width mirroring to the best of its abilities the triad of twelve-inch stretch; the majority of the patients’ heads were swathed with unnaturally bulging turbans of a blank, almost luminescent material, further reflections of the cushions’ indomitable and collective hue. On some of these involuntarily donned concoctions—haphazard and only half-trained mixtures of bandage and gauze, melded as a copper coin welded to the clay foot of a gold-crowned statue—were etched (or rather stained) daubings of skull-leaked fluids and red-rimmed robins broken free from the nest of the scalp, grievous wounds making their presence known in the sole manner they were both aware of and capable of utilizing: a cyclic overturning of the attempted healing of the pre-scar silhouettes of dented flesh, the decimation of an attempted rebirth and embrasure of animalistic destruction, a ruffling of life’s broad collar. The manner in which the wounds in question were made manifest upon the otherwise silent, unsullied heads of the bedridden (although distinctly lacking in general qualities of dormancy), damaged group—that is, at least in regard to the viewpoints of the majority of those thus-marred, the methodology and degree of willful intent of pain’s infliction evident in the mind, object, or entity that so offended the horizontal persons—remained steadfastly and basically unimportant to the nurse as she tended to the multitude of blood-buried scalps, a scented sea (premonitions of formaldehyde) of pain just recently past.

     Of those without fault to the brain-bearing faculty little can be said, as they were, as a general rule of their hospitalized existence (but further cloistered by their seemingly inherent secretiveness) entirely silent when confronted with query or commendation, criticism or careless remark: the unknowable creatures lurking beneath the collective consciousness of the building’s staff and other inhabitants, dreamlike phantasms without a veritable self nature of their own grasp or comprehension, to say nothing of their non-existence in the minds of those about them.

     Those with the horizon-curved hoods of white, however, were a rather active contingent of the ward’s population, as well as the largest segment of the unit as a whole’s social makeup: their lips would often quiver with the anticipatory chatter of persons bored by a semi-enforced silence, angering their sole keeper and sending her rushing about in an attempt to quell the sudden, unpredictable upsurges of cacophonous conversation, glib exchanges of varying topics and emotional registers. And yet the inevitable result of all of her tireless efforts towards a maintaining of calm muteness in the ward was a return to the beginning of the ordeal, the inception of the illicit interruption of tranquil air, accomplished through the impetuous utterances that so vibrated and disturbed the once-waveless inlet of empty space; so the nurse of our initial concern would abandon her post as guardian of the group altogether, marching briskly from the hangar of the sickly and installing herself in the ever-empty storage room at the termination of the narrow hall, the housing of the cordoned kingdom of her protection and alleged authority. Sitting in the black stillness of the unlit prism designed but for the containment of the inanimate instruments of janitors and maids (the building had once served as a house for an exceedingly wealthy individual, but had been converted by now-forgotten benefactors for the benefit of the war-wilted), the woman would compulsively bite at her tender, unpainted lips, which shown a natural ruby hue in the night of her temporary lodging: converting the timid personage into an anthropomorphic anglerfish, ambassador of crimson-luminescent emanation and warmth. The riling sounds of the country she had abandoned—now barely shoved into the barren plains of her pain-pried memory—would occasionally drift faintly into the lowermost planes of her consciousness’s foreground, but were paid no attention by the lonesome sufferer: the priestess of unmoving reflection, philosopher of pallid patience and selfless reclusion into the highest echelons of temporary dark. After some time—indeterminate, unknowable in length of willow-wicked burn (the ash of the hours drifting unforced leaves from the deadened branch of temporality’s perception)—the rabbitlike worker would emerge from the burrow she had carved out for herself in the rabid plaster of the blank-white walls of the corridor, inhaling shallowly in the tepid-stale air of the walkway and stepping carefully—but without fear—back to the naturally-subdued aura of the perpetually-full warehouse of bodily degeneration, place of her unsubduable, inexplicable labor.

     Upon her return the caregiver would typically be greeted by one of the most prominent dissidents in the guerrillic element of the patients’ organization, a man by the name (at least self-proclaimed) of Elemicus—a lanky, lasciviously-minded gentlemen who bore a small, black-brown goatee and moustache fashioned in such a way as to suggest that the person they adorned was, in fact, a reincarnation of a dubious and powerful figurehead of an ancient monarchy-plutocracy, the well-monied having purchased the title of king for himself following the staging of a richly-backed coup. His eyes—pupils curled centipedes, circles of insectlike stiffness—betrayed an air of atmospheric intensity of a lacking inherent: the absence of any true conviction in the insolent malaise of his self-perpetuating consciousness, plagued with the pin-prick pains of uncontrolled, untempered thought: here the man would go about disturbing the sister (as the medical professional of our focus was at the same time—in the same breath of character—a woman of the cloth), here he would set himself about making sure of her continued comfort, much to the young faithful’s chagrin.

     At the moment of the particular reentry we will now turn (perhaps carelessly) our joined and singular eye upon, Elemicus was busy at stripping the room’s rightmost wall of its “entirely unsatisfying” trench-coat of paint, a thick and drippy smearing of the surface that only served to highlight the rectangular housing’s utter void of vivacity, in occupancy or its own egoic aura; the nurse quickly began to seek to stifle this most recent of outbursts, placing her soap-softened wrists upon the back of the troublesome one’s neck with the utmost degree of her relative capability of force: but, alas, her physical being proved yet too small to conquer the tall dominance and musculature of the destructive antagonist, and so she was sent flying through the starched, stiffened stratosphere of the ill to land on the delicate small of her back. Another one of the patients under the dominion of the benevolent woman’s care—a very young girl of approximately ten years, with coarse black hair tugged into bushels of charcoal wheat affixed with tired berets to the bind curvature of her childish skull—rushed to her aid, lifting with her apparently supranatural strength to the balls of her feet, stone-deadened birds twitching with the dance of ornithological rigor-mortis; the smallest of the feminine pair (having beheld the recovery of the object of her accomplished aid) then began to gnaw at the holy one’s head, the younger biting at the nunnish overseer with the vociferous joy of the cub on its first hunt. The mane of the sister’s hood was stripped from her head—which was by now also littered with the blood-leaking liturgies of minor wounds sustained in the combat—and cast a shipwreck onto the seafloor of the amateur demolitionist’s back, the man’s shirt coated with flecks and robin’s eggs of the plaster he had himself ripped from the socket of the wall, limblike; one of the woman’s more freshly sustained injuries began to spurt a Venetian archway from her tooth-tattered scalp, itself transmogrifying into a Gothic portal in the midst of its journey—buttressed by gravity—through the distance between the body and the ground. The young girl (ah—her name was Mary, quite plain) immediately began to suck at the freely flowing burgundy liquid, a schoolish drinking fountain to nourish her work-worn gums; as the rendering null of a brain-bearer’s tangible health is indeed no easy task, even for one equipped with the inestimable gift of vigorous youth (an omission of time-tinkered age).

     Still another convalescent rushed to the scene of the ongoing crime against the universal church in the moments following this latest—and entirely unforeseen—development of aorta-fueled gulp and swallow: an elderly person of indeterminable gender, with hair of a light gray-green and grouped into seaweedic locks that, as a matter of course, served but to startle those unused to the person’s appearance; the being’s lips were yellowed, like the petals of a wilting daffodil, and only heightened the disconcerting nature of the entity’s scalpish sprouts. The newly-arrived one immediately began to apologize for the violent behavior of his-her comrade, an “admittedly unorthodox” thinker who, the still-bleeding nun was informed, had recently arrived at a “ludicrous, albeit somewhat logical, conclusion” to her personal quandary of the dilution of aggressive impulses: the therapist assigned to the girl had advised her to enact her repressed fantasies in order to soundly drive them from her undeveloped, malleable mind, but in a manner that would not deal any significant harm to others. In the child’s mind the sister had come to represent the symbology and collective actions of Catholicism, rather than a truly individual manifestation of existence possessing a veritably-gripped sense of the ego, if not a wholly developed sectionality of the general field of being inhabited by all—“the injuries that have thus been dealt to you, then, embody not a concretely volatile attacking of human existences perceived as separate from one’s own claim to a self-contained mind, but a proclaimed ‘healthiness of expression’ of the little one’s incorrigible and subconscious anger and frustration concerning the basic stagnancy of her hospitalized livelihood”. So the conflict of the girl seemed, at least to the minute thug herself, unflinchingly internal in character, even when she made her emotions tangible in regard to their relative existences in relation to external observation and experience; the ever-calm nurse, still in a daze following the assault upon her person, merely muttered a brief phrase indicating she had understood the aged patient’s declarations, and returned to her safe-haven of storage-shelter simplicity of design.

     The oldest of the trio unbedded then assumed an entirely different character, began plucking at his-her knotted and brazenly unkempt braids, and took to uttering terse exclamations of an incoherent and theological bent: the exact contents of the crude phrasings of the philosophy engrained in the multilayered lumps of his-her mind and its casing have, unfortunately, been lost to the fact of unrecorded history, the passage of time freed from human empiricization. This sudden change of the person’s temperament might best be ascribed to the quality of his-her being enraptured with the concept of temporal travel, a simultaneously virtual and literal transgression of time-laced bonds through the exercising of one’s imaginative faculties: the seed of the sickly’s destruction of the limitations of chronological space (as the theorist did indeed hold faith in the belief that the apparently physical quality of mass was, at its essence, of the same base ontological substance as Time, the clicking of a demigod’s teeth) was born from the soil-sullied pot of his-her memory, the fertile flowerings of thought like a wasp first sliding from its compatriots’ nest. The inmate of the hospital would thus birth entirely fictional scenarios with his-her capacity for conscious creation and thinking, combs in which the humanoid bee could rummage about and colonize the uncivilized moors of the untamed brain; the whole of the universe was, for the institution-entrapped (and unwisened by age) inhabiter of human form, contained within these false worlds strutted from the thoughtful head.

     The anger experienced by the head of the pyramidic three, then, was but a product of the elder’s delusions: the person’s own creation swirling about the contents of its origins, upsetting the delicate order of crystalline and unsubstantiated experience: a mirroring of the chaos that had erupted in the ward of our unwavering concern and focus. The reclusive nun had—through some chance-riddled caning of fate, punishing of the goodly and generous—neglected to lock the doors to the barracks of the corridor’s sole room, the incubator of the injured and disruptive; he who had so voraciously sought to tear down the wall of his violent focus, noticing this most minor (in terms of effortless and unintentional masochism) and important of oversights, took to rallying his fellow prisoners into a froth of pointless anger against the sister, still locked in the dark of her own and voluntarily inhabited dungeon. The other patients were exceedingly willing to concede to the crazed man’s calls for revolutionary action, and, stripping the legs from their tin bedframes and tying their bleach-blanched pillowcases into one, solidly woven noose bearing a needlessly long tail, marched to the door of the sister’s insulation-lined cavern: the door was easily smashed to the floor, and the frightened woman was dragged—paralyzed by her confusion and spinnings of the plates of conjectured future—to the bedroom from which the afflicted had been unwittingly liberated. The trial of the accused—although her crime was never truly stated outright—was brief and without the ceremony typically bequeathed upon the battle-ruffled shoulders of soldiers of coupish character: her neck was wrapped (almost coyly) with the immaculate cloud of the spittle-splattered cloths, strung together into an instrument of eternal sleep, timidly slumbering in the thimble of the clammy grave: —and the short nightstand supporting her was rapidly removed from beneath her shoe-stripped feet (opportunistic convalescents!), her thinly-tiered ankles dancing with the rhythmic movements of circular-swinging hang.



Ian Goodale currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he is studying the Russian language at the University of California at Berkeley. His work has appeared in Drunken Boat.