Excerpt from an Untitled Novel (A Work-In-Progress)

by Daulton Dickey.

Her touch recalls the fermented air of youth, how when I wanted to dream about my future I’d only go so far as to spray my come into the phantom writhing on my lap. Only now the phantom is real. She’s a brunette, and she’s on top of me, bathing in the silk of night as my milk darkens the pink of her flesh and makes it somehow transparent.

She moans and pushes down on my chest, and her tits bounce. Her eyes are closed, her hair disheveled, bouncing, bouncing, and she twists her neck and groans and howls.

The specter of youth fades, fades. Everything becomes pale and blue and illuminated: her flesh on my skin, her breath in my face, her hair interweaving with mine. The past is an eyeball concealed behind a colorless lid. Nothing means anything except right now. The world vanishes and the light and sounds pouring into the window are the forestalled harbingers of newly hatched universes.

She rides me, she moans and rides me, and the coil in my stomach and chest relaxes and unspools. My head throbs, but the pulses are echoes, and they fade; they fade.

She’s lying beside me now, and the sun screams into the room, announcing the dawn of the post-industrial age. Cars whine and buses howl and feet slap concrete as voices rise and harmonize and crescendo.

Stories unfold on the ceiling, but they’re incomprehensible. They’re incomprehensible because I’m too busy reading the prose encoded in the breath tickling my neck.

Her breath is soft, controlled, as if she’s too self-conscious to breathe, as if she’s afraid her breathing will trigger annoyance or concern. She’s lying near me and leaning into me. My arm is beneath her and curled around her, and I interpret her breath and tighten my bicep and forearm and pull her to me. And listen. I listen.

Then words obscure images. Syntax and grammar, and refined imagery, unspool and dissolve in a sea of blackness: a hand fingers an open wound as the sky withers and droops inward. High overhead the sun blinks and the absence of light shimmers in the moment of the essence, when all things shrink and freeze and grope and gripe and convulse on the acid of tongues swimming in a sea of oblivion. A man with a blank face skitters through a window—the glass ripples—and rushes toward me, but then he stops and spins and freezes: on his back are breasts concealed in a halter top, and a blank face is in the back of his head. Hair curls down around the cheeks and chin and breaks against the shoulders. Shadows push into the face and a fist emerges—the wrist hangs where the nose should be. The woman convulses and collapses. She lands on her stomach and the fist protruding from her face uncurls its fingers and crawls across the room, carrying the head and body. And it stops in front of me and trembles. Then the woman’s legs, now at eye level, twitch and bend, and the hand pushes up, propels away from the floor, and the woman arches her back and lands on her feet, and — We’re in a glass dome submerged in water. The woman and I are seated at a table, sitting on toilets, each shitting. Our shit floats through tubes and pollutes the water outside the dome. The woman watches her shit dissolve into the water and she smiles—she’s grinding her teeth, moving her jaw horizontally. Then she opens her mouth—to speak?—and rocks tumble out and smack the tabletop. Each rock cracks open and spills snot onto the table. The snot bubbles and foams and transforms into a few dozen worms, each baring the head of a kitten. The kitten-worms mew, mew, and the sounds pulse and crack the glass on the dome. Water races through the cracks and fills the dome, fills the dome, and— and—

I listen. Listen.

Anne is still lying beside me. Her breath taps the melody of a poem I can’t deconstruct. And the tones of her message, shallow and oblique, slip into the pores in my face and neck and lull me back to sleep.

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