The window had been open for 3 days when I stopped counting and that was at least a month ago. I only remember it was a month ago because that’s when I decided to open the window to see whether the flickering light outside was a police officer coming to check on me after a 3 hour chat on the suicide hotline. It wasn’t. No one needed to check on me anyway, nor did anyone care to. When I died and putresced, the smell would reach the mailman in maybe a week, providing it was the heat of summer and not the ice of winter. On winter’s ice, the EMTs would have to wait for the thaw to be called, though it’s probably easier to move a frozen body than a hot body. Maybe I’d be generous and kill myself right next to the mailbox during a blizzard.
But yes, the flickering light was not the police. The light was just a light. My light. The lightpost that I used to turn on when I got home from work and off when I went to bed. The light lit up my backyard garden which as far as I could tell was a garden ever since the house was built in the early 1900s. 1903 I think the deed said. The garden fence was a motley mess of rotting wood and hastily replaced boards–as much mosaic as a fence. This board was added when a storm blew through, this board came after field mice set up shop, and this board had to have been circa 1945 as it was clearly made out of an old army trunk. Maybe Korea. Probably not Vietnam.
My days shifted from waiting to die to waiting for the light to die. Two days in, I tried the switch, but the light kept on blinking at me, like a cornered fieldmouse banking on stillness as a defense in the oppressive beam of a roving flashlight.
The lightswitch was my last ditch effort. I wasn’t going outside.
I sat down in my fortress, my bed surrounded by tins of wet cat food and cases of mercifully delivered beer (the only thing, my neighbor was convinced, that was keeping me alive), a narrow path in the empty cans and tins carved out so that I could reach the sink and the bucket–the toilet was backed up and by now the sewage had congealed into a spongy hockey puck. At least the smell was gone or maybe it was my nostrils that had disappeared.
But so I sat.
And watched the light. And felt the breeze. And did nothing.
This morning, unconscious in my hangover but wide awake–a purgatory of headache and nausea–the blinking light rang out counts in my head. One short. One long. Blink. Blink Blink. Almost a pattern. No, a pattern. Morse code. Clearly Morse code. I was hallucinating, of that I am sure.
Well, delirium tremens, two can play at that game. What do you want me to hear? “I.. N… E. E. D… Y. O. U… I…” I need you? You need me, light post apparition? Well, then I must say to you: “Y.. O. U. C…A..N…H..A.V.E…M.E…”
The light stopped. All-seeing God, thank you for this blessing you have bestowed upon me, the promise of uninterrupted sleep and… The light started again. “C..O.M.E. T.O. M…E…A.N.D…K.N..O..W.” The light stopped again.
Come to me and know. I blinked back, but no response. Just black. Judging by the sky, it was around 8am. I tried the lightswitch. Nothing. I moved towards the window and a sharp gust of air hit me in the face, air rank with rot and moisture, the kind of air you find around a poisoned pond.
I shut the window and turned back to bed. A loud bang. An open window.
Come to me and know.
I needed to know. For the first time in weeks, I put on shoes and walked for the door like the condemned to the gallows.
Each step rang out through the house. Floors that were left unburdened by human weight groaned in agony–admittedly, weeks of cat food and beer turned me into an aging floor’s worst nightmare.
Step. Creak. Step. Groan. Step. Howl.
I reached the stairs. Tunnel vision. The railing and the wall and the floor pixelated in a murky haze. All that I saw was the front door at the bottom of the steps. The door knob twirled and glimmered. Compelled–by what, I do not know. Curiosity? I was at the bottom of the steps turning the knob and leaving the safety of what I thought would be my tomb.
The door shut with a creak and a bang. Did I do that?
The side of the house greeted me with what used to be white siding, now covered in sprawling moss and lichen, a turf football field of neglect and remorseless nature. I grazed the wall as I passed, not noticing the lichen clinging to my outstretched fingers as I near-floated across the knee-high lawn around the side of my home and towards the former splendor of my lamp-lit garden.
What used to be tulips and tomatoes and squash was now fungi and thistles and milkweed and hemlock. I could see the mycelial madness taking advantage of the meticulously neglected fence line and untilled, musty, waterlogged soil. The former splendor of Eden corrupted by the sinful disinterest of ambivalent nature.
Within ten feet of the fence line, a puffy cloud burst forth from the grotesque breast-like mushroom puffballs that had taken up residence in clusters along the fence posts and most notably around the base of the lamp post, located tactically at the center of my former garden–it was clear that this area no longer belonged to me, but to whom?
A calm, directed breeze of icy wind carried the spore cloud towards me. One breath and I was standing inches from the lamp post. Did I miscount my steps?
The air was wet with the sepulchral chill of forgotten catacombs and delicately resting skeletons long stripped of any skin or gold. I forgot I was outside.
My eyes tranced upwards and focused on the lightbulb secured safely in the glass confines of the lantern-like lamp post. With a blink, the bulb glowed a restful green, reaching closer and closer to my face, as if an innkeeper were bending down with a recently-lit oil lamp to inspect the ridges of a midnight arrival looking for quarter.
“You have come. Please, enter.”
A zebra-like mushroom stalk capped with a red puffball and dotted with golden spikes extended outwards from the green phantasm. With a soft cough, a toddler clearing his nostrils after stumbling upon a dandelion, a milky white mask of anesthesia breathed into my lungs.
My body fell to its knees and rested as a monk before a shrine, but my mind was far, far away…
(Continue to Chapter 1 of Morse.)