Screams in the Valley
“A mixture of CloNIDine, Rapamune, and prednisone is my heroin.”
—P.K. Ripper, circa 2014
They came in through the screen, alabaster on a tonal level—boring, really, if you let them pass through ear to ear.
It’s only after the Earl Grey—hot—and the butter toast that their possible implications begin to emerge from the whiteness of their noise. Loud cries? No, that’s not it. Loud crying makes me think of babies and those plump, plastic drop-down tables in public restrooms.
So, that couldn’t be what I’m hearing out here in the trees and above the valley. Out here we don’t let babies cry. We don’t let babies carry on. We don’t let babies, period.
Down in the valley—with those repeated house facades balanced side by side like that ticky-tacky from pre-80’s folk songs—they let babies and the babies of babies cry. And carry on.
This isn’t that. It’s screaming. All day, and throughout the entire night. It’s screaming. Not babies.
Oh, how I wish it had only been the babies crying.
For the first forty-eight hours I assumed it was coming from the high-powered rifle range over the other side of the newest subdivision. They fire rifles at targets shaped to resemble people. Maybe, I figured, they had added a screaming effect to heighten the experience. Who knows? Could be.
Later I let the screams slip on through ear to ear, filing it all under the heading: Forget & Forgive. Bang. Bang.
That had been my trade, a job I don’t even think exists anymore. “Filing clerk.” Like the action of preserving paper copies of titles, deeds, and other documents was so important that an entire division of the labor force was dedicated to filing everything away in metal boxes, arranged in long rows, and neatly placed in file folders under various headings and subheads printed on little tags. The past. So long.
At some point during a tedious night awake, one’s mind wonders off the regular path. Survival tactic, I figure. Without its host body, the mind just goes off into the uncharted, unpredictable woods. Wandering. Drawn in by siren butterflies, harpies, and trails of sparkling dust.
So, as the screams pull my body toward the door—tense muscles pumping a hyper heart—my mind follows the fairy dust into the woods and through muddy pools inhabited by large-eyed amphibians. It’s not only pretty things that please and fascinate, the roughness of sandpaper gets the job done too.
My body, senseless, yet pumped up on meds, flung the door wide and now blusters against the plain, warm night. Bang bang.
I would stop them. The screamers. Quiet them to near nothing, so their peeps were no more than the muffled sounds of earthworms chewing in their graveyard diners.
My mind would be of no more help this night; mesmerized as it was by the pulsating orange and brown harpy wings. Friends of toads. Lilac eaters. Dung beetle herdsmen! Oh, the dense wavering forest has no kinship with simple human flesh. Play it only with the jazz steps of electrons and dragon fire.
The forest is a dreamscape. The suburbs, in the valley, a fully awake nightmare.
My body roars, To the cannon! Snooker is my game, and I’m an excellent shot. The subdivided screamers, living in their subdivisional status will come to fear me!
Have you ever met someone and thought, If only I’d met this person sooner. If only I’d met her before the change…. Well, my mind met somebody in the forest, as my body was charging off the front porch toward the Valley of Screamers.
Kim, swimming among the butterflies and lightning bugs, instantly beautiful in their glow, is a curator of subatomic antiquities; the orchestrator of dragon’s breath.
Deep in the forest she’s recreating the early human form out of quarks salvaged from severed hadrons, decorated with the skins of thrift-store leptons.
The name—a pinpoint containing infinite dimensional structure to support every weighted possibility. And yet, its three delicate letters appearing as nothing more than slim lines in a cracked wine glass.
She pours me long slow dementia relief, a complex barleywine; its chaff staying in the roundness of her vessel as the wheat seeps through the letter sieve of her name. Drown my mouth full of KIM. Breathe. Out. In.
if only it weren’t too late for concrete things. A house. A yard. A cat. A dog. Coffee mugs and mass transit. Hotel room keycards on lanyards. Vacations. Tattooed thighs and turntables in the family room. Sanctuary. We could’ve had an ax mounted above our fireplace. Chop chop.
Too late. Too many broken moments, spilling blood.
But is it over? Am I too far gone? Disconnected? Bang gnab.
Swooping now; swooping as the carrion bird dives, my body descends on the shiny plastic cluster of houses in the valley. They scream with ignorance and apathy.
They scream with a fearfulness that comes from too much security. Too much similarity. Bang bang.
In the nearness of the valley’s far side a rifle report eclipses the screaming. If only for a moment, everything stalls within its echo. Pulse. The absence of sound. Ears relax. Until a volley of selfsame reports, overlapping each other, rings clear. Pop! in front of me; pop! followed closely by its slightly faded and elongated self, from behind. Or all around. Repeatedly. Two by two: pop pop; pop pop—a simplified drum solo, bouncing back and forth, in headphones. Chop chop. Pop pop.
It lifts my body up, dominate over the plastic cluster of Screamers’ houses. Mighty eagle. Pick your prey. Kill the pasty suburbanites. Kill their screams! Chop chop. Bang bang. Pop pop.
A running of my feet, bare as when born, running me from home and dreamy forest, driving me toward an earlier state, a happier existence of unadorned non-existence. The screamers, the screamers. The aim of this is death. Eagle of air, puma of earth, human of mind, they all balance opposing drives. Turn it inward, or turn it toward the outside world? Pop, bang, chop. Kim. Drive. Not sure whether to fuck you or kill you.
Guide me home. I’m a blinded newt. Caught on the footpath of Screamers. Red curtain eyes. Oranges and browns. Death filling my lungs. Becoming drunk, tippling blood from their faces and hands. This subdivided lowland is my end. It’s riddled with holes, buzzing with bullets and common honey bees. All is ending.
The forest is dreamscape, echoes of which tingle my skin, and Kim can reform me as she wishes. But only if bits of my body make it back from the valley. Back home to my mind, safe in the soothing swirl of harpies and fairy dirt, amped by the bold cries of dung beetle herdsmen, and sounding now clearer than the rifles of the range. Pop pop, nothing more than the dull thud of a car door closing at your back.
Not too far gone, never. No such thing. I am no more the sum of one act, than I am the sum of all acts combined. That’s the benefit of linear time and small eyes facing forward, each day can be independent of the days coming before. Each day a footprint, bare as when born, that vanishes behind.
Ax—over our fireplace mantlepiece. Ax—in the stump by the woodpile. Kim—three little letters, never spelling … The End.