Wind That Can Be Followed to the Final Planet

The satellite radio blackout colder at night, the man gathers the clock’s fallen minutes and puts them back inside the things he trusts: the truck parked in a patch of landline static; the soft, limping glare of the remaining houses; the trees, and the cries of darkness between the trees.

The human drifts of starlight must not learn what he’s done. No matter what.

“I don’t want the world changers searching my thoughts for the last thing I said,” he whispers, hoping to not disturb the outer reaches of his body. “The last time they looked in my head they said they would make sure I never thought about anything again.”

“It’s Halloween and people die. Simple as that,” he says beneath the shroud of his breath.

The breeze that separates one hour’s clarity and another’s rumor continues with a scarecrow muttering to itself from a fawn’s rigor mortis. It searches among the pumpkins rusting in rows where earlier the low headlights were shining on the wind’s flannel houses, the shelters the man sees outside his head whenever he’s closest to another world’s nightfall.

“Sometimes I have to hurt what makes my mind move,” he says, hoping the detectives don’t hear, yet needing to say things aloud to frighten away the well-lit void and all of its laws.

Interrupting the moon, the grave markers don’t know where they’ve been hidden by the scarecrow that sometimes sneaks out of the man’s body. They don’t know whether it’s removed their hardened oxygen, their threats of snow, the loneliest dirt that can be remembered.

Except for the night sky, which is the skin of an animal that’s been tortured since the beginning of time, he has no one.

“I don’t like it with God in back of the eyes I use keeping track of things,” he says from his plate of cracked lamplight.

“The murderers would not approve of my tables and chairs, the way I won’t kill and eat them, not even in my head where it’s never deep. It doesn’t matter though, because I’m not allowed to behave like my head is a deep place. They always have to know where to find me, and for this reason, I cannot think too far ahead.”

The entire world was uploaded into the man’s brain tissue. Why did they do such a thing? He was a man who stayed at thought level. He had it all there, and he forgot everything, just like that.

The pieces of the one repeating minute, like the man belted to his chair that’s always running out of light, were neither found on the final planet, nor spoken of again by the burrowing, two-legged televisions inside the remembered houses that strayed to where the leg the man broke during childhood cries alone in the woods.

And because not one shiver survives, the man darkens past the clock chime depths of his bed, closer now to the meteors, and he grasps for the body beside him—the body made of all the friends and family he betrayed in his head—the body that, like any stone, stays where it is and means no harm.

Rob Cook is the author of some books, including The Undermining of the Democratic Club, Empire in the Shade of a Grass Blade, and Blueprints for a Genocide. His writing has appeared in Antioch Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Laurel Review, Epiphany, Colorado Review, Natural Bridge, Indefinite Space, Hotel Amerika, Notre Dame Review, Interim, Rhino, The Bitter Oleander, and Caliban, among others.