Thursday, June 18, 2009

Living Fossil



He tried not to remember. Which was harder than forgetting.

But music was the devil on his shoulder, fanning old flames until they licked his ear with the urgency of heated breath. Anna’s music. Her cello.

He heard the ghost of the instrument now, cloaked in the low vibration of the museum office refrigerator. A bow agitating its string with indefinite equations. The beginning note of a Bach Sarabande, dragged to infinity.

He tugged on his eyelids and wiped his face. The wearying madness of it all. Too many years of sustained strangulation, without time’s loosening indifference. If she were dead, it might be easier, his brain sometimes rattled. Before he squeezed the thought out.

Grabbing the bones from the protective plastic bags, he started to inventory them for the museum’s new Homo erectus exhibit.

Ulna.

Check.

Left metacarpal.

Check.

Clavicle.

Clavicle . . .

Her neck.

Latex fingers traced the bone’s curving ridges. Palms sweated inside the gloves. His eyelids closed and fluttered.

But opened again.

Anna wasn’t there. She never was, except in the sleight-of-hand that dreams tricked up. Her music might linger like perfume, but his understanding of her face had muted into a finger-smudged memory of soft skin, without the hard lines defining it. His mind would not permit him the small pleasure of looking into her eyes. Of seeing her lips stretch into a smile. Of rediscovering the many soft hairs on the nape of her neck.

Only this music of the mind, continuously looping the loss. Like a shape-shifting tombstone. With pretty flowers pouring from its mouth.

Death masquerading as life.

So as the refrigerator’s motor kicked off and bones hoped for some kind of resurrection by his hands, Galen tried. He tried very hard not to remember. What living felt like.

Until the cell phone vibrated in his pocket with the prelude to their song.

His heart lunged. The vibrations dug deep and spread high. For this moment, he would not check the caller ID. On this day only—the anniversary of his injury, and their meeting—he would let himself believe that it was her.

Somewhere, on the other side.

“Hello?”

21 comments:

jason evans said...

Mmmmm. A first look into this world. ;)

The loss weighs so heavily on him. The element of the refrigerator hum was diabolical and very clever. And the virtual dissection of her presence in the bones...masterful!

Okay, you have our attention. :)

Aine said...

I hope it's her... ;)

I like how he's studying fossils when he himself feels like he's not living. Maybe he needs to get away from bones, find some flesh.
:)

Linda S. Socha said...

Fantastic take
I step easily into that world and feel the reality. Well written ...
Linda

Catvibe said...

oh this is sooo good. I love the use of the music, and the ghost being relegated to a hum of a refrigerator. An infinity of Bflat, like a broken record in his brain. I loved the way the bones became fleshed out in his mind, the horrible reality of obsession, and the way that everything living or dead reminds him of her, becomes her somehow. Excellent Sarah. God, your writing makes me want to hide in a closet, you have such a talent.

Catvibe said...

(although contrary to what I just said, my refrigerator seems to hum in Aflat...stupid refrigerator, proving me wrong just because it can ;-)

Sarah Hina said...

Jason, let's hope I keep it! :)

I'm glad those elements added a richness to the scene for you. I definitely saw music blurring the borderline between past and present for him. The emotion it harnesses is still very much alive.

Aine, maybe he will. ;)

I was fascinated by the idea of an objective scientist--here, an anthropologist who studies the stream of human beings across the ages--being pulled under by his own subjective past. I think it'll be a cool dichotomy to explore in my novel. Thank you! :)

Linda, that means a lot to me. To know that you slipped seamlessly into this world. Thank you so much for your warm response. :)

Cat, Aflat? Seriously? Are you one of those amazing people who has perfect pitch?? I always wished I could do that...

Thank you for the rapturous response here. I confess--it's like music to my ears (what, too lame? ;))

Oh, and come out of the closet already. You know your talent deserves the light.

Greener Bangalore said...

Study of Fossils.......its roman to me :(...but one thing i notice is even when you write about science, there is the rhythm of a folk song in your language.....great combination...and long time no see ??? busy ??.!!

Silver said...

This is really very good.

I need to hear more..

~Silver
Reflections

the walking man said...

"the anniversary of his injury, and their meeting"

in this line I lost whatever sympathy i had for Anna because it makes it appear as if his injury was the cause of her departure.

But then you haven't really explained so i get to make up the rest of the back story in my own head and it would more to Sibelius in this instance than Bach.

Aniket said...

See, what you've done?

Now, don't look at me with those puppy dog eyes that say "What did i do?" and act all innocent.

You say I am getting better with endings. Look at the post. I have such a long way to go. As much as I feel it had the perfect end, I love the start more. The first line knocked me out. We've all have had that thought sometime in our lives I guess. And that makes me think, "Why didn't I come up with that?"

Absolutely love the piece. Since you have escalated to the jury panel already, you are not by any fat chance competing in CoN contest right? :P

Would love to read your GUEST entry though. lol

This was uber awesome. Loved the tiny descriptions.
Note taking time: Pay attention to details Aniket... pay attention to details!!

Charles Gramlich said...

You work with bones, you start to find them everywhere. SOmetimes writers are bone workers.

Sarah Hina said...

Greener Bangalore, yes, a little bit busy. But thank you for making me feel missed! :)

I love what you said about the rhythm of the piece. That kind of poetry in prose is important to me.

Silver, thank you so much. This is a piece I'm exploring for a novel I'm thinking about.

Walking Man, I actually meant that she met him on the same day he was injured. The injury led to their meeting.

You make me want to go listen to some Sibelius. And yes, maybe Bach is a little too refined and contained here. ;)

Aniket, what did I do again? ;)

I'm so glad you're engaged by this one! I've been trying to outline this novel in advance, but I'd taken a long break, and wanted to kickstart things again. Writing a vignette seemed the perfect way to do that.

(and yes, small details can say everything!)

I might do another guest entry for Jason's contest. That wine glass is too tempting not to. :P Can't wait to see everyone's entries (including yours)! :)

Charles, I like that. We do try to examine, and even resurrect.

the walking man said...

Ahhh now I see what you wrote not what I read. But now I still need to fill in a back story. hmmmm where is she and why is she there?

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Oh, Sarah!!!!!! This is splendid!Great first line - and perfectly understandable. I totally agree with the assertion. This is truly a very intriguing beginning - to what I hope, and assume, will be a series. All the little details and the references to bones, fossils, classical music, a mysterious woman, museum, and madness - all add up to an absorbing storyline. Love it!!!

Margaret said...

Such brilliant writing Sarah!

His pain of losing her and longing for her so visible in his every move and thought.

Absolutely love the way you work with detail.

Sarah Hina said...

Walking Man, I mostly wrote this vignette to start thinking about this new novel I'm working on again. Anna and Galen meet in the first half of the book. This scene takes place many years after, which is why there are so many holes.

K, I'm afraid it's not going to be a series (though it's tempting!). I'm being a little self-indulgent here, and teasing some characters from my new novel. ;)

Thank you so much for the high praise! I'll admit to wanting to see what the reaction was to all these elements. I'm happy that they struck a nerve for you, in particular. :)

Margaret, thank you for letting me know that the pain was palpable here. That was definitely my chief aim. :)

The details were very fun to massage into life, too. I appreciate the kind words!

Chris Eldin said...

Sarah, I was going to comment on how beautiful this piece is, but something more urgent popped up in the comments.
You're not doing the CoN contest, are you? Won't you be busy with other things? I'm sure you can find other things to do. And if not, don't forget that Jason moved the date to August...
;-) (Just teasing! The rest of us have no chance if you're entering!)
:-)

laughingwolf said...

another superb piece, sarah :)

Rick said...

Hello Sara. Wonderful work. It's part of a novel you are developing? I certainly hope so since this portion flows so smoothly. I'll be back to see how it turns out.

Karen said...

I'm happy to read that this is a bit of your new book! The marriage of so many images and stories here is very intriguing. Just what a book should be, n'est-ce pas?

Jenny said...

Hi Sarah,

I find your blog wonderful!

This text is so well-written; it feels as if the atmosphere is changing along with the tuning of a cello.

I see clearly that you have a remarkable subtle intuition and absolute pitch for writing. That is truly admireable.