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Calcination By Mike Hodges


Thick ash fell from the heavens to cover our cities, and we were not afraid. We gathered the

first dusting from where it drifted on the windshields of our cars and the shadows where our

eyes had been and carried it into our plastic homes in cupped hands while flakes fell like tears

from our fleshless fingers.

We heaped it on our kitchen tables and straightened it with cleavers into neat lines that we

inhaled in great gasps of desperation and faithful ecstasy. It fell through our jaws, filling us

with joy and the faint desire to see the sun again, and we coughed out thick liquid from our

exposed marrow while we ran back outside to roll naked in the withered grass and stroke at

our empty sockets.

More ash fell on us as we rolled. Where it met our sweat and phlegm, it solidified into coatings

of stone that cracked and shattered as our joints twisted in what had once been our children’s

playgrounds. They left us long ago, but we never missed them in our endless mornings of

sunless darkness and slow-dancing to the music that shook through our floorboards; bone is a

better conductor than any traitorous flesh could ever dream.

The ash rose to our thighs, and we waded through it like the tide or our memories. Some of us

lay down in the gathering banks, and whirlpools of flakes in the thickening air traced dances

above their graves.

***

The gods told us that this day would come; their voices were whispers that floated into our

city with the bitter scent of unripe cranberries and the crashing warmth of an upturned

crucible. The grass, still green then, rustled with the sound of cocoons crushing themselves

into nothingness before the ants could reach them, and we let the long, unvoiced sigh of it

crawl up our legs, across our spines, into our ears while we stood with our eyelids pinned open

like butterflies, watching the sun slowly fade away.

When we heard their wordless covenant, we bathed in fire to strip away the skin that crisped

with a reminder of what we had once been; we blistered away our weakness to make ourselves

beautiful, and screamed for hours until our nerves disappeared in the forges we made of our

homes. We took gravel to our muscles, grinding the useless fibers into dust between fingers

slick with blood and the gods’ promises. We unraveled the thin tapestries of arteries that

pulsed and swelled every time our hearts twitched with shocked mortality. We pulled veins

out one at a time and pinned them to our walls; they fluttered like prayer flags until the air

died around them.

***

The ash rose to our hips, then our bellies, and our cars became islands that we stumbled onto

as we crossed the endless sea of thin flakes that had been our city.

When we grew tired, we retreated into our doorways and let the ash make us into silhouettes

we could not see against the thin walls that had sheltered us when we still had need.

In our shadows, dark forms between the smooth walls and the still softness of settling ash,

we ourselves set like silver, and our lungless voices whispered thanks to the gods for their

faithfulness.


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