WIP Wednesday: The Cold Death of Papa November

This one is also not properly a WIP–it’s been sold to Three-Lobed Burning Eye, for release at some unknown point in the future. But their round of edits hasn’t yet come through, so I suppose it sort of counts.

This story was inspired by numbers stations. What can I say: they’re cool. Numbers and screams and secret voices in the night, coming from unknown places and meant for unknown ears. Great material right there. I ended up, as I often do, with a story about memory and lost love and how both have a way of haunting people–and, indeed, the world.

So here’s a small piece.

– – –

When he walks out of the house for the last time, he has the shortwave under his arm. It’s mid-November, and the trees are shaking themselves naked in the rain. He doesn’t look back. There are no lights in the windows of the house, and every one is a dead eye. The worst of them, the attic window, he imagines that he might look back at it and see her there, watching him go, her eyes dark holes in her head.

In his imagination–just a dream, never really happened–she opens her mouth and out come the music-box notes, tinny and lost.

If something happens, she had said once, naked and curled around him, I’ll get a message to you somehow. 

Had she been lying?

What are lies? How do you know them when they happen?

Hours later he’s on a plane over the Atlantic, looking out at a blessedly eyeless dark–except for his own gaze reflected dimly back to him, and his eyes look empty as the night outside.

* * *

Budapest is cold. Budapest is bright. He hadn’t expected the brightness. Bright, clear winter days, nights violently lit. He sits in his rented flat on the banks of the Beautiful Blue Danube and wonders if he might have better luck with a cabin in the woods. No one knows him here. Either way he’s just as alone. But really, that’s not true at all.

He sits on the balcony with the shortwave; he sits on the floor, on the narrow bed; he curls himself around it as he’d seen her do, protective. Except for some clothes and toiletries, it s all he’s brought with him. All he has of her. No photos–but she is everywhere. He doesn’t need any.

She is everywhere, but here in his arms is still the majority of her. The pulsing little secret at the heart of her life.

Achtung. Achtung. Another woman’s voice–a different woman. He closes his eyes against the lights. Attention: You won’t find her here. Not on this station, not in this ether. You could blame the sunspot cycles, the alignment of satellites, the weather, but what it comes down to is that she’s gone.  

Der Zwei. Der Drei. Der Ende.

Two days later he’s on a plane again, pushing north, voices dancing in the air all around him.

One thought on “WIP Wednesday: The Cold Death of Papa November

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