Gary Joshua Garrison is the prose editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review. His fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and he is an MFA
candidate at Arizona State University. He lives in Arizona with his cat, Widget.
They come in the darkness, while he sleeps, their bodies collapsing the cherry door, the hinges splintering through the damp-aged wood. Down the hallway their wideness snags frames from hooks. They are quick and careless and deliberate and the first shadow is in the bedroom before he can sit up.
His head thick with sleep, he rolls towards his nightstand, for the light there, or something, and they are on top of him, at least three of them, their weight sagging the mattress. He opens his mouth for air, to scream, but they are ready with the wet rag. They force it deep, into his throat, and his reflexes push back, rejecting and choking, and he tastes copper and bile.
Then, terror, and he lashes out. His brain fires every muscle in his body, telling everything: get free. But his thoughts stay half formed panics. Nothing for his mind to hold to.
He feels one of his balled fists strike hard against something soft and firm, feels a heaviness recoil. Then, again and again, he is hit and hit and hit. His body is pinned, limb-by-limb, his muscles burning, tearing against such impossible weight. Finally, the panic comes together into words, into fractured thoughts and he can recognize his body being lifted, like he is limber-light, hauled away.
Then he understands: they are here. But why? How?
He screams again, his lungs losing air, the sound deadened by the gag into a pitiful moan.
And as quickly as they come they depart. They retrace their steps, his kicks sending them into the walls, their shoulders pocketing plaster. But they hold to.
He screams a rupture in his neck. The ceiling whirs past through hot tears. He screams with his body and is struck again, in the face, into darkness for an instant. The ceiling gives way to the belly of a tree; to openness; to stars that shake together, millions of them, arching over him, over everything; to white white white dark. His back hits metal and a rib-break weight is dropped onto his chest. He cannot breathe, cannot move. Doors slam. There is a lurch of motion. He turns his head to look and is struck, again and again and again and again until he cannot feel that there is an again and again and again, until his head cannot turn. And then, there comes darkness, pulling like silk over his peached-bruised cheeks, over his knuckle-split lips.
The whine of the engine sinks slowly into a chorus of cicadas, the buzzing bare bulb above the unhinged front door, the grating settle of a hollowed house. Wind swirls through the opening, kicking yellowing grass and dirt down the hallway, over the sparkling knots of glass. The same night there are dogs, a pack that trots curiously around the house before slinking noiseless through the rooms, sniffing out the boxed dry goods. Mice tear through the twisted blankets, nesting in the warmth, and later, there are the maggots and the rats and, eventually, there is
the mold and rot that burrow out the walls.
In the daylight the house is avoided; great effort is taken by neighbors to see nothing of what lies beyond the throat of the darkened vestibule. The desperate come after a time, their whispers resonant, and they take what they can, what can be sold or eaten or burned, what has not been taken by the dogs. The pictures that are not pilfered are bleached by the sunlight and the rainwater, and the furniture that cannot be lifted is collapsed from within by termites.
The man does not return. The house is not rebuilt. It is in this way that he is consumed, that, slowly, a life is eased from this place.