Undying Darlings — Excerpt From an Old Project — Part I
“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” — Faulkner (obviously unaware of the advent of blogging)
It is true –a large part of writing is ridding yourself of unnecessary material. Sometimes this is easy. Sometimes this is really hard. Maybe you’re just too close to the words and the scene. Maybe you had high expectations and are overcome by denial, slow to admit that whatever it is, it just isn’t cutting it in your larger work. Maybe you just overwrote the hell out of it. Anyway, because I have trouble letting go, rather than killing my darlings outright, I decided I would ‘zombify’ them here –sentence them to roam the archives of cyberspace without aim or drive or any hopes of change. I’d rather see them in the light of this mediocre immortality than never see them again. Hear them moan and treat them kindly. Who knows? There may be souls within them yet.
* * *
For days they walked over the unchanging plain beneath all manner of sky. The wind seemed never to cease, and in the moments that it did, thoughts became too loud and it was too quiet to sleep. They came one morning upon a herd of cattle still fenced in and sloppily killed one with three misplaced shots of a rifle. They ate and carried what they could, but left most to rot and stink in the sun. They tore down the fence before they left and tried to force the other cattle free, but the beasts were too fast and knew nothing of fences broken or otherwise and only of grass which was the same within or without. Days later, the meat they carried with them grew rank in their packs and they left it behind. Days after that, coyotes fell upon it shrieking. Their arbitrary tracks grew on, as if it were for the sole sake of movement that they moved and in the name of vagrancy alone that they made their solitary way.
A boulder appeared on the horizon and grew enormous before them, the only feature around at all, perched in the noon sun perhaps never serving any purpose greater than providing shade for the weary men that lay in it that day. Henry sat without removing his pack. Frank walked over and pressed his palms against the cool rock as if to check for a pulse or maybe even provoke one himself. He ran his fingers along a protruding seam and stopped suddenly. Henry rose to see what Frank saw.
“Who are they?” Henry asked.
Frank did not say. His fingertips hovered above the drawings.
“What do you think they were doin out here?”
“Same as us I suppose,” Frank said.
Henry looked around, his eyes slightly watered. “Lookin for somewhere else to be?”
Frank’s gaze broke away from the drawings. Behind the warmth of his strained grin there was a concern too great to be concealed. He bent over and picked up a stone and began to etch into the boulder the image of two figures walking in tandem toward a sun that either rose or set. He paused. Thought. He then wrote his name beneath one of the figures and handed Henry the stone who did the same without knowing why.
They rested in the shade until the shade was gone, at which point they rose and walked again. Later that day there was ash in the air, and later yet the grasses became burnt and black and crumbled loud beneath their feet. It remained so charred when they slept upon it that night, and they awoke painted black and grey by the wind and soot like children playing at war. They spat black and they spat often. By evening of the next day, the grass was covered entirely by a loose layer of dirt and stone. They dug into it and set up camp.
“It’s gonna be a big one,” Henry said, fumbling at the coals with the heel of his boot.
“Yeah.” Frank shifted uncomfortably on his bedroll.
“You layin on a rock?”
“Somethin.” He stood and turned over his pad and reached into the loose earth, but he could not move what was there. As he dug and brushed away the dirt further, he knew why.
“What is it?” Henry asked, leaning forward.
Frank moved his bed aside and made it elsewhere. Before lying down, he set his solemn eyes upon his little brother. “It’s a chimney.”
* * *
For those of you who have come before, I have changed my “Any Last Words” idea to this one. I just like it better. Click here for more creative poetry or prose.