Fatal Distinction

Chaos is a storm of shadows. No sound but the wind, and no scent but greenery and old wood – the blindfolded awareness of the outdoors, when you lope down an unlit block of blank, staring houses, porches cluttered with their own idiosyncratic gloom. The moon is half alive, just an ember, cradled in the nutshell of the vanished sun’s penumbra. You feel the world inverted, not by the triteness of another passing day, but by your own internal night, your primeval blackness, like a passing void given living substance by the more banal gray around you. You might well be just the play of stray luminescence that flecks the murky evening with all the somber tenebrosity of wild shades lying wait in still shadows – part of that chaos, poised to leap. So are those cats you saw ogling the emptiness, as though the day’s bustle was the opposite of movement, like some black and white movie insufficient to assuage their boredom with the light, but the placid oblivion of dusk is rife with some uncultivated carnality that stirs their sentinel instincts. Yet, you they ignore. The dogs, too, fail to challenge with “who goes?” as you pass. Stilled from their brutish pacing and howling out the time of day, they say nothing about you now. You have calmed them, and you now have human business to attend. You are the bead of sweat running down that jogger’s neck as he feels slightly uncomfortable, not knowing why, and brushes it off as nothing but yet runs a little faster. You’re the little jump of the woman having a cigarette on the bench by her flagstone walkway, though by then you’ve moved on, and she turns toward nothing. A boy coming back from the store wonders if he saw movement, or was it his own rough pace and just the trunk of another tree? You are the embarrassed straining of his eyes that doesn’t see you, because he wants to believe no one sees where he can’t see. All of these are passing acquaintances, pheremones of slight alarm, but nothing more and, when the moon disappears entirely, they won’t feel even that. You might wave at them tomorrow, shake the hand of one of them in a drugstore line or offer a friendly nod, and they’ll have no idea you knew them in the place where their pulse dilates the air in the bedlam of ebon jungle. They’ll jog again, have that cigarette, walk home from the store, but you know a thing about a person that can’t be known except by night things, and only in an animal way – you couldn’t tell them if you wanted to, and they couldn’t hear. People might ask where you go when you leave at night, and you might say it’s anywhere, as long as the day isn’t set up like runway lights on a garden path to make sure you get safely home. You want no late intruders, but only what has always been, since man went home to bonfires or Christmas tree lights. You want that fatal distinction, even if you intend nothing, of what walks in the night and what hurries.

The Ashernet

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