it was a wild sound
the world is ending, but it has been for some time; shenzi barely thinks about it anymore. sometimes a turn of the light will catch her eye and she will remember that everything is fading away, but these reminders are gentle, like a touch on the shoulder waking you up from a dream. there is no rush, here at the end. things disappear slowly, less like they are leaving and more like they are lingering.
impossibly, shenzi thinks, impossibly, we made it, all of us; impossibly, the end is not a bang but a whisper. no fire. no floods. only strange turns of the light and the quiet peace of knowing that one day you will look down at your hand and see that it is not there, and nor is your arm, and nor are your shoulders, and nor are you, and that will be all.
in the meantime, shenzi is on a train.
some people, when they realized, had gotten direct flights. but shenzi didn’t. shenzi knew that there was no rush. the end was patient, and kind, and would wait: she could go slow, and say goodbye. she wanted to touch the world, one more time, before there was no world to touch and, indeed, no hands left to touch it.
aiko asks: what was the world like, before it started ending?
mamo says nothing for a moment, then shrugs. a lot of it was just—noise, he decides. he looks at shenzi for confirmation.
just noise, shenzi thinks; yes; but there had been beauty in it, in the sounds, in the messy blur of them. in the ways the lines of being alive sometimes ran together. in the places where they didn’t meet just right, and you could see the seams of things. that’s where noise lived, when there had been things that people considered noise.
what was noise like?
mamo shrugs. shenzi thinks about it, then says: it was a wild sound.
the train is full, but not busy. aiko and mamo play cards. shenzi looks out the window, at the desert. she will miss the ocean until she sees it again. but she is glad to see the desert now, glad for red clay and brown sand and the rippling heat of the sun on the horizon. she is glad for the silence of trains moving over the landscape, as quiet as goodbye.
aiko laughs. shenzi closes her eyes and listens to it. in the darkness behind her eyes the laughter almost has a color, almost has a tint. there are little stars that move behind her lids. they glitter and catch. these, too, will be gone, once she is. once everyone is. stars and stars and stars and no one to close their eyes and see them.
five days from now, they will get off the train during a stop and stand on the edge of a canyon and shenzi will hold aiko’s hand and tell her: try it. aiko will link her fingers with mamo’s and say, all of us. together. at the same time.
and they will, the three of them, facing west as the sun sinks down behind the plateaus. they will all scream into the big arms of the canyon and their noise will ricochet back to them, bouncing off the cliffsides.
noise! aiko will shout, delighted. she will laugh, and that will echo, too. noise! noise!
it isn’t gone, after all, shenzi will think.
a man named micah will get off the train in the middle of arizona. they will be at the edge of the mojave, and micah will draw his hat down low over his eyes. he will look at shenzi and smile. his hands have begun to disappear. he wants to lay down in the sand and wait for night to fall and let the stars blanket him. he wants to holds his arm up and watch it fade as if it were disappearing into the crisp clarity of the sky.
i like the desert because you can see the stars, micah will tell her when she asks him why. stars are just graphs of the light that can’t bear to say goodbye.
say goodbye to who? shenzi will ask.
micah will raise his arms in a wave as the train pulls away. he will shout his answer to her, but shenzi will not hear it.
mamo, aiko says, very quietly. her hands have started to fade.
mamo nods. he puts his cards down. shenzi watches him decide to go, too. she watches him empty out, aiko in his lap, the two of them smiling. first his hands, then his arms, then his shoulders, like they are being covered in snow.
do you want to come? mamo asks. his eyes are kind. he is holding aiko close.
shenzi thinks about the world. she wonders where its edges are. she wonders how much of it is left. she thinks about their voices echoing in the canyon; about noise; about lines and blurs and stars.
despite everything, we made it all the way to the end, she thinks. mamo and aiko wait. she knows her hesitation is keeping them here, that they will wait until she decides. that they will stay until she lets them go, graphs of light that cannot bear to say goodbye. there are many miles left to ride. the world may no longer be round. the world may no longer be anything other than this train and the track it is on, but shenzi has patience. shenzi wants to graph the sky, too.
not yet, she says, and smiles, and lets them go. she looks down at her hands, still solid, still full of all the messy human parts: the guts and gore of her, the thump and crackle of blood and joint bones; the wild noise of being alive, of still being alive, of still being alive, alive, alive, alive.