Bury Your Soul Six Feet Under
Illustrated by Joe Zabel
Don’t be afraid to kick-start it.
Set those cleated rotting boots behind that panel. The one with the green sheen of corrosion. That one.
Literally. It’ll break you before you’ll break it. Take that from someone who’s broken more than a few toes from all these years off the beaten path. The soul goes before anything else in this dripping grey mire-land.
Wrong word. Woodland. Except the evergreens have melted their needles down into corrosive sludge long ago. Don’t think they’re coming back.
There. Hear that sputtering. Don’t go warming your hands. Those are ethanol fumes. Among other things. Charcoal. Traces of gasoline; more precious than anything you’ll strip from the warehouse down the main drag.
Trust me. Been doing this for a while. The bomb didn’t do us in, not like the backwoods gentry across the lake. The ones with the double-barrels and blasphemy; all smiles and scatter-shot.
Don’t question me, and I won’t question the impossibility of your sweating, putrid life. How a strung-out city-boy wandering along a thousand dying turnpikes to end up here. There’s something driving that heart of yours. It ain’t a loved one. You’d be a martyr otherwise.
Grab the rope. Tug it. Hard. Give’s the important part. Trick the engine into imperatives and you’ve already won. There. Shift it up. Don’t mind the sparks. Generator needs replacing anyway. Old as Hephaestus’s forge. Nothing to do about it now.
Mind the stumps. Cabin’s out back. Just me on this lonely land. Lake’s to myself. Got an outboard, but there’s no point to it. Fish are all dead. Nobody to talk to. Can’t say there’s anything to like, but there ain’t the city’s screaming jerking death-agonies to savour. Don’t go through life feeling like my veins are full of napalm.
Your kind was used to life in spasms. Back before all this. Don’t know what it was. Assumption leads to the imagination wandering a million game-trails and losing its way. No full moon in the inky black of speculations.
The .22’s out there. Propped against the logs. Last round’s for me.
Watch the scrub. Get used to it.
There’s a dull roar in your eyes. Hurts to stare you down. Says nothing about my manhood, and all about your lack of it. Disturbing. Can’t say the folks up here gave off the impression of two daemons, knocking each other around inside a single human skull.
Anything’s possible back here. Seen whole bus-loads of people hurtling through the night along these lonely roads, screaming. Nothing to do. No food. No government. No God, it seems. Not here, not now.
Not ever? Don’t want to judge. World has a nasty habit of getting the last word, then kicking the judgement with a brutal kick of irony.
Hold that. Chair’s been torn to pieces by the wind. Nor’easters crack wood ‘round here like ice cubes. At night, gunshots seem to blow the great pines apart.
A metaphor of sorts; the war that never saw a bullet fired, but reaped the ranks of men all the same. Left the rest of us to blow in the breeze.
You know what I’m talking about.
There’ll be work to do. Hammering extensions for the cabin. Stoking the fire. Other things- mysteries. They involve a lot of digging. Ground’s hard as granite around here. Not much place to swing.
Does that say enough.
Got ourselves a light. Old incandescent bulbs. Sets the whole bay ablaze at night. Attracts the ragged sort, but that never puts me off. Got no quarrel with vagabonds. So many men are, in so many ways and forms and inclinations.
Raw wilderness takes some getting used to. Overgrown weeds are statements even urbanites understand; take root, prepare for the bare-knuckle ride.
There won’t be another. These woods are silent.
Shovel’s over there.
You’ve done it before.
Coal’s in the back shed. Dark’s coming. Clear, quiet night ahead of us.
When you’re done digging, walk back inside. Saw’s inside the door, to the left.
That’s when we’ll really learn to kill.