Signal Road

by | Jun 9, 2020 | CNF, Issue Fifteen

Here in the future a satellite floating silently in space is beaming music directly into my moving car. No matter where I am I’m one of the chosen, sanctified by signal shot straight from the heavens. Even late at night out on a lone strip of old cracked two-lane cutting straight through the slaughter flats of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. The wise men of place-naming call it Delmarva; wise men have no time for nuance.

All around is the rotten smell of a million dead chickens being cleaned and eviscerated, throats cut under dim factory light, for comfort. It hangs low, too heavy to be carried off by any easy breeze. It comes in waves as you drive, slithers and slides through the vents and reaches up into your nose to put its little ghost hands around your brain to squeeze and whisper, it says, “Remember me as you walk by in the market, studying my parts for your recipe, frozen and sparkling under fluorescent light.”

I wanted to turn around. I could’ve, anytime, just hung a u-ey, shined quick light on the dead edge of a crop and headed back north. But I’d left for good reason and so I kept on, glassing the horizon for the neon glow of a motel sign.

Go as fast as you want, you’ll still get your due whiff of death. Small towns cut your smooth-sailing down to thirty anyway, with big brightly lit warnings about how they enforce speed from way up in the sky somewhere where you can’t see, so you better just believe it, or else. I think they want you to crawl through, to smell it, to understand.

I pulled into a gas station, ignorant of time and space, the signal was playing me Queen’s “Thank God It’s Christmas,” as I turned the engine off and opened the door, but the music kept on without missing a beat. There in the middle of all of that nothing I’d found another one of the chosen. I put gas into the tank, smiling at the smallness.

“The moon and stars seem awful cold and bright,” says Freddy.

It began to snow. Small flakes floated through the fatal air, shimmering against the darkness beyond the edge of the station light. I didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world. I stood still, surrounded, gripping the pump-gun, smiling. I watched each exhaled breath hang for just a moment, before floating off to join the dying.

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