Thursday, May 20, 2010

The World in Miniature: The Deafening Silence

by Matthew Rush
The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment

The Deafening Silence

The man looked as beautiful as a pharaoh lying on the bed. His hair was long; salt and pepper black and grey. How could he have brushed it after lying there for days?

The white sheets and shining steel rails surrounding him were pure and clean and clinical; adulterating the sense of heightened emotion, of rank and stinking fear.

The image was broken by his protruding feet and ankles. Toenails yellow, fungal, crumbling into dust and mold and nothing. The nurses said they rubbed his skin with lotion but the cracked trenches in his soles spoke of sicker times and mental illness. The futility of life was a religion in that tiny room.

The machines lingered at the edges of it, watching. Their knobs and screens and cables and printed circuit boards longed for an electrical release. They did not care or consider human suffering but longed to make a difference in the efficiency of the greater machinations of the system. When they beeped and whirred and whined and whooshed they were a part of something beyond themselves. They had no consciousness with which to be aware of such desires and yet still they yearned in deafening silence.

We'd asked them to remove him from the respirator yesterday but the night had passed in vigil and still he breathed and shuddered. The rising falling of his chest and irregular twitching of his limbs and facial muscles was strange but not entirely unexpected. It was the yawning and forced blinking of the cavities around his eyes which disturbed us most. These were the signs of a man alive and made acceptance of the truth difficult.

I'd never seen a dead man yawn before and it shook me to a place that I could not comprehend. My stomach had been tight and fluttery for days but now, this night, my legs grew weak and it was hard to stand and keep from shivering.

The hours stretched on as he refused to cease to be. The staff came in from time to time to check but they were driven out by the pressurized wall of breathless air. We choked and grimaced and coughed and clenched our fists and anuses. Hope had left us long ago but there was a certain determination not to be bested by the angel.

It was weeks before I saw the official document but this is what it said:

He died of:

Central Respiratory Failure

due to (or as a consequence of):

Anoxic Brain Injury (10-20-2008)

due to (or as a consequence of):

Cardiac Arrest, ventricular fibrilation (10-20-2008)

due to (or as a consequence of):

Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy.

What this really meant, the attending physician had told us, was the he died of a pickled heart. Pickled by the poison in which he’d sought to drown his anguish.


Unknown said...

This is sad and haunting. Nicely done, Matthew.

Stephanie Lorée said...

Some really great imagery in there. Beautiful and sorrowful and disturbing at moments. I really should not have read it this early in the morning though, before my coffee, as now I am slightly depressed! Wonderful work, Matthew :)

Michelle McLean said...

Awesome imagery! It was beautiful and had me flinching all at the same time :) Very nicely done!

lisa and laura said...

Haunting. I read it twice--to take it all in. This is the kind of story that stays with you. Really, really good Matthew.

JE said...

Your description were spot on, Matt. I had the the worst picture of this dude's feet in my head. Yuck!


Lindsay said...

Wow, great imagery Matthew. Well done.

Kelly Polark said...

I can picture him. Nicely done, Matthew.

Elana Johnson said...

Oooh, haunting. Powerful. And most of all, real. Well done, friend! Well done.

Courtney Barr - The Southern Princess said...

I am with Elana - so powerful! Love this Matthew!

there are some wonderful sections in here that really had me moved!

Great story!

Visit My Kingdom Anytime

Jessica Bell said...

That was beautifully sad. So glad I had the opportinity to read some of Matt's writing. Thanks. I really truly enjoyed it.

Matt, nicely done! :)

T.S. Bazelli said...

I liked the contrast between the imagery you used. I was holding my breath wondering if the man would die. Well done! Beautiful.

Hannah said...

Wow, that was very well done. So sad and beautiful. Great job, Matthew!

Unknown said...

The imagery of this piece was outstanding. Your descriptions held me spellbound. Well done.

I was left with several questions about the characters. I wondered who the POV was. The first person narrator referred several times to "we/us," and s/he seemed emotionally affected by the death even though s/he called him "the man" instead of by a name.

The absence of proper names shed no light on what was happening in this scene. I wanted to know more about the victim: Was he in a hospital or some futuristic facility? What led him to abuse alcohol until he died?

Your writing is beautiful and hypnotic. If you ever decide to expand this, it would be a pleasure to read the longer version.

Thanks for sharing it!

Jo Schaffer said...

)= Wonk. Got me. Hear me deflate into sadness.
My grandfather was an alcoholic. Beloved bastard.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Very evocative and disturbing in the best sense - that it moves you from where you were to a new place. Very nicely done, Matthew.

I was left feeling a bit hollow, as though our narrator isn't quite sure what he thinks about this grisly, self-neglected death. It leaves room for the reader to interpret, and I like that. :)

Mira said...

"I've never seen a dead man yawn before."

That is such a good line.

This whole piece is really, really good. Excellent imagery. The pharaoh, the feet. The whole intense conflict of emotions is beautifully done. You left me with the whole range of those feelings - deeply sad, angry, digusted, relieved, disturbed.

The absence of the softer feeling - compassion - all in and of itself - brought me right into the world of the PC and his sense of betrayal.

Mira said...

Oh, I posted before I meant to.

I just wanted to add: beautifully done, Matthew.

I'm really glad you shared your writing.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

BTW, Ink, I really like your next pictures/look! :)

Old Kitty said...

This is very poignant and very sad. I love your opening paragraph - it drew me in and the shock of the image of his feet and toenails really clinched this for me.

Lovely. Thanks for the read.

take care

Bryan Russell said...

Thanks, Susan. I've been thinking it was time to spruce the place up a little. A bit of alchemical colouring...

Just Wendy said...

Very moving.

Good stuff, Matthew. Really really liked it :)

Matthew MacNish said...

Thanks very much everyone, but especially Bryan. This was a great experience.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Really great imagry, Matthew. Bravo. Have you thought of going to the Logline Blogfest?

I would like to see what your loglines would look like, Roland

Raquel Byrnes said...

I love the way you describe the cracks in his feet, the toenails...a wasted body covered for our comfort, not his.

This was a powerful piece. Thanks for sharing.

Olivia J. Herrell, writing as O.J. Barré said...

What a moving tribute to death and the dying. You painted a lovely picture of the machinery's part in keeping him alive and, while the commentary is impersonal, it is personally haunting. It's apparent at the end that this man was loved and will be missed.

Thanks, Matthew.

~That Rebel, Olivia

LTM said...

wow. no words.

So great--the feet, the cracks, the pressure in the room. Watching the closed eyes blink.

nicely done~

angelarene said...

So so so powerful!! Such nice imagery, I reread certain lines in sheer awe. Fave line "adulterating the sense of heightened emotion, of rank and stinking fear." And then the whole paragraph about the yawn, as if impending death were boring him....Loved it!! Makes me want to go write a poem it's so damn good :)

Simon Kewin said...

Wow, that is pretty incredible. I love the way you use simple factual detail to contrast with what is going on. Wonderful stuff.

Val said...

Rich in texture; highly descriptive, and i felt i wanted to get out of that room, which is a good thing; i was hooked in by the first paragraph.

my only critique for this piece is that old idiom of 'show don't tell'

for example "I'd never seen a dead man yawn before and it shook me to a place that I could not comprehend." i would have liked to have read more about this place... maybe it triggers a random memory in the narrator...

but you nailed it here with this sentence-
"We choked and grimaced and coughed and clenched our fists and anuses" - this is a great way of showing; excellent line.

You certainly have a strong narrative voice and wildly emotive characterizations.

Nicely done,
ok, now i'll read the second one you sent...

Molly Spring said...

i scrolled all the way down through all the comments to say how fabulous i thought this was. very haunting.