Tales From The City: Involuntary Growth

Reading Time: 4 Minutes

out of him, how it grew gnarled, torn, twisted.

“Don’t you want to see me when I sing to it?” Her lips quavered.

He didn’t, didn’t want to hear it, feel it when it wrapped around — enfolded him. Felt like an admission. Contractual?

“Andy, don’t you — ”

He didn’t…know. The City had taken it.

“It’s oh…kay.” Sigh of it, sign of it.

No — suppression. Feeling. Didn’t know why.

“The City made an offer, you turned it down ”— gnarled branch of the tree lanced out — “now it wants it back from you.”

“I can’t do that anymore.”

He looked down at the sprig jutting from his arm.

“Looks like you’re doing okay,” she said.

“Yeah, but the moon — ” it shined a violent amber.

“We can go, talk about it later.”

“No, really, I’m just…was…” he reviewed the sky again. “Been having the strangest feelings that disappear then limn then flood.”


“Like that.” He gave a weak smile, waved the arm with the sprig.

“When it gets inside it makes…well, you know.” She motioned to his arm. “Does it hurt?”

“No. Feels like…” He couldn’t think of anything it felt like. He was going into the beyond again, past the envelope or into a new one. Something. “It’s cold, spreads like mentholatum, then turns to loneliness.” Made brief eyes with her to tell her he was fine. Her eyes cleared away the past. He chortled. “It’s good to see the moon back in the sky.” He thought back to when the moon was in a room, when it was an antidote.

He thought about the tree’s bole. Was it…inside? Two pairs of fingers itched the skin where the sprig emerged. Another itch formed above the knee.

She noticed. “Do you think it’s…”

“Spreading?” He examined his elbow. “Could be.”

“You feel it…like they feel it?”

He shrugged. The slope fell, secant, over the lower half of the moon.

“Brobdingnagian, isn’t it?”

It was. The hill’s lower was eroded. The moon stood up, bizarrely distorted, as if standing to peek over the hill’s crest. They went on through a stand of trees, mushed rotten walnuts underfoot while they walked. The smell of sulfur floated, the air was heavy fleece, drab with the force of unrealized birth.

They came —

“I wonder when the last time the City allowed it in here.”

“Is that a question?”

“More of a thought.” He grabbed her hand.

— out the other side.

“It’s just that we’ve come so far just to end up in a place we hardly understand. It’s like coming out of a dream but we’ve been coming out of it for a very long time now…and…” He encouraged her. “Just wondering if we’re going to…come out of it.”

He hooked one arm around her and pulled her close. His arm made her realize that she was cold, thinking: How we don’t realize things are a certain way until after ointments are applied. Then wondered: What in the hell good does that do?

They came fast out of it, emerged from the grove completely, went back into the agglomerated urban silhouette. Freshets of sewage passed the drain, they made eyes, Andy waved the other arm with no sprig growing out of it. The skin of his afflicted arm was coarse, rough. Fireflies hovered precisely then dispersed.

“The City puts out vectors and we take them all to be true because they make up an image. But break anything down far enough and it just becomes a pixel or fleck. The City wants us to think it’s more but it’s not,” said Andy.

“I know you don’t want me to sing to it,” she said.

“It doesn’t deserve sweet melancholy.” He thought of the megaphone, preaching angrily. Pronounced: The City condemned.

They took their belief into the swallowing night. 


Graphic Composition
by: Darlene Carroll

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