we have always lived in the mountains

Book Zero

Lucie is following a dirt trail and it looks like an earth vein or a big brown snake. It is twisting around the flowers and the rocks and she follows it like a new ballerina; her toes are light like fake crystal jewelry and her ankles move slowly into turned out wingtips. The ankle is an ivory polished bone, if you cut it open there are webs of marrow. If you follow the webs further down the leg it tapers into a delicate stem of bone. Lucie wants to bury her bone-stems into the cracks in the pavement, where only the most determined flowers grow their spiral-green tips. Her feet come next, though. She hates feet. Her feet are flat and awkward and she hates them, and she hates talking and walking but they keep making her do it. They keep putting their hands over her cheeks to make the muscles move into vowel sounds that sound like screaming or like a door creaking open at night. She thinks that if she learns to grow along with the green things she can learn to live straight from the sun and have every part of her breathe without terror or pain. The garden beds are always calling to her and she sinks into them, as carefully as a curated pile of bones she buries her toes in as roots. She covers her feet up with the dirt, so that she stands exact, like she would always know where she should belong. The dirt is very soft, like the soft warm air that blows in on the hottest of days but it is more acutely felt between her toes and on her milk-silk roots. She turns her face upwards, towards the sun and tries to stay as still as possible. Her face-skin is as smooth as petals and blushing pink heat from the center. Her thoughts spiral, lazy and sweet. She lets them float way away, imagines they’re like cloud-parts and are joining the rest that roam slow as swan-wing-sails above her. She sighs in and out along with the gentle breeze around the branches, she thinks the sound is like ocean waves or crystal chandeliers. Everything is beautiful and she loses her words, but she doesn’t care because she hardly uses words anyway. She sees things mostly in pictures or colours or sounds. When she draws pictures of herself they are every colour mixed together. When she’s in the dirt the world is quiet because the only colours she sees are blue and light but then her foot will itch or move and the illusion is ruined and she’s just a girl, a girl, a human girl. Her toes are not roots so she can not be a bushel of flowers, she is more like a song being played on the piano; an idea that floats into existence and then out again, leaving the ghosts of echoes in minds full of dirty dust. Lucie can feel the panic crawling closer, she’s not part of anything or attached or real and her lungs are squeezing tighter then tighter and they are going to pop. She drops to the ground and grabs the dirt in fistfuls. The dirt is real and it is underneath everything and she shovels it into her mouth. She swallows and swallows, grit rolling in molar pits, until she feels it in her stomach-space weighing her down, way down. She is earth, her thoughts are far up there in the clouds, and there’s dirt in crescent moons making wishes underneath her fingernails.

Thomas keeps finding squashed snails on the pavement and crying. He thinks the shells look like a smashed porcelain doll's face and the slug part like smeared tar. When he walks outside with Peter they both look down, and he learns to read the silver drooled lines as apprehension. When Thomas comes home with shell pieces and glue people drop the word 'phase' like a full stop in the middle of a sentence. But Thomas isn't listening, he's finding rainbows in his repairs. He lines the re-completed shells up along his windowsill so they catch the light. One day at school there's a snail race and the children crowd around it. Thomas is there with collected fragments in his pocket, one of the pieces is digging into his thigh like a splinter, and he shifts uncomfortably. A boy hollers "The last one gets squashed!" And then inevitably jumps, his shoes as big as the inside of his open, yelling mouth. He revels in the destruction. He lifts up his shoe, death crushed into it's crevices. The pieces of shell look like broken window glass and Thomas screams and screams but he can't wake the dead and the teacher rings Peter so he can take him home. In the car there's a little mark on his thigh; the shell splinter. He picks it out with a needle and a whorl of blood appears. He thinks the red looks as tiny as a star from here. He thinks that if he can glue his shells, he can glue his skin, and hold everything together until it dries. 

(snail shells - litro online)

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