Nope, this post isn’t about those lovable losers from Wrigleyville finally landing a solid left hook on a crisp October night. Even if the upcoming World Series feels like something out of a Ray Kinsella novel, with two star crossed towns looking to put an end to the agony of countless winters.
This post is about a love story that me and the ladies over at The Lovely Fire have been cooking up. It is a prelude to Declan Beckett’s journey into the zombie apocalypse, with steps tendered out of a proposition he did not bargain for. It’s the music in that crazy little thing called love that allows us to believe in the impossible chances.
The wind whispered through the dark, empty trees like a warning in a foreign language. Winter was coming, and with winter came the wicked truths. The season had become a plaintive song to Declan Beckett. The initial frost of a brand new season was little more than a wretched scowl to his way of thinking. The merciless cold murdered all color from the landscape and replaced it with a Faustian bargain, while the darkness spoke the sun into a different language; its dreadful rampart stripping the rind of that ageless fiery circle and rendering it a muted facsimile before schoolchildren had even completed their homework.
He moved to the window of his studio apartment and stared at the barren oak tree that lived inside the street below. It was eighty feet tall, give or take, but it was a thousand miles higher on the pride of its clench. A fearless spectacle of mighty abandon, it had probably fought off the clutches of death a hundred times and it would likely fight it off several hundred more before settling its tab with the stars of a hungry sky. It spoke to the power of miracles; to borrow forever from the shallows, to speak life into a certain death.
Declan placed his hand to the glass panel which was painted in diaphanous rings whose formation was created from the gushing bleed of cold that hollowed the midnight streets. The wind danced precipitously across his brain, widening as a falcon’s wings from begging plead to hopeless flutter to wicked groan to menacing war cry. The seemingly benign construct of its whir possessed a Gothic interpretation of the world whose tariff demanded one’s sanity.
His conscience was an easy enough wall to climb after all these years of a life gone mad with evil deeds and unspent prayers. His last best wish had gone missing to all hope on a September afternoon inside what felt like another lifetime ago from here. With each subsequent winter came a hard and merciless rain that drove his mind to a reckoning he could not supplant with lawyers, guns or money.
The restlessness of his every single day was being especially benevolent on this particular evening, as if his very life was being scratched across the chalkboard of a class on Greek Mythology. It felt like the old days, it felt like New York. Only this was Atlanta, Georgia on a particularly inhospitable night with nary a speck of Southern hospitality in its offerings. He grabbed his leather and a couple necessaries and made way for the rooftop.
“Evening Deke . . . you’re up late.”
It was his landlord, Frank Chance. Dipping his finger into the business of someone else’s cake batter, as per usual. Declan guessed it was the predictable habit of wealthy retirees whose social calendars consisted of missing a woman and the days they spent like Paris. Chance was a harmless little man, if not annoying as all get out.
“It’s a sad fucking thing when an old bugger such as yourself can predict my bed time with any degree of certainty.” Declan winked.
“Well, it’s your own damn fault that you’re so fucking predictable!” Frank hollered. He loved his tenant from 4C, who always supplied him with humorous banter and six months advance in cash money goodness.
The two men spoke for a few minutes, avoiding the awkward reality of Declan’s risk averse love life which consisted of high priced escorts and the occasional celebrity housewife who was in need of some scratch for her perpetual itch. They spoke of the local teams instead, and they labored on modern day politicians who behaved like temperamental chefs and governed like spoiled children. And before they settled their conversation, they spoke of the latest fear that was gripping their town.
The virus was a Frankenstein proposition of Godly smite, Mary Shelly imagination and bureaucratic arrogance and now it was growing in both frequency and dimension. There were numerous reported outbreaks across the city, mimicking the national and global concerns. The days since had swelled into weeks and months, and while every public official insisted there was nothing to fear, it was becoming quite evident that the opposite would soon be true.
Declan said his goodnights to the charmingly inquisitive Mr. Chance and made his way to the rooftop. His cold weather combat fatigues consisted of a gray hooded jacket draped in a well worn black leather jacket whose pockets were lined with a flask full of bourbon and a fresh pack of Marlboro Reds.
The moon was a ripening scream and it was begging his attention from places he could not understand. He burrowed his eyes into its crust, peeling back the cashmere plum in a desperate want that swelled his eyes. He lit up a smoke and took a swig from his flask and he tried harder still. All of this from the inspiration of a dream that he could have sworn wasn’t a dream at all.
He was on the beach, with a lighthouse holding court behind him and there was Marie, walking in that gentle blossom way she used to walk, treading the ancient sands and plugging the world around her into a beautiful sound. Each step filled him with a deep and endless want and each moment with a breathless curiosity. And then she was standing right there, before him. In the dream he did not feel the need to grab her up before she disappeared again. In the dream he was content to listen. To everything.
“Baby. I miss you . . . so much.”
“I’m always right here baby, always . . . right here.” She reached for his hand and placed it over her heart and it was as if the gesture had been created from the heavens above.
“It’s not enough . . . ”
“Yeah. It is. Baby, you don’t get what all of this means. Not yet . . . but you will soon enough.”
“Let me come with you.”
“It doesn’t work that way baby.”
“Because there’s another girl on another rooftop, and she needs you more than I do right now.”
“No!” He replied angrily.
Marie simply touched his face and curled her lips into a smile that lit his world on fire, every time. And then . . . she was gone.
“Mon, it’s the girl who loves you telling you the truth of all things. So no worries . . . everything alright.”
And so it began, shortly before the end of the world, the Marley dreams. He awoke to the sounds of Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar into a fine mist of purple haze from one flight down in apartment 3C. And that’s when he decided to make way for the roof, no mattering the thermostat. He was going to play it like the old days, like New York; when he used to make way for the rooftop in his Long Island City apartment building and dream upon a skyline wrought by the proverbs of Runyon.
There was something going on outside the cloister of his four walls and a roof, and it was killing him to know the truth of all things. The indigo moon plunged like a seabird, spilling the wake of angry tides across the ancient sands whose answers were still bathed in eloquent smiled answers to the savage beasts of the world. Like that mighty oak, they paid no mind to the losses when all that really mattered was the air that allowed for its climb.
He didn’t figure on outrunning his cursed existence, but maybe that wasn’t the point of all of this. Maybe all the answers to all those many questions was in the music of a person’s soul, and maybe his lost soul could provide a final redemptive argument to the unforgiving fates. And maybe the catastrophe of his present day might show its reason, soon enough.
The promise of maybe was all he had left.