The following is an excerpt from ML Candelario’s upcoming collection of short stories. This particular short story excerpt is from the piece “Wound-Colored Light”.
The man shall remain faceless and nameless, but you can see him. See him there in the darkness of his bedroom, the light of the moon peering through closed blinds. A greenish light, and blue. The color of an old bruise on the verge of healing. Wound-light. See him there, naked, his feet skritching at the neglected carpet, a carpet he knows he should have vacuumed weeks ago but he has never found the time [and he won’t. not for a week and a half yet]. See the sleeping forms in front of him, prone on his marital bed. Two of them, curled together against the doctors’ better judgment, their snores only ever so slightly above the decibel level of a whisper and yet he hears them. You see him hear them, see the face go soft and gentle, the stress of his day rising like steam from his shoulders as muscles unclench.
Yet it is there. It is there in the space just below the Adam’s apple. In the small cleft above where the bones meet under his skin. A throbbing. A pulse. And it is far too fast for a man becalmed. You know this. You can sense the tension there in the space beneath his skin, tucked away where few can see [only those with eyes like yours. ink-eyes peering at the man through paper]. Yet still you watch him. You are watching him still.
See him move, this man. See the too-calm manner in which he slips beneath the sheet [for it is summer, and winter’s blankets have been stored in the attic until next year, next winter, a never-ending cycle of housekeeping that, you sense, is part of the reason the vein is throbbing in the man’s neck] and slots himself next to his wife and child. You see him slip beneath the covers, curl up beside his wife in a position you know as The Big Spoon. You do nothing to stop him, though you can feel that something is coming. Something is changing. You feel it. The color of the light: an old bruise. It is not the color of healing, you know. It is the color of the almost-healed, and therefore of the never-healed. So close, and yet so far. That is the phrase you think of as you stare between the lines at this man trying to will himself to sleep. So close and yet so far. It is a cliché, but it is a useful one. So you use it. Linger for a moment in the dim room. Let your eyes adjust. You want to say something to this man, to warn him of the thing that is coming—the terrible thing you know approaches just around the bend, perhaps in the next paragraph or the one after that. You want to warn him, for he is innocent. Not innocent, no. He is guilty. But so are you. So are we all, you think. Us. You want to warn him, but you don’t. You can’t. The narrative does not allow for it. Instead it pulls you out of the room, gradually accelerating, out through the slits in the closed blinds, out through the glass [you marvel at not breaking it, at slipping seamlessly through a closed window, but why should you? you have done this before], out into the night air where the light is more natural, the air less toxic with expectation. You linger here instead, in the trees outside the man’s window, knowing you could fly if you wanted to—could climb an invisible stair right up to the moon and yank it down, if you wanted—but you don’t want to. Maybe you used to. But not anymore. Now you just want to sit in the topmost branches and let the silver moon, bright and big as a newly minted quarter, wash over you. So you do. You want the still air to calm you, so it does. You want it all to wash away the dread you felt at seeing the naked man there, faceless and nameless though you know him. So it does.
Sit here for a while and catch your breath. Go to sleep, if you want. This night doesn’t change to day until you want it to.
Want it to.