The Furthest Limit

The Furthest Limit

I do not want to go back inside that dark, damp tunnel. Each time that I return to the crumbling railway bridge I feel the same way. I never want to enter into my wretched home again, but he is waiting for me inside, alone. The moment that the warmth of the day is left behind a shiver becomes state. With every breath I take my ribs heave, my back arches.

As a deeper shadow curled against the curve of the tunnel, he is resting. I walk to him, stroke his side, rest my head upon his thighs. The only blessing within these walls is the absence of sound; no sharp noises to inflame the infection deep inside my ear. Watchful, hungry eyes stare, reflecting remote daylight. The tireless mischiefs of them, heard but mostly unseen. Always there, emboldened by black darkness.

Never do I know when I have slept, such routine of existence. Rattling breaths or the pounding terror of a train passing above, wake, to remind me. I slip my head from beneath his arm and travel to the closer end of the tunnel. It is falling night or rising morning; the air a silent water, its moon floating flat. A cry in the night howls acidic inside my plagued ear.

To eat or to drink has become an internal echo, secondary to the reflex memory of breathing. I pass to the farther opening, where the night is lightening sooner. Dew has settled upon a leaf. I twice run my tongue over it, lest I should miss a single jewel. In the morning light there dawns a promise of a wider world. And then there is forever, trapped inside an open coil.

Full day now, I call into the morning. Even to my infected ear my voice is weak, brittle as an autumn leaf, and I am left breathless. To lift my head is more than little effort, so I do not. I think I blink. The life that flourishes outside our tunnel creeps ever closer. Perhaps it does have the intention to entomb us. Or maybe the entire world is falling inward.

The profile of daytime from within the tunnel is to live between two worlds. Storm clouds might approach one end while the other is glory bathed. Most days it is as likely that both aspects harmonise. The only certainty that the sun will not challenge this cast of trapped darkness. Might the tunnel collapse and twine those worlds? Like the sunlight, like the night, I spend my days traversing those extremities.

I curl within his half-crescent position, completing a circle; respiration, the particle of sound, my only focus. Every sighed wheeze that leaves me, whistling between my teeth, I wonder if it might be the last. Sometimes it feels as though my chest does not rise, just air liberated. Inside my ear there could be something more than an infection; a parasite living off what little there is left to feed upon.

Soft words, and he scratches between my ears. The back of my head. Now beneath my jaw. A hand against my chest finds the weakened beat of my life. Grit falls away when I open my eyes. A hand suddenly too close disturbs my infection. I spring to my feet. With head half-lifted and my lips drawn tight, I face these strangers. They are covering their noses. One crouches beside him.

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