Contemporary Fiction

If the brick wall could say anything to the being that insisted on scratching marks into its length, it would note that the being was hindering the wall’s capability to do what it did best: stand in one place. It would comment that although the marks’ effects were almost inconsequential to the wall’s constitution, that the scratches provided several, nay, three hundred and twenty seven malicious opportunities for decay, which was potentially a serious threat to the wall’s primary function.

But it was a wall, so it weathered the marks like it did the harsh wind and biting hail, the blazing sun and the grimy moss in its crevices like black crud packed beneath a nail. If the wall could feel, it would teeter towards dissatisfaction. Even now, the late afternoon light cast its interior in shadow, cut even darker with the wash of yellow light beaming through the wall’s west window. (Well, the window didn’t belong to the wall. The window didn’t belong to anybody. The wall merely provided support for the window, bracing brickwork under the sill and cradling mortar along its sides.)

It was only one being that etched into the wall; once when the lovely window cast a white sheen in the dark, and once when the wall’s more barbaric, exterior side hid from the sunlight, cowering in the house’s shadow. The interior wall had grown accustomed to the exterior wall’s dull behavior; they were attached, and lived in a constructed symbiosis. As much as the interior pained to admit it, the exterior did have a broader view of the world. It reported seeing beings of many gaits and heights from its limited gaze. The interior wall only ever saw one being, but weighing the observations of the exterior with the interior’s own experience, the interior found minimal differences between the beings. The differences, it figured, must be illusions created by the exterior’s delusions.

But the walls, interior and exterior, were just that: walls. They could not debate the superiority of compact earth and shag rug as supreme foundations for their girth. The interior wall could not lament at the size of the brown stain on the white rug, a blemish burdened with no redeemable backstory nor novel shape, that tainted the heavenly glow from the tender west facing window. Nor did the crumbling brick at every etched mark take on an annoyed hue, as if each gravelly stroke was the interior griping at the declining state of its craftmanship.

And so it was, the walls not understanding nor thinking a single idea, when the marks disappeared. Maybe the interior saw a being (But more likely it was distracted by the angelic glow of the west facing window). Perhaps the exterior noticed something flash across the long grass (but it noticed many things, most more riveting than a single flash). Morning stretched itself across the sky, lavishing at the warmth it spread across the slumbering earth, when the interior was duly abused by the being bent on etching so many marks onto its surface. The interior thought it a foolish endeavor; with the marks gone, the interior was as stable as it had been at its beginning. One being pounding upon its brick scales would hardly knock it down. The interior took it stoically, unmoving, perhaps to impress the west facing window with its bravery.

Eventually, the being crumpled to the ground, its fleshy back pressed into the wall. If the wall understood the being’s mutterings, perhaps it would feel more compassion. Instead, the wall sucked up the being’s warmth, for the chill of day outside seeped into the organic crevices of the brick, lacing it in a web of cold

Many days passed, and the interior remained unmarred. Indeed, the interior rarely saw the being within, until it was sure the being must have departed from the house. The interior grumbled under the weight of the shingled roof. If anyone living were around to witness the interior, they would note its peculiar dour ambiance. They would speculate; “had not this interior wall done its duty in providing reliable shelter, even through the harshest of storms and coldest of days? Why would anybody abandon the haven greatly improved by this interior wall, if not for a sudden bout of madness?”

The interior wall continued to stand, to support the window within it, to coexist with its exterior. But the brick no longer cradled mortar along its sides, nor haughtily stood apart from its outside layer. Rather, it began to decay itself. At first, the crumbling brick had no rhyme or reason; a corner off third row column five block, a chip off row twenty eight column nine. But the bricks once adorned with many marks began to bulge against their mortar casing, as a cat arches its back against its owner’s hand.

The wall’s decay took on a specified form as marks formed along each brick’s length. Of course, the interior had no control over this decay. Rather, it was more likely the marks had never disappeared at all, that they hid themselves from the former being and were waiting for the opportune time to reveal themselves. As the house was uninhabited, there was nobody to notice that the marks didn’t stop revealing themselves at three hundred and twenty seven, but continued well beyond, into the neighboring wall and along the wooden front door.

The interior wall creaked with every new mark, as if it were convinced that each succeeding one would finally quell the itch of all the former. It is absurd to suggest the interior wall tracked the marks’ progress, but it may have perched in complete stillness upon the shag carpet, waiting for the slight reverberation to travel along its neighbors until it reached its closest brick, confirming another mark had been made. No longer did the wall notice the angelic and celestial lights waxing and waning through the window. Only the formation of more marks mattered to the wall.

It came to pass that almost the entirety of the house was covered in these peculiar marks. All that remained was a small section hidden behind a chest of drawers, pale and naïve to the marks’ effects. Still, the interior wall waited. Cracks from the strain of listening now creeped along its mortar, devilishly black and pronounced (the better to bounce subtle reverberations within its small pockets). The interior barely felt the vibrations of the first mark upon the last patch of wall, so distant it was. But it grew accustomed to the slight scratch, until it could almost feel the same marks being etched onto its very own brick.

The last mark was etched into the last patch of wall as unremarkably as the very first. Although the day was mild, the house shuttered upon its foundations. The cracks within the interior wall widened, broke away from the brick they’d been stuck to and fell upon the shag carpet, covering the hideous stain. Suddenly, bricks clattered upon another, until the interior no longer existed, and the neighboring walls found better purchase laying horizontal than vertical.

Very few noticed the house’s fall. It lay upon a grassy knoll far from the small town, and was more often viewed by herds of sheep and small animals searching for warmth than it was human beings. The newly fallen brick was an oddity among the deep green and sprouting weeds it rested upon, yet it found more use in its current state than it ever did while upright. If the remnants of the interior wall were distinguishable among the rubble, the bricks would appear to tremble, as if overwhelmed at the expansive world revealed to them (what was the mystical wash of blue above them? What were the anomalies rooted into the dirt with an unidentifiable similarity to the wooden door?) But then the herd of sheep would pass, and they would still.

The wind buffeted, got stuck within the new pockets of the rubble, and tipped the bricks away from the insects crawling upon their many precious marks. But as time bleached parts of brick previously tucked against the inside of the exterior wall, the urgency of the marks faded; for what was one side of brick when there were five others, unbothered by their own collapse? Although the dear west window lay in shatters, adorning the surrounding brick with its heavenly beauty, the interior found the most comfort in the steadfast indifference of the exterior wall; a different view of the same thing was hardly devastating. In the humility of its collapse, the interior wall succumbed to its new way of life.

This is all speculation, of course. A wall has no thought or emotion. Especially not an interior wall left in pieces to witness the outdoors.  

December 29, 2020 21:20

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