with two lines after Ursula K. Le Guin’s "The Left Hand of Darkness"
Now nameless I will go seek my death. I enter as the rest have, bumping into those around me, randomly, entropic. But this is no closed system. Faced with two choices, I decide left. The path is narrow, cold. A dead end--
I see myself, the self I was when I was eight, running from mother, her chasing me through the stalks with a bottle of medicine, telling me with her hinting southern voice darling this’ll help you let me blow your nose you have a fever--
I double back, take the right, and for hours (or else, weeks, my beard thickens with each frozen step), I wander through the dark maze. When hungry, I shuck an ear of raw corn, drop to my knees and sink my teeth--
There’s a long straight hall (if one can call a row of barren field between stalks of decaying corn a hall) with no turns. The corn here wilts, limp as a cow’s utters. Too thick for water to reach. Dirt is dust. I delve further--
An open area, the size of my first apartment. Myself, now nineteen, stampedes into where the living room would be. I am master-fate, I am minotaur-breath, I am become death, destroyer of plastered walls. My fist meets white barrier--
My own footsteps, missteps, places I was lost, couldn’t find my way out. I’m eleven and I push my brother down the stairs, I’m walking through desolate streets with Patrick at four a.m., I can’t breathe. I try, find-swallow empty words--
In another dead end, I see my first dog, Binky, named because I was an infant, obsessed. I follow her through mindless turns of the maze, she pleads with me Where have you been why aren’t you here I protected you I protected you I--
There’s my father, from what I remember. He sips a beer, I’m seven, I ask him for a taste. He looks to see my mother isn’t around, says we’re all dead ends. We who kill ourselves dwell here. I grip the glass and open wide--
Corn grows stale. Each day I chart the stars from within the maze, a makeshift sextant borne of corn stalks, try to get a sense of direction. I remember being seven, hiding from my aunt between soft rolls of clothes. She calls my name--
Winter enters the maze. I wear a coat of corn, my hair married to icicles. I see my grandfather Christmas morning. I got a camera that year, it was the last time I saw him. He whistles a tune with no rhythm, he calls me Jimster I called him--
It’s been years. I forget my name, shrug it off like so many coats. Each turn feels familiar. I unexist, I’ve always been here. Find me there, muttering incoherencies to myself, beard sticky with corn juice, running into each solitary dead end--
Jimmy Hollenbeck is a graduate student/assistant at Central Michigan University, currently working in their writing center. His hobbies include brewing beer, reading comic books well past the typical age, and listening to jazz and pretending he understands it. He hopes to graduate in December 2019 with his M.A. in creative writing and to pursue an M.F.A. following that.
FLASH GLASS: A MONTHLY PUBLICATION OF FLASH FICTION, PROSE POETRY, & MICRO ESSAYS
Cover Image: "A Peaceful Coexistence Part II"