300,000,000 by Blake Butler
Something in this room begins to shake. This room where you are sitting with your hands before you, reading. You don’t hear it because I said that it began. You refuse to take part in trying to hear thereafter because I’m talking about you directly to you and this object is a book. You don’t like the idea of me communicating through you, outside of time. But there is something. In the room. Shaking. Behind your back, or just downstairs, or maybe by the window where you sleep, or in the curtains, soft as hair.
What is shaking.
Will you hear it.
In the room where he is, Flood does; he hears the shaking like I have heard, though to him it feels like it’s inside him.
It is inside him.
I think someone is at your door.
Flood is grunting. His torso seems above his head. His head feels above his ass. His ass feels opened. There is no light, but for where above him in the spinning, he can feel the low glow of the room somewhere above him, then below him. The black is gyroscopic. He’s all wet now. He feels a cursor blinking in his chest. If he’s not moving, he can’t seem to keep one way clearly up above him. If he’s falling, the air here has a floor, one indifferent to direction, shape, or time.
Flood, Gravey says inside his cell alone. Flood, he says. Flood, he says.
A blue lesion has pulled open on his back between his shoulder blades. It is too small to be seen by humans.
The lesion seems to change shape when looked at. Inside this shape, there is a city, like the city you are in. The city is unfolding.
Gravey exhales into the larger air.
Today in America unknowing each speaking person will emit a common word.
LAPUZIA: I go by Flood’s residence on my way home from the precinct. I don’t let anybody know I’m going, because I want to approach as a friend, not as a coworker. I’m worried about him, to be honest, and not just his career but his mental and emotional well-being. I find his front door left unlocked and halfway open. I immediately notice a strange smell, but I don’t associate it with where I have felt it from until I come into the front room. There are mirrors on the floor. Mirrors on the walls and on the ceiling. Several dozen lights light the room wide. I am so shocked at first I start to call for backup, but something stops me. Still, I ready my firearm. I go on into the larger room. Spread out on the floor where one would usually have a sofa etc. I find a series of pictures of B., Flood’s deceased wife. There are pictures of her alone and smiling, her with E. N. in various locations, and so on, hundreds of them, just everywhere. And there are papers. Papers of his writing, some of which are copies of ones I’ve seen before, that he’s brought to me, others I have not, and some written in a script that doesn’t look like English. Drawings of odd symbols are on many of the pages. I continue on into the apartment, terrified of what I’ll find, though in the other rooms nothing is strange. No evidence of struggle or wrongdoing. No bodies, thank god, and no blood. The main closet is still full of B.’s old clothes, and this is where I realize there’s this odd smell snaking on the air. It is a perfume, sprayed so many times in the small room it’s hard to breathe. Hours later I knew for certain I had felt the presence of this choking, slaving smell before, sometime when I was very young, inside my sleep, but this does not occur to me at the time. I come back out into the main room. I stand among the pictures and the light. I decide there’s not reason to report this, that I should not have come here, that I feel older than I ever had all through my blood. I feel dizzy in the middle of the photograph of her, the mirrors, a silent catacomb of eyes. That’s when I realize I’m being recorded.
FLOOD: You and everyone who’s ever been. This is not a question of being destroyed, of even beginning: it is in the folding there between: the color of the mesh of the lives forced into bodies rendered one unto the other, lobes in the catalog of time. Each body not a body but a cell. I did not write this.
300,000,000 by Blake Butler is now available from Harper Perennial.