Seaside Gothic

Fiction | Poetry | Nonfiction

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Porch Swing

Porch Swing by Neethu Krishnan

A sky the colour of wet cement buries the sun. Greens, veined black, shiver in the hoofed wind. Frogs and crickets sinkhole into an elastic, deafening silence.

I stew, alone, on the porch swing.

Humidity pythons my neck. The scent of mildew with an undertone of sweet from the soaking earth, viscous, slicks my lung with each inhale, its weight stacking bricks of squelching wet pillows inside my ribs.

I float on my wooden perch, unblinking.

The hiss and churn in me peacock in the eavesdropping and highlighting easel of darkness. Throws up a few thrashing eels, a lot of plastic detritus.

A newspaper boat and a head of baby rose petals—my ten-year-old cousin’s—trace patterns like Ouija planchettes on a rain puddle, their moth-wing ripples fracturing the still film of broody sky.

I summon hunger for my own paper boats.

No pangs.

I am ether holding ropes.

The grey tarpaulin hangs low, ripe to burst, icing numb the tip of my nose. Electric violets spider the sepulchral silhouettes of coconut palms. Convulsions shock-wave the red-oxide tiles underfoot, the crackling nimbus around my head.

White bullets plough the ground, pelt the asbestos roof in a drum of unceasing water pebbles. Curtaining off the beyond, they ablate all sound but of their own indulgent firing and sloshing—including the wail of phones in the noose of houses that arc the horizon.

The next morning, sun still shrouded, silence, hesitant, needles the air. A procession of pinpoint blacks inches along the road like poisoned ants. The ash white of two ambulances, toy-sized from my vantage on the bloated, damp swing, hovers above the milling black.

I look away.

Grates of shock and lament chafe the silence, a chorus of crickets impossible to tune out.

The boys were five and seven. My cousin’s schoolmates. Wrenched free from the silted underbelly of a mud ditch turned pregnant pond in the cloudburst. Toe-tied, gurneyed home.

I am still on the swing when the dung cakes feed the pyre to the ashen evening. Disgust, humility and the privilege of unaffected-witness shock sidle for space, break water, come up for gasps of life-giving air in the burst dam in my skull.

The cliché—a plunger—unplugs my drains of apathy. In a shameful glug, the entitlement, the narcissistic audacity and the luxury of rumination whirlpool to the sewers before my rain-rinsed eyes.

Murmurs still ebb and flow around me. Details, like beached whales, too severing to let in, too mammoth to blind eye.

I trace the two smoke clouds—adjacent, chalk white, feathered, languidly ascend the slate of the horizon and melt on the tongue of the spent sky.

The pin-wheel centre of void is no longer me. I am no ether. I condense. Back into a bag of thawing, expiry-stamped meat.

The sun, a few blinks later, fissures through the gelatinous grey, parches the land, reverses time. Bruised pinks and a boat mast dangle from the black lip of soil.