There was a voice calling out to me, and I couldn’t see where it was coming from. I crawled around on all fours to look for it under the furniture. I walked the empty halls of my home. I went to the padlocked door, then through it out into the street laid with fresh snow. I almost couldn’t bring myself to disturb it, but I did. As I went further into the night, the voice became clearer. It echoed off the walls of the city, through the streets where I walked alone. Finally, I could make out what the voice was screaming—a single word repeated: alabaster.

Still, I could see no sign of whatever owned the voice. It grew louder, louder until it seemed every window of the city was open and a million voices cried as one, the song of their souls condensed from chaos into one word: alabaster. I longed to cry out with them, but I couldn’t speak the word. My lips worked to form the syllables, but all that escaped them was the breath of a ghost rising away into frozen air.

I looked around at the fallen snow that lay over the city and saw beneath it to hidden grime, the sludge of years accumulated in unseen places. There was an apple preserved half rotten by the frozen night—a future treasure for vermin. There was something once living, now dead and buried in the snow, waiting for the far off warmth of sunlit days that would bring putrefaction. Cigarettes, wasted alcohol, something unidentifiable, something else that might have been dried blood. Above it all echoed the unceasing chorus: alabaster.

I went no further. I turned and laid a new set of tracks beside the first, which already were refilling with snow. Back through the wailing streets I returned home. When I arrived there, I stood at the door and listened. The voices had become once more a distant, solitary cry echoing off the glass and steel of a city that longed for silence. I went through and closed the door behind me to block out the sound. That night, after I watched the city lights through my window disappear behind a wall of snow, I lay down to sleep. In my dreams I heard a familiar voice, crying out alone in a refrain that dragged me toward the sound of a single dread word: alabaster.

I listened to an episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast where he talked with Chuck Palahniuk. They discussed Palahniuk’s writing and creative process, and he said something along the lines of “until you feel some push-back, you haven’t gone far enough.” It resonated with me, and has me thinking of ways to push my writing beyond where I’ve gone with it so far. Not exactly sure what I’ll do, but I’m thinking I want to focus a bit more on short stories than I have been.

Photo by sergio souza from Pexels

8 responses to “Alabaster”

  1. WOW– first of all, the photo is dizzying to behold. The writing always takes us–whether by grabbing or gently luring. I’m mostly struck by the message to “write till you feel some push-back”…soon I will have to go back to work on the NaNoWriMo novel I began in Nov, so I’m filing that advice where I won’t lose it 🙂 Thank you.

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