Fiction: Sealed

By Noel Pratt

It was morning on her face, and I knew it and woke with it in my soon-to-vanish exhaustion. The vigil. A rotting pink smeared the sky outside the window, and various lights tore shadows off the dingy walls near our bed, then left them dark again. I’ve found that shadows come in many shades. 
I looked back at her face, the grayed mask. A lamp would be obscene; my mind, my love provided light enough to see her struggle.
It was the time of her mourning as well; a passing from fitful vespers, to sleep, and the events there, to this unpreferredmockery of wakefulness. How she must want to moan. No doubt in her dreams she could even speak. But her condition left her mute as to what she was seeing in her depths, or what was to be. Such agony for no sound. 
I knelt, attuning to each signpost of her delirium, as I had for the past month. I tell you I tried to minister as I could, yet could only whisper and stroke, could alternately cradle her while trying to find a watch beyond words – all meant to comfort, to muster strength for the both of us and drive it right into those darkened orbs as her lids went wider, her lips cracked with openness, jaw soon to unhinge, the skin at her temples andforehead crawl with unimaginable “voicings” …  All this and she could utter nothing in vent of the sure cacophony of her tortured brain. Nor could anything written convey it. As always, however, she was summoning a terrible strength.
Now I saw her very gums and teeth appear to ripple as she grimaced, and her cheeks, of late like the whorls of dying flowerheads, tightened into pale membranes, with stemlike wrinkles curling round her nostrils, stalking down the structure of her lovely skull, and mingling with the taut lines of her pulling neck. I lifted the back of her head only to feel wormlike veins rolling under her scalp and the backswept tresses seemed to have bled into that sweat-soaked pillow. Then the head began snapping back and forth … but the origin of the thrust feltelsewhere, as if a child was twisting the torso of a ragdoll. I was afraid of some new seizure and, always imagining her vocal cords to be withered roots, I stilled her enough to give her several sips from the tepid water at bedside … And cursed myself for not having risen earlier to steep her tea.
At last she dropped again to the pillow. I kissed her fevered brow, then listened to her breathing, my ear lightly pressed to the slaked maw. It tickled me with its renewed writhing, and I presented her each ear, my own head now turning as hers had. Some lovemaking mimicry … some embarrassing solidarity. 
Just words, indulgence; breathe for this, be ready …
I only know there is nothing as fearsome as the quiet of pained flesh as it attempts what it cannot. The mind fills in. 
Her labors continued, the straining silence now a constant accusation. Perhaps I had gone deaf! But soon the final ovaling, tonguing – and the dear thing bit me in mid-thrash. I threw off the bedclothes and, against her contortions, gazed down ahead of the finale to this pageantry of pain.
I thirsted in body and breath, but she would satisfy. I bent and sealed my own lips over hers to grant communion and in honor of her unspoken prayers. My mouth moved with hers, she now sounding through her nose, and when even our throats aligned I was provoking her with the groanings she could not, would not, damn her … and when at last she was able to fetch her black roar, I had but to stay tight to her, atop her frail and once beautiful form, and swallow that roar along with the duly arriving coughing, everything unclutched from her gullet and vacuumed down my own, all the blossoming screams and chokes and effluvia she would entrust to me. I cannot tell you what it sounded like. It was a sacrament to our unknown. 
But when the convulsion was over … as our embouchure unsealed and we breathed in rest, I did not need to gaze down to know that two mouths were now closing on the reddened penetralia of sickness. I could just make out a yellowish mist as I looked back window-ward from a joining once more suffused with the pestilence and the noise and the lovelessness of this world.

Noel Pratt is an editor and writer who finally had it and moved to the country. Most of his schooling has been in theology and theatre, each equally marketable. Pratt also spent time in India and lived to take a fiction-writing course at Santa Monica College.