The Grey Man Dreams for the First Time

Sen­si­ble, The Grey Man grows tired. Though the long road ahead of him tempts, he lies down in the tall grass to con­sid­er. To con­sid­er the pas­sage of time, the sound of air mov­ing through veg­e­ta­tion, the pos­si­bil­i­ties for things to artic­u­late them­selves. He cross­es his arms on his chest and knows why he can­not close the eyes he does not have. He makes a fist. Sounds fade. So does light. The pas­ture strokes his new­born skin and calls up sighs. As he rests, The Grey Man feels the earth rotate beneath him; feels the activ­i­ty, the end­less change that is a con­stant, relent­less unfold­ing. Beneath his back, is veg­e­ta­tion, grow­ing from rich dark earth, among which mill the count­less legions of insects, worms, incom­pre­hen­si­ble sin­gle-celled vari­eties of life. Swarm­ing and swirling, teem­ing over, and more impor­tant­ly, under every­thing. Feed­ing and feel­ing and fuck­ing. End­less­ly busy. More riotous that the cur­rents of the air, more mean­ing­ful than we imag­ine. The Grey Man feels the long stalks of greensward fold over him and knot. Knows the creep­ing things move up them, across him and begin to spin. They spin slen­der fil­a­ments of silk that cling to him, cling to the plants and stones. Across legs. Across bel­ly. Across breast and shoul­ders and arms. Over the rem­nants of his neck they spin and bind. Until mus­cles strug­gle to flex and fail. The Grey Man is motion­less, bound. Exposed to air and light. The army of the creep­ing take him, swarm across his body chit­ter­ing. Some utter, in voic­es of such slight­ness they pass all but unheard, faint and sin­gle vow­els. Oth­ers, a sin­gle dig­it, one sim­ple num­ber. Each of the sounds is insignif­i­cant, but col­lec­tive­ly they build. Grow loud. And loud­er. Over­whelm. Num­bers and vow­els ring­ing in the rush of mul­ti­ple legs. A howl­ing. Until it stops and every liv­ing thing is silent for a time. And the bound man strug­gles again. Stug­gles under­neath the gath­er­ing clouds. The Grey Man sits up, star­tled awake. For a moment he does not rec­og­nize the space around him, or him­self in it. Tall grass. Dim skies. But the road is still there, still stretch­es. The road is always open, always offers dis­tance. This he rec­og­nizes first. This is enough.

dube_cutout_postPeter Dubé is the author, co-author or edi­tor of eleven books includ­ing the nov­els Hov­er­ing World and The City’s Gates, the short fic­tion col­lec­tion At the Bot­tom of the Sky, the novel­la Sub­tle Bod­ies, which was a final­ist for the Shirley Jack­son Award, and Con­jure: a Book of Spells, a col­lec­tion of prose poems that was short­list­ed for the A. M. Klein Prize. His most recent work is the short fic­tion col­lec­tion Begin­ning with the Mir­ror.