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Of a Man, a Truck, a Moth, Darkness and a Streetlight
A truck pulling up under the orange radiation.
The smell of gas trickling through the air and into every tiny crevice.
A splatter of whispered curses, a few hot sweat beads trickling down his unshaven cheek. Mottled, burnt, with pitting scars that seemed to have rained down on his face when he was a baby, then had simply grown up with him.
The rough concrete follows the curve of the sidewalk, flaring and rippling in indignation like a crested wave at every edge it meets, its open mouth sending teethlike shadows that ramble pointlessly, beginning and end stretched across the edge of the same gas station. There they fall into the weeds. Farther than this isn’t illuminated.
The sound of a harsh coughing, goulishly sad in its humanity, and the sound of a match being struck.
The flames lighting up the darkness, too close to the gas for for trust, too far for the traveler’s weary worry.
The spark in the night on the end of a match, the tiny granulated flames rough like sand, leap onto the end of the waiting cigarette, then briefly light his face.
The eyes stand bluntly against his dark face, as if bathed in flame themselves for a moment- deep, dark, unchartedly far off and almost unseeing. They shift but show little emotion, no expression but quiet and contempative concentration.
Above. Light staring. Artificially dead light. Colored like Satan’s mask. Waiting. Dying. Consumed by the need for consuming. Harnessed by the need for a light in the midst of all this night. The ancient soul hidden inside a naked bulb.
Rough hands lift the the handle of the gas nozzle, drifting down its plastic spine. The heat cascades from air to man to machine to air again. The heat circles above like a vulture, holding the station in its palm, this tiny oasis resting in a valley of oppressive heat.
The man’s face is wet- the sleeves of his rolled up shirt soaked and the ends of his hair drenched. Slowly, quietly, he lifts the gas handle and leads it to the beaten truck. The machine looks like an old dog, only staying in life to follow its owner, every movement a tired and tragic but willing ache.
The man himself has a look of old about him, his strain lines and wrinkles too well engraved into his face. His dark hands, grime covering the mountains and gulleys that line his skin, changing the bumps into a single flat desert of oil and dirt.
The gas slowly drips, each drop resonating inside the old truck, breaking and making evident the complete and utter silence of the station. The old light gives a lonely, moaning shudder, as if commemorating its defeat, captured inside the shell of cheap plastic and metal.
The man leans against a tree, hovering in a balance between the brief circle of light and the unworldly blackness. He smokes, letting rivulets of chalky white steam float farther into the air, until it fades away.
There are no stars.
A single click from the gas tank signals the end of the gas stream, and the truck seems to relax in silent appreciation. The man swears for the sake of it. He has learned to do so, keeping just a small bit of the rest of the human race about him. He swats a moth away from his cigarette, and it swirls up with the others, beating in soundless flight around the light like a living pinwheel.
From the surrounding woods, there is nothing. It throws the sound of the man and the truck and the crackling of the light into deafening contrast.
Closing the truck’s hubcap with a resounding click, the man replaces the gaz nozzle into its former place. He swings his thin frame into the truck, which creaks heavily. Turning the key, he can feel every gear, screw and spit of fire as the truck responds to the simple turn. He can feel his fingers extend through the key, fusing with the truck in his mind, and becoming for a second a living piece of metal. Attached to the truck’s consciousness, for a brief second they are neither alone.
His sweat trickles down, mixing slightly with the dirt, oil, and gasoline that covers his cheeks. It leaves lighter lines behind it, like a teardrop falling from his eyes. He rubs his hand over his rough skin, leaving long dark streaks along his jaw. The truck responds to his practiced hands on the wheel, and amiably begins its tortured way again, willingly rolling into the terrifying, surrounding blackness.
The only remaining sound is the dripping of the gas from the nozzle, making a little puddle on the concrete. It becomes slower and slower, before stopping altogether. It reflects the white moths who still flutter eerily around the neon light. As if all of the insects shared the same mind, they abandoned it as one, moving past it as a strange white ghost, until they were swallowed by the darkness.
The only thing left in the circle of light is the streetlight itself.
As it recognizes its aloneness, the light balks from the prospect, panicking in what it knows is now, and forever, it and our end. As fire tends to do it gradually burns itself to ashes, sadly and reluctantly slipping from existence, knowing that even fire, whose origins should make it king of this place, has in its final stanza been killed by the simple need for a single light to hold out the world of darkness.
Like an eye it blinks, quivers, lets out a burst of heat, and dies.
The many fibres in the streetlight still glow, burning out slowly like a curtain being gradually drawn closed across a stage. But there is no applause. No turning the page, no next words to push the fear of ending just a little farther away.
There is only the blackness.
Creeping in hesitantly, as if not sure if the streetlight has died or not quite yet. And the heat, coming down finally. Free of empathy, sympathy or care it slides over the scene, which is nothing but dark. As if to state aloud that there is nothing here more to see.
Then we slipped into oblivion.