Fault Lines

February 8, 2013
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The young boy stood behind the door to his cramped, dirty room. The door was closed. He felt the room shake, the door shiver on its rusty jambs. He thought it was his heart, echoing his vertigo with its deafening pump. It wasn’t. Gunshots rang from downstairs. There were a few loud crashes. Something had fallen from a shelf and bounced; something else had been thrown at the wall and had shattered. And still, even in the awful silence that followed the shots, after he knew the reason there weren't any more coming, the boy still knew it was his own heartbeat that had shaken the room, his own heartbeat that had made his own door tremble with his own fear.

The fly flew as fast as it possibly could. It wasn't that its wings couldn't have carried it faster if it had so desired. It was that there was only the one speed, the speed that it was going. To ask the fly to slow down or speed up wasn't foolish, it was impossible; the fly was going only the one speed. And just as the fly felt a twinge of unease, the slightest hint of a shadow of a premonition, it ran compound-eye first into something sticky and wet and unforgiving. It was overcome with fear, the desire above all else to be free. Still, it didn't occur to the fly to speed up, to shake its wings and break loose. Nor did it occur to the fly to slow down and try to wiggle its way out. It continued to move its wings with the same methodical beat, getting itself more and more hopelessly tangled, even when it felt a slight vibration coming from across the web. The spider had noticed the fly’s presence and was easing steadily towards it, slowly but oh so surely.

The young man liked to run. He wasn’t good at it, though. He seemed to have two left feet; which was true, because he had scrounged two different shoes on two separate occasions from two separate dumpsters, and they were both left. But more than that, he never knew quite where he wanted to go, or at what pace he wanted to get there. Whatever he wanted, his body would do the opposite. When he longed to sprint, to leave himself behind and run until his mismatched shoes wore thin to the soles, his legs would fail him. The young man would trip and fall and sprawl, his legs as useless as the door to his cramped, dirty room had been so long ago. Often he would simply lay there on the ground, pushing the vibration of his heartbeat into the street. When he longed to walk slowly, to immerse himself in his surroundings and truly find out who he was, the old fear would return then too. He’d feel a vibration in the soles of his mismatched shoes, and then he’d really run, run so fast he knew that he was the one causing the shiver in the weather-torn pavement. He never quite managed to leave himself behind, but he did manage to leave many others disillusioned in his wake. They’d cough and splutter and choke at the dust that his furious footfalls disturbed, but they never felt any vibration. Perhaps if the boy had slowed down to ask them about the vibration in the pavement, he could have learnt something sooner.

The fly had never been more afraid. All that kept him from losing his tiny fly-sanity was the steady, methodical beat of his wings, the same steady rhythm that had soothed him since the day of his birth. The man’s small apartment was cluttered, and most nights it would cry itself to sleep amidst the lonely garbage. He continued to beat the rhythm as the terrible spider grew closer and closer. The spider must have been monstrously large, for the very sticky strands of the web began to tremble with the man’s fear. Spiders came in the night and kicked the man out of its cluttered apartment. It hadn’t paid his rent. The fly tried to turn and see whether the spider was upon him, but whenever he turned his compound-eyes, gunshots rang out. The fly spent most of his time shuffling around the city, saying very little. No one wanted to talk to the man, though it couldn’t quite figure out why. The soup kitchen was nice enough for the fly, but he couldn’t help but stare at the haunted look in the faces of the other men and realize it had the same look in its compound-eyes. It was scared. He was frightened. His wings beat, still steadily, but with a touch of franticness behind it now. It picked up the gun he had been saving those many years, the gun it had taken from the floor where it lay, next to his mother’s bleeding corpse. Then its own wings knocked it out of his hands.

Suddenly, the man realized something, and he stopped beating his wings. The vibrations in the web ceased instantly. Had the spider stopped just as he had? Just to make sure, the man started to flap again, this time beating his wings harder than he ever had before, harder than it had ever occurred to him he could. The vibrations came back, but this time the man knew that they were a good thing. There was no spider. It had been him all along. The cords of the web snapped like floss at this realization, and the fly flew free, just as before. Except now it varied its pace.

And suddenly, sitting on the curb in the bad part of the city, with the compound-eyes of dozens of criminals and dealers waiting to see if it was their prey, the fly realized something. It had control of its own life. The only time it hadn’t had control was when it had stood huddled against the door of its dirty room, hearing the gunshots make the door vibrate. It stood up and dusted the refuse off of its scraggly old jacket. The fly still didn’t know where it wanted to go. It didn’t even know if there was somewhere it could go. But regardless of whether it was going somewhere or nowhere, the fly knew one thing; he would go there at his own pace. The man set off, determined to find some closed doors to open, and some fault lines to mend.

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