Muddy Stars

The click of her heels on the asphalt echoed intolerably in the otherwise soundless night. Each clack sent a jolt of pain through her ears so sharp that she winced, nearly jumping in surprise. It seemed rude to her that any part of her body should dare to interrupt the calm of the universe. She hated that she would be so out of control of herself that she couldn’t stop the noise from happening.

Though the rain had stopped hours ago, her path was lined with lazy pools. Filthy miniature lakes that could harbor no life aside from bacteria and disease. She could imagine, if the water stood until morning, the life cycle of illness. From puddle to bathing bird, to shit falling from the sky onto chair or bench, to hand – from unwashed hand to food to mouth. The idea made her shudder, an action that not even the cold had prompted.

As she moved, her eyes stayed focused on the ground and those ponds. She was quite certain that she didn’t deserve to look any higher. Her gaze was meant for – and would always point toward – the lowest point in the world. If she could have looked into the Earth itself, she would have, all the way to the molten core. A brief fantasy flared in her mind of that bright liquid removing the ability to see at all…

Somewhere she stopped seeing into the water and realized that with the burned out street lamps on this stretch of road, she could see the reflection of the stars glowing at her from the hazy liquid. No. Glowering. Accusing her of looking upon that which was not hers to see. In an attempt to obey them, she walked a while with her eyes closed tight, screwing up her face harshly so no crack of light might get through to her unworthy cones.

Her whole life had been this, and if it were not for some unfortunately held religious beliefs, she would have remedied the situation long ago. Repeated reminders over the span of childhood raised phantom welts along her back at the mere thought.

Her heel caught in the beginnings of a pothole, forcing her eyes open and making her focus on the current moment, not idle wishes and foolish dreams. She had to make it to her destination, at least. Then she could wallow in the misery of existence all she wanted.


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