Zoom Me Around The Room Again, Spaceman

Contributor: Tony Rauch

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I swear I heard them outside for at least a month beforehand. Every night I’d crawl into bed a little earlier than the night before, to see if I could catch that flickering little twitter of a noise. It was always a mere buzzing. Or a faint humming. Just hanging in the air. Milling in the distance. Barely perceptible. Like the distant buzzing of the street lamp down the road by the swamp. Or like the mumbling of the air conditioner at the gas station. I mean, I could barely hear them. But they were there, somewhere out in that wet darkness of night.

Every time the coal train whistled, whining far off, fading into all that endless emptiness way out there (that nothingness just waiting to be discovered, waiting for someone like me to happen along and fill it up), they stopped for a bit. But then they always started up again after awhile. Real slowly. After the train had passed the fields.

I swear, each night beforehand I could feel that warm little hum, that slight buzz, that little gathering, that secret conversation, getting closer and closer.

Then one night I just couldn’t sleep, so I dropped out my window and took a little stroll. I looked up at the night and all its worlds, thick and moist and endless, a comforting home. It wasn’t very dark out as the big-daddy of a moon was up there hanging big and low, illuminating everything a strange silver gray, spreading shadows across the grassy fields. So I could see pretty much everything I reckon - the hay barn, the tractor shed, the granary, everything illuminated by the glow from above. The sky was so clear and the moon so close. It was like I could just reach out and touch it all. It was like it was all right there for me, everything waiting for me to spin it into action.

I kept thinking about the future and where I’d be next year, where I‘d end up. Could be almost anywhere after the summer. That scared me a little. Yet it was also quite exciting - graduating from school and now being free to do whatever I could find.

That’s when I stumbled across them. That little murmur, that tiny, faint humming. As I was out walking, searching for that noise, I heard that long thin whisper in the current of wind. I just suddenly caught it, picked up on it as I was scanning all the silver stars blinking above like dust in the sunlight, as if each star was blinking just for me. I picked up on that far away buzz and followed it. The weird thing was the noise didn’t get any louder as I snuck through the fields and marsh and woods to them. It was always about the same, just hanging in the distance, just riding on the breeze. Finally, I crept up on them, slowly crawling through the dry brush as to not make a sound. I wondered who could be out here this late: some transients, migrant workers, hobos, some criminals maybe, some highwaymen, or maybe a spy ring or something. And then I happened upon them. I crouched through the leaves of bushes and tall grass. They were gathered in a little clearing I never even knew was out here. It was a little bare spot. Cleared out under a group of trees. In a circle of thick brush. In a gully out behind the barn. A half mile to the west. The area they had cleared out was only big enough for maybe five or six of them.

I crept up behind a group of bushes and spread the leaves back carefully, quietly. The back of one of them obscured my view. A small candle in the middle of them flickered an eerie amber glow. I moved around to get a look at their faces, to see who, or what, they were. They were wearing long overcoats with large hoods. And then I went stone numb. . . They were people, the likes of which I’d never seen or imagined before. Little people with large heads and strange, tiny, deep eyes. And that’s when I heard it, that murmur of a whisper, my blood turning to ice. I just froze. I couldn’t move, couldn’t even breathe - “OK, then, it’s settled,” one of them exhaled a breathy wheezing whisper, “. . tonight we ask Billy to join us.”

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Tony Rauch has three books of short stories published – “I’m right here” (spout press), “Laredo” (Eraserhead Press), “Eyeballs growing all over me . . . again” (Eraserhead Press). He has additional titles forthcoming in the next few months.
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