Six String Life Support

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A memory that was once deadly, is now life support.

Submitted: November 21, 2015

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Submitted: November 21, 2015



I jolted awake from what sounded like a gunshot. The noise was not audible though, not of this Earth. It exploded from my innerness. A silent detonation that was as loud as it was poisonous.

The morning I knew I was infected with the virus was the morning after the night she left forever. I woke up like a crippled bug, unable to grasp movement of my limbs, straining powerfully to retain some semblance of fluidity.

A toxin within me caused partial paralysis of motion and mindset. I rose an arm above me, but it wavered and fell weakly to my side. My head was able to lift, but only a few centimeters. It felt like the bed sheets were sucking my skull back toward them. My feet remained calm, but sweaty.

A single object saved me: An old guitar resting in the corner of the room.

My blood slowed its flow, and I was able to calm myself and focus. The guitar reminded me of an elderly steel worker. It had deep creases in the wood grain, nicks were taken from it over the years, it was weathered, worn, but also hardened, wise, ferocious. The instrument’s wood was a rose gray color, like heroin, the body partially hollow, the neck more noble than that of a giraffe.

When my attention drifted away from the guitar, my body immediately seized up. I looked back at the six-string instrument. If I were to survive to lunch, that damn guitar would be my only chance. Funny thing is, I had not seen the guitar in years, possibly not since I met her, though it may have been in the corner the entire time. One thing was certain: if she was in the room, the guitar was not.

I only ever remember seeing it when she was absent. The instrument would sing to me, a soundless, subconscious melody that I had known previously, but forgotten for years, which touched me so deeply I believe that I may have been the one who created it.

I struggled to move from the bed, the virus winding its way through my vital organs, taking hold. This ungodly virus must have been passed to me by her, sometime before she left. She had the same illness, in some previous year, but somehow she survived. Perhaps she was a witch, with demonic healing gifts, and strange powers I had not seen or realized. She reminded me of a moonbeam, and the unseen dust in the night air. When she was there, I could feel her everywhere, but an eclipse extinguished her light, all I felt was the virus.

I managed to sit upright and stare into a mirror. My face had sunk like a doomed ship, deep into the depths of sorrow and frigid hollowness. When I looked closer in the mirror I saw her sitting next to me. Obviously a delusion caused by the virus, but real at the time nonetheless.

She stroked my head and whispered in my ear. I could hear her soft words. They said she would always love me, and cherish our bond, and see me even in darkness, just like I saw her. I could feel her single finger trace the outline of my face, from my temple, across my brow, down my nose, gliding over my cheek and down my jaw.

I reached for her hand, but only found air. I looked back in the mirror and saw only myself, degenerating further by the moment. I would soon concave upon myself and cease to be a presentable person any longer. I was transforming into something unintended for humanity or daylight society.

A ray of sun hit the third string on the guitar and reflected a spark of light. The goddamn guitar winked at me.

The instrument remained when nothing else in this apartment had. Photos and memories evaporated. The virus did not discriminate: it destroyed the living and the inanimate. The Indonesian floor carpet we spontaneously purchased six years previous dissolved and then turned into ants. They withdrew from our apartment, by the thousand, through the crack under the doorway.

The bare floorboards whispered. They wanted to keep me there. For me to fall back, sink into the wood and become one, engrained in the floor that once held our weight, and remain there holding that weight for eternity.

It felt acceptable. To become nothing more than a floorboard being trounced upon by those not yet infected. But, in the deepest depths of my crippled brain there was a single thought, though I had no conscious recognition of it: Make it across the room to the guitar.

It was, of course, impossible to do so. The guitar was ten feet away, but it might as well have been ten continents away.

Somehow I stood from the bed, like a marionette string had pulled me upward by the back of my neck. There was no string. I checked. I must have caused this suicidal move without even intending to do so.

It was a definitely a mistake. The bed immediately fell into the floorboards and bled into the cracks until it was gone. Our bed. We shared that bed every single night for over ten years. It was obliterated into dark matter that will fill the heavens, but never comfort my head again. How can this be so? It will not catch me if I fall back. That mattress will not hold us, in the sunken middle, ever again.

I stood frozen, nine feet away from the guitar, immobilized by a virus that was spreading rapidly. I started to lose consciousness in my feet. I knew that this is how the virus took affect. I had known others who have succumb to this ancient disease that attacks innocence and hope like a machete-wielding madman. The support limbs were the first to go. Then you fall and disappear forever.

I didn’t have long.

With my feet disabled, I had the honest-to-God serious thought of just throwing myself on the floor and being done with it. But, that goddamn guitar. It was there for a reason. It was the only thing left in the room that hadn’t been swallowed up, turned to dust, or evaporated. It actually looked healthy. Like a Redwood amongst shrubs. A lighthouse in the fog. It was alive.

Since my feet had lost all feeling, I took off my belt, wrapped it around one leg, and yanked the leg forward. It moved! I stood still for a moment, retaining balance, then I tried the same on the other leg. It took great effort, but I moved each leg, sometimes only inches, the thick leather belt pulling them each step of the way, until I got to within a foot of the guitar, arms distance, when the virus disabled me completely.

I dropped the belt. When it hit the floor I again heard the sound of a gunshot. I checked my back, believing a bullet went straight through my heart and was about to explode out of my chest. My heart remained, though beating furiously, for dear life, trying to run, but like me, unable to dislodge itself from its current state.

I stood in front of the guitar, twelve inches away, and could not reach out to touch it. A crow outside began to sing like a songbird, a distraught melody so beautiful I wanted to glide away with it when it chose to take flight out into the dusty breeze.

But, the crow remained put, tilting its tiny bird head to inspect my desperate state. Then it sung slowly, directly to me, beckoning me away. Daring me to step away from the instrument, join it, fall from my perch, drift away.

I spat at it. A thick wad of saliva that carried through the air at a fantastical speed I had no idea I was capable of. It thwacked the crow like a liquid slap, knocking the songbird impersonator from the branch, silencing it.

My mouth worked. I had no idea it did until that moment. If I had control of my mouth, I must still have control of my limbs. I tried to move my arms. Nothing. My feet. Nothing.


Behind me the floorboards began to turn a ghastly grey color. The virus attacks all. I looked one final time at the guitar, and there, in the reflection of a golden pickup I saw my father. He was waving at me and smiling like he did when I was running off of a soccer field. I could see my mother behind him in the reflection, and beyond both of them I saw a vast body of water, and I saw her.

She was lying in a pool-party blow up raft, wearing a bikini I bought her, holding up a margarita, like the ones we’d meet every Friday night to drink at the local Cantina. I could feel the warmth of the water she floated above. Our eyes somehow met, there in that golden pickup reflection, and I heard her, louder than ever before.

Tears ran from my eyes, down my neck, over my shoulder, spreading out as they ran down my right arm, infecting my wrist, bringing my hand to life.

I couldn’t physically feel my hand, but it reached out, to the guitar, and took hold of it by the neck. When my lifeless fingers touched the guitar strings I regained feeling in them. The rest of my body was dead, but those five fingers were alive!

I used everything, every fucking ounce of power I had in my body to take a step forward. My veins bulged from my skin. My face was filled with blood. My chest expanded in a grotesque way. I would either die right then, or hold that instrument.

Then I hear another gunshot. This time is wasn’t the belt hitting the floor.

It was my body. Guitar held to chest. The floorboards back to a blonde color. The virus was noticeably withdrawing. The photos returned to the walls. The bed looked different, but had returned. The toes on my feet wiggled and I felt a breeze across them. I ran my hand down the neck of the guitar and strummed a chord. It sounded like the songbird. Her voice. The gunshot. It sounded like a memory, that was once forgotten but now unearthed, a memory that was once deadly, that now was life support.

© Copyright 2019 Lawrence Lamovec. All rights reserved.

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