Natural Burial for a Youth Abducted by the Immortal Alain Robbe-Grillet
In the blank saltpan, a circle sinkhole dilates around seeping up saltwater reflecting vacant feather white sky. The lee slouch of a sand dune flows forward in breath brushed ripples to fill the sunken water circle. Sky miscible with sand horizon is gray predawn running fluid. Soft footprints in unbalanced loops scrawl divots of old moon shadow. On omnipresent wind a gobbet of chaff glutted lint bumbles over the sand trailed by a strand of plastic filament coiled inextricably into the felted weave and strung with several loose beads. The beaded trailing tassel alternately wanders, subject to the particularities of the blown landscape, or loops around the ball until it is not a tail but a belt. These two states inscribe distinct scripts laterally and down the soft sand of the shaded lee side of the dune. Whispering across the slack between dunes, the gobbet is blown up the thin windward husk compelling forward the dune beneath. Wind spins it in failed arcs up and down the crisp surface loosing a fine sheet of sand quaking and smoothing over the scrawled trails. From a highest arc, nearing the crest of the dune, it tumbles back to the flat slack into a stranded thicket of leafless saltbush. The tassel snags. It waits woven in shade. Against the waving silhouette of the thicket, against the white sky, the crests of sand sea waves roll, crowned by a sharp, continuous scarp of calving and sliding sand, into a wide, smooth, constantly advancing apron arc. Dawn endures. Whole bound lives pass in passing sand. Slow sand waveface pours forward, rising at an angle to pass across and devour the snared lint gobbet and inert saltbush. The faint creeping puff of a settling susurrant billowed bedsheet to the sand accompanies the advance of sunlight washing over the silver dune crest, rushing over the opposite windward face in probing medium. The falling edge of darkness cast by sun and dune is a distinct translucent entity sliding over the slipping sand, drawn shorter and sharper as the dune rolls forward, as its sinuous features relinquish their vagueness. A partially buried body lies head downhill between two dunes. Any trace of its tumble has been varnished by rolling sand and fine sanding winds. Sand has pooled smooth in a drape around its disparate outcroppings. Splayed hyacinth blue pant cuffs protrude from the sheet of sand ending in mismatched sock feet. Knee is too close to foot. An elbow points outward near a shoulder but far from a hand. Seams of clothes standing out through the thin sand trace vectors of the miscoordinated figure. Across blown ripples whose troughs expose skin, or wind hardened sand, relict fingertips click immobile in the morning heat. The small face of a boy is fully exposed to the sky, adrift alone relatively distant from the other artifacts, hooped by the ribs of a too large ice blue turtleneck flaked with ochre crust. The small features are shrunken smaller with the pull of desiccated grinning. Too large ears drape across the sand. Unblinking flat beige eyes of immobile focus gaze on the lee upslope of the impending dune wave. The sclerae are beige. Pupils reflect the white sky. The skin is a less fleshly luminous moon pale biasing the skin tone eye spots to brown into prominence neath their thin wax eyebrows. Vacant fans of saltbush absently strum cryptic passages into the thin top sheet of sand. The sail of a bald flannel collar point in gray and shell tartan stands up from the sand at a distance from the face only possible if it were wildly unbuttoned or not worn at all. The coiling roll of particle movement grinds low groaning through the sands hidden deep beneath the sunlit dune waves. Windblown sand creeps across the body in thin and threadbare sheets but does not gather on its features. Over the stretch of slacks and dunes, in the shallow dimples of blown away footfalls, following the blown away route of presaging footfalls, vapor light footfalls approach across the dunes, divining a whirring heartbeat beneath the sand. The footprint in the dune moves forward without the foot. A successive face follows, translucent with borrowed light in sweating paste skin, swollen sullen and hesitant, ascends over the slender inscription of dune crest into the white sky. The edges of the face are ill defined with wild curls, its smooth features approximate, though graved by a thick lightless black mustache over pursed lips. Smudges of shoulders, broken into swollen links by the constricting gauze of a shirt collar and the unflinching seams of an ill fitting blazer, follow beneath the face. Arms wave out and over the ridge, prop the face in hands, and elbow into the fragile, steep lee slope. The only attendant, the follower of the strown body, gazes with distracted fixation at cascades of liquid sand issuing from where its arms burrow into the scarp. The loosed sand coalesces in a heavy drape filling the depression of the body. As it rolls, the sand hums and groans. Low relief contours and limning fabric seams no longer emboss the small form through the thickening sand sateen. The desert passes around and beneath and over. Shifting sands compete with circling birds to swallow all that is not sand. On windward dune face, the tips of upended scrub roots finger through the hard skin and branch back into the sun. The follower pushes more sand down the lee face toward the body. Low breathing is apparent in the craquelure of the leaden cape of fresh sand. The face, still fully exposed, easy to ignore, but impossible to forget. Dry lips click. A burnt bouquet lingers in the chalybeate saliva precipitate. The sun and sucking salts of anesthesia prickle the void, but not the dry flesh. No tongue or palate kiss the sour and salt of deserted deposits. The follower withdraws an elbow from the sand, lifting a hand into the chalk sky, in the manner it would shield narrow eyes to the horizon, and gestures to the slack below, issuing a fresh flow of sand bearing down on the body. The low breathing is constricted with each layer of pooling sand. Each inhalation a gasp more shallow. Beige eyes space out beyond to the white sky. The follower reaches behind the dune and produces a beige comb from a breast pocket and attempts to comb through wild silhouette curls. Dimensioned furrows move across the scalp, constant in crenelated number but new to the universe. Each fidget and fuss of the follower sends more fine sheets of sand down over the body artifacts. The feet are gone. The hands are gone. Traces of clothing are gone. The elbows and shoulders are gone. Only the small face remains. The cracked and etched traces in the slack are slowly smoothed. The soft anatomical geometries are subdued in the deposition. The wind across the valley propels the dune wave, crowned with the combing follower, imminently looming above the body. Dune crests devour thickets of wind bleached branches, disgorge something other. A thickening lip of sand contracts around the weathered features of the small face. Dry velvet ears submerge. The sun spins mute gauze over the details of the landscape, laces through worn attire, blazer, sweater, and shirt old in the elbows and the seams. The hand combs the hair. The dune sags. Sand enters the sleeves of blazer, sweater, and shirt. The imprecise follower arms fold down over the dune, draw down the sky, raking loose thicker swaths of sliding sand, closing in around the small face. The follower throws legs over the dune and trudges down toward the disappearing face, loosing thick pelts of sand groaning. Late afternoon sun fuels the whir of the valley inhaling empty space. The small features grow abstract with proximity. The eyes, nostrils, and mouth lead to different entities, black vertices of a star. The two eyes and the two nostrils are each ruled separately by the body constellation beneath the sand. All is in motion. All is devouring. The torn tissue iris pattern unblinking sand fills. The small circle mouth contracts. The collapsing lungs draw in a breath of hot sand. The follower stumbles, sliding kneeling to bring the entire slope of sand cascading down over the small face. A breath high sand geyser puffs and hollows a shallow crater where the nose last inhaled. The kneeling figure sweeps across the sand with cupped hand edges initiating what erasure only the wind can complete. As sand creeps it creeps in tangential wavelets with leading edge hems of sheets being drawn across the sand. Into its thickness the buried body is swaddled. The lee dune face bears down on the body, rolled far from its original place of collapse. The body is drawn down. Light becomes ash in the breath. Though ritual, nothing is routine in interment. Nothing living, expectant, or willful can follow. Save the whispers, the yawning, the pink spotlight. The figure passes onward on foot, footprints beckoning footprints deeper into the dune sea. One wave is indistinguishable from the next in constant transit. The fleeing figure footprints fill in slowly and slower as they grow shallow with sand drawn down in the circling action, continuing to fill in imperceptibly after the apparent physics of the sands downward tumbling loses momentum. The lapping edges of deeper concavities drift toward elision on their own, but fall short of unblemished perfection. The vague impressions of actions are ultimately indelible. The vertices of the black star hemorrhage in burial obscurity in ink flowing from the memory of its birth splatter to a death origin, to an eccentric center. Some brown sensation remains. Sand commingles the erased within the erasure. The high wave rolls far beyond its origin, grinding undertow sucking the body toward submerged saltpan. The varying pressures of the wave, churning at different rates through its cross section, bear down on the small feet and twists them and the blousy pant legs wrack outward, spread by the sand. The nutating rotation of slowly tumbling, in the brownness of disorientation, lifts feet, sinks head, strains spine, splays digits, scores skin. The first wave above passes, leaving behind the body in a deep, whispering gyre. As the body tumbles deeper, its loose, beltless pants revolve away on innumerable diamond fingers moaning. The hidden core of the dried body resonates with the rushing vibration of earth, its frequency multiplied off the submerged saltpan. Out from the single orbiting confluence of sand harp and sand hand and sand hall, in league with the body as it wheels in the depths, rolling amidst the smothering stillness, a dirge from these echoes is composed. Light lingering in the brown scuffs and sparkles, brown smoke lit by beige fire is not vision, has no range, no distinction, a sensory frottage of no more than what sparkles are directly impressed upon the surface of the eyes. Where it is bound by its clothes, binding fails. Wedges of sand shiv into clefts and inconsistencies of the body and hum with their prying. The flesh is fissured and folded and flapping around lithic viscera with no purchase for ligature. In the ritual of natural burial, the dune deeps commingle the recently deceased with the eternally deceased. No voice but the singing sandy medium speaks at the burial. Absence is the officiant and sand the rite. Sand is the silent until the perfunctory mechanism of the breeze conducts them together in the song of rolling waves. Speech risks vibration that dry husks dare not risk. Wedges of sand broaden to cleave limbs and tessellate the torso. In the fleshy midst, they become appendages of sand, inseparable invaginated interpolations, singing the crystalline singsong of obliteration with the body fog. Sand is the rite. Silicate knives pry the dry weave of vacant muscle, spin chewing in place, gather in number as the threads are bisected, minced, and disseminated. The dunes cross across the saltpan, down the valley, tumbling the body deeper and more disparate. Bits of body are one to one with the sand. Let the body rest. Let the body be carried to a depth that neither quake nor millennial winds may add signs to its physics. Only a wispy strewn placenta woven of mauve longing enfolds something far previous of consciousness. Sand grinds. Distraction blurs figures into less than their components. All bits that had once given themselves to mountains cannot without the mountain be anything but loss. Buried in earthen luminance, crystals usher light deep and exchange each passage of phase for a bit of fire to their own transformation. Sand to smoky gray glass. Sand fingers tumble and pull. The smallest bits ground down are still distinguishable from the sand though more uncommon in their concentration. Teeth are crushed and abraded white speck stars. Rattling rib flakes, muscle braids, and skin flecks wear back against the worn weave of the shirt sack against the sand, pressing from both sides against the threads, each fraying and frothing into fuzz and filament against the sand. Finally loosed, finally scattered and dispersed from what was the torso, down to the canopic cavern of long lost viscera, a cast glass positive of the hidden body emptiness tumbles free, catches and transmutes the light champagne, taupe, mauve, and imperfect. With the quickness of crystal misericorde, the body is not the body, but the relic. The glass vestige oscillates. The rite is tone and vibration. The rite is texture scrutinized in shade. If the sand medium manifests itself in the frequency that is the piezoelectric frequency of the visceral glass, the vibrations resonate and coalesce. A melody is formed by oscillating the outline of the visceral glass. Vibration sings the whining tones inside the glass. The voice of the rite hums. The sand groans. The murmuring knell is late. No mourners kiss the eyes. No mourners squeeze the hand. No mourner wets its lips to whistle or return a kiss. No cantor actuates this disappearance by voice. No words mean this. A quantity of sand has slid over the precipice, in such slender increments, so fine, that no orientation exists. The room is brown. Green glows around damaged coronal edges. In the slowing slouch of sand, a muffled voice reads aloud a list. Each unintelligible utterance is softer toward silence. The final entry does not exist. Buried, but not at the bottom, buried in the midst, swimming, flying, flying in the progress of the earth wheeling, or approaching death, approaching a cease of temporal inertia. Leave this place to the eccentric concentric next. It is warm at least. It is dark at least. No disintegrating visions of repetitive window facades or concerned faces, an ambivalent face behind a drawn curtain. Brown becomes brown black. This doorway is nothing but the room sliding past. Patterns of sand blow in thin nonsense skins over bare saltpan. No pink spotlights, no powders, no curtains. No hallways hung up with pacing, yawning mourners. Wind is the menhir of disappearance. She can come to kiss the air over the dunes, but she wouldn’t. He will never find you. Nothing is left to mourn. Nothing is left to dominate.
John Trefry is the author of the novel PLATS, the caprice THY DECAY THOU SEEST BY THY DESIRE, and the forthcoming APPARITIONS OF THE LIVING, proprietor of Inside the Castle press, contributor to entropymag.org and minorliteratures.com, architect with the work.group @ sisyphean.com. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas.