[previous room here]
IN SALVAGED BLACK FINISH
HANDCRAFTED OF UNFINISHED 100-YEAR-OLD SOLID RECLAIMED PINE TIMBERS FROM BUILDINGS IN GREAT BRITAIN. ROUGH-HEWN PLANKS ARE CAREFULLY HAND-SELECTED, PLANED AND SANDED, YET BEAR THE NICKS AND IMPERFECTIONS THAT REVEAL THE TABLE’S PROVENANCE. AVAILABLE IN MULTIPLE SIZES, WITH OR WITHOUT AN EXTENSION.
48″ diam. Round Table
Seats up to 4 $1795
60″ diam. Round Table
Seats up to 6 $1995
Seats up to 8 $2295
72-102″ Extension Table
Seats up to 10 $2695
84″-120″ Extension Table
Seats up to 12 $2995
108″-144″ Extension Table
Seats up to 14 $3495 (Shown)
I didn’t know its name. None of us did at this point. But it didn’t change the problem leering down at us: its solitude. The fact that it was a chandelier. Not some chandeliers.
Because in the last room, there had been three, unmistakably three: one large and two small. There lay the worry. It’s like they used to say: the only thing more dangerous than a full grown chandelier is one whose kids you just threatened, whether with a machete or Candlestick Buffet Lamp or just time itself, rolled up tight and spit-sharpened over continents. And for all we knew, we had done just that, just now, just blundering into the hanged space between a mother and her glassy, dawdling cubs. All probably torn from the same source house by The Hardware, only the shreds of deep domestic atavism holding them close. And so there was nothing to be done, not a thing, other than to hope that this one, here looming in the air, was, contrary to all history, a solitary light fixture with no family ties. A rogue, a drifter. A mossless chandelier.
Reading my mind, P. asked, quieter now after the quarrel, So what, are we to live our days out in this twice-lit light?
The shiver was not mine alone.
Oh Christ, let’s get out of here, murmured D., sniffing at the air. Something’s seriously not right.
No shit, said P., petulant (after the quarrel). And some people – everyone knew who he meant, but for good measure, the thumb jabbed back at me – think we shouldn’t be worried.
No, D. mumbled, still sniffing pointedly with his wet nose. Something different.
Where would we even go? L. turned to him. How do we know the next room won’t be even worse?
Well, dear sister, what could be worse than this? Although at least there’s no carpeting. D. leered at her. Wall-to-wall, I mean. Further leer.
L. shuddered at the phrase, but calmed herself. There’s never carpeting in a place like this, and you know it, she insisted. The owners would call it tragic to cover up such floors. What kind of house do you think this is?
(The kind, he began, distant and furious, turning away from us, lowering himself to the point where rug met cold floor, you dreamed since the start, I saw your drawings, your… catalogs, folded and fingered, I know, I know you wanted…)
A little shriek burst behind them, as T., inspired and read, leapt up from the corner and cried Oh, follow me, my friends! and bravely hurled his little body at the window, to break free of this house of hell and lead us to safety.
At which point, having mistaken the glass picture frame on the mantel piece for a gateway to freedom, there was a wrenching, a bitter sound of shattering matter.
Oh, my poor boy, said V., bending to scoop the jumbled shards of his body where they had fallen to the floor. She bundled them up as best as she could, even if it could not be seen where he ended and the frame began, and took them to the grave-beige couch, cradled the corpse-puzzle close.
Here, said Y., heretofore and hereafter silent in this house and narrative alike, handing a nose that had rolled under the linen chair. You missed one. The pieces of T. mewled and jingled in her arms.
I went to the false window over the probably false fireplace, where F. was standing.
Cuba, she said.
The photo, the one T. tried to escape through. It’s Cuba, I recognize it. I don’t know how, but that hallway. It’s Havana. In a building between Neptuno and Soledad. We hid out there for 2 days. We ran out of cigarettes and had to smoke bits of paper torn from books left behind. We rolled them up and put smaller shreds of book inside them. I still can’t smoke ink after that. But that staircase – gesturing to the other photograph beside it – that’s all out of place. Not Havana at all. It’s in Cayo Ramona. Who would bring these together? This room, it is like an earthquake. We could not come out. We were chased by operatives, shadow ones, the Unstated, back when they were still called that. They knew we were passing arms to Cienfugos, how I still can’t figure out, but somehow they knew, and it was a hallway just like this, this very one, where they came, it was at dawn, their eyes like small burns and we… She paused. Fuck, are we in Cuba?
Why would we be in Cuba? I asked. You doing OK? I took her shoulder. I know things are weird, but we’ve just gone into a house, not across any border. Rooms like this don’t break embargoes.
Buddy, she laughed, viciously at the name she hadn’t used in years, you don’t think this house is staying still, do you? Maybe P. was right. Take a look out there.
And I looked, there out the true window, and if we were moving or not I could not say, because there was nothing clear to be seen, just indistinct dapples of muddled green, hazy, and perhaps they moved, like we in fact hurtling across the plateau through the endless green, stuck on a new Transiberian express, locked into some moronic disurbanist fantasy…
F., whose mindreading was uncanny, still better than P.’s and and frankly more obnoxious, yelled, without even turning to face me, Green space is the basic necessity of all comradeship! Death to the country, death to the city!
God, F., you and your suburbs. Here we went again.
It wasn’t suburbs that Okhitovich and Ginzburg and the whole damn OSA imagined. It wasn’t a cul-de-sac they died for. And it sure wasn’t for all this beige.
Yeah, and Magneto Gorsk wasn’t supposed to end up a kitsch museum water park. History is what fails, etc. Grow up.
A snort from behind interrupted the squabble. T., mostly reformed, had passed straight from disarray to drooling nap on V.’s belly, while she had stretched out luxuriantly, one hoof draped over its edge, casual as hell, endlessly so, like there was no need to remove one’s shoes from a couch so already well-worn or to have feet instead of hooves in the first place.
I couldn’t join the idyll, though. Something about that table that wouldn’t let me relax, not since we came in. Forget the floor or the chandelier or the thing hulking in the corner. No, the table. Maybe it was the fact of its extensions, because, as its structure revealed, it was not limited to itself. It could be extended but was currently not. Which meant only one thing: leaves fluttering around, waiting their turn, restless, dangerous, pacing supplements, not because of parental issues, because extensions developed autonomously from tables, at most forming strategic alliances toward a common goal, but never integral. Yes, there were extensions in the vicinity, even if we couldn’t spot them.
But still, it wasn’t just them. They were to be expected, that moment when they would swoop in to make things longer and cut us down to size in the process. It was the table itself. The more we looked at it, the more its very presence became oppressive, and even the bowl of fruit gracing it couldn’t chase away the weight, redolent with age, not ancient but saturated. (Almost enough to make one wish for the simpler malice of the company of an armoire. Almost.)
B. had already been blind for many years, and he laid his hands on the ghastly thing. His sockets turned back against themselves, with nothing to roll back into the skull. By their nature, he intoned, unsealed salvaged wood planks may be somewhat uneven, and may cup or bow slightly over time, further enhancing their rustic one-of-a kind character…
… and cracks may be present, added A., quite sadly.
B. was quiet, his long-scarred head nodding. This is old, very old indeed. But… A tremor through his frame. Not just that. It gets worse.
Everyone grew quiet.
Define worse. F. ventured, cautiously.
Trestle? Q. asked.
That means, B. explained, that it came from a structure that held up something very heavy, like a roof over a house, or a bridge over which trains ran.
Ah, that’s not so bad., A. said. Trains explain the whole cracks in wood thing!
Trains? Q. asked again. No one knew if he was kidding or not.
How much worse? F. insisted.
B. did not respond for a moment as we started at him.
It’s unfinished. And…
B… she pressed him. And..
And… it’s British, he spat.
We recoiled from the table, a sneer of disgust curling across our lips.
You can tell that? M., so recently blinded, was impressed.
Come. Come, give it a try, B. urged. You’d be amazed what reveals itself.
M. was reluctant, so recently blinded, her hands still stained with the dry gore. But she knelt down and spread those hands across the pitted wood.
I don’t think… Hold on. Yes. Yes, you’re… Christ, who am I fooling? She sighed. I’m just projecting what I want to feel because once I thought I loved a… She started to pull her hands away before snapping back to the table, yanked to a magnetic lode of old time. Wwhhaaaatt…. Oh my God, you’re right, she said, hushed now. There’s no doubt, these old marks are British. At least, what 9 decades old? More? B. nodded, smiling sly. But these… these other scars… no… no… And she started to choke, her breath coming shallow and rasped.
What is it? L. asked, worried, reaching to help her as the eyes went dark, the neck crimped by invisible hands. Jesus, what’s happening to her?
Leave her, B. said calmly, swatted away L.’s hands. She is divining a source. It is no easy labor.
M. spoke staccato through clenched teeth. These. Others. Are. Indian. A quick breath. Not British.
But they… how could… they are… fresh.
Silence amongst us all.
Bullshit. Bull-shit. I mean, come on, how could that even be? P. demanded. Everyone knows the empire ended in ‘47.
I don’t know. But it’s true. These were made not more than 3 weeks ago. How can I even tell this? M. asked with a constrained sob. Is it some new blindsight? (She touched the weeping hole of her skull.) How would I know it was a peculiarly Indian wound?
A member of our group, who shall remain unnamed, not to protect his privacy but because he was not worth a name to begin with, replied to M. with a truly vile, racist comment regarding how one can detect the Indian-ness of a wound.
M. – not the M. mentioned but an M. who still had eyes, who, to distinguish from M.-without-eyes, we will call M.-with-eyes, at least until the situation changes and makes the names useless – stepped behind the unnamed one. Without hesitation, severed his head with the diamond-hard photo of Cuba. He placed the head, from which the last fizzles of speech still dripped, in the bowl of fruit.
And B. stood still in the middle of the room, unperturbed, and said what we all had thought without wanting to admit: They are no longer content to rob graves. They are making anew…
A tug on my arm. V. was gestured for me to follow her over to the fireplace.
Did you notice it? she whispered.
What, you mean the ax-marks on the mantelpiece? Yeah, must have been a sacrificial altar.
No, what do… Whoa, you’re right. Jesus. This fucking place. No, I mean this. She pointed down.
Yeah, it’s bricked up. So what? I looked at her, puzzled. A fire would have been nice, I’ll grant you.
Look at the floor.
Yeah, it’s… It’s also brick. A theme. You know, really ties the room together. I tried to smile and failed.
No, don’t you see? This fireplace wasn’t bricked up. It was… taken by the floor.
I didn’t think, just started moving. We have to get onto higher ground. Now! I bellowed, dragging her toward the chairs, which looked structurally solid enough in spite of their extensive weathering. Everyone, get off the floor! The floor, it’s…
Move! There’s no time, we need to…
N. Look. Look up.
And some things became clearer then.
It’s a flock of… I began.
Yes. And there is no mistaking the provenance.
Gradually, noticing our stare, the others tilted their heads back as well. So too their jaws opened, and their skulls yawed horizontal on necks so bent they may as well have been slashed to hell, just like that racist’s head torn free from body, name, and voice, now nothing more than a foreclosed stare and a dumb skyward yawn.
That, and a prolific surfeit of goop seeping slow across fresh fake fruit. Dense and mean, the liquid that once circulated thought now just lapped and piddled out over the lip of the bowl, out onto that scarred plane of wood. The table was not stained by it, unfinished as it was, because it had absorbed so many decades prior to the Reclamation, but it was cupped and bowed and cracked slightly beneath an immense weight: all the mass of an equation, all the buckling, whirring void that multiplies the number of uncounted hours by the exerted upward force of the third domestic labor, the maintenance of cubic volume within a home as more than collapse, more than just the falling rate of roof.
B., alone unmoved, finished his thought: The Hardware is back.
Yes, you might as well have lopped our heads off too, one and all, and ended this charade then and there, because in the face of what we saw above us, we made not a sound. Not one damn sound, just a weak gasp snuffed out and walled up in a room like a fireplace, with no breath to spare in this fog of devil’s light. Here between a floor without end and a sky thickened to black with the gathering extensions, thousands upon thousands of them, arriving under their own orphan steam, unborne by ships or wheels or flights or rails of commerce, just rasping and waiting and rasping and waiting to strike.