Do you believe in ghosts? Yeah…I used to be just like you. There are stories about demonic spirits that refuse to see the light, but I never believed any of that fantastical bullshit.
I stepped on plenty of ants. Yup, I sure did. My foot may as well have been the hand that flipped the switch —the light was on—and then it turned off. Simple as that. Here one second. Gone the next. The residual memory of who we are eventually fades into the obscurity of time, and that’s the moment when an ant is forever erased from the canvas of reality.
…that’s what I used to think.
There was this guy. His name was Casey. The local construction company needed a handful of dumbfucks to repave White Dove Street. Yeah—it was a summer job. The dead of summer. A heatwave cooked the whole damn town. The job paid well, though. Perhaps a little too well. Never underestimate what a desperate man will do if they’re offered enough money.
It was Thursday. No. Friday. An ice cream truck orbited the block every Friday. Chubby kids were lured by sweet music, however, the heatwave melted weak kids. Only desperate souls waddled across a singed lawn, a dollar in their fat hand, sweat burning their hungry eyes. Yeah….it was a hot Friday.
We were going nowhere fast. Jerry knew how to deal with the heat—he ran to a nearby liquor store and bought a case of Snake Eyes. Not my favorite brew, but I wasn’t in the mood to argue. Jerry packed the cans inside a dirty cooler. We didn’t pave the road any faster than usual, however, the heatwave didn’t seem so bad. Not because the beer was cold, which it wasn’t, but because I could no longer give a damn about the weather.
The black asphalt radiated a hellish warmth, as if I stuck my head inside a devil’s oven. After we spread the asphalt with our rusted shovels, it was Jerry’s duty to operate “The Roller”. It was a mechanical rolling pin which weighed…well…nobody knows. Jerry rolled along the pavement: back and forth…back and forth…back and forth. Simple. Mindless. Jerry was the perfect man for the job.
The Sun incinerated our sweaty heads. Yeah. Around noontime. A blue sky wrapped around the town. Time was ticking. Nobody noticed. A slow day. You know how it is. I was lost inside a daydream, thinkin’ about what I would do if I no longer cared about working construction. I was thinkin’ about running away to chase a fate which I deserved. Someone else can clog their lungs with sand and dirt. Someone else can blister their hands. Someone else can sweat. Why should I?
That’s when I heard someone scream.
I heard the song of death—the musical notes consisted of painful pleas and cries. Paralysis hugged me tight as the construction crew covered their mouths or stumbled away. Calloused hands veiled their sore eyes. Yeah. Jerry panicked. The Roller kept on rollin’, and it didn’t stop until the job was done. We couldn’t tell who it was. Not at first.
The mashed biology gleamed in the sunshine. Puddles…bright and red. Pieces of someone who was like you and me. Nausea punched my stomach. Casey’s lunchbox hadn’t been opened—it was the only thing that remained identifiable. We didn’t know what to do. Casey was dead, just like a squashed ant. There was nothing we could do about that.
A jury decided that Jerry was guilty of manslaughter. The state snuffed out his life…as if he was a burnt cigarette. The rest of the construction crew was fined and deemed “too irresponsible to operate heavy machinery”, which meant we were not allowed to participate in construction jobs, for the rest of our useless lives.
Needless to say, I had plenty of time to kill. I slept, of course. Yup. I did.
Most nights I woke up to take a piss, then went back to bed. Neither here or there. Simply existing. Persisting. The low drone of a placid life made it really easy. There’s something about silence…she’ll lure ya inside the comfort of her soft arms. But she won’t let go, while the grains of time evaporates. Silence and I know each other very well.
Can you remember your dreams? Yeah. I used to be like you, too. The night used to just pass by. Not anymore. Each hour lingered and refused to be burned by the desert of my past. Sleep whisked my consciousness into an illusory state. There I was…standing on White Dove Street…shovel in hand…ice cream truck making its predictable rounds…Casey crying as his bones crushed into dust. Sunshine warmed my skin. The birds chirped. A red river flowed towards my boot. The crew? Yeah…you’d think they would be used to seeing a squashed ant, but the shock of seeing their exterminated friend, not only traumatized their waking perception, but also their subconscious domain.
I don’t know what’s worse: dreaming about being at work…or reliving a nightmare which can never be forgotten.
A dead man lives inside my dream. Scholars dismiss my testimony as being the byproduct of a deranged man. Perhaps they’re right. Perhaps not. The possibility may keep you awake at night. I’m sorry.
Casey can’t speak—abyssal pupils tell me everything I need to know. He can’t be helped or saved. Apologies don’t matter. Is that the fate of all squashed ants? The crushed remnants of his broken bones were stitched together by my resentful imagination. Grotesque hands reach for my neck but he can’t strangle the life out of me. Casey floats like a summer breeze. Bloody tears rain on the fresh pavement.
I’m going to sleep. I’ll see you soon, Casey.