by Caleb Coy
He looks behind him, the thunder and the flash having come and gone. Houses to the left of him and houses to the right, solid and continuing. He feels them rising and swallowing the people inside further inward, people reaching outward with desperate fingers, to take him or have him take them he does not know. He knows that if he fell he would hit the ground, and this has never changed. Angels would not catch him.
He runs so fast because when he is fast the world behind and in front of him is slow, and he closes his eyes and imagines he is slow and floating through the air. A car could come at him and he could step away in time and see himself smash up against the car.
A neighbor whose name is already in one book or another steps out of his house and waves slowly at the boy going by. Waving with his only arm, the other gone. Three birds in their lawn chairs each sing hello, each in succession, so that backwards they would sing no different. Everything is in place and where it shall be, and all will be numbered accordingly, separated and sucked into a pocket, and what is done will be done and come to its own fruition.
When he hit the ball he saw it soar. The ball was thrown and in between the throwing and the hitting the ball traveled its path, and when he hit the ball it would go up and away and he would direct its course. The crowd cheered anyhow, and his parents cheered also, but he knew that his parents would cheer for him whether he hit the ball or not. He once saw his sister dancing, and she leaped into the air like her feet would never hit the ground. His cleats collide hard on the pavement in constant rhythm. Clot. Clot. Clot. Clot. She twirled her feet around the point of her toes and her arms arched in the air to a point above her. She leaped and her legs went forth from beginning to end and she would never come down.
He hears the cicadas calling and saw one on his shoulder in the dugout. When he ran from the park, they followed him. If he looks back they will fade away slowly; if he looks ahead the sun goes down.
There were locusts in Egypt and not in the wilderness. The blue houses crescendo on either side and are never-ending walls. The book is written on a table in the living room, all there for the reading, beginning to end, and nothing is that is not between its covers. There is a great big man with great big glasses who reads the book without opening it. When he returns home he returns again and again and again.
You run to first base because it is the first place you go. When you run home, it is the place you were destined to go. You have no say in the matter. He runs in his uniform by a nameless woman whose name is already in one book or another. She is going back into her house. She is already inside, tripping down the stairs; she is not yet to the curb, opening her mail. She is at her door. It is exhaustively settled.
He had tried to hold the bat right, as he had once tried to hold a pen to speak. The words were written beforehand. The pen could not speak in words, the strain was beyond him. The pen knew not what to say. The bat swung where it did. He wants to know what it is like to feel that he has control over an event. He is under a cloud that goes with him.
If he was preserved he could not be rubbed out. Yesterday was today prolonged until today. He runs beyond the trees and in winter the snow will fall on the trees and they will be dead. If he gathers the leaves now the snow still falls at its appointed time. A child is born before it is conceived and its name is written in one book or another, and it is already dead. It will all be swallowed up. His sister dancing, several alternate sisters all dancing with the same movements, coming back together and swallowing each other up into one. She leaps and never touches the earth again. They already knew they would be clapping for her, as they were clapping for him.
If he looks back he will fade away slowly; if he looks ahead the sun is gone down. The book is on the table and is already written: Nothing is left but to read it. If he turns left or right, this also has been written. When he hit the ball and sent it upward, it would be swallowed in the sun and never come down. He ran to first base and continued beyond. The ball came down and never touched the earth. He ran on down the line as it was swallowed in the glove. They called to him, but he ran past the fence and into the trees. He ran to where he knew not where because when he ran he was already there. They did not know they would be calling to him, confused and shaking their heads, but it was going to happen. He would not be forming a circle with the team and praying at the end.The people in blue houses did not care. There was a lot for each, and each would meet his always. He runs to where the grass is not growing, the low trailers in the filthy lot. His cleats kick up the dirt and it fades behind him, never touching the ground. Shirtless children chase an injured bird that cannot fly. A dog barks because it smells him already.
They had always told him to make a decision, one or the other, when to hit and when not to hit, and to have a good eye. When the ball was thrown he had already hit it, because one leads to the other between the covers of the book. If he closed his eyes it would never make it to him. If it moves to him, it will make it but it has not yet. But he is running, he is already there, and his face will run with blood, with all things once and always in their fruition.
He sees himself still at the plate, and there are two of him, one who is safe and one who has run between the houses looming over him to touch one another and fall. He thinks of the one who was safe, and what he might be doing in this moment, if they would be cheering for him. He is running under the houses but he does not stop. The horizon is drawing a purple curtain over the sun, and is a wall where one can run no further. If he runs, he ends, and if he ends he has ended. The other him is safe at home, his uniform is being washed, and he is complacent at the table, returning to the plate again and again and again. While the shirtless children chase the wingless birds that cannot fly.
He runs by a child holding a cicada, a child with beady eyes. He hears the cicadas and the barking. The dog is mangy, scarred, and chained to a stake. It barks with bared teeth and slanted eyes, and its saliva falls to the ground and touches the earth. The bird’s feathers float away and they do not touch the earth.
He can run but the blue houses will fall over him and when he runs in the road and drowns they will swallow him. Everything is in place where it shall be and will be numbered accordingly, separated and sucked into a pocket, and what is done will be done. If he looks back he has faded away slowly; when he looks ahead the sky has come down.
The waters come down slowly, like blood and saliva touching the earth. The chairs are filled when they are fashioned, and the glass shatters when it is framed. His cleats kick up the dirt and he runs into the open jaws that will then come down upon him.
He runs to be swallowed by the fanged gates that open wide when the chained hound leaps upward with its toes and never leaves the ground.
Caleb Coy lives in Christiansburg, VA with his wife and son. He has previously been published in Connotation Press and Contemporary American Voices. His debut novel, An Authentic Derivative, was self-published in 2015.