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Authors: Shane Jones

Crystal Eaters

BOOK: Crystal Eaters
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Table of Contents

 

Cover

Copyright

Part One

40

39

38

37

36

35

34

33

32

31

30

29

28

27

26

25

24

23

22

21

20

Part Two

19

18

17

16

15

14

13

12

11

10

9

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

0

Also published by Two Dollar Radio

TWO DOLLAR RADIO
is a family-run outfit founded in 2005 with the mission to reaffirm the cultural and artistic spirit of the publishing industry.

 

We aim to do this by presenting bold works of literary merit, each book, individually and collectively, providing a sonic progression that we believe to be too loud to ignore.

Copyright © 2014 by Shane Jones

All rights reserved

ISBN: 978-1-937512-19-4

Library of Congress Control Number available upon request.

Cover:
Dannemora mine with the open pit “Storrymningen,”

Elias Martin, 1780-1800.

Author photograph
: Erin Pihlaja

Typeset in Garamond, the best font ever.

No portion of this book may be copied or reproduced, with the exception of quotes used in critical essays and reviews, without the written permission of the publisher
.

This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s lively imagination. Any resemblance to real events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental
.

TWO DOLLAR RADIO

Books Too Loud to Ignore
.

TwoDollarRadio.com

[email protected]

Part One

40

 

I
t feels good to believe in one hundred.

They walk through the village wondering how many they have left. Their land is homes and shacks lining seven dirt roads. Everything is hit with sun. Tin roofs glare. Wooden structures glow. The city appeared at the horizon like a mountain range decades ago but it’s close now – dangerously close and growing closer by the day – and believing in one hundred is a distraction. A long road connects the village to the crystal mine. A man named Z. mumbles his number and walks by the home of Remy.

Inside Remy’s home Harvak the dog is on the table. With each breath his stomach balloons pink skin. His left eye drips crystal (Chapter 5, Death Movement, Book 8) and his count lowers. Remy thinks about lying face down and entering a place where she wouldn’t hurt. She pets Harvak’s head ten times but nothing happens. She touches a Harvak hair on his leg longer than the rest. When she pulls the hair like a rope attached to an anchor, fingers over fingers instead of hand over hand, the end result is a hole with zero inside. She spins the hair into a wreath. With one finger she taps the hole ten times but again nothing happens.

Two gasps from Harvak are split by Dad yelling from downstairs that dinner is ready. Her hand bleeds from Harvak’s
teeth. His body stiffens with cooled blood and fleas jump from the remaining fur so she covers him with the blue sheet and places the hair wreath on top.

Harvak lost his count in various ways.

One afternoon in the crystal mine he slipped, kind of toppled forward over his own front legs and fell down a sharp incline, jaw spooning black dirt outward, spine struggling to right itself with twists.

Remy accidently hit him with her bike and the snap, like a tree branch, made Remy look to the woods, not back at her dog with the broken leg twitching in the road.

The most damaging was the village-wide panic when the city came into focus, shadow-bodies grazing on the horizon. Everyone went into a panic, filling burlap sacks with canned goods and clothing, quickly clearing shelves. They sprinted from their homes after double-locking their doors with two-by-fours, and they slept in tents in the mine. Elders said to protect the crystals. Some held knives. The strongest took turns patrolling the perimeter, resting against the stilts of wooden structures while others read books and played a game where they tossed crystals into cardboard boxes from fifty feet away. What they forgot was Harvak. It was deemed too dangerous to return. Late at night Remy tried to sneak out and was restrained, full nelson, by a boy with a black facial scar in the shape of a key who told her the city is coming, get into the mine and hide. Harvak stayed pressed against a window where he waited for an approaching body, no food or water near, the sun warming the glass. Remy imagined his ribs rising through his fur.

Other punishments included being slapped for eating Dad’s boots. Put in a room for barking he couldn’t control because he was scared of the city. Screamed at for running in the house and wobbling a lamp that tilted the light from Mom who had fallen asleep on the couch holding a red box. Punishments created by humans and placed on dogs. Remy’s dog. Her dog. Harvak.

Looking at the blue sheet’s shape on the table she pulls herself through every negative moment resulting in a lower number. Harvak is far past the life expectancy of a dog (40 crystals) and his old age has quickly taken the remainder in the last week.

Remy asked her parents before if crystals could be added, life extended. Dad said no with the word tucked inside a breath over his forked potato. With the simplest questions Remy felt like she was bothering him. Mom said yellow were used for electricity, blue were common, red and green rare, and don’t mention black, because despite the rumors no one’s seen one. You can’t increase your count because your number only knows how to get smaller.

“Dinner,” Dad repeats from the kitchen, his voice hard, angry.

Remy once believed each pet on Harvak produced one crystal inside. Every day, falling asleep in bed, she made sure to touch him a minimum of ten times. She’s done this to herself before, while standing at the bathroom mirror, tapping her body in sets of ten, starting at her forehead, then to her shoulders, then to her heart, and finally ending at her stomach where the crystals shine.

If I walked away, got in bed, got into a position where I couldn’t see what was happening right now maybe my number wouldn’t fall
.

In the kitchen Remy says Harvak is gone. Under the amber ceiling light they stand. Dad leans against the sink, water running over wooden dishes. He exhales and stares at his boots. Something more than Harvak’s death is wrong. There’s silence and dread stacked on top of previous silence and dread. Mom says she’s sorry into Remy’s head. From Mom’s mouth pressed into her hair Remy smells the sourness of dead dogs and she begins, with one finger, counting on Mom’s back.

39

 

W
ith lips coated in glittering filth, dressed in red shorts with white trim, Remy mourns Harvak’s death by running like a dog in the crystal mine. Two separate roads – one for trucks to enter and one for them to exit – spiral down to a field with pyramids of excavated dirt. Remy as dog-child moves on all fours. On the dirt mine walls rest wooden buckets dangling from a pulley system built on the ground above. Idle work trucks with their gun metal paneling appear two-dimensional in the evening light glimmer while Remy’s left hand shines wet with blood from the rocks that pinprick her palm.

She imagines her count as a loose pile of yellow in her belly, not a stack of a hundred red. No combination of touching her body helps, it just feels good.

As a toddler, lying in bed on top of the covers, naked, with blond hair hooked around her shoulders, she asked Mom to place a hand on her stomach and to guess how many. When her hand touched her skin Remy puffed her chest and made a scared inhale. Mom said
One hundred
. She asked Dad, who was in the garage fixing the truck, his head buried under the hood, if she’d reach a day when her count would be zero. He pulled himself from the engine holding a wrench the size of her forearm. He crouched with the wrench on his thigh. At first he seemed
irritated because she had interrupted his work, but then he said
As long as your Mother is around you’ll always have at least one
.

She knows now that everyone is losing.

Kids in the village have witnessed their parents vomiting blue and yellow slush into kitchen sinks, toilets, couch cushions, their laps. Remy has studied Mom’s lead-heavy movements, her shortened steps, her cough that turns heads at the market. Remy can help herself and Mom by learning how to add crystals to what is already inside, she just needs to figure out how. There must be a way to add. There must be a way to reverse the fall. Like the thought that Brother rallied behind so obsessively and look where he is now, city prison. The universe is a system where children watch their parents die. Mom loses weight with sunsets. Her skin dims with sleep. Remy tells herself that she’ll be the one to figure out what nobody else can. She’ll save Mom from experiencing the number zero.

BOOK: Crystal Eaters
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