This week on My Screaming Twenties celebrates the recent release of Kindra M. Austin’s newest novel, The Black Naught.
chapter one: Birds/Bleeding Hearts
Talk to me. I want to hear your thoughts.
Am I asleep? Am I dreaming?
Tell me a story. Or tell me about today.
Is that really you I hear?
Begin at the beginning.
Okay. I remember lying down between cool cotton sheets at dusk, when the black naught in the corner of our once shared bedroom would yawn awake. Even though I was old, I was sent to bed early the night before our annual trip to Tawas. I’d ignore the sentinel thing and look out the window to watch the dim white stars stir silvery blue in an inky sky. What if I could pull down the night? I wondered; and I imagined thick, wet panes falling to the earth. Other times, I’d try to hear the sound of God’s choir. A sound so awesome is something unfathomable, though, so I’d end up falling asleep to the memory-sound of your perfect breathing. I didn’t realize when you were alive that the resonance of your young lungs was far more marvelous than any song sung by the stars. Hell, I wish I didn’t know it now.
Renny. I was dreaming of the sound of your breathing when the scent of cheap white musk and smoldering tobacco woke me. I can’t tell you how many goddamned times I’ve asked our mother not to smoke inside the house. She was in the kitchen, washing dishes and talking to my tabby cat. As I was awake, I couldn’t help but listen to the lilt of her voice.
“Milton, your mama needs you to wake up,” she told him. “Yes, she does.”
I wasn’t ready to start my day. I wanted to stay in bed, wrapped up in Peter, and watch the rise and fall of white cotton sheets for a little while longer. Or close my eyes and go back to dreaming. In my sweet sleep, you were sat on the beach, building sandcastles and exhaling gusts of wind so strong, you sent the clouds sailing across the sky. You were wearing that ugly hand-me-down bathing suit. The pink one with daisies printed all over.
Rising orange-pink sunlight penetrated my eyelids, and I turned away from the window. The birds sang, and their songs filled me with dread. I thought of the entity – the sentinel thing. A shadow hovered above me, and I was afraid to open my eyes again. I wasn’t afraid I’d see the black naught’s non-eyes nodding off – it had abandoned me years ago – but afraid of your accusatory milky ones, staring down at me from your waterlogged face. Of course, I have no real idea what you’d looked like after you were recovered from the lake.
The Black Naught by Kindra M. Austin is available to purchase below:
(Available internationally too)
To follow Kindra M. Austin and her work: