A Sound of Blood
He was a man like any, many, other. Until one day when he woke suddenly. A taste, something strange, a thing one usually doesn't taste first thing in the morning.
It came along with a dull noise. Thudding. Like a knock on a door with a fistful of carpet.
Soon, the words I love you appear.
Again, the taste. There it was.
Bitter. A rancid, sticky candy sort of feel. The mash of toffee in his mouth allowing no escape. Raw iron slipped down the back of his throat. An ache came with the smell. Its smell; the aching owned the stench. It moved from head to stomach.
Vomit. Luckily managing not to turn left, towards his loving wife, but right, over side of the bed. It splattered, flicking ugly bits back up at him, painting a light coat over the comforter; bacon and egg sandwich, cheese, the ketchup long digested, sparingly a little onion.
“Honey,” his wife startled to action, “are you okay?”
The word spilled from his mouth. Silk. Sweet. Almost sugary. No more vomit. Drool, the desirous saliva, replaced it.
“Fuck,” he said again. This time a little more enjoyment.
FUCK. Cotton candy for the lips. His palette lit up, one of those word games with Bob Barker, dozens of tiny stage bulbs firing up for the right letters. FUCK – passion on the Showcase Showdown. Saccharine. Syrupy sweetness. His face puckered, tighter than his wife's asshole.
“Should I call a doctor? Oh my you sweet man. Hold on.”
Off rushed his wife to the phone. To call and tell them he'd finally gone fucking mental.
Sweet words – they don't taste how they sound. Some words do, just not the sweet ones. Some are big fat, juicy berries, gushing into your mouth, all over your tongue and slipping down behind your teeth, down your throat like heaven. But others, the nice things, the things some people think are cute and lovely and ohmyyou'resomesweetforsayingthat, they're full of greasy, turgid cream, little boxed chocolates that when you bite into them explode with dry shit instead of orange cream or shredded coconut, sticking to the roof of your mouth, squat, wadded around your tongue, working all the way around the teeth, wedged into your gums. And those sweet things you wanted to say are now a rank stench in your mouth. You wish you could take them back. But you can't – not now – they stick with you, until you wash your mouth out, gargle, spit.
And still... they remain.
“Yes I need an ambulance. Somebody. My- my husband, yes. He's, well, I don't know. He isn't well.”
Symptoms, they wanted; what were his symptoms? She told them, he was having a fit, or something. It was hard to describe. Not if he could just say what was happening, but for some reason he felt as if saying it out loud would do him more harm than good.
He could see it now. Yes doc, tasting sounds. Tasting sounds are you? Well come on in now, sit down right here. Oh, just one second. Can't find a pen. I'll be right back. Write you a prescription for some of those pills to help people who taste sounds. Nervous laughter. Then the doctor with the degrees and empirical methods of science and logic would say, he's in there- he's fucking mad, lock him up, from behind the door as it closes. Two bigger men, maybe one of them has a goatee, the other a gaggle of tattoos, they come in, they say they're sorry, though they don't mean it they just say it because their employers require they say it, union stuff, solidarity all that, but they've got to take you now, somewhere nice and safe and friendly where some friendly people would like to talk, be friends, maybe help out a little with things friends are meant to help with. You know. Just go on in with them, friend. For a little chat. A friendly chat.
And then, violence. Struggle. Nowhere to go anymore. Strapped down to some old smelly mattress in a little room up on a forgotten wing of some underfunded hospital, paint cracking and curling like thick Italian pasta, fed by spoon, unwashed, having visits once or twice a day by people who, with the 'best of medical intentions', prod your brain, fold by fold by fold, and electroshock, lord yes, for something as serious as a mental disconnection to the point where sound and taste merge into one single, solitary sense, of course you'll be taken in for some of the good ole electroshock therapy.
Yes, they'll shock all that nonsense right out of you. Proper. Get that monkey off your back and have you nice and quiet and easy to manage in some forgotten wing of an overcrowded, underfunded, understaffed piece of shit wing in an urban hospital. A little brain in a jar, you'll be, for them to come stimulate with a few doses of wattage every now and then, show you off, say “we fixed that one”, and everyone claps. Yes, you'll be a case for rehabilitation, you will, on the shock therapy.
“Stop,” he managed to mumble via marbled tongue full of love's mangy taste and mouth-watering obscenity like icing, stolen, from the rim of a cake before it's cut. Somewhere near divine, the last bit. But the more she talked, the less perfect his mouth began to taste, an unflavouring. And talk she did.
“Oh, hold on- honey, are you positive? I mean, I've called 9-11.”
She put the phone back in her ear, ignoring him. This is when he could first feel it swell within him. Something he'd known before, but now with this new problem, his newly converging monistic sense of sound and taste, it became something else, something altogether unique. And no longer the sweet taste of cake.
Anger – spiteful words, hateful talk, boiling moments of rage in heated arguments – it tastes like copper, blood in the back of your throat. Except the blood turns to rot, an oozing, pus-filled, gangrenous sore that bleeds itself down past your tonsils, filling your nauseous gut until you can't take anymore. You explode. Spew the cancerous bile building inside your belly out over everybody. Anybody. Any living thing within reach. Spew. This is anger. This is true, terrifying, unbridled anger. The anger you taste. Spew. Anger that sticks to your teeth, warm and fuzzy, like little sweaters hugging every molar and incisor in reach. Anger you taste each morning when you wake; a dry, flakey grey paste on your tongue from the ash of hate. This taste, it is the truth behind anger. No wonder some people go absolutely mad. And spew.
Colour. A shade- black. More colour.
he was, some smell in his nose, iron-like. He didn't know what'd
happened. Had anything happened?
He couldn't tell.
At least not until looking down behind him. His wife. Her head. The look on her face spelled out H-O-R-R-O-R.
No taste for this. What he saw, his wife on the floor, the back of her head caved in and her scalp sort of peeled off looking how the sole of a shoe does when it starts tearing.
For a moment there were feelings of being distraught, a sort of loosened sense of being apart from everything, on his own, somewhere. Lost. Floating. Out amongst the stars, deep in space. Alone. Lost.
Then, he wondered.
He leaned over and dipped a finger into the blood pooling, slowly congealing now it'd been so long in reality, around his wife's mangled skull. He sucked his finger clean. The finger, now moist, stained reddish, looking like a big wad of chewing gum.
The blood. It didn't taste like anger, how anger seemed to taste of blood. In fact, it didn't taste like anything.
He quickly made his way to the kitchen, opening the fridge. There were tons of things to choose from. He chose to make a sandwich. It calmed him to make sandwiches. Often when he and his wife would fight, the first thing he'd do is come down from their bedroom, scene of many of their marital-mental sparring sessions, and make himself a sandwich. One of those good ones. One where you put a lot of effort in, not some lackadaisical sandwich, uninspired, made in a rush after forgetting lunch for work and dashing home, a sandwich on the clock.
So he made a sandwich. Because he wanted to know. No. He needed to. Had to know.
Mayo. Lettuce. Cheese. Deli meats. Some garlic powder. Mustard. A ring of onion, just a slice. Two or three leaves of spinach.
He was happy with this sandwich, a god standing over the beautiful bread heaven he'd created and admiring his handiwork. He wanted to know what it would taste of, now that sound and taste had formed a coalition of the senses, forging on into new worlds. He needed to find out what this new sensory enlightenment had done to taste itself, how sound becoming taste affected taste's primary function.
And when he bit into the sandwich slowly, crunching down into deli meat and cheese and lettuce with onion, it started. First, a roar. Then, as he continued to chew in those first new seconds, the roar became an epic, godly horn from the depths of eternity. He could barely stand it.
After a moment he stopped chewing. It hurt every atom of his being.
He started rummaging through the pantry, the rest of the fridge. He tasted everything. Even slowly licking ice cream came with a bellowing, yawning boom. It threatened to shake his testicles loose from the vas deferens holding them. Each food, no matter what it was, big or small, tasty or not so much, came with its own earth shattering screech or howl or banging, beating, blowing. Everything.
And so it went. On and on, torrents of sound engulfing all.
Then one day, far away, after he'd exhausted the limitations of his sanity for the immense racket in his head each time he tried to eat, he finally gave up. He stopped eating. Well, for a time he considered drinking blood, he imagined himself becoming some sort of modern vampire, feeding off people. Because the blood, his wife's blood, it hadn't tasted like anything. It was tasteless. No beating or screaming. No chorus of some horrific symphony from beyond. Just silence. And taste.
So it was either stop eating, or eat blood forever.
He'd killed his wife already. He couldn't even remember it actually happening, but he knew there was no will in him to kill anybody else. Just no way he could make a life for himself having to kill people so he could get a pint of blood, get it? A pint, and make it through the day. Going around to the blood bank, asking for a donation, for supper. Giving up food was the most sensible option in a world void of sensible options for him to choose.
And then he gave up talking because it reminded him of how everything tasted, before, back when things actually tasted and they didn't taste of screams or horns, out of tune and time, no rhyme, no reason, rusty, blasting their wobbly notes into his ear.
He stopped doing everything. Soon, he only sat. He became sitting. Sitting was what he did. All he did. Everything he was.
And then, another day, long past when he quit food and gave up speech, he finally perished. His body a frail shell. It no longer required sensory perception. No need for food, no matter what it tasted of, or sounded like. He didn't need to talk, because not only was there nobody to bloody listen, but he was finally gone. Dead. Expired.
Nobody found him for quite some time. He stopped talking to other people long before he stopped talking in general. Too hard to stomach. Other times, too much for him to bear. Too hungry, to hear words come out of the mouths of others.
When they did find him, of course they found his wife, her head smashed in. Everyone wondered, so curious, why a man like him would do such a thing to a woman like her.
Without any words, two detectives stepped around the home, a ghastly crime scene if there ever was one, examining things, trying their hardest to fit things together in a neat puzzle with a straight line from one to another. They had their wits, their senses. Neither would fail them. Right?
One of the detectives motioned, not speaking, to her partner indicating where her eyes were looking, implying his should focus on the same place. Her partner inferred the meaning, correctly. His eyes refocused, adjusting to their new point of interest. Unspoken. An understanding. Possibly, but not likely, their first clues.
The house looked as if someone had strewn groceries about, here, there. Everything stank. One of the lowest circles of Hell. The heat, a steamy balm over everything. Even the fake plants were busy sweating from the heat of decay. Each of the detectives occasionally pulled their button-up shirts out away from the body a few times, fanning themselves a little. Awful, the reek. A dripping humidity from long dead corpses sitting together in a closed space.
Death, everywhere. In the air. On the skin. You could taste death. Right on your tongue.