Whistle and Hiss
In the morning, it rained.
Jordan woke up, swung his legs out of bed, and hit his left foot on the side of the nightstand. He swore, loud, and it started to rain.
This is not to suggest some causal relationship between the waking up, the banging of the foot, the swearing, and the subsequent downpour on the streets and rooftops outside. It is meant only to suggest that sometimes things happen that coincide without being coincidences in the traditional sense, and that these things can be powerful and poignant and having to do with rain.
Jordan's sister Celia had died the previous week. She was nineteen. Now she would have been older, except she had died the previous week. That bothered hell out of Jordan.
Jordan's mother had told him the full story. How Celia had been walking at eleven o'clock at night from the corner of Dufferin and Dundas to Dufferin Station, walking from an acting class. How she had tripped and fallen, and it was dark, and she couldn't see the man who helped her to her feet, so when that man offered to take her out for a coffee she'd been able to hear but not to think, to think (because it was dark), so she went, she went for a coffee and then they found her in a soggy ravine in the Don Valley and --
Jordan had said nothing. He had said absolutely nothing when, standing in the living room, his mother had told him all the facts, the details, even when his mother had lost control and went to go sit in the washroom, where she remained, silent, for forty-five minutes. In fact, Jordan had not spoken about it once since it happened.
But there were little things. He shut doors harder than was necessary, as if he was trying to be the doors vicariously and see if he could attain a certain sublime, violent velocity. He ate much more than he ever had -- at fifteen, Jordan was a skinny kid -- ate with a passion and ferocity that would perhaps have alarmed his parents had they not been wallowing at the bottom of their own private, airless mud baths.
(Mud bath: A porcine luxury where thick, dark sludge climbs into every willing aperture, rendering the participant blind, deaf, and unaware, if he or she is so inclined. Typically done in the interest of purity and personal growth.)
Today Jordan wanted to go to the mall. First he showered and dressed and ate a breakfast of coffee, cereal, apple cobbler, pasta, corned beef, and leftovers from the previous night's dinner. Then he hopped on his bike.
At the mall he knew what he wanted to buy, and that was a gun. The idea to buy a gun had come over him like a subtropical wave, leaving seashells and mermaids in his head. The idea had warmed him from head to toe, made him feel as though he was the smartest person to ever wake up with the rain. It wasn't that he had great plans for the gun, exactly. He didn't want to kill himself. He had only a vague interest in killing somebody else, and who that somebody else might be eluded him.
No, the gun was for Celia -- Celia who had always gotten As in school, who had played a bit part in a TV movie when she was thirteen, who was not a fan of guns, or drugs, or anything that might make the world a less pleasant place. Jordan figured that if he bought a gun, at least the memory of Celia would be protected, even if it was too late for the flesh and blood. Jordan had a habit of first deciding to do something, later thinking up a reason for doing it.
He went into the sporting goods store that he knew sold hunting rifles, walked up to the discreetly lodged Hunting Supplies counter at the back, and caught the eye of the attendant. Jordan was good at catching people's eyes.
"Hey," Jordan said. "I'd like to purchase a gun."
The attendant was a freckled young man only a few years older than Jordan. He was probably about the same age as Celia, the same age as Celia had been. Celia and the attendant could have dated.
"How old are you, man?" the attendant said. He gave Jordan a floppy half-smile.
"I'm buying it for my dad," Jordan said. It was a lie: Jordan's dad was a vegetarian and rarely hunted.
"You have ID?"
"Um. Can I just give you money for the gun, and then you can, you can just give me a permit or whatever?"
"That's not the way it works, man," the attendant said. "You give me some info and I send the info along for you to get this permit, right?, and then maybe, if they think you're really into hunting, they give you a gun and you can go shoot people. But nothing till then."
Jordan left the store. He stole a hardball and a catcher's mitt on the way out.
Biking home, he spoke to Celia.
"I need you to tell me what to do," he said.
I can't tell you anything anymore. I'm sorry.
"I really hate you not being around," he said.
I wish I could be there. I love you, Jordan.
He cried a little bit. It had stopped raining.
Celia's voice was clearer than it ever had been before. She had always had a bit of a husk, a throaty husk, but now, to Jordan's ears, her voice was piercing and gorgeous.
"Who was it that -- did it?"
It was a man. I want you to kill him for me.
Will you do that for me, Jordan?
I need you to do that for me, Jordan.
That night Jordan went to bed and wished with kamikaze conviction for a gun and a name.
Jordan had this dream where he kicked some jerk to death, kicked him for what seemed an interminable period of time -- for what was, in that languid way of dreams, an interminable period of time. He could have kicked that jerk forever.
The dream was filled with fleeting sounds and images, vagrant pulsing and itinerant blood.
This is what Jordan saw and heard:
Kick. Kick. Kick. A crunch. The crunch not paired with a kick. Strange. Kick. A whistle and a hissing, coming from the, kick, coming from the body, the jerk's body, whistle hiss kick kick.
Jordan realized that he had just kicked himself to death with somebody else's legs.
When Jordan woke up, he found he was no longer Jordan.
He discovered this after stepping out of bed, stubbing his toe on the nightstand, reflecting on the swiftly falling rain outside the window, and going into the bathroom to shower.
He discovered that he was no longer even a he:
Looking into the mirror, Celia felt a creeping splinter of remorse at the memory of her brother Jordan.
He had been killed while walking home from an acting class at Dufferin and Dundas, his body tossed into a ravine in the Don Valley.
So: Celia was Celia, irrefutably Celia, but she was also conscious of -- and held rapt by -- the knowledge that yesterday she had been Jordan.
Celia went down to the kitchen. Her mother and father sat at the kitchen table, their attention consumed by rows and rows of pictures of Jordan. It was as though they were assembling some saccharine, post-mortem TV special: Jordan, From Birth to Death: A Retrospective. Boxes of photo albums were laid out on the table. Celia's parents didn't acknowledge her as she reached into a box and pulled out a stack of pictures from two years before, from which she plucked a single snapshot of herself. In the picture, she was standing on a beach and putting on sunscreen. She dropped the rest of the photos on the table and went back up to Jordan's room.
She stared at the picture of herself for a long time.
Chest pangs like frail and pointed spider webs made her miss herself. She grieved for herself deeply and sincerely. She wished she were still alive, and then realized that she was.
She wished Jordan were still alive, and then realized that he had been at two separate and distinct points: yesterday and a week ago. That was the human condition, then: to be always alive at two separate and distinct points, running at staggered purposes but presumably with some purpose.
So Celia was alive now but had been dead yesterday. It wasn't supernatural. It was simply that these two events -- her living and her dying -- happened to coincide.
Celia decided to go to the mall.
She went into the sporting goods store that sold guns. She wondered why the store did that.
At the back counter that said Hunting Supplies, the freckle-faced attendant was smiling and reading the newspaper. Celia found him highly attractive.
"Hi," Celia said.
"Yeah," the attendant said. He was responding to the combination of Celia's voice and an engrossing statement in the newspaper, with which he apparently agreed.
"I was wondering," Celia said. "Do you remember if a young kid came by here yesterday? About an inch taller than me, thin, blond hair? A boy."
The attendant dropped the newspaper. "Hmm, yeah," he said. "The kid who wanted to buy a gun."
"Yeah. He just wanted to, like, give me money, and I'd give him a permit, but I told him that it didn't go that way. Kid just left. Looking for him?"
"Not really, I guess."
On the way out of the store, Celia stopped by a shelf of hockey sticks that had toppled. She put the shelf and sticks back in their places and felt a dull warmth sink into her stomach.
Biking home, Celia spoke to Jordan.
"Did you kill him?" Celia said.
No. How could I? I don't know who he is. Or who I am.
It started to rain. The tires of the bicycle, along with the pavement, became wet and slippery.
"How did this happen?" Celia said.
We were always close.
"Death is scary."
I know. I don't know which side of it's scarier.
The tires lost their grip. Skidded.
"I love you, Jordan."
I love you too.
The bike tumbled. Celia and Jordan hit the ground. Rain fell.
I'm cold here.
About the author:
Daniel Karasik is a 16-year-old writer from just outside of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He's been published here and there (primarily there), and has recently started spitting out his and others' words on stage as an actor in Toronto's thriving theatre community. His Thing Of The Moment is winning the Under 20s Playwrighting Contest at Toronto's internationally lauded Tarragon Theatre. He wonders if frogs implode in a leap year.