A man lives in the basement and each day he yells. I don't know what he yells. I can't make out the words -- I can only hear the yell.
He talks to me in my sleep, when I dream. Every dream is the same, almost exactly the same. He talks about his family, about their deaths, how he is the last one, the only one that is not dead. He is the survivor, he says. But he is also the end, he says.
I hear him yelling in the day, but he doesn't yell at night. I dream that he comes up from the basement to talk, that he knocks on the door, that I let him in, that he insists we need to talk, so I lead him to the kitchen where he sits and he talks about his family, their lives, their occupations, their marriages, divorces, deaths. He often starts with a death, and by the death, also then the funeral, the wake. Thus he works out the rest of the family in its entirety, from death, always from the death.
He often speaks of his own death as well. He speaks of his own death as he does every other, as it fits into the whole story of the family. It is the culminative point of the story, his death is where the story resolves, or, rather, he insists that his death occurs after the story resolves. He speaks of his funeral and wake, but these are both beside the point, he says, these are not a part of the story. He insists on the boundaries of the story.
He talks about the story of his family, of how it ends, and, also, how it began. He describes it as a beginning, although there are always more people to describe who came before, and he often describes them as well. But he insists that there is a beginning, a definite start to the story of his family. And he does not consider his nephews a part of this family, he says. He insists on this. He tells me they are not a part of his family, and he does not speculate on their deaths. They are not in his will. He only speaks of them to exclude them, he says He introduces them specifically to exclude them. He uses them to frame the family as it is, according him, and as it will end, also according to him.
In these dreams, I always offer him water, but he never drinks. He does not drink the water, he does not cough, he does not pause, he does not sigh, although he often speaks as though he is sighing. He sighs while he speaks, but he does not pause to sigh. I find this strange. He does not pause at all, he speaks swiftly from the moment I open the door to the moment I wake. And I always wake while he is still in my kitchen. I leap from my bed, convinced that I had just nodded off, that he is still in my kitchen, waiting for me to return. That I left him there, a guest in my home. He is so lonely, he is the last of his family, he says, and I listen and listen, it taxes me horribly, and suddenly I wake and think he must still be there, waiting for me, angry with me. But he is never there, he is only there when I dream. But when he yells, I believe he is yelling for me to return, yelling for me to return to the kitchen so that he may finish his story. He is never able to resolve the story, his story is always unfinished -- I always wake before it ends.
I believe he yells for me. I believe this is why he yells, although I have never spoken with him, I believe this is why he returns to my door and I seat him in the kitchen. And when I wake up and check for him, he is gone. But I have never seen him. I only hear his yelling. Every day, I hear his yelling, and every single night he comes to me, in my dreams. And I have always let him in. I have always let him speak. I have never spoken to him in these dreams, I have never spoken to him -- I have only heard him yell. Every day he yells, and every night he comes to my door to speak. But I do not know why he yells. I do not know why he comes to me.
Zac Smith lives in Boston, MA, where he likes to walk his dogs. His stories have appeared in Hobart, X-R-A-Y Lit, Philosophical Idiot, Soft Cartel, and other very sweet online journals. His twitter is @ZacTheLinguist