Big Joe Wilson wants to stay rational, but a cult has brainwashed his wife. They convinced and taught her to forget language in pursuit of an uninterpretable heaven on the other side. Now Big Joe has to decide. Will he relinquish complete control over his wife’s catatonic state to doctors, or will he give into the cult’s nonsense and go in there after her, on the other side of language?
“They Live on the Other Side of Language” is a serial novel whose chapters will appear monthly, exclusively on Tuff Gnarl.
Part I, Chapter 6
“Where Falls, So Too Does Rise”
Hundreds of invisible wind chimes rang throughout the neighboring forest. Joe listened to the breeze move circuitously through the trees. A high-pitched hum echoed off the mountain.
In the same rocking chair where he had sat all evening, Joe gave into the vibrations.
Alija stumbled through the front door. She climbed into his lap. Beneath the porch light, he opened his eyes to the young lady on his thighs. She curled into him.
“Do you hear the wind chimes?”
She nodded into his neck.
“You’re clammy. Are you getting sick?”
She shook her head.
“You’re not talking?”
She rubbed her forehead into his chest.
He chuckled. “Why not?”
She said no into his neck.
“You’ve been drinking, haven’t you.” Joe laughed. “Is that what you’ve been doing in there?”
He craned so he could see her and used his finger and thumb to tilt back her chin. She appeared to have trouble focusing on him. “All be darn. You’re schnookered.”
She smiled. She closed her eyes and wiggled into his chest.
“That’s okay. Just listen to the wind chimes.”
She mumbled, “Antoine makes them.”
The gusts gathered strength. Joe heard rattles and clanks. The chimes sounded frenzied, as if they scurried from something bigger and grumblier.
He had trouble focusing. “What does Antoine make? The drinks?” Joe wanted to know what that rattling came from. He wished the porch light and living-room windows would darken so he could see.
“No. Yeah.” Her breath felt heavy against his skin. “He makes the wine chimes.” She giggled. “Toast.”
“He makes the wine chimes, eh?” Joe laughed. “Well, then toast.”
She cuddled into him. She whispered, “Toast.”
“Toast,” he whispered.
“Toast,” she whispered.
The power went out. Lightening flashed. Alija’s body clung to his. The air exploded. Hundreds, maybe thousands of chimes gave way to an orchestra of clanking metal.
Joe leaped from the chair. He held Alija’s body tightly to his waist and chest. “What the hell is out there?”
When he turned, Antoine’s outline stood before the even darker doorway. Lightning flashed across the sky and illuminated both Antoine and the rifle by his side. “Bring her inside.”
Joe rushed through the door with Alija in his arms.
Antoine bolted the lock behind them. “Set her on the couch. I’ve secured the rest of the house and put a shotgun by the window for you.”
“What’s going on?” He tucked her into the couch’s cushions.
“You ever fire a shotgun?”
“Then whatever I miss with the rifle, you’ve got to hit when it gets closer.”
Joe grabbed the shotgun, felt for the rounds on the windowsill, and loaded the magazine. “What’s that scraping sound?”
“Just an alarm the wind triggered.” Antoine sat in a chair by a different window. He leaned the barrel through the window’s frame and lit a cigarillo. “Until the wind dies down and we know there’s nothing out there, you and me are on yellow alert.”
Joe chuckled. “You having trouble with the neighbors?”
The cigarillo burned bright enough to highlight his profile. Antoine pulled it from his lips and exhaled on its flame. “Not the human ones.”
“Yeah, you know that place where you’re going to?”
Lightening flashed. From his peripheries, Joe saw hundreds of human heads and arms swinging wildly from the branches.
“That’s where they’re coming from.”
(Click HERE to read chapter 7.)
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