3:4: “April”, by Jay Lake

3:4: “April”, by Jay Lake

The Fish opens his runny eyes. He sees the world as if through fried eggs, yellowed in the center with pale, brown-streaked overtones radiating away. All around him flowers bloom. Their thick green stems tower over him like impossibly tall crayons terminating in an explosion of colored petals.

Mauve, thinks the Fish.

He fears his memory, but the words spin into his mind of their own accord without the effort of recall. Rhodamine. Chartreuse. Umber, ochre, cornflower blue. Color names are poetry in their own right, little words fallen through the cracks between parts of speech. Are they adjectives? Nouns?

He will be the Prince of Colors, the Fish decides. He will found his own kingdom among the flowertops. Delicately balanced pistils could provide defense of the realm while stamens served as proud policemen at the busy junctures where the ladybugs and aphids crowd together.

The Fish stands, breaking through the bustle of color and life that have informed his fancy until his runny eyes squint against the sun. Butterflies dance around him, mobile flowers unmoored from their stems. If the colors of the flowers are quasinouns, the butterflies are all verbs.

Flit.

Flitter.

Flutter.

Fly.

Flee.

Flagellate.

Flog.

Flense.

Like a butterfly of another order of magnitude the Fish dances away from painful memories. Colors are safer, except for sanguine red and bruise purple. Bone splinter white is unlucky, too. The safe, colorful flowers are his fair weather friends. Their woody stems and skeleton burrs will keep him company in the long-coming fall, before he burns them for his winter warmth.

Time is not his friend, either.

“Whan that Aprille, with his Shoures soote!” shouts the Fish. But the flowers do not care. Neither do the butterflies. None here is toilsome nor spinning, except the Fish himself, who constantly is called back to tend the engines of memory.

Those engines are hard-edged, blade-sharp, red and purple and white. They are marked with sigils warning of dire consequences, signs of fear and pain. The Fish approaches them carefully, drawn by their ineluctable summons.

“April is the month of opening,” whisper the engines. “Open for us.”

“No,” says the Fish. He longs for the simple beauty of the flowers. Their pigments are smeared upon his toes, their green sap rotting on his ankles. The engines of memory corrupt everything they touch.

“Open, little man, and tell us your secrets.”

There are secrets everywhere, thinks the Fish. Flowers have their secret day to bloom. The moon has her secret place to hide in the dark quarters. People have secret words and deeds.

“Open.”

He thinks of color, his fried-egg eyes tinting everything a cowardly, gloomy shade of yellow. Fish swim in water, but the Fish swims in a sea of colored memory.

April, the month of opening, is forever rooted in his mind. Long after the engines of memory have ground down to time-locked rust, the Fish will forever dance among flowers. He never told his secrets, not even to the butterflies.



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