Before Tomorrow

Room 105 is hot. Shades and curtains drawn. Fractured light from the muted television. The air conditioner hums but puts out nothing.

I stand naked, staring at my flickering reflection in the bathroom mirror. My hair is growing fast, and I haven’t shaved since the day I became a civilian. I do not recognize myself.

I turn on the cold water, bend over, and drink from my hand. I smile at the idea of trying to get clean with the tiny bar of motel soap on the sink. I let the water run through my fingers and watch in a trance—round and round and down the hole. Feeling a little lightheaded, I turn off the water, walk into the bedroom, and sit on the edge of the bed.

Each day I draw a new plan in my head. I imagine impossible strategies that I will carry out before tomorrow. I try to picture blueprints for a cause. Something pure, that will fill this hole inside.

How long since I’ve been out of this room? When was the last time I ate? Two days, three days, more…

I’ve lost track of time. I no longer feel any obligation to the clock.

I wonder how “time” became so goddamn important. Humans trying to stamp order on chaos. And then, once we’re on the clock, we spend the rest of our lives worrying about how much time we have left before we’re dust—clicking the remote control, desperately searching for a sacred channel that will save us all. How many more bullshit distractions until… poof—and a pile of ashes.

I lie back in bed and close my eyes. I try to empty my brain. I wait for the thing that I can feel coming.

In a half-sleep, I can feel the emptiness that stretches out from my body in every direction—360 degrees of nothing—as dead as a disconnected phone.

I open the back door to my mind, and dream-walk through the wreckage scattered across the floor of my memory. A dark room of unrecognizable images. My brain is out of control. Dreams have become one with the dreamer.

A dull thumping in my head—the dragon is at the gate. I open my mouth to call out—to give myself up. My vocal cords are paralyzed. The thumping grows louder against the heavy silence.

I wake up in a sweat. Someone is knocking hard at the door. Still confused, I stumble, naked, across the room, unlock the door, and throw it open.

Standing in the night rain—five men. All dressed in the same strange uniform—white coats down past their knees, black shirts, and military-style berets with an official looking silver badge on front. Two of them are noticeably young—grim, steely-eyed boys armed with short-barreled, pump-action shotguns.

The man in front has a graying beard and seems to be the leader of the group. He raises his right hand, takes a short step forward, and says, “Sir, I arrest you in the name of the Virtuous Circle.”

Unshaken, I stand in the open door and stare past the group into the empty, rain-slicked streets—mute. The traffic light at the intersection blinks yellow.

The honcho points toward the two men stationed to his left.  They move quickly. One takes out handcuffs and secures my hands behind my back. The other slips a dark canvas hood over my head.

Raindrops cool my bare body as I’m led across the motel parking lot. I am helped into the back of a van. The doors slams shut. Rain comes down harder, clattering against the metal roof, drowning out any other sounds. For the first time in years, I can breathe out.




DB Cox

DB Cox is a Marine Corps veteran and blues musician/writer from South Carolina. His poems have been published extensively in the small press, in the US and abroad. He has published five books of poetry: Passing For Blue, Lowdown, Ordinary Sorrows, Night Watch, and Empty Frames. DB recommends the Best Friends Animal Society.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Sunday, October 10, 2021 - 22:05