My brothers hear burgundy, while I hear ochre, yet it’s a wonder we can hear at all.
Behind me, their breath feels hairy and coarse, like steel wool dragged across the alleys of my eardrums, along my dappled eyes.
We feel through the clammy walls of the tunnel, earthen rot, rusted damp, and rank odors of dead things slow-roasting in our nostrils.
We are thin boys using our bones to find the light, to prove that matters somehow.
One of us passes the remaining raw potato around, quartered like an apple but tasting raw, full of grit and moist dirt. Mother gave us a sack of them, along with a butcher knife after she’d dropped us in the hole and locked the lid. She said bets had been taken on the knife—who would use it first, who would feel it last.
We move on, like a human centipede, burrowing, chewing on roots and stones and clumps of clay.
My brothers say they hear an attic, a soiled bed sheet, a toaster cord frayed at one end. They cough broken sirens. They shit their pants with dust.
Then I hear grey screaming pearl screaming parchment and powder. I punch through the ceiling shelf of soil, dirt clods bombing our shrunken heads and beanstalk necks. I punch again until I hear alabaster screaming salt screaming rice, punch again until the hole bleeds open-white, like a birth, like a tunnel without sides or borders.
Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and the author of four books, most recently the story collection, THIS IS WHY I NEED YOU, out now from Ravenna Press. You can find more of his writing at lenkuntz.blogspot.com