Lost Souls Parade

Every night, when the awful parade crests the hill outside our neighborhood, I roll down onto the floor and slide under my bed. Hissing and grunting approaches past my window out on the street below. The sound is all at once familiar and new: an incessant dragging of lumbering idiots and lost souls. I stare at the coiled box springs over my head and count the seconds until it passes, and hold my breath. One for judgement, two for sycophancy, three for ambition (don't budge), four for resentment, and (don't even dare breathe) five for cruelty. The parade takes its time on the road tonight, as if it seeks a way to my stairs, a way to my heart.

Everyone I know hides when the parade rolls by. Hiding keeps my skin soft and warm. Hiding keeps me safe from harm. I've looked down through the gauzy drapes and I've seen the pearl eyes of the swine pulling the parade along. I've seen the eyes resting in inhuman face pouches below, on the dark streets below, gazing up for cracks to get up and in. If they see us they will send the judges up the stairs and into us. I will become one of them with the single damning prick of a pin.

The parade comes through each night, full of weak-willed power clingers, judgmental micro-men, bullies, braggarts, the entitled and presumptive, the unthinking sycophants, painted party girls and their executive charges dipped in drakkar noir, slyly pocketing Rohypnol and clapping their hands on the broken backs of the weak.

The Sycophants - the mutes of the parade dance an uncertain sidle in the center of the row of monsters. Their mouths are sewn shut and they hammer mad fists at their eyes to crush them out. These bendy, bowing wraiths carry weapons, notes and decrees to hand about to the others in silence. Sycophancy impugns with its spindly grace; it's long, damning silence. Its strident, silent steps keeps the movement going on lest the parade lose momentum.

The Judges - these tall, looming fallen angels waltz and flit through the center of the line, branching out and leading in as they tag things and name things and proclaim things. The hooded Judges knock signs down and put new signs up in seconds' time. They uproot bushes and scuff heavy feet on gravel, pointing, proclaiming, pinning signs to things and pointing and pointing until at last all is labeled and decided for the night. Their stooped, hooded heads sway and tilt, hangdog lower jaws swinging and mouths of bellow and bray. The Sycophants hand them notes and bags and stinging piles of push-pins, and they use them decorously. A Judge sees yellow light and announces, 'purple!' and pins it to the light, and lumbers on. He sees the green bush and shouts 'yellow!' in the same dumb voice, and pins it to the leaves and lumbers on.

The Ambitious - a scraggly pack of blind Ambitious wanders about the tide of souls. They stray, sightless and seeking and restless, red cloth masks spun bout their tiny skulls. One Ambition, the worst kind of sickness upon him, loses his place in line and slams into a trunk and climbs a tree, thinking there is a higher place for him where no one can touch him. He cracks and snaps limbs with forceful downward kicks as he scurries up, destroying his way back.

Limbs knock off one by one, but this Ambition keeps at it, higher and and higher, until he reaches the nest and settles in. At last. His red mask falls away and twirls down through the air to join the array of snapped branches like matchsticks circling the trunk. He sees nothing, but he has reached the top. Ambition clings to the bark and growls at the wind and growls at the air and hears imaginary dog paws scraping below and imaginary axes shuddering the wood. The sounds are just the scraping and grunting of more Ambition. They rub their faces raw against the bark, awful dark sockets revealed behind red masks that fall away to the ground. Only with the fierce roars of the judges do they fall away and join the pack, leaving their oldest in the tree, a blind sentinel covered in scratches.

The Resentful - these glowering demons never stray far from the parade, but slur through bitter pointed curses at the others. The oldest Resentful keeps far enough from the main parade to show it disgust it deserves, thinking god damn you, waddling up high embankments and staring down decidedly at foes. His crippled rotundity is a stain and a smear on the earth. He casts weary, bleary eyes down at all those who have wronged, victimized, insulted, disrespected him, failed his tests of loyalty and commitment, and he flings rocks at the parade. The sharp flecks of stone nearly shatter the glass of my bedroom window past the drapes, but I dare not get up to see, or the Bullies will see and send the Judges up.

The Bullies - these blustering, strutting cocks form the head and tail of the parade. Their chest puffing leads the pack. They smack elbows and beat drums and squeeze horns and worse. Their grins are fixed and stretch out over their lantern heads, big bone rows glimmering in the dark. The bullies in the back kick the ankles and legs of the stragglers, knocking feet forward til victims sprawl and gasp. They share a laugh, and another, scanning the streets for anything out of place, their predator eyes keeping watch for any stray trace of fearful window eye or shutter slam.

If they find you, or hear you, they kick you down your own stairs and wrench your neck about and push you forth along the route. From there, you go god-knows-where but you come back changed, worse each night, until you are fully formed and fully lost, and part of the throng.

All this passes by until the clock strikes one. By and by, the sound fades, and we roll out from under the bed, tired and scared. This night, as we stand up, a rebel floorboard moans and snaps, and its sound reaches the stragglers at the trailing end of the dissipating parade of souls. Our door clicks below in the black, and the swooshing of robes up the stairs, and a clicking and a tisk tisk, all clattering bones and delighted whispers.

Which will you be? They push out necks about and nudge us to the stairs. We stand and they prod us down asking and asking which will you be? Which will you be? They hiss and laugh. Which will you be? They pull out the pushpins and push them in us, and with their final pronouncements we fall in line to walk forever in the macabre parade.


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