By Jane LaPaglia
Roxy huddled on her side in the corner rocking her upper body from left to right in a frenetic pattern. Her arms crossed at her heart
and she held herself in a death hug. Every few minutes, a shiver would interrupt her rocking. These quakes started at her core and
rose outward to the edges of her fingers and toes. The corner’s walls darkened the spot where she lay. Overhead, in the absence of a
roof, the constant state of dusk permeated with a residual cover of cloud, dust and ash. She and the corner appeared to be all that was
Her clothes hung on her body with the moisture in them causing sticky discomfort. Rock...Where? she thought. Rock…Where?
Rock…Where is…? Rock...Where is everyone? Rock…Why am I here? Rock…What’s happened? Rock…
As she curled and rocked, she drifted in and out of awareness. During periods of lucidity, her cognizance brought the realization that
every sound of the city was gone. There were no horns, ambulances, car engines, or even freeway noises. She heard no voices of
humans or birds. She noted the soft dripping of a light rain on her skin and heard its barely audible patter. Her eyes were laced together
at her lashes with a thick crusting of eye goo, dust, ash and death. She wouldn’t release her arms to clean the crud out. Each time she
tried to pull her arms away to clean her eyes, her body would convulse.
A shuffled footstep arose on the pavement nearby. She lifted her torso and rested her back against the corner. Her head hung limply
from her neck. She pressed her back firmly into the corner and allowed the bulk of it to replace her former pacification. She was
unable to call out, yet inside she shouted, “HELP ME!” The footsteps sounded far away and they were at a slow casual pace.
Shu…shu…shu…shu. In Roxy’s mind it seemed as if an eternity passed, but eventually the footsteps quickened and grew louder. Shu,
shu, shu, shu. She still found she was unable to speak, but she started to bang her candy-heart, slip-on Vans against the floorboards in
hopes that she would be heard.
In reverse of the quickening footsteps, they slowed again and became more distant. Shu...shu..shu, shu. In what felt like a microsecond,
the sound was gone. Roxy’s head and body slipped out of the upright position and the side of her skull bounced off the floor as she
Roxy’s body returned to its previous rhythm of rock, rock, rock and her arms reformed an “X” across her heart. Tears flowed in
automatic response to the footstep’s desertion. Roxy’s attention was drawn to a burning sensation the tears caused on her caked eyes.
She rocked for hours before the footsteps returned. Shu…shu…shu, shu. The steps started slowly and sounded distant and as they got
louder they grew quicker. Shu, shu, shu, shu. Roxy tried again to use her remaining energy to raise her body up, but instead she rolled
from her side flat onto her back. She threw her arms off her chest and onto the floor. She bent her knees so her feet would rest flat on
the floor and then she turned her palms down on either side. She began to pound repeatedly, oscillating between hands and feet.
In her mind, she was determined this time not to let the person pass her by. Her throat was too dry and her lips were cracked, but she
pushed air up through her body and wailed, “Help!”
She continued to pound with all the force of her arms and legs. She even managed a second “Help!” that descended into a whisper.
This time, she realized the footsteps turned toward her and she knew she’d been heard. The feet slowed as they approached and carried
with them that same slow shuffle she heard the first time. Shu…shu. She heard the feet stop near her head.
“Aren’t you a doll?” he said.
“Help me. Something…happened.” Roxy cracked.
“Oh, something has happened.”
“Man weeps in the black.”
“I don’t under…”
The narrow man now crouched and used his big, rough hand to sweep Roxy’s long, baby-fine, brown hair back away from her eyes. He
put his hand on her forehead and petted her as if she was his child.
When moved his hand down her long strands, she heard “sshhht” and he tightened his grip on the ends of her hair. He pulled it taut
from the scalp to the end.
“Leave me alone,” she whispered.
He cut the hair on that side of her head as close to her scalp as he could get without cutting her. He gently rolled her onto her stomach
and cut the rest of the hair from the back and finally shifted her onto her right side and cut her remaining locks, leaving jagged edges
on all sides.
Roxy lay confused and pulled her arms protectively across her heart again and began to sway her body. As she moved, her body curled
into a comma shape with just her head and feet jutting out at both ends. The man slipped her candy-heart Vans off her feet and held
them in his hand. He looked at them and smiled. Roxy rocked and swayed as she listened to his footsteps scuff and scrape from the
direction that they’d originally come from.