from Before I Die I Will Build a Windmill
What are you working on right now?
Before I Die I Will Build a Windmill will be released soon from Lazy Fascist Press. It is set amid perpetual bushfires that slowly consume the cities of Australia and force humanity to seek refuge atop mountains. The story follows the life of Tom, an early settler, who, after receiving advice on an anonymous cassette tape, vows to build a windmill. The book focuses on the cyclical nature and embedded patterns inherent in life and the associated difficulties when one attempts to escape.
I see her enter the camp and feel somehow I have always loved her. A feeling that existed as something destined for me and I was born into it. Merging with me as I faced the new world and hibernating with me until the arrival of this moment. She looks like my personal ubiquity. That figure searching for detail that manifests inside me every time I seek to conjure an image I have never seen. The character I imagine whenever I read a book. A physical embodiment of my absolute. I dare not describe her appearance. Doing so would detract from it, steal from the energy her appearance creates. She does not merely appear. It is enough to understand she looks like a new heart experiencing the first beat.
She has arrived with a man, but the two of them do not seem connected in a way indicative of threat. I suspect they are siblings. I want to approach her but fear the reality such an action may create. Others have already come to greet the pair. There is laughter. King wraps his arms around my true love and she does not stop him. They are shown around the camp with grandiose gesticulation.
I direct my eyes toward the Drenthe windmills and focus my ears on birdcalls from above. If she is the love I believe her to be, she will come to me. Should she stay away, I will not question it. I shall not force myself upon another’s situation.
We meet later that day. I have started a fire and tend to it by shifting the wood with a stick. She and her companion had been building a shelter with King’s assistance. Evening has gifted her its lethargy. She sits beside me before the fire, alternating between deep breaths and yawns. I catch both and reproduce them with less grace. The manual work has burned through the artificial scent she entered the camp with, revealing her natural scent. She smells like fresh earth and I wish only to dig within her and plant myself in her fertility.
“I’m Gloria,” she says. “We haven’t met yet.”
“I’m Tom. Welcome to the camp.”
In the firelight, she looks like another flame, lending light to the growing darkness.
“It’s so beautiful up here. When I heard what was happening, I had to come.”
“What did you hear?”
“Nothing much. Just that people are gathering. Escaping the smoke. It’s become worse down there.”
“Do you know anything about windmills?”
“No. But King filled me in on the plan. I’ll help out any way I can. Why are you building a windmill anyway? King didn’t really have any answers.”
It is a good question, one I do not imagine will encounter an answer. It sits above us as
a guiding principle, a way forward.
a guiding principle, a way forward.
“It just seems important to build,” I say. I show her my book of Drenthe windmills. “They’re all so beautiful.”
She smiles her way from page to page. No condescension or judgment. She embraces each photograph as though they matter to her.
“If we build anything as lovely as these, I will be very happy.”
I hear her words and let them live inside me awhile, allowing them growth. Spoken words are so rarely given permission to grow by those who hear them. Her words are an invitation for my own. I find myself verbalizing private thoughts to Gloria, thoughts I have tended with care and love. I never thought they would find speech to carry them.
“We won’t. These windmills… they’re part of what Drenthe means. They could never exist anywhere else. I’m starting to see relationships between object and place I never really saw before. I stare at the windmills in this book every day. Lose myself in them as though I was witness to their construction. I see their sails churning and hear the howl of wind that allows it to happen.”
Gloria is locked onto me. Riding my words, giving me courage to continue.
“Those windmills may have well sprouted from the Drenthe soil like grass. If you put a saltwater fish in a freshwater river, it would die. That’s how I feel about the Drenthe windmills. What we build here must reflect here. A marriage of land and object forming something perfect. Something only possible in this location. We need to honor both the windmill and the land it is built on by building it from what the land gives us. It has to reflect where we are. The windmill has always been here. It just exists in parts. In the trees and in the soil. Our job here is to find those parts and put them together.”
I let the silence relax between us, wondering how my words have been received, hoping I communicated something significant enough to remember. Gloria’s face is guided by her smile into a personal moment I have been granted access to.
Gloria, by virtue of mere presence, cuts through my solipsism, introducing me to the concept of a heart that truly beats outside the limited scope of my chest. I understand what it means for another to truly exist as I exist. I see the complexity that defines her. Each of her experiences are like cells, coming together and building a living, breathing, thinking other. Gloria is an entry point into an awakening that reveals how big life is beyond my smallness.
I stare at her and do not feel embarrassed. Let her eyes catch mine. Please let them see me. Our eyes meet and I know she is reading whatever story my eyes tell. Her calm alters into concern. Wide eyes slowly squint. Gloria moves her face toward mine, her eyes studying it like remains. I want to break my gaze, but cannot.
“I think you’re bleeding,” she says.
The comment sits before me, begging me to understand it. Gloria points at her nose as an illustrative example.
“You are. Your nose is bleeding.”
I brush a finger under my nostrils. Blood that looks black in the dying light. Gloria holds up a finger, gesturing for me to stay seated. She hurries away, disappearing from sight for a horrifying moment. When she returns, it is with a small handkerchief, which she pushes against my nose.
“Tilt your head back for me.”
When I do, all I see are stars. Beautiful stars. I wish my nose would bleed forever, with the two of us locked in this moment. A sky where stars never fade.
Matthew Revert is the author of Basal Ganglia (Lazy Fascist Press), How to Avoid Sex (Copeland Valley/Dark Coast Press) and The Tumours Made Me Interesting (LegumeMan Books). Revert has had work published in Le Zaporogue, The Best Bizarro Fiction of the Decade, In Heaven Everything Is Fine: Fiction Inspired by David Lynch, The New Flesh, The Bizarro Starter Kit (Purple) and Gone Lawn Journal among others. In addition to his writing, Revert has gained recognition for his design work for various highly-regarded presses and record labels.
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