She wonders if it's possible, over time, for a touch to smooth out the
letters. Her finger won't stop tracing the final 's' in "Summers." The
nail's edge follows the carved groove over again, and again; it feels
cold, every time she does it. The friction won't create heat.
Dawn can dimly feel the grass beneath her prickling against her skin,
probably leaving green-tinged indentations on her knees. She doesn't
feel like a person who doesn't really exist. She closes her eyes,
feels her hand move on autopilot. S. S is for snake. S is for sunrise.
S is for stupid. A versatile letter, s.
If she sat here for a year, or two, or twenty, would that be enough to
move the marble into one of those featureless stones that dot the
field? Logically, she knows it's not doable, knows that years of rain
and wind and long frozen winters are what it takes to make rocks turn
to dust. Her geology teacher helpfully shapes the word in her mind,
enunciates each syllable. E-ro-sion. It doesn't stop an image of
decades of mourners, kneeling in neat rows, wearing down solid stone
with the sheer force of grief.
Despite the stone's cold, the air feels too warm; everything seems too
hot for real pain. It hasn't rained all day. It hadn't rained when
their mother died, either. She wasn't really expecting it this time.
Not in southern California, not in the summer. Not realistic. It's
just...movies. It always rains in the movies. Except when it doesn't.
It's not just the heat, and the dryness. It's the silence, the eerie
empty dead silence and the stillness. Lack of motion. Noiseless
world. She used to play imagination games with herself as a child,
pretending that the carpet of her bedroom was really vicious piranhas
and that if she allowed any part of herself to touch it she would be
eaten alive. Little-kid things, things she tells herself she's
outgrown. She's half-playing one now, with the same almost-real
intensity: I Am the Last Living Thing. It's not like there's anyone
around to argue. Unless you count the ones underground.
She thinks: I should be used to this by now.
Her eyes trace the scar on her palm.
Dawn. Empty. Rain.