Spine Call


Rrrrrriiiiiiiinnnngggg. Rrrrrriiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnggggg.


‘Roland, hi, it’s me.’ Breathing. Breathing.

‘What’s wrong? You sound out of breath.’

What’s wrong? I’ll tell ya what’s wrong, Roland. It’s my spine.’

‘Well, that doesn’t sound good, friend. The spine is important. The spine is everything.’

‘Don’t ya think I know that? Aaaahhh!’

‘What just happened? Are you okay?’

‘Aaaaahhhh! Egads!’

‘What’s happening over there?!’

‘My spine! It’s my spine, Roland!’

‘What’s wrong with it? Do you need help?’

Breathing. Breathing. ‘… No… No, it’s stopped now…’

‘What’s stopped? What’s happening?’

‘My spine, Roland, it’s doing something to me.’

‘What do you mean it’s doing something to you?’

‘It’s moving. It won’t stop moving.’

‘I don’t follow you, friend.’

‘You don’t need to, Roland. Just listen to me.’

‘I’m listening, I’m listening.’

‘My spine is moving. Like a snake in a velvet bag. It hurts.’

‘Perhaps, you should lie down, my friend.’

‘I can lie down, I can stand up. Sit, walk, run, crawl – Hell! – nothing matters, nothing changes. My spine keeps moving, Roland.’ Breathing. Breathing.

‘Alright, relax. You sound like you haven’t slept in days.’

‘They’re all leaving me, Roland. Every last one.’

‘I’m lost, again, friend. What’s leaving you?’

‘My bones, Roland! My bones are vanishing. As if they were never there.’

‘Oh, come now. What’re you saying? Come to your senses. You’re spouting like a loose faucet.’

‘My feet are shapeless. My legs are useless, they’re like rubber.’

‘You need rest, my friend. You need a full night’s sleep.’

I’ll never sleep again. My bones are disappearing. First my feet bones. Then my leg bones.’


‘Do you hear me, Roland? Since I called you, my hips have dissolved and vanished.’

‘You need to stop this. You always did love your brandy. Have you had much brandy tonight?’

‘It’s my spine that’s next, I tell ya. It’s moving. Fighting. It’s going. Won’t last.’

‘I’m going to drive over there. I’ll put you in that bed myself. I’ll see to it. That’s a promise.’


‘This is madness! What are you doing?!’

Slow, weighted breaths. ‘I won’t be able to use my arms and hands soon.’

‘You hear that jingling, friend? Those’re my car keys. You’re worrying me.’

‘Don’t come here, Roland. You shouldn’t see me like this. All flesh and no structure. It’s pitiful.’

‘I’m sitting here, keys in hand, wondering how long you’ve really been awake. And how many empty bottles of brandy I’m going to find around you.’

‘I’ve been awake awhile. Won’t deny that. But, that won’t make my bones come back. And I could go for a bottle of brandy right about now. Lord I could. No, Roland, you just stay where – Aaaaahhh!’ THUNK. Silence. THUD. Distant breathing… breathing… breathing…

‘Hello?! Hello?! What’s happened?!’

Distant. ‘Oh, Roland. Oh, god.’

‘Talk to me. What’s going on? Have you fallen?’

‘And it’s gone, Roland. My spine’s gone.’ Still distant.

‘No, my friend. Sounds like you might’ve taken a tumble. You’re imagining things.’

‘My spine, it just… went… just like that. I dropped the phone, Roland. Can you hear me?’

‘My friend…’

‘Can only move my… mouth and eyes, Roland. Oh, god. Oh, my teeth ache. Hard to talk… real hard…’


‘Roland, you’re the only person I thought to call. You’re my friend. Paint what I’ve told you tonight. Take those canvases out of your closet and paint these images on them… something dark… I feel like one of Goya’s black paintings…’

‘My friend… I… you… you need to stop this… this isn’t happening…’

‘Promise me you’ll paint what’s happened here tonight. Paint these horrors. Oh, it’s horrible. Aaahhh!’


‘My teeth – AH! – Roland. Like a mouthful of cavities. All packed with sugar… promise me you’ll paint.’

‘… I… my friend…’

‘My whole head, it feels like it’s splitting. Roland –‘ Silence. Breathing. Gurgling.

‘Hello? Are you still with me? Hello?’

Gurgling. Breathing. Silence. All distant.

‘… My friend. Hello?’

Breathing. Breathing. Gurgling. Guttural.


Inhuman. Silence. Distant. Distant. Intake. Exhale. Silence. Silence.








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