She Thinks by Nick Stokes

Nothing. There is nothing there. Footsteps on the porch. Her own? She is inside, within, she’s sure, at least most of her. Should she shoot? It’s a moral question. She sees darkness, which implies absence of light, which is not what she thinks she sees until she’s thought it. Can one shoot one’s footsteps if one is inside and one’s footsteps are outside? It’s a question of morality. Can she smell herself?

Yes, she thinks. She does not think the stink; the stink is free of her. Of her. Emanated, she wishes she hadn’t thought. The stink is material evidence of her presence. She can imagine she imagines the footsteps; she cannot imagine she imagines the stink. Enough with the stink. Emissions from the membrane between internal and external, from the skin, from where she sweats from anticipation, from exertion. Silence the stink, she thinks. One cannot shoot stink. She is here. Is anything there? She looks, she listens, she breathes. She thinks.

Footsteps on the stoop. Heavy skittering, furtive scuttling, the stench of urine, outsized gnawing. Her own? Another constructs an entrance, exploits a crack, employs a hole. She thinks, Rat. Should she open a door, should she shoot, should she do nothing? Ethical questions. Maybe it’s cold outside. What if it’s cold and clear and the aurora borealis billows like a translucent purple green blue sail in shifting stellar winds while coyotes howl in the sagebrush and rats are snapped in traps, blood emanating from eye and mouth sockets? Existential question stench. She smiles, she thinks. She is inside but she sees it: a sail taught with invisible wind, a window onto trembling membranes of color stroking the absence of sky, a diaphanous stage curtain blurring the boundary between atmosphere and magnetic field and space.

She is cold. Can one shoot gnawing cold? And if one shoots the sail instead? Questions. She stinks, she thinks. No, she is stinking without thinking. She remembers. Footsteps on the deck. Could there be nothing there? An excessive or insufferable or rhetorical question. There is nothing there.

Except many footsteps and cold and sweat stink she tastes freezing into beads of ice on her lucid skin and urine stench and gnawing. Footsteps surround her. Many creatures or one creature with many legs? Footsteps strike a porch. Knuckles rap doors, fingernails tap windowpanes, wind moans under the eaves. Feet skitter on the skin. How to shoot them all. How many bullets does she have? A math question. If there are x of them and she has y bullets, what is the probability she’ll shoot herself wanting in? If she cannot shoot them all, why shoot at all? Another nauseating question of what to do and why.

What will they do to her, and why? Knock knock. Who’s there? Nothing’s there. Nothing’s there who? Nothing’s there but a sound of footsteps, a stench of evacuation, a crow clawing at your eaves, a scuttling bitten-bloody tongue, and a knock knock. All jokes aside, she thinks, there are feet marching. Boots march in the street; steel toes parade on her tulip-lined patio; a lead-footed millipede climbs her hamstring. The boots, laced to the calf and shined, beat in unison, striking doorstep, pounding lintel, gnawing doorjamb. Thunder. Of beast or giant or god? A horse canters on the porch, preparing to stomp on her pool table. Horseshoes strike sparks in her entryway. Shoot a horse to down its rider? Questions of perceived divinity. Is there a rider? Desiring admittance on horseback, fleeing the stink and cold and steps and star-studded void, singing shrieks she cannot hear and silences she can? The horse stomps dance steps with her astride.

There is nothing there. A horse prancing on a pool table is nothing but a story. If she shoots the nothing, will the nothing become something? Redundant question.

Does the nothing outside carry a gun? Questions of repetition, of variation, of rhythm tempo time signature theme.

If she shoots nothing, will nothing shoot her back? Dueling questions.

Is nothing there? Musical questions, and only one her for the answers to sit on.

She could go out. To where? The walls go with her. The footsteps follow. The skittering follows. The marching follows. The stench follows me, she thinks. Nothing touches her, blankets her, takes her shape, skins her. Footsteps mouth her neck. Nothing gnaws. She hears, sees, feels no breath. Footsteps in her ear, on her tongue. Where does she end, if not where what’s outside begins, and is it already inside? No more questions, she thinks. If she kills it, will she never end? Where does she begin? Questions of no more, she thinks. What follows the footsteps? What is in here? Nothing, no not nothing she thinks footsteps and shoots, spark, flash, bang, silence.

Nothing. She thinks nothing. There is nothing there. Footsteps on the porch.

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