James Babbs

Blue Silo

The blue silo looks like a rocket ship and, someday, I’m going to use it to fly myself to the moon. I want to go all the way to the moon so I can run across its surface and leap high into the air. I know it’s easy to do this since there isn’t as much gravity on the moon as there is here on Earth. I don’t think I’ll have any problem getting to the moon and I want to see all the abandoned equipment they’ve left up there. And I want to see the footprints from all the astronauts that have come before me. I want to put my feet in the same places where they walked and see how it feels. Maybe, I’ll stay there for a few weeks but, eventually, I want to go to Mars and start my own colony. I want to fuck a hundred different women and have babies with them all.

I have dreams about the blue silo. In the first dream the blue silo becomes a giant robot, suddenly, rising up from its moorings and moving across the earth. The robot lumbers across the land destroying some of the houses in its path by crushing them under its feet. The robot goes wherever it wants to go and even the military can’t stop it with all their powerful weapons. Throughout the course of the dream I chase after the robot trying to get its attention. I run alongside of it screaming and waving my arms. When I, finally, get the robot to notice me I plead with it to take me along and the robot reaches down for me but the dream always ends before the robot can pick me up.

In the second dream I can see the blue silo in the distance, rising up against the sky and I start walking toward it but no matter how far I go the blue silo never gets any closer. I walk across a barren field and feel the wind blowing cold against my face. Sometimes, I start walking through a corn field and it’s hot and the leaves of the corn scratch the skin on my arms. Sometimes, I come to a town and the people ask me what I’m doing. When I tell them I’m heading to the blue silo they shake their heads and laugh. I ask them what’s so funny about going to see the blue silo but they never answer me. They just keep laughing, some of them, throwing their heads back and roaring, their mouths looking like big gaping holes. It makes me angry and I storm off, while all the time seeing the blue silo in the distance, rising up against the sky.

In the last dream there is only darkness and I‘m stuck inside some kind of enclosed space. I’m buried inside some tiny little space and I can‘t move and it‘s hard for me to breathe. All the time I’m inside this small space I keep hearing voices but they’re only sounds and I don’t understand any of the words they‘re saying. But I try to answer them and my own voice comes out sounding muffled and strange. But then somebody calls my name and I’m, suddenly, able to move but the dream ends and I wake up.

***

I was sitting by the window when she came into the room. I was sitting there alone inside that dimly-lit room and I was laughing about nothing at all. She probably thought I was joking when she asked me what I was doing and I told her I was losing my mind. But my laughing had stopped without any kind of a warning and I stared into her face until she turned away. Suddenly, I felt like the connection between us was broken. I stood up and told her goodbye and that I didn‘t want to talk to her anymore. The words hung in the air between us before crashing to the floor. I thanked her and told her she was free to go.

But I didn’t leave the room. I just stood there not moving while she did the same. Finally, I laughed and started telling her about the blue silo again. I told her how I’d seen it rising up into the air. The way it looked against the wide open sky. The blue silo was a darker blue than the sky. I told her the sky only looked blue when it was empty. At other times the sky appeared white or looked kind of gray. The blue silo had probably been there for years I told her and I just hadn’t noticed it before. You know what silos are for, don’t you? I asked her, wondering what she would say. She was holding something in her hand and she glanced down at it then looked up at me again. Don’t you store grain in them? she said. Well, I told her, you’re probably thinking more of a grain bin. That’s something different. Most grain bins are round and kind of squat-looking and are usually made of corrugated metal. Silos are tall and sleek and have sides that are smooth.

I see, she said. Whether or not she really did I wasn’t certain. So, what goes into a silo?she asked me. She seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. Well, I said, a silo is made for storing silage. That’s something you harvest before it’s ripe. You put it in the silo and let it ferment and then you use it to feed your cattle. Like grass or something. Maybe corn stalks when they’re still green. I’m not sure.

Okay, she said. But, I told her, there are missile silos too and immediately I felt like I had revealed too much. But I didn’t stop, I kept going. I said, I think missile silos are usually under the ground. Then I stopped and looked out the window. She didn’t say anything and I didn’t know if she was waiting for me to continue or just thinking about the things I had already told her. Finally, I blurted out, I think the blue silo is full of memories.

I had turned from the window and was looking at her again. I saw a light in her eyes and it reminded me of a candle, its flame flickering in the breeze. Memories? she said. I watched her hand reach up and touch her chin. Why do you say that? she asked me and I tried to laugh again but the sound came out all wrong. I don’t know, I whispered.

Sometimes, I remembered a photograph of my father standing in front of the blue silo. An old photograph when he was a young man, probably, long before I was born. He wore a dark brown shirt and blue jeans with a green cap pulled down low on his head so I could barely see his eyes.

I had never told her about the photograph but I thought about it a lot. Especially, when I was by myself. I wondered if I had ever gone there, to that place in the photograph, where the blue silo existed. Had I ever been there when I was a boy? Had I ever touched the smooth side of the blue silo with my hands? Or did I ever lean against it and feel the warmth of the metal on my back after it had been heated by the sun?

I asked my mother a few times about the blue silo and I mentioned the photograph to her. But she always acted like she didn’t know what I was talking about. It could’ve been all the medication they had given to her or, maybe, she just didn’t remember. Or, there was the third possibility, the one I didn’t want to think about. That there wasn’t any photograph and there was never a blue silo and it was all something I had imagined. But I kept searching through the photo albums my mother kept stored in the spare bedroom. I kept looking at all those tired faces on all those people. Back then everyone looked so old even when they were young. I knew some of the people were supposed to be my family but I didn’t remember most of them.

In some of the photographs I saw someone who was supposed to be me but I felt like I didn’t have any connection to that blonde-haired boy in the pictures. I think they were just trying to fool me into believing something that wasn’t real. And the worst thing about it was not having any way to prove it one way or another. You just had to take everyone’s word for it and believe in all the things they were telling you. You could drive yourself crazy thinking about it all.

***

The blue silo is haunted. I hear terrible sounds when I’m walking around outside. I told her, when I was young, I saw a man fall into the blue silo but I never saw him come out again. It was a warm day in the middle of summer and children were laughing and playing in the orchard. I don’t know what happened but the man was just gone and no one talked about him after that. Everybody acted like he never even existed and when I asked my mother about the man she hushed me and told me to get ready for bed. I heard my mother crying in the next room as I took off my clothes and put on my Scooby Doo pajamas. What did your mother tell you? she asked me. Did she ever say anything to you about the man? I looked down at my hands. I don’t know, I said.

One day, when we were talking about the man again, I told her the man didn’t have a face. Are you sure? she asked me. What do you mean? I said. I think you saw the man’s face, she said. I looked at her and shook my head. No, I said. There was nothing there. She cupped her chin with one of her hands the way she did, sometimes, when she was thinking of something. But didn’t you look at the man’s face? she asked me. Yes, I said, but it was just a smooth surface like something made out of plastic. Maybe it wasn’t real. She looked at me. Are you saying a man didn’t really die? I felt tired. I said, I don’t know what I’m trying to say.

I told her I thought, maybe, somebody else died inside the blue silo. I told her it was a long time ago or, maybe, it was only yesterday or, it hadn‘t happened, yet. Then, I realized how strange that sounded and I just laughed. One day when I was tired of all her questions I told her I killed someone and stuffed them into the blue silo. I told her there were countless bodies in the blue silo and that I’d been doing terrible things for many years and I wouldn’t be caught until I was ready. She didn’t say anything but just looked at a spot somewhere above my head for the longest time.

***

When I was around ten years old I remember some older boys found me and asked me what I was doing. I was sitting on the front porch playing with my cars and waiting for my Mom to get home. But I didn’t tell the boys any of that. I just looked up at them. There were three of them. Denny was the leader and he was the one who asked me what I was doing. I told them nothing and then tried to act like I wasn‘t interested in them and went back to playing with my cars. I remember one of the cars was yellow and had flames painted on the side of it.

Well, Denny said, you’re gonna do something now and one of the other boys whose name was JJ, I think, stepped forward and said, yeah and when he did he shook his fist at me. Denny stood there while the other two boys came up on the porch and grabbed me by the arms. They pulled me down until I was standing in front of Denny. It was a hot day and I felt the sun hitting me in the face. Denny brought his face down close to mine and then he just laughed. I felt the sweat running down my back and into my underwear. I tried to get away but they dragged me to the blue silo and forced me to go inside. The boys shut me up in there and I heard them outside laughing. It was dark in there and the air was warm. Every time I breathed I smelled something sweet.

I knew they were waiting for me to scream. I knew they wanted me to beg them to let me out but I just stayed quiet with my eyes shut tight. It seemed like hours passed before they opened the door and asked me if I was okay. I almost laughed hearing the panic in their voices and it gave me a sense of power knowing how scared they were. I’d never felt anything like that before. I was curled up into a ball when they dragged me back out and let me go. I fell into the dirt near the blue silo and just laid there.

Hey, I heard Denny saying. Hey, shit, come on. You’re alright. Denny turned to the others. He’s alright, Denny said. Suddenly I leaped up and screamed and ran right at Denny. All three boys jumped back and started running away. I chased after them for a little while but they were older and they soon left me behind. When they were a safe distance away Denny stopped and shouted, I knew you were alright. I heard him laughing but it was a nervous laugh. You fucking little freak, he screamed before they all ran off and left me alone again.

***

Sometimes I close my eyes and find myself back inside the blue silo again. I like the way it feels in there. It’s always warm and I like the way the darkness seems to wrap itself around me. The darkness like a thick blanket and I can use it to prevent things from getting through. I feel safe when I’m in the blue silo. I don’t feel frightened like I thought I would.

Some days I tell her exactly what I’m thinking and other days I tell her what I think she wants to hear. Some days I tell her I don’t feel like seeing her at all and I just stay in my room with the curtains drawn. Or, sometimes, I get drunk and try to write down everything I can about the blue silo no matter how strange it sounds. I’m not sure what’s real or not real anymore and, maybe, it doesn’t even matter.

The other day when I was just out driving around I saw the blue silo all by itself out in the middle of nowhere. It looked like it hadn’t been used in years. There were rusted spots all over the sides where the blue paint had peeled off and part of the top was missing. The grass was grown up around it and there was a thick green vine winding its way up the sides of the blue silo. The vine had managed to climb several feet above the ground. I thought about stopping and going to look it over but, from the road, I didn’t see any way to reach the blue silo with the car. I pulled over and used my phone to take a picture of the blue silo. I haven’t decided, yet, if I’m going to show it to her the next time we meet.

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