Haunted Passages: Tariq Shah
They erased me yesterday.
After they took up the gavel, hammered the sound block, the wheels set
They assembled their people into teams.
Notary publics, solicitors general, coders, flame throwers, telephone
and wrecking ball operators.
It was quite early the morning they commenced.
A sky still the blue pink of gloveless winter hands.
I don’t know what to do.
The new stamps came in the mail this afternoon.
Some of them swung metal scrapers and they scraped off the glass any
reference to me.
They worked fast, worked without breaking for lunch, for water, for
cramped fingers and calves to slacken.
They switched off.
They got in the corners with tongue tips dabbing their upper lips as they focused
on the task at hand.
I don’t know what comes next.
They are laughing when not nodding to demonstrate comprehension of
the orders given them by the white collars upstairs.
They move out and sweep floor to floor, house to house, block to block, state to state.
They have a spring in their steps, because they have been granted permission
to reify what they love, which is erasing.
No, I did see them coming.
Yes, I stood, simply, where I stood, when they came with their buckets of paint
and lawyer brigade.
They prowled forth on foot, in uniform.
They flowed right past me, some invisible river’s common flotsam.
Certain of them spritzed me with a chemical fluid but this, I was assured, had
Nothing to do with what was to come—what ended yesterday, for me, and not only me.
And I was saluted, no clue why.
Really only one of them did, then fell into formation.
The moments spent in their presence are moments spent in the pens of wild boars
raised to abide humans when their stomachs are full.
I am not sure what I will do now, just as I was not sure what to do then, when they
hung the sign that read Today Is a New Day.
But I am still here?
Their shredders and their rotts are still hungry.
They roar for more, being good at what they do.
For Halloween I’m going as me.
They will never guess.
They have already forgotten who I was.
The forgetting who I was was their favorite aspect of erasing.
In this, we share a sentiment, admittedly.
For Halloween, I will go as me.
Every other day, who I used to be, the me they fixed beneath a bright white blank sheet.
They punched holes for air.
Who knows who they are, if they care, if names, with their personal belongings, get boxed
somewhere, they who are painting the leaves today, this one pearl, that one pitch,
who are singing, all in a good day’s work, they who will never ever
find the likes of me again, who tomorrow, will utterly fail to place
what it is that whips them
and whips them into this state of panic, what it is that makes us
laugh the ghost laugh, and dance the dance of open secrets.
Tariq Shah writes fiction and poetry, and was born and raised in Illinois. His work appears or is forthcoming in jubilat, No, Dear Magazine, ANMLY (fka Drunken Boat), Gravel, King Kong Magazine, BlazeVox, and other publications. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn, where he now lives, and his chapbook, heart assist device, was a finalist for the 2019 no, dear/small anchor press chapbook series.