First Breath

by edward j. rathke

Light pokes through the blinds in splintered beams that spot the carpet. Particles drift in the air, visible in those spotlights of sun. Each beam carries a universe made from planets of clouded dust circled by individual moons or bisected by the soaring asteroid fields.

He lies on the couch, his eyes cracked open and lined with sleep. His hand, the left one, hangs in the air, inches from the floor where dustmites wander past like tumbleweeds through a desert. The arm of the couch pushes into the plump of his cheek and he swallows openmouthed.

Voices from the television speak in high volumes, but only fragments reach him. The phone rings, but his body makes no movement. His creaking eyes glazed, seeing nothing, but seeking everything. The phone continues to ring and the television continues to shout too loud.

He watches the sunspots on the carpet wave and oscillate in size. Trees must blow in the wind, tempestuous behind his walls. The stale fabric fibers foul the air with musk of spilt beer and ashed cigarettes. A beam of light, a moment of reminiscence, he gasps and coughs, finding himself in a sitting position. He spits.

His hands are clubbed claws and he scratches his stomach beneath a lavender sweatshirt. The phone still rings and, as if first noticing, he looks to the wireless across the room on the floor. Pawing his hair, a finger digging in his ear, he yawns. He fumbles in the cushions of the couch and finds the television remote. A button, and the room is silent but for the ringing.

He stands with a grunt and his bones creak from disuse. A hand rubbed over his face feels the chafe of long stubble, takes the dreams from his eyes. Stooping over the wireless, he tries to make out the name on the Caller ID. He straightens with a guttural moan and spits.

The tile of the bathroom cools and sticks to his feet. Discolored from neglect and forgotten spills, the grime clings to the soles of his feet while he urinates. The mirror reminds him of his hibernation.

Standing at the foot of the couch, he yawns while patting his stomach. Feet drag over the crust of the carpet and he reaches the front door. It opens with a creak and he steps into the dying light. Spring now, the length of the day expands, but the first is forgotten. Barefoot, the concrete of the walkway is rough and cold. His arms wrap round him to protect from the cold wind. He reaches the road, spits, and looks in all directions.

A boy pumps the tires of his bike, a dog barks far away, the grass is grey tinted green, the trees are skeletons, and the sky is open at last. The sun peers from behind a passing cloud and strikes his face. He brushes his bangs back and looks fullface into the setting star.

A wrinkle at the edge of his eyes, and a malformed smile crawls across his lips.

BIO: edward j rathke wanders the world in search of adventure while masquerading as a poet and lover of the arts. In truth, he wastes most hours making bad decisions and trying desperately to not die. More of his life and words may be found at