There was a ringing in his ears.

"Run that by me again," said Helen coldly. She stirred the soup on the stove absentmindedly as she glared at Tyler. It had long since been ready to eat and her stirring was just making this worse. "You did what now?"

He dug a finger into his ear. The sound itched. It was an uncomfortable condition that began a little over a month ago. One day, a car engine backfired as he was walking past, leaving a subliminal tone in his hearing that had ceased to disappear. He dug into it again, only pulling out earwax.

"What?" he asked.

"You quit your job?" she spat every word out like they were something vile she had woken up to find in her mouth.


"Well... why? Did you get fired or something?" Helen angrily threw the spoon into the sink and glared at him, her hands bracing her upright on the kitchen counter. She looked like she was getting ready to pounce on Tyler like a panther.


She waited for more, but it didn't come. "So... are you going to tell me why the fuck you don't have a job anymore?"

"It's because I quit." He scratched deep into his ear again. Helen's voice wasn't helping the matter of his hearing in the slightest.

"I know you fucking quit!" she yelled. Helen had always been fond of yelling and screaming and had gotten very good at it in the past six months. "I'm asking you why, Tyler! Why did you quit! You are so fucking dense, I swear to God."

"I quit...because..." There was no way to say it. It would have been easier to describe music to a deaf man or the concept of death to an infant. There was no translation, only approximation.

"Because...It was right."

Helen's rage was dipped in surprise and frustrated confusion. As stiff as it was, her jaw relaxed enough to drop. "Just that? It was...You quit, because 'it was right?'"

"Yes. I think." The ringing in his ears was still going. It was something impossible to ignore. Every time he became used to the ghostly pitch, it would change just slightly enough to become something new, something more annoying. Tyler had begun to hear it in his sleep. It made him very, very tired.

"You think?" Helen's soup was boiling over. So was she. "What kind of fucking answer is that! On top of being three hours late, on top of having quit your very generous job, you tell me you quit for no. Fucking. Reason!"

"No. It was the right thing to do, I told you that already."

"Have you lost your god damn mind?" Her voice was starting to hurt. Tyler wanted Helen to go away. "What the fuck are we going to do! Did you even think about this? How are we going to keep up the mortgage?"

"I don't like money." Tyler said quietly, in between her shouts.


"Money isn't right, either. We...we'll be okay."

"Money isn't-What! Okay? How are we going to be okay? Unless you've been, like, robbing the bank or something, we're fucked, Tyler! Do you know how much that Mardi Gras trip set us back?"

"I didn't want to go." Tyler said.

"Don't you dare pin this on me! You didn't have to go, and I didn't want to drag you around like some kind of fucking pet, either!" Helen's face was growing red. If Tyler poked a hole in her, steam would have probably shot out like a boiler.

"I told you I didn't."

"No, Tyler, you really didn't."

"I did, Helen, I said I didn't want to go. That I would stay and have a quiet weekend here. But you said that you'd want me to come."

"I never said that," Helen said.

"Your specifically said 'I won't have any fun if you're not there."

"And look how much help you turned out to be, then," Helen snarked as she folded her arms over her chest. Tyler knew that it was a sign for insecurity and protection. The ringing in his ears changed pitch. He knew it again.

"From what I can tell, it just gave you an excuse to blame me if you weren't having any fun." Tyler jammed his pinkie in his ear, trying to scratch the itch. He wiped the residue on his pants leg.

"You're fucking disgusting," Helen said with a sneer. "And maybe I would have had more fun if you weren't such a fucking loser all the time."

"Loser doesn't mean anything. What did I do?" Helen's voice dripped into his spine. His body was starting to hurt from it. He wanted her to leave.

"What? You... You just ruined the whole trip."

"What did I do?"

"Look, okay, I don't fucking remember! I've got better things to do than remember every little fucking detail, okay?"

"Like sleeping with a different man every time you go out?"

Helen gasped, her eyebrows raised high into her hairline. A look of shock crossed onto her face, but it was overdone. Far too obvious.

"Fuck you, Tyler!" she screamed. Walking around the counter, she grabbed her purse and slapped Tyler across the face. She wasn't very strong and her hand didn't connect the right way, so it never hurt him. The impact made the ringing grow louder. He could barely hear her scream in impotent frustration and slam the door.

Tyler stood still for a few minutes. It seemed like something he should do. It made him feel comfortable and more than a little fulfilled. Helen's anger slid off of him like he was covered in Teflon. Before the ringing in his ears, he would have followed her to the car, shouting pleas to return or encouragements on leaving. It depended on the fight, really. But now, the ringing took precedence. The constant 'eeeeeeeeee' had become too distracting for Tyler to direct his focus from. Her anger didn't bother him. He had walked into their small house a few weeks ago and heard his wife in bed with someone else. They didn't hear him come in, but they didn't hear him leave, either.

He had been honest with Helen about his job. He worked as a bookkeeper for a bank branch owned by Helen's uncle. The uncle was gone a year after Tyler began working, but the job itself continued long after. He knew what she thought, but nothing had happened at work. He was not stealing money. He was not caught fucking in the safety-deposit room. He was not fired. This was not planned. Tyler simply stood up from his desk, put down his pen, and walked out the front door a few minutes after lunch with no intention to return. It had been the most natural action in the world, like sleeping when he was tired or drinking when he was thirsty. It was...right.

Tyler had been standing in one place for almost half an hour, listening to the ringing in his ears. It had been shifting in pitch and tone more frequently since Helen had left. It sounded like very slow Morse-code.

He walked into the bathroom and pulled out the large box of q-tips he bought with his last five dollar bill. Tyler then spent the large majority of his afternoon swabbing the inside of his ears very thoroughly, in every direction and pattern he could imagine. In, out. Hard, soft. Up, down. Left, right. Clockwise, counter. Shallow, deep. He did not stop. It didn't seem right to until the ringing had stopped and he could afford himself just a few moments of silence. He did not stop until the box was empty and his ears bled garnet lines down the side of his head. He knew the pain was there, and he even knew how much it hurt. But there was still nothing to be compared to the all-encompassing attracting power of the ringing in his ears.

He opened his eyes when the sun was down and decided that going out was the right thing to do. He went outside, not bothering to shut the door because it didn't matter, got in his car, shut the door, plugged in his seat belt because it was the thing to do, put the key into the ignition, turned it away from him, let go of it when the car started to rumble, pulled the stick back into the right position, and pressed the thing on the floor that made his car go backward.

He was in a restaurant.

Scratching his ear, Tyler tried to remember where he was and how he got there. He tried to remember driving, but the only thing he could remember was the ringing in his ears. He was sitting in a booth by himself, an empty cup of coffee and a check sitting in front of him. Under them was a place mat bearing the logo of Denny's.

But which Denny's? For all he knew, Tyler could have driven out of the state, out of the country. Helen would kill him if she knew where he was, regardless. She didn't like it when he drove any kind of distance without telling her where he was going. It was something Tyler found very irritating about her. He was angry and scared and frustrated, but then he heard the ringing again and he was calm. It would be all right. It was all right.

Tyler looked around the room. His neck was sore and stiff from staying in one place for so long. A group of three waitresses crowded each other at one end of the counter, chatting idly with one another as there were no other customers to attend to. The clock on the wall said 12:long-hand-on-4 am. One of the girls noticed Tyler looking at them. She turned and slapped the blonde on the shoulder with the back of her hand to get her attention. All three of them stole glances toward him, muttering to one another as they scrunched their foreheads into wrinkles and turned down the corners of their mouths while slightly opening them.

They nudged the blond haired girl again. She snapped at them as she stood up. By the time she reached Tyler, the corners of her mouth were now turned upward in a pleasant way, but her eyes stayed the same.

"You ready to hit the road?" she said, a little too loudly, but not even a fraction needed to overtake the ringing in his ears. She was very tan and stood very tall, though Tyler doubted she would even reach his chin if they were side-by-side. Her Denny's uniform fit snugly over her tight and shapely body; Tyler would have found her attractive were it not for the ringing in his ears. It wasn't right. Not then.

"I don't think so," he said, more to himself than her. When he looked away to think, the waitress turned to her friends and rolled her eyes. "No, not yet. What time did I come in?"

"Um, Excuse me?" the waitress said, surprised.

"I don't remember when it was that I came here. Could you please tell me?"

"Uh, okay, well," she stole a couple worried glances to her friends, who glanced at each other in turn. "I think, um, you came in at, like, nine. Or close to it. We brought you a coffee and asked what you wanted, but you, um, you just said 'not yet,' every time. But, uh, are you ready to order now or something?"

"Why the coffee?" Tyler picked up the empty mug. It was completely empty, the dregs at the bottom long since dried to a stain in the porcelain.

"Like...I don't know. It's what you ordered," the waitress said, shrugging. She dropped her fake smile and picked up one of actual worry. "Are, are you alright? Do we need to call a hospital or something?"

"No," he said, but he wasn't sure why. It just wasn't the thing to do. He dug into his ear. The ringing in his ears had changed pitch again, making it hard to hear the pretty blond girl with the tight and shapely body.

"Were you in a car accident or something? What's your name?"

"I didn't drive. If I don't remember it, it didn't happen. I'm all right. I don't need any help." The place mat was made of paper. There was a plastic pack of crayons to his left. Tyler opened the top flap and began drawing circles on the paper. It was the right thing to do. There was a ringing in his ears.

"I don't- I mean," the waitress stopped for a moment as she watched Tyler draw his circles. She raised one of her eyebrows. She must have liked them. "What's your name? Do you live around here?"

"Tyler," said Tyler.

"Ok, um," she looked around the room before whispering (even though she didn't have to), "did you, like, take anything? Like, acid or shrooms or somethin'?"

Tyler finished his circle and decided that it looked the way he wanted it to. It spun widely from the edges of the place mat and swirled inward in deep, looping arcs that clipped the top of the paper. He tried his best to make the lines as smooth as possible, and he had succeeded for the most part. While the human arm wasn't precise enough to draw exactly straight lines or perfectly round circles, Tyler found that the spiral was as precise as anyone could have made it. He was satisfied.

"Hey," the waitress said again, hissing it to get his attention. It didn't go much over the ringing in his ears, but it was enough for him to turn and face her. "Are you stoned?"

"I have no stones."

"No, like, are you high?"

"I am on the ground."

"Wait, no, that's not-" she groaned and stood up straight, cracking her back. "Ok. Last chance. Where do you live?"

"At home."

The waitress sighed and threw up her arms. "Fuck it," she whispered under her breath as she turned on her heel and walked back to her friends, showing Tyler her ass as if she was asking him to take it. And he wanted to, but he couldn't. There was a ringing in his ears.

The ringing in his ears told him something. A thought that came from him but was not of him. Nevertheless, it was the right one. He raised his arm in the air and called out, "Wait. Excuse me." The waitress turned around and, without approaching, said "Yeah?"

"Do you sell earplugs?"

The girls looked at one another. The girl in the back said, "Sir, this is a Denny's." But Tyler ignored her. She was not the one to come to him. She wasn't trustworthy. She said only lies. Only his muse, the first waitress with springy and shapely breasts, would tell him.

"Do you sell earplugs?" he asked her, specifically. They locked eyes and he knew that they could be together forever were it not for the ringing in his ears.

"Are you serious?" she glanced at her friends, but they looked as confused as she did. "No, man, we don't sell earplugs."

"Do you sell gasoline?"

"What-No, we don't sell gasoline. We sell food. Do you want any of that?"

"No, I need-"

"Then I'm going to have to ask you to leave, sir." She stood with her hands over her chest. She reminded him of Helen, then. She exacerbated him, but she was his lover and his muse. He would have her one day and she would lie with him every night as his delicate slave. She would call him master. But it wasn't true. It would never be the same. There was a ringing in his ears.

"All right." He said. Tyler didn't want to leave, but the ringing in his ears told him that it was right. He left the Denny's and walked outside into the cold which really wasn't very cold at all. His car sat across the darkened parking lot, so Tyler picked up his foot and put it in front of the other and shifted his weight onto it. He then took the other foot and did the same. He did this consecutively until he reached the car. He got inside.

He could hear it, then, undisturbed and in the silence. The ringing in his ears whispered to him. It said "." Tyler understood. He wanted to make a list, but it wasn't right. There was a ringing in his ears. It would remember for him.

The ringing in his ears was starting to change. It still made an 'eeeeeeee' sound, but it had started to change more rapidly in pitch and tone. It oscillated violently from quiet and soft, to loud and painful. Tyler wondered what it was doing while he drove down the mystery street in the middle of the night and was hoping that it wouldn't go away. He was starting to enjoy the ringing in his ears. No matter where he was or what he was doing, he would never be alone. He would always have the ringing in his ears to watch over him and let him know if he was doing the right thing. Tyler had been to church, but he gave more reverence and awe to the ringing in his ears than he had to any other god.

He drove past gas station after gas station after gas station until he started to say the words under his breath because they felt very clean and slippery on his tongue and he liked to roll them around. The ringing in his ears told him to keep driving; each one was wrong, none of them were right. Tyler wondered the difference between them and was sure that any gas station (gas station gas stationgass tation ga sstation) would do, but the ringing in his ears knew where to go. So he drove.

His pants began to buzz and vibrate. Tyler liked the feeling, but didn't like how it stopped and started. He found that it was coming from the small rectangle in his pocket that glowed when he held it in front of his face that was his cell phone. There were words on the screen. The biggest said 'Helen.'

He pushed the green button because he remembered to do that and put the phone up to his ear because he remembered to do that, too. Outside of the rectangle came Helen's voice that said, "Tyler? Tyler, can you hear me? Where are you?"

"Hello," Tyler said, because it was the right thing to say.

"Yeah, hey, where are you?" There was something in the road that was dark and black and very small. Tyler hit it with the tire of his car and it made everything go buh-thmp-pmp. The sound entered his ears and stayed there and began to repeat itself inside his head with the ringing in his ears. Buh-thmp-pmp. Buh-thmp-pmp. Buh-thmp-pmp. Buh-thmp-pmp. Buh-thmp-pmp. Buh-thmp-pmp. Buh-thmp-pmp. Buh-thmp-pmp. Buh-thmp-pmp. Buh-thmp-pmp. Buh-thmp-pmp. "Tyler? Are you still there?" Buh-thmp-pmp. Buh-thmp-pmp. "Hello?"

"Hello," Tyler said, because it was the right thing to say.

"What the fuck are you doing? You've been gone for hours! It's almost one in the morning!"

"I'm driving." The ringing in his ears made it hard to hear Helen but he could still hear her clearly. He didn't want to talk to her. Her voice was painful to him because it didn't work well with the ringing in his ears. When he heard them both at the same time, he would get a headache behind his eyeballs and the whole world would become soft around the edges.

"I know you're driving, damn it!" Helen said. She said it very loudly so it was hard to hear through the phone and it made the ringing in his ears even louder in a way that Tyler liked. "Where. Are. You?"

"I don't know. I got in my car to drive and I backed out of the garage and then I was here. I went to Denny's."

"How can you not know where- Didn't you drive? How-" She stopped for a long time. Tyler wondered if it was a long time on both sides of the phone and whether ten seconds for him would be ten hours for Helen. Maybe the conversation had happened a long time ago and it took until now for him to realize that it happened.

After ten hours of silence, Helen said, "Okay. When did you leave the house?"

"After you did." There was a rough sound coming through the phone that sounded like rocks falling down the sidewalk in the neighborhood where Tyler had grown up where a man had kidnapped a little boy and killed him in the basement. The man was a pedophile and had to tell all the houses that he was a sex offender when he moved in. His mother told him never to talk to strangers after that. But if everyone was a stranger, should he ever talk to anybody? Everyone he knew had been a stranger before, so if he wasn't allowed to talk to strangers then how did he meet them? His mother told him not to worry about it except that it was the ringing in his ears.

"Ok. After I did. Now, where were you going? Why did you get in the car in the first place?"

"It was the right thing to do."

"What the fuck, Tyler, you're not making any sense. There has to be some kind of reason that you got in the car, now what was it?"

"I did it because it was good and what I was supposed to do."

"What? Supposed to do? What are- Who told you to go somewhere? Like, it was right for who?"

He pulled the phone away from his head and pushed the red button on the screen. Helen's voice stopped coming from it and Tyler's head stopped hurting. It felt good to be alone with the ringing in his ears again. He opened his fingers and let it fall onto the floor as he drove and let the lights from the cars twinkle in his soft eyes like tiny fires.

The phone beside him began to buzz and ring. The ringing in his ears told Tyler not to pick it up.

He didn't. It always told him the right thing to do.

The phone on the seat buzzed a few more times, but the battery died so it stopped. Tyler was glad. He didn't like the sound. He almost crashed his car because he started listening very closely to the ringing in his ears and was distracted so his car swung around on the wet road. It was wet because it had rained a little bit, but it had stopped very quickly and it made the air heavy and sticky and wet.

He passed a gas station that was the right one, said the ringing in his ears. There was nothing special about it that Tyler could see, but he pulled in there anyway because he was glad to finally have somewhere to stop. He had to use the bathroom because of the coffee he didn't like from Denny's. He went inside and saw all the colors and all the plastic of food and drinks that were all there for him. The lights were bright and wide and made everything look very white. He could see across the whole room and he liked it. Tyler liked it so much he stood in the doorway for a long time watching the movement there wasn't. It was late and people weren't coming in, so he was still for a long time until the cashier leaned over and started to talk to him.

She said something, but Tyler wasn't listening because he needed to go to the bathroom. But on the way to the bathroom he saw some brown boxes. The ringing in his ears whispered to him. It was very quiet, but very loud. He understood what it meant, even though it only said, "found." He couldn't use the bathroom anymore. It wasn't important. It wasn't right. He would go in his pants later because there was too much to do. It was all right.

Tyler picked up the small brown box from its spot on the shelf. It was sad. The box had traveled thousands of miles across the whole world on truck and planes and cars and boats just to get to its own special spot on the shelf where it could be with its family, but now Tyler had come and was taking it away from its spot. He wanted to put it back, but the ringing in his ears wouldn't let him. It told him that he needed it and that it was the right thing to do. He went up to the woman behind the counter and bought the brown box and also a red jug with a neck and no head. He also bought gas because he didn't know where he was and didn't want to get lost.

He went outside and put the gas in his car. But when he got into the car the light was on. Where had all the gas gone? But the ringing in his ears told him "time to" and meant that it was time to go and leave. So he did.

The ringing in his ears was building a voice. The ringing in his ears was a wise thing that always told him what was right and Tyler thought it was funny that it didn't have a voice. But it did have a voice; it was one that Tyler couldn't hear. He had to listen to the ringing in his ears to hear the real voice because it was changing his brain from the inside; re-wiring neurons and re-writing code and re-programming cells to better understand the ringing in his ears. Tyler was afraid of the change, but he knew the ringing in his ears would take care of him because it loved him and was from God himself who was actually the ringing in his ears.

"The real foundation," it whispered. It was a voice that sounded like glaciers sliding against fields of ice and motor oil dripping from a leaking engine. He thought it was strange because it was a voice the ringing in his ears had built itself and was not actually the ringing in his ears, but was a voice underneath it but was still very loud despite being too quiet to hear. But Tyler could understand it because it had chosen him out of the millions of other people on the planet and that made him the most important person in the world to have the ringing in his ears. He put his head on the wheel and began to sob. There were other cars yelling at him because he wasn't driving, but he didn't care. The ringing in his ears made everything all right. He wanted it to stay with him forever and it said that it would as long as he did was was right.

He was home.

He left his car with the door open because he knew that he was probably going to come back to it later but the ringing in his ears didn't tell him when. It only said "recompense." Tyler didn't understand, but he didn't need to because the ringing in his ears always told him the right thing to do. He would need the box and the jug later so he left them in his car because he knew he was coming back . It was all right, the ringing told him, it was all going to be right.

Inside was Helen. She sat on the couch and watched TV. She looked at Tyler when he came inside and her eyes became big.

"Tyler?" she said, standing up from the couch. She took time to turn the TV off which made Tyler glad because it was interfering with the ringing in his ears. "Where the hell have you been!" There was no TV to mask her voice or soften it, so it hit him like a kick to the balls. His whole body ached when she spoke and his eyes began to blur and throb. The ringing in his ears told him "snakes in her hair." It said it very loud over her voice and Tyler was afraid that she had heard it. He looked down at her feet and tried not to look at her face because the ringing in his ears had told him so.

"Answer me, where the fuck have you been!"

"I went to Denny's," he said, quietly. The ringing in his ears told him to keep secret the box in the car. It said that she would take them. What it really said was "all of her lies," but Tyler understood what it meant. He could understand the ringing in his ears no matter what it told him because it was re-wiring the neurons in his brain and becoming a part of him. The ringing in his ears would last forever and he would go see the girl from Denny's with the beautiful eyes and the tight pussy and take her away. But not yet, the ringing in his ears told him. It wasn't finished.

"What? Where? What Denny's?" Helen check the clock on her phone, then thrust it out toward Tyler. "For three hours! You can't expect me to believe this bullshit!" She threw the phone onto the couch. It bounced onto the floor and landed face-up, its little light still glowing. Tyler stared at it, trying as hard as he could to focus on it instead of Helen's face. He had to. It was the only thing he could do.

"Who is she?" Helen said, putting her hands on her hips and raising her eyebrow. Tyler knew that when a person put their hands on their hips that it meant that they were trying to establish leadership and control, but that when a woman did it, it mean that she was searching for a mate. The thought of taking Helen disgusted him. His stomach flipped upside down and he tasted bile in the back of his throat. It was good that he wasn't looking at her face or he would have vomited. The ringing in his ears said "the artifice of rape," which made him feel better.

"I don't know."

"You don't even know her? So you're telling me a greasy little fuck like you picked up some hot piece of ass just on your own charm?"

"I don't know." Tyler was shaking. Helen was hurting him. He could feel synapses snapping inside his brain like fishing line drawn too tightly.

"You don't know what? Pull your balls out for once and- Look me in the eye, god dammit!"

Tyler shook his head. The ringing in his ears began to soothe him as best it could. It said "constellations in the dust." He understood. It made him feel a little better.

Helen clicked her tongue. It made the inside of his head shake violently, like he was a gong that she had hit. He brought a hand up to his head to stop it, but it kept on going. A dull 'booonnnnggg' that was quickly overcome by the friendly 'eeeeeeeeeeee.' He had a ringing in his ears. It kept him safe.

"Fuck...You're not worth it." Helen shook her head. "You sleep out here, tonight. And you better be gone by the time I wake up." She walked away, taking all the stress and all the pain and all the torture with her as she went. She wore it like a crown on her head. The ringing in his ears said "queen of worms." Tyler agreed.

"Pillars of truth," said the ringing in his ears. Tyler nodded, knowingly. "The flames of time marching through the vaulted doors of apprehension." Tyler agreed. "Nighttime orthodox or the sea-swept riverbed." Tyler was afraid, but the ringing in his ears assured him, "glinting stars within the scorched urn of the equinox." This made him feel a bit better, but he was still afraid. But he would be fine as long as the ringing in his ears stayed with him.

He was lying on the couch in the dark. It was his house so he knew where everything was without the lights on. It had always been his house from the day it was first built, the ringing in his ears had explained to him. He was glad it was there. Tyler was stupid, just a wet bag of rot. The ringing in his ears was kind enough to care for him. That was why he loved it. It knew what was right.

It had been his house since the first day it was built. He wasn't the first person to own it. It was old, his small house. A countless number of footsteps had creaked over the weathered floorboards in eons past. Many had possessed this house, but it was only Tyler's home. Helen thought it was hers, too, but she was wrong. The ringing in his ears called her, "the folly's matron." As always, it was perfectly right.

Even if it was right, Tyler wouldn't have been able to sleep that night. He was too electric. There were voices in his blood, zipping like ghost-lights through his veins. They were the voices of the ringing in his ears. He was almost finished. He was almost ready. If he closed his eyes, Tyler could feel as the neural pathways were scraped from the inside of his skull like old cobwebs. New connections were being established by the second as secret parts of his brain were being opened up for the first time. They had always been there. The ringing in his ears was just taking time to blow out the dust.

Now Tyler knew things. For instance, he knew exactly how much he weighed when he stood on the peak of Olympus Mons and how long it would take him to run to last Wednesday. Incomprehensible figures and facts flitted past the inside of his eyelids like data streaming through a computer; biological binary that could slowly re-write his evolutionary programming. But he was still stupid. He would always be stupid. That's why he needed the ringing in his ears to guide him to the cheese at the end of the maze.

"Testicular forceps," the ringing in his ears said. "Faces of the willing and pleas for the long-dead." He was starting to hear it very clearly. If he kept his eyes closed, he could imagine the ringing in his ears standing over him and whispering to him as it patted his hair back and nursed him. Tyler was cradled in its voice, swaddled like an infant and rocked to and fro all while the ringing in his ears continued to sing.

"Depths of the earth," the ringing in his ears said. He understood. He slowly climbed down from the couch and laid on his side on the ground. Apprehensively, he put his ear to the ground. He could hear them. The ringing in his ears had excited the gland in the back of his brain that released a secret hormone only in the moments before death. But because of it, he could hear them. They whispered to.

Deep in the earth, immobilized by tons of rock and dirt, they lived their lives unable to move from a single spot. But they could speak and sing and live through words. It was they that created language thousands of years ago. It was they that would teach Tyler a new one because he was the first real human being. There was a ringing in his ears.

He climbed back onto the couch and covered himself with the blanket. He could feel thing ringing in his ears snapping twigs of neurons and welding new axons together. It was almost done, so very close, but apprehension extended the process, so he tried not to think about it. Instead, the ringing in his ears sang him another lecture.

"Immolation takes its toll, another victim for the roll, where one goes in another leaves, to find himself amongst the Cyprus trees." It was a beautiful poem, one with endless rhymes that would last until the end of his life, the final stanza ending at a period with his death. It was a poem the ringing in his ears promised him. He would hear the words ever night before he went to sleep, it told him, so all he had to do was prepare. Prepare and accept the responsibility of the song.

He would. He did.

Tyler was ready.

With the new voltage of the electric gospel filling his mind with infinite light, he stood from the couch, blanket falling across his feet. He could feel them through his feet, chanting and singing his new language. The language of the modern age. The speech of cars, of computers, of the internet. The innumerable subtleties of alienation and the final resting place of the American Dream. Tyler would change the world. It would be easy. He had a ringing in his ears.

He went to the car. The ringing in his ears had told him to leave the doors open. He was glad he did. She would have heard him take the box and jug from under the seat. His totems, his prizes, his weapons, and his traveling guides. The box of sleeping stars and the jug of alchemy. "terror of virtue," the ringing in his ears whispered. It was absolutely true.

Inside, the ringing in his ears told Tyler to set the box and jug on the ground. It told him he had a few things to do, first. They would be right. The ringing in his ears was always right. He knew this was true because it was right.

Tyler tied the corners of the trashbag together and set it beside the can. Tyler cleaned the dishes and set them appropriately in the right cabinets. Tyler set the chairs at the table and pushed them under in all the right places. Tyler climbed on the counter and took the batteries from the smoke detector. Tyler unplugged the television and turned it around so it would not see. Tyler picked up the broom and put it in the closet with the dustpan and mop bucket. Tyler took a sewing needle and pierced both of his eardrums. Tyler wiped the bathroom clean with a wet washcloth. Tyler reset the time on the microwave to daylight savings time.

The ringing in his ears told him it was right. Tyler agreed.

The ringing in his ears told him to pick up the box of sleeping stars and the jug of alchemy. He did. It told him to anoint his home with sacred oils from the jug. He did. It instructed him where to place the most emphasis; on the blanket, in the laundry room, on the couch, in Helen's bedroom, at the foot of Helen's bed, under Helen's sheets, on Helen's sleeping forehead, in Helen's dry and delicate hair.

He did as the ringing in his ears told him, leading a trail to the front of his home. It was his home. Many had owned it, but it would only be his home. The ringing in his ears said, "lets folly dance and gives fruit of the melancholy." Tyler agreed. They were underground, chanting even louder. They lacked even muscles to move within the dirt, but their voices created mountains and dug valleys. He felt the new language crawling up the inner walls of his spinal column, filling his body with the subtleties of its new words. He would burst if he did not, so Tyler began to sing it. Not loudly, for it was his language, and he would only teach it to those who would work with him, but enough for his small voice to join with the throng within the earth. The ringing in his ears was not there. It was everywhere. His body became its vessel and his lips its transmission. He had a ringing in his blood, and Tyler was excited.

It spoke to him. Tyler understood.

He opened the box, lit a star, and let her fly.

On the front lawn of his home, a brightly shining constellation of unfathomable splendor, Tyler couldn't hear. He couldn't hear the crackle and snap of the ancient wood splintering under the curious weight of flames. He couldn't hear the clangs and clatter of pots and pans collapsing to the floor as their holding places melted. He couldn't hear the liquid crystals of the television boil and pop, a sound not unlike stepping on dried straw. He couldn't hear the shattering sound of the bathroom mirror, straining under the heat, eventually cracking down the middle and sending tiny shards of glass to the floor.

He couldn't hear Helen's shout of consciousness as she was woken by flames licking her feet from the covers. He couldn't here as she screamed in alarm and horror as she tore back the covers to find her legs on fire, skin cooking before her eyes. He couldn't her the arid sizzle of her hair as it was reduced to straw-like ash across her tightening scalp. He couldn't hear the phone receiver drop to the floor as Helen's hand melted and fused to the plastic. He couldn't hear the thud as she crawled out of bed onto the floor, only to be embraced by even more flames.

Tyler couldn't hear any of these things. And he didn't want to.

He had a ringing in his ears.