Episode 4 is that creepy dream that finds you plastered to your bed…maybe has your legs twitching from being disturbed. It visits those darker places inside us that are captives of fear and darkness. Please enjoy this group of stories from start to finish to get the full effect and then come back and enjoy them individually if you like. It is my great pleasure to present the flash fiction of Jason Michel, Chris Deal, Dan Provost, Elly Portnoy, Bill Gainer, Chris Hugh, Shae Davidson, and Lynn Alexander.
Category: Episode 4
In The Guardian newspaper dated 21.12.2012 it was noted that “the financial system woke up today in shock”. This, of course, was an understatement in hindsight.
CNBC was at pains to say, almost apologetically, that it was just the financial worker’s heads that had changed. Later, some commented wryly that their comportment had stayed exactly the same.
Sky News sent their camera crews to Canary Wharf, CNN to Wall Street & TF 1 took theirs to La Défense. Each one of these tried & trusted News stations found & followed the packs of financial sector workers as they defecated & urinated in the streets around the bistros & mirror-windowed that they habitually frequented.
Some fornicated in the gutters in Chelsea & Manhattan with their striped ties from Drakes of London wrapped willy-nilly around their shoulders as the females sniffed & licked each others private parts, chewing on their Mikimoto pearl necklaces as their bosses thrust themselves inside, much to the enjoyment of children on their way to school kicking the winter slush.
Cheery xenophobic tabloid, The Sun, had a headline on 21.01.2013 that ran “ANUBIS-ness As Usual” & featured the story of a wife trying to divorce her husband on the grounds that bestiality was something that even she was not prepared to do.
It was then, a month to the day of the change, that the people unaffected physically by the change worldwide had finally had enough of their rubbish bins being pillaged & having their dear departed’s final resting place dug up & bones stolen & they rose up. “To protect civilisation”, they said, “civilisation & our way of life”.
The National Enquirer’s lead story for 23.01.2013 was titled Jackal & Hide.
Above us was the dominion of gods and the ancient ones, the stars burning in the memory of the universe. In the cold desert night, the vastness of the primordial vista was enough to make you cry at how small you’d forgot you really are. The ground was still cooling from the day’s hate. We were surrounded by a mirage and I couldn’t tell the earth from the sky.
Mark laughed from the driver seat as he kept trying to crank the engine. “It’s flooded,” I said.
“Don’t you think I know that?” He drummed an intricate beat on the steering wheel, Coltrane or Sun Ra or something more base, tribal.
“We’ve got a bit of a head start. Doubt they even know which direction we took.” I dug my fingernails into the tender skin of my thigh to keep my eyes from the looming heavens but nothing could keep it away.
“I don’t want to sit here and wait.”
“Well, then, what’re our options?” I closed my eyes but the sky was still there.
He pointed to the horizon. We took our packs and our guns from the car and stepped into the desert, the domain of no man. Foot before foot, we went forward ever, looking for some sign, but out there were none. We lost sight of the road after our second day’s walk. We followed a dead creek in search of something to satisfy but even its source was decayed.
When I ran out of cigarettes I took to chewing on my fingers and drank the dusty runoff. Mark’s eyes couldn’t focus on anything but the sky and I kept mine to the ground. He lay down and watched the drift of the celestials until he joined them, and I was alone.
The gun swung from a rope tied along the rafters of the warehouse. Alone, no one here for years—Shawn pushed the gun back and forth…quickly ducking out of the way as it acted like a perverted pendulum ready to pounce on a condemned man’s head.
Pictures of family members, friends and former lovers were scattered on the floor. Shawn glanced at a snapshot of his dead sister—she was smiling while the New England snow fell around her. She’s been dead for ten years now. He again looked at the gun.
The barrel pointed down at him…swaying slowly as his head rocked back and forth to the rhythm of the pistol; slower and slower. He grabbed it; put his index finger on the trigger. Someone’s moment of clarity about to be revealed.
“A final hiatus…that’s all,” he whispered.
Dean hates tea kettles. He hates their piercing whistles and steam burns. Dean loathes the shiny chrome kettles most of all. When he sleeps, he often hurls himself awake, drenched in a sweaty dim memory of loud voices and walls that gave away every secret they were supposed to hold. Sometimes, in those dreams, he ducks in time and that silver blob races over his head and loses inertia right about the time it dents the living room wall. And sometimes, he just sees what was: the kettle soaring, as gracefully as if wings had been built into the thing; a thud that should have been a fist beating-pounding-kneading a ball of dough, but instead was the edge of the pot embedding itself into his brain stem. The room was a lunar eclipse, details blacked out, with a maddening sliver of light around the periphery.
He didn’t know then if his eyes were open or shut, and when he wakes up now, he is back to not knowing again. His fingers are a blind man’s, frantically testing out the surfaces of an unfamiliar universe. He knocks a glass of water off the bureau. When his toes squinch into the soggy carpet, he wonders how he managed to find the bathroom without his eyesight. It is 9 p.m. His neighbor’s tea kettle throws its nightly hissy fit. “Shut that goddamned thing off!” Dean is sure he is screaming and feels mildly guilty. His pupils dilate. He glimpses his reflection in the mirror and realizes his mouth never opened at all.
I knew a guy – back in the 60’s, had a scar from an iron on his belly, just above his belt line, You could tell it was an iron – must have hurt like hell? Said it happened in the Navy, loading shells over by Vietnam. He let the truth slip one night, too many cocktails at the Busy-Bee Club. His second wife had put it to him; she liked to fight – dirty. Cost him fifteen hundred dollars to replace three of her teeth from the punch that knocked her out that night. In those days they called it passion and when the blood boiled, you let it – boil. He said the marriage lasted another year, until she came at him with a broken beer bottle and that even though she’d moved to Reno he still carried a Mexican switchblade. Just incase – she still loved him.
He looked deeply into his wife’s eyes. She was quiet for once.
They’d had a big fight, but they’d reached a turning point. Peace had reigned
for two weeks, three days, five hours and thirteen minutes.
Maybe he’d been rough on her, but now everything was better. And if
he’d been harsh, well, she’d deserved it. Her eyes held a look of reproach. He
started to get angry, but quickly pushed down his anger and smiled indulgently.
It was just his imagination. No need to ruin a beautiful moment.
He reflected that some people might not agree with all what he had
done, the measures he’d taken, but no one could disagree that those measures
were effective. Society might fool itself with feminist ideas, but when the man
of the house asserted his authority it was really better for everyone,
especially the woman. He knew it in his heart and his mind: his wife had cried
her last tear.
Of course there was give and take, push and pull, no free lunch. On
the one hand, things were peaceful and happy. On the other, she wasn’t quite as
attractive these last couple weeks, and he didn’t like the way she never looked
him straight in the eye anymore.
He swirled the jar a little bit, but her eyes just got more loopy.
He put them back in the cabinet.
The car fascinated Curtis and Seth. Riding with their parents, the brothers settled in the backseat. With one parent Seth would whine until he got to ride in the front. The night their mom announced a trip to get groceries Curtis didn’t even put up a fight.
“Hold on,” she said as they got in the car. “I forgot the checkbook.”
When she closed her door the dome light faded, leaving the brothers sitting in the dark driveway as she headed back to the house.
“It’s good you like to ride up there,” Curtis said.
“Because you don’t want to know what’s back here.”
Seth didn’t respond. He was too short to look over the seat, but he wanted to see what his brother had found.
“What is it?”
“A little guy lives back here at night, down on the floor. He’s got a hook for a hand.”
Seth froze. He strained his ears to hear any sound– any rustling. In his heart he knew the first sound he heard would be the hook scraping against something.
“And Seth,” Curtis added, “the hook is rusty.”
Seth didn’t cry when he heard this. He sat shaking until their mom returned.
He was silent the whole trip, walking through the grocery store in a daze. He stood mutely in the parking lot as Curtis and his mom loaded bags.
“Seth, Curtis hasn’t ridden up front in a while. Can you let him sit there just this one trip?” their mom asked.
Curtis slipped into the seat before Seth could respond. Sheer terror kept him from complaining as he climbed into the back. Their mom walked the cart back to the store.
“Curtis,” Seth gasped. “He’s not here!”
“Oh,” his brother replied casually, “sometimes he likes to sleep in the trunk.”
It wasn’t even about the dog anymore or losing him in Lewisburg, as much as having come so far with him through weeks of hassle- to have him vanish in the night with just twenty miles to go.
What was it about accumulated hassles that filled her with such a sense of entitlement about outcomes? Irony was blind, nobody knew what she had endured for the dog. Bitterness was irrational. She had left the window open in the car.
Still, she stood there, indisputable victim, squinting in the night.
You never know when you are busy enduring anything if it will be for naught, it is a chance you take, a calculated risk. Chances are good that stupid things won’t happen, but you can’t be entirely surprised when they do. Stupid things happen, and efforts in any direction can be rendered moot. It only takes an open window and a dog with the desire to go.
She thought about the dog, or Walter.
You never know when years of marriage will yield an empty bed in the end, or when paint will be wasted on walls you will abandon, covered by somebody new, your whims erased.
That is just the way of paint, truly the way of many things, maybe even the way of the whole living… gig. We live, but we live to be erased, placed beneath newer layers of life.
“You never know what will happen to your beautiful blue,” she told the dog, in the night.
And it was true. Back home, a blue was buried beneath earth tones three layers deep, her blue was gone, and like so many things in her life it joined the list of wasted efforts, accumulated hassles, buried, buried blues beneath newer layers of life.