Category Archives: Short Story

In the End

Part I

The Earth has died, but we are still here. Living.

What has been left to us is dust. Clouds of it erasing the distance and swallowing horizons whole. We have covered the windows and taped all the seams, yet the smallest of particles still find their way in. Piling in the corners and ensnaring bits on our bare feet.

The Sun has become more powerful. There is no longer a layer to protect us from it’s blinding rays, the power of it’s ultraviolet light altering everything in it’s wake. Within the Day the rays stretch over the land, piercing anything unblemished; radiation consuming the ground. Not even the dust can save you.

We have become accustomed to the Night. Only then is it safe to wonder beyond a door, be it armed with a filter mask, layers of leather upon your skin, and a heavy knife. Never forget your knife.

The oceans are incubators, filled with the toxic aroma of death. The shorelines stretch deep into the land, extending miles beyond their said origins. Storms rage upon them for weeks at times, creating acid rains and winds that pulverize any remains among the abandoned cities.

Humanity once cared for one another. But that care has been replaced with fear. This fear is not like what our grandparents knew. It is ugly and traced with anger, confusion, and blame. No one wants to live in this world, but no one wants to die in it either. Yet we are the ones who made it this way.

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Just This Morning

I read the sentence three times. Again. Again. Again.

Life-altering injuries.

The words echoed in my head. I desperately sought to form them into something tangible. Something real. But right now they were just words on a paper. What did they mean? How much of life is altered?

My life?

Hers?

I sat the papers down and adjusted my glasses. Comforting was never the right word to describe a hospital waiting room. Stiff purple and black chairs with a grey carpet spotted with small yellow flowers. Sunflowers maybe? The walls were painted a dull white, littered with posters about heart disease and the latest wonder medications. And then one lonely window at the end. The shimmer of leaves moving just at it’s edge.

The soft clicking and murmurs from the nurses station caught my attention. I glance over and notice the surgeon bent over the desk, diligently directing a young woman about something. Every so often the woman quickly looks back at me as he talks. Her eyes feel like two black darts. I move in my seat, feeling the anxiety build once more.

The surgeon had been speaking to me a few minutes before. None of his speech had yet to register as he handed me the papers. My mind kept getting stuck on this morning. When we had both been at home, enjoying breakfast on the deck. The sun glinted on her hair and she was laughing.

What bothered me was I couldn’t remember why she was laughing. Was is something I said? Or her? She was so beautiful when she smiled.

But that moment rolled away as she left to run an errand.

Just going to the store, she said. She was going to plant some peonies today. They were just what they needed to finish the garden we had built up in the past year.

I have yet to see the car. Either of them. I now only what the sheriff told me. Head-on. Her car took the brunt of it. Ambulance to St. Josephs on 12th. They suspect alcohol was involved. The other driver had two priors.

I was screaming when I got to the hospital, at no one in particular. I just wanted to find her. Just the thought of her on a lying on a steel table, under the lights, her body relenting to the damage – it tore at me until my insides were on fire.

They have to let me see her.

I can’t wait.

She needs me.

I pleaded. I yelled. I cried.

I was wrenched with agony. They had seen it all before, I knew, but when you are the one breaking down, it’s hard to control any of it.

She has sustained life-altering injuries.

I shook my head, holding back the pain that once again welled in my chest. More of the surgeons words were coming through. The paper was beginning to make sense.

Shattered.

I held onto that one. Because the sum of this day felt wholly shattered. In seconds, my life was exchanged for another. And my wive’s stolen.

I winced and bent over, gasping for air as I began loudly sobbing once more. A flicker of movement on the edge, as the nursed dashed out to me. Gently, she moved her hand in a circle on my back.

“It’s going to be alright. She’s recovering now. Won’t be more than an hour before you can go back to her. I swear it,” she said.

I turned my head up, my eyes swollen and face aching from the tension. “She just wanted to plant some flowers. And now…n–n–now…n-n…” I stuttered and then stopped, unable to finish.

“It’s alright,” she repeated, “get it all out.”

I took a deep breath, feeling an emptiness rise within me. “And now she’ll never see them. Any of them.”

Old Tree

Old tree
on the rock,
roots gnarled
twisted, exposed.
How long
have you stood
against the coastal wind
on this precipice
alone?

CONVERSATIONS

My brain skips as I grasp for words. Conversations shouldn’t be this hard. But they are. For me.

I can never hold up the other half. The last remnants dying on another’s breathe.

Uncomfortable silences don’t make it easier. Now it becomes not only ‘what do I say’ but ‘where do I look.’

It’s a basic human interaction. Why do I find it so frustrating? Too many video games as a kid? Too involved parents?

My mother always said I didn’t have enough friends. People talked about me because of it. A loner, is what they said.

Turning my eyes and shoulders to my right, I focused on the conversation next to me. Leaning onto their words and hoping to get a hold of something to drag me in.

These two were really getting at it. Their voices mirroring each others in an escalation about a new property tax and something to do with an election down in Bade County.

I inputted a few slow nods and raised eyebrows but I don’t own any property. Nor do I have five cents of care for anything political. That topic can be tricky. So I began the awkward dance of slowly stepping back and pretending that someone had called my name.

A smile and a quick wave of the hand.

But as with so many of my unfortunate situations – the dance was interrupted by a silver plated tray lined with bubbling glasses of champagne. The waiter wasn’t quick enough to intercept my unpredictable movement. The glasses came flying forward like tiny missiles straight back onto my face and white buttoned up shirt that I had so carefully picked for this evening.

As each missile hit their target, each then made for a steep, shattering plunge to the tile floor below. The sound echoing across the room and my face reddening and tightening with each painful crash.

The room came to a halting quiet as everyone turned to look at me. I scanned the anxious faces, unsure of what I should do next. My shirt was soaking wet and had already began reeking of hangovers and headaches. The glass sparkled at my feet like a shining pedestal.

No words would come from my mouth to ease their surprised emotions. All I could think about was how I had been concerned about not being able to carry on one conversation but now an entire room was waiting on me to give a confirmation to continue theirs on.

Boiling

I am supposed to be relaxing
but the tightness in my chest
has made it impossible today.

I keep replaying that conversation.

My mind is moving in a circle.
Every expectation has been crushed
and all the happiness drained.

The wire is taut.
And you, stranger,
picked the wrong person
on the wrong day.

Your snarky comment snapped the wire
and at that point
I no longer gave a fuck.

Words careened out of my mouth.
There was no controlling them.
The straw had broken the back.
The pot was boiling over.

It was too much for the week I’d had.
And you were an easy target.

Burning Bear

There is a tale ancient as the mountains. About a bear whose coat was the color of flames.

They say he was bigger than boulders. Claws like a set of hunting knives. Eyes blacker than night.

He roamed the ridges and valleys. And bathed in roaring rivers. Gorging on elderberry and napping amongst the clovers.

Many passed along this whisper through the years. The colorful bear became a legend and a mystery tucked in the fleeting sounds and scents of the forest.

But as with anything unfortunate, not too long ago, a group of local men stumbled on him whilst he napped in a grove. They stared in disbelief at the strange reality brought from the depths of their childhood memories.

The bear’s coat was a furious color. Startling and mesmerizing.

Stepping quickly back to town, they told everyone about the animal. About how the fable became a truth. Dollar signs floated in their heads and plans were vigorously set.

Burning Bear. The name for the sublime creature, crawling on everyone’s tongue. Itching at the skin for their own pleasantries to dawn. A prize to be won.

The men began slowly scouting the forest soon after. Careful with every step and breathe. Wading rivers and wandering through the trees. Full of hope. And greed.

Every so often the would become alarmed. Spotting a dot of orange and yellow not to far. Tracing the path, they would only find fields of flowers so intricately designed. But their eyes never appreciated the fields as they would immediately be perturbed. Annoyed that such splendor was in the way and wasting time in getting what they were due.

But one day, they were sure they had him. Streaks of his coat danced furiously through the forest, leaving glints of color in its wake. Smiling at one another, they readied their bows for Burning Bear was headed right towards them.

Confidence soon turned whey they realized their mistake. It was not the bear but actual fire that had charged them and desired to keep them at bay.

Cries rang out as they turned back for the town. How foolish had they been? How had they missed the dying grey mist that followed the disjointed edges of color? How had they missed the smell of death and the swelter and the smolder?

To their dismay, they found their own path cut short. Escape was not an option as they were surrounded. Feelings of dread and the engorgement of fear. They huddled together and dropped to their knees. Begging in prayer.

A great crash suddenly blossomed in their ears as they looked up and over to find a stack of trees laid just above the ruthless tips of the flames. Thinking it their second chance, they clambered onto the logs, running full speed with no stops.

Halfway across the auspicious bridge, they all noticed an unmistakable outline. Each of the men aghast at what they had seen and what it could only mean.

But upon reaching the end, clear of all smoke and flame, they were saddened to not even glimpse upon their protector. The timely beast had already made his way out, blending with the flames. It dare not wait for its foes, even those it had just saved.

The men gleefully spread this story of an unexpected redemption. And the humor of their salvation.

Though many found it hard to believe, there were many still who swallowed every word. And like a seed, it was planted in their memories. Blossoming in dreams and shaping their beings.

And, like me, one day they hope to thank and see the Burning Bear and his coat twisted in beauty and mystery.

Corners

He is on the corner everyday. Eight am sharp. I’m sure to catch the morning rush. Even the homeless know something about customer volume.

Today, he displays the anything helps sign. The crude black letters stretch across a degraded piece of cardboard, the crease lines wearing through from months of folding it. Or maybe years.

I take a long draw on my cigarette, feeling the nicotine plugging into my nerves. Rolling down the window, I blow out the smoke, my mind briefly drifting back to the evening before. The smell of Jon’s cologne on the sheets and the light graze of a touch. My lips curl into a smile.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the homeless man starting to edge towards my car. In annoyance, I realized he had seen my open window as a signal that I hadn’t intended.

I glanced at the light, hoping the green circle would save me from an awkward interaction. But with no luck, I quickly stubbed out the cigarette and started cranking up the window, cursing under my breath about not paying the extra cash for automatics.

I gently shook my head as he continued to approach and mimed a “Sorry.” His dry face slowly morphed into a scowl. I looked back at him with a mixture of exasperation and guilt blossoming in my head.

He stared back; his volatile deep blue eyes seeming to pierce into me.

For a brief moment, I felt compelled to see if I could find change or something to hand over to him. His open scrutiny bared on me like a spotlight with every driver around me watching the show.

But that feeling soon vanquished at the sound of a horn blaring from behind me. I hit the gas without a second thought, relieved to see the bright green burning ahead. Once I made the turn, I could just put the whole moment behind me.