Thursday, January 19, 2012

Somewhere Near The End

There you were. You were alone. The world had moved on, but you were still here.

You were still here.

The world was covered with ash. The laughter of children – your children – faded to nothing. All was still. All was quiet. The world left you behind.

Toys rusted and degraded. Households were soiled and rotten.

You remembered the softness of your wife’s hair, her smile, her laugh. These things were now silent and gone.

She was bones.

Your children were bones.

Those bones were buried long ago. Gone but not forgotten.

You are still flesh and blood. Your heart still beats in your chest. You hold life within you, but no real life.

All is still.

You walk outside. The moon and the stars still shine through the clouds. And the sky is always cloudy. The light above gives light but no warmth.

You walk.

You find an empty bar. You find a nearly empty bottle of whiskey. You suck it down. You light a found cigarette. The tobacco is stale but still burns. You inhale. You exhale. The air tastes no different, no more meaningful.

The world moved on without you.

You hear a rustling in the trees outside. You feel things watching you. Perhaps they’re people. Perhaps they’re ghosts. It doesn’t matter. Because all that mattered once is now gone away.

There are cans of food and dried beans. These are in your bag. You eat, but nothing has any taste.

You drink, but the burn of alcohol is just a momentary sting before all feeling fades.

You smoke, but the air is already filled with smoke and carcinogens.

The world is not what it once was. There were sounds, there was life, there was something like normality, but normality is nothing but a memory. And life is a bitch.

And you almost had an epiphany. But it was gone.

It was gone.

Somewhere, on the other side of the world, the ocean still crashes against sand. Somewhere, there is rain and ice eroding the mountains. Somewhere, there is a cycle that goes on and on and on, and it will go on once you are long gone.

You are already long gone.

And you were gone before you even arrived.

And there is your epiphany, but it doesn’t matter.

There is no one left to hear your scream.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Reluctant Huntress

When they called her name, she stared up blankly.

I don’t know who I am anymore.

She clenched her fists. Slick fingers rubbed up against each other with no friction. She held her hands to her face and looked at the color. The wetness clotted in places.


The stag next to her lied still. A redness contrasted the whiteness of snow. The sun shone bright overhead from a frozen and cloudless sky. He ran so far, chased by his own dogs. He ran so long. He almost got away.

She looked up at a patch of barren oak trees, noted the way their bare branches cut jagged lines through the blue unending dome of sky.

“Diana.” A hand fell on her shoulder. A soft grip on her chin tilted her head up. She saw a face she almost recognized. “It’s me, Diana. It’s okay. You’re not in any trouble, baby. I promise. I’ve come to take you home.”

Diana looked at the stag again. She willed it to move, willed the chest cavity to rise and fall once more. It stayed still.

I don't know who I am anymore.

She closed her eyes. She reopened them, and the world changed.

Her ears heard sounds. Cars honked. A pair of policemen milled nearby talking together with hushed voices. She turned away from the field and saw the grey brick back of a strip mall.

She turned to the stag.

In place of the stag lay a man: not Actaeon, not a myth, just a man. A young man who had tried to…

She shuddered and pulled her legs up to her chest. She cried.

“It’s okay, baby. It’s okay. You didn’t do anything wrong. Shh.”

Diana found her voice. “Why’d he do it, Momma? Why’d he try to take me?”

Her mother looked to the policemen with glassy eyes. “Can I take her home now?” she asked. The words came out hitched and uneven. The woman released a stubborn sob.

The two men looked to each other. They nodded.

One of the policemen walked over. “The general manager says they have just about the whole incident on tape. Self-defense, so I don’t think anyone’s going to press any charges.” He reached out his hand to the mother to hand her something. Diana jerked away, startled by her own movement and instantly felt shame for being afraid. “Here’s my card, Mrs. Vines. Should you have any questions, give us a call, okay?” The policeman bent down and ran a hand over the back of Diana’s hair. She wanted to pull away but didn’t. The man tried to look into her eyes, but she hid herself in her hair. “Look, I know a good doctor who deals with this sort of thing all the time. I mean it, unfortunately. All. The. Time. Normally, after, you know, if it goes too far, we always have to take them to the hospital. But in this case, I think home might be best.” He sighed. “Anyway, please understand this girl will need to talk about this with someone. There’s good people out there who help people get through this sort of thing all the time.”

Diana’s mother nodded, said her thanks, and helped the girl to her feet.

They left fresh tracks in new snow as they walked back to the shopping center, back towards the parking lot full of people and something resembling normalcy.

Diana turned around one last time. She saw the dead stag, his fine coat shredded by his own hunting dogs. Something pulsed in her clutched fist. She opened her hand and saw Actaeon’s heart bleed through her fingers.