Afternoon in the Grass (flash fic, ~400K)

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IMG_1221It feels like chills down my spine, like all your hairs standing on end, like everything’s operating at the speed of light, at a hundred degrees, at lightning voltage, at maximum volume.

It feels like nothing at all.

I lie in the grass. It’s Tuesday. Wendy lies beside me, eyes closed, breathing softly.

I trail my fingers along her arm, smooth and warm in the sun.

Nothing.

I press up against her, back to front. The strands of her brown hair brush against my face.

Nothing.

The grass doesn’t tickle. The sun doesn’t heat. The wind doesn’t whip against my skin.

I kiss her lips. Nothing.

A year ago, everything was different. Nerves were alive. Love was new. Accidents had yet to happen.

A stray piece of Wendy’s hair lies against her cheek. I fold it back behind her ear, tuck it alongside the others. Does she feel like silk? Does she feel like straw? I don’t know. She smells like roses and rainwater.

Wendy rolls over onto her side, facing me. She smiles, lips pink and wide. Genuine. She reaches for my hand and entwines our fingers, blue on black.

Wendy closes her eyes. I close mine. Behind my eyelids it is dark with white sparks, dots in the night sky. The sparks feel like recycled electricity channeled through me, just passing by on their way to somewhere else. They feel like fire and ice at the same time, they feel like a memory. They feel like everything and nothing at the same time.

I feel cold. I feel like frosting and expired eggs, I feel tired, I feel like I need a drink. I feel like taking off Wendy’s clothes, I feel like saying goodbye to her forever. I feel like a father and a mother, a bastard and a liar, a priest and a prisoner, a thief and a champion. I feel like a newborn and an old man, I feel like I’ve just climbed Everest. I feel like I’m all choked up, like I can’t breathe, like the cops are hunting me down as I’m speeding down the highway, seconds away from freedom. I feel like crying.

I feel nothing.

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The end of times

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end of timesIt was the end of times A.D. and the world was made anew. Carpetbaggers came to town then, all offering things we needed in the wake of inevitable, quiet disaster. The whole town had been in shock for about a week and a half, but then we realized we had seen it coming, had been expecting this for quite some time now. I thought we would all miss the television but no one did, there was one old man in the village who still knew how to tell stories and he was now the town’s most popular resident. There were no more “foodies”, no crème fraiche or dried goji berries for 8.99 a pound, we were happy when we pulled up a root vegetable and it didn’t break in half.

Winter came early that year though, and the frost nearly killed us. Like pilgrims we considered cannibalism, but didn’t want to go back to the way it had been before the draught. Half of us survived and the other half tried to make the journey to other countries, but on foot and without electronic map devices, we forgot where they were, and none of us could speak any foreign languages anyway.

But we built, slept, and waited, and before long, the engineers returned and the buildings popped up again. Supermarkets and Walmarts came back and we played video games long into the night once more. Three generations passed and we forgot about the draught. We bought up everything we could for 8.99 a pound and we ate cheesecake topped with organic crème fraiche. It would be a thousand long years before the end of times, when we would learn how to make fire, how to dance, and the world would be made anew.

Marrianne

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MarrianneMarrianne was an angel from another galaxy. Violet-skinned and silver, pointed teeth. Her form vaguely holographic, I could stick my arm right through her and it would come out the other side. She was better than all my friends at any board game and her analysis of classic movies was always spot on.

I wanted to coax Marrianne into staying with me forever. I bought her expensive gifts, but all precious minerals were common to her. I gave her the finest foods we had to offer, but her tastebuds were fashioned for different flavors than those found on earth. (The only flavor of ours she could discern was anise, and she drank a lot of Absinthe, but alcohol had no intoxicating effect on her.) I showed her that I was wealthy enough to provide for her, offered her a home anywhere she liked–the mountains, the desert, a ship on the ocean, but she didn’t want to stay in one place.

When I awoke, I knew she was gone. I was sure I’d merely dreamed her up, an amalgamation of the girl from the grocery store, crime-fighting super heroines, and my sister’s best friend from high school. Missed opportunities, drudgery and the atomic bomb, taking her away from me a little more each day with every shallow breath and every new shampoo commercial.

John

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John

John had travelled to all 4,971 countries. He’d been in every time zone and eaten every type of food imaginable. He was very good at math, and appreciated art but never created it himself. He’d been married no times at all. Alone and without foreknowledge, he continued along in his middle-class existence. Second story apartment. Flatscreen TV. Half a dozen cage-free, organic eggs. Thai food on Wednesdays. The occasional date with a paper doll girl–she would giggle at his jokes that even he knew weren’t funny, and he would lose interest. Made the rent every month as a freelance journalist, praising other people’s cuisine, sculptures, ballets.

All John had ever wanted was something to call his own, instead, he spent his time looking at what everyone else had, lusting after what he saw on the screen, the canvas, and in his friends’ living rooms. That 18th century Tigrato vase Steve and Megan had gone on about all night had him booking a flight to Venice the minute he got home. The 21″ suitcase would be enough. He travelled light.