a year in stories::twenty two

Forgot how much I love that song till today when I had it on repeat for probably half an hour.

I feel very depressed. I feel sort of this absence, an inability to do things I think need to be done.

So it goes.

Today’s story is part of another story/novella collection I’ve been meaning to finish for almost two years. It’s going to be called The City of Lost Things but I probably won’t get around to it till next year. I think I’ve talked about it before. It’s going to be a book of three novellas and maybe thirty short stories. I only have three of the short stories written, so it’s rather slow going. This is the first one I’ve written in at least a year. They’re all sort of like this, I guess, which maybe won’t make for good reading.

Anycase:

 

She kept the Ocean in a Shell

 

I feel nothing, he said.

Pulling the needle from his eye she told him not to move.

Is this really how Newton did it?

No, she said, her concentration wiping features from her face. Her mouth hung slack, eyes drooped, cheeks sucked in, she told him that Newton did it alone.

Why are we doing this?

She wiped her hands, I just wanted to see if you trust me.

Taking her hand: Of course I do. I’d let you stick a thousand pins into my eye.

Smiling, she slapped his face lightly, and he pulled her closer, hands taking hold of her ass until she sat straddling him.

You’re excited, she said.

His breath cold on her skin, he kissed her chest, unbuttoning her shirt, but she pushed herself up and stepped back, told him he hadn’t yet earned it.

How many things will you shove in me before roles reverse?

She smiled, twirled, dancing away. This is not about love, she sang.

What is this about? He remained sitting, slumped in the chair, chin in palms, watching her back away to the window.

It’s about sound and shadow, maybe. Does it have to be about anything?

Then why don’t we–

Because you’ll fall in love, she said and sat on the window sill. You already love me. I can tell.

Her face caught in moonlight, his heartbeat sped through broken pulses and he swallowed hard, standing and crossing the room to stand beside her. The fragmented moon broke through the clouds and the Lunar Sea danced in its light. She watched it, swirling her hand to a melody unheard, and he watched her, blind to the visions past the window. He asked her if he would ever be good enough for her and she said that’s not the point but she did not look at him and his skin turned cold, his tongue metallic.

I don’t want you to love me, she said, because I don’t want to have children on this earth. It’s dying and the war’s coming everywhere. Especially here. All the migrants and vagrants wandering, broken. Deserters and the maimed, wrecked by war. They will come here  the war will follow them. Soldiers will be kicking down doors and even Song’s will be tinder for a fire of violence. We live on this tenuous edge of the real world, in the city where nothing lasts, the city that doesn’t exist, but the world will find us here, some day. Everything will come crashing down around us.

She turned to him, his face split by shadow and light, and she reached her hand to him. Pressing his cheek into her palm, warmth spread through him and a hole sunk in his chest. Closing his eyes, he held her wrist, felt the pulse there–even and slow–the smoothness of her skin, the tiny hairs. When he opened his eyes the stains of tears smeared her cheeks and she turned away, back to the fragmented moon.

We can make it through, he knelt beside her, taking her hands as she stared out the window. We can run away. We needn’t stay here. If this city will burn then we’ll go away. We’ll be somewhere else. Someone else.

Running is what got us here, her voice thick in her throat.

Then we’ll keep running.

You can’t run from the world war. This one will be different than the others. There will be no safe havens, no countries unaffected.

Then what do we do? He lowered his head to her lap and breathed her in.

She pushed him away and stood, crossed the room, digging through her drawers, then closet. Standing there, still, silent, he watched her breath, her ribs expand and contract, then she returned to him with a conch shell.

She handed him the shell, told him to listen. To close his eyes.

He took it and a shudder ran down his spine as the wind blew into the room. Where’s it from, he said.

Just listen.

Exhaling slow through his nose, he pressed the shell against his ear and there he found the ocean. The waves crashed in, the seagulls screamed, and children played, laughing, splashing.

Keep your eyes closed, she said, and just listen. Hear the world that was and will never be again.

He did. And when he opened his eyes she was gone. Staring into the clouds shrouding the moon, he put the shell back to his ear, his heart beating slow and steady.

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