Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Short Story Fragment

Just a little something for the middle of the week. More gamebooks coming on Sunday.

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It was early evening, twilight, dusk, whatever you want to call that strange period that prevails for a short time between the light and dark. Mid-july, maybe the longest day of the year. I’m in the city. I’m trying to get home. It seems that particular issue comes up far too often.

You can lose track of time. The bookstore is closing at the end of the month and it was probably my last chance. A lot of it was already packed up, cardboard boxes on the floor full of yellowed pages, neat stacks of recorded thought ready to go to the dust bin, unsorted piles with colorful covers suggesting all manner of adventure on the dank insides. I got caught up sorting through it all, seeing if there might be a hidden treasure worthy on my hard-earned fed play money. I was deep in it and the time slipped by from late afternoon to the current temporal no man’s land.

I bought a few things. One was one of those social problems books, printed in an era where success still seemed like a possibly, albeit one that would require hard work and sacrifice. No one thinks like that any more, not even the true believers. We’re fucked.

Another was some sort of science fiction. I got it just for the cover, mostly. Planets and aliens and computers filling in for THE LORD, that sort of shit. I couldn’t even remember the others. It would be a big surprise, fucking holiday morning when I get home, open that mountain-climber “because it’s fucking there” backpack and find out what they are. Small pleasures, they’ll do until something better comes along.

You have to keep your eyes open. The pack attacks, the killings are nearly commonplace these days and I’m not interested in being one of the faceless victims that are quickly ushered down the memory hole with some token cluckings of disapproval. Here and there are likely suspects, peering out from between hundred-year-old buildings, thin monsters full of menace, occupying a world built by the dead and forgotten.

It’s only a few more blocks. All around cements and brick and even the occasional wood or steel. There are sirens, but I think they’re at least a mile off. You get an ear for it, like soldiers who learn to tell if that artillery shell is going to miss or if it’s time to move, to dive for that bomb proof bunker and hope for the best. That’s pretty much what I was doing too, get out of this area of danger, back to the safe haven, the enclave where nothing bad can possibly go wrong.

Coming up on a main intersection. I can see the train from here, but it’s still a fair way off. The eyes can play tricks at this time of day, like that distance distortion in the desert and that sort of shit. Don’t walk. Do anything else, but not that one particular answer. Who am I to disobey an edict delivered in unnatural glowing orange like an urban will-o-wisp? It’s a bad break, though. It means no more forward motion toward the goal and having to stand and wait, stand and be counted, noticed. Yeah, it’s already happening.

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Aaron Zehner's first novel The Foolchild Invention is available now.

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