Category: Short Stories
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the Storm.
It’s always been there, behind us, whispering through the shuddering ground. A background roar behind the wind. We’d been ahead for so long, moving slightly faster than its clockwork crawl. Until the mountains. Then, as we ground ourselves upward against these slopes, we heard it rumbling closer, a rising quake in the earth. But it’s been a while since I turned around and actually saw it. Sitting here on the side of the mountain, in the frigid morning, it fills my vision and stings my eyes with the monstrous unreality of it.
It rises like an unbroken wall into the sky, obscured only by the limits of my sight, fading into the clear blue, and stretching away north and south, curving away with the earth. The sunlight doesn’t seem to touch it. Nothing does. At the ground, where the churning wall of sickly blue lightning and black clouds grinds across the earth, I can see the Unmaking. The lower peaks, already shaking apart, burst and ablate away at the event horizon of the Storm. The land dips before the onslaught, as if shying away from the kiss of the boiling wall. I can feel the violence beneath my feet as millions of tons of ancient mountain falls away into its infinite maw.
It’s going to be on me in a few hours. I wonder if I’ll die when the peak caves away, crushed in a free-fall of slate and stone, or whether I’ll be alive when the Storm touches me, shredded and atomized, erased and Unmade. I wonder, again, what it might feel like.
I shut them out, make my world the rusting footbridge, the warm air, and the dark water below. An untouched bubble of space that I alone inhabit. On the worn concrete abutment beneath me, someone has scrawled in white paint the words LOOK UP, and I do so, without thinking, the command bypassing conscious thought. The sky is perfectly blue, cerulean above me and cornflower in the distance. I tumble the words through my hands, adding to them: azure, cobalt, bondi, indigo, ultramarine. The blues merge and swirl, dripping through my hands leaving long streaming trails of letters.
I shake my head and laugh loud, listening to the sound travel on the warm breeze. Happy. For the first time in many months, I am free, in control. My life is my own again.
I try to ignore the voice, but I know Alex is already walking down the bridge toward me. The brief surge of freedom is already starting to fade. I try to hold tight to the moment, leaning out and surveying the debris choked creek beneath. What I had taken for a filthy styrofoam beer cooler catches my eye, and I look closer and see a green and mossy haunch. A rotting human thigh, the remaining skin greenish white, the rest of the body vanishing into the algae choked water.
My mother is crying so loud that at first I can’t make out what she’s saying, her voice made tinny and small in the phone. Finally I pick his name from the sine wave of her wailing, and I know my brother Lev is dead. My guts constrict, wrapping into a knot, and I feel the air rush out of me, and then I am no longer quite standing. I let her go on for a while as I struggle to control my breathing, eyes tilted skyward to stem the tears, back pressed to the cool cracked plastic of the refrigerator. When she’s out of breath I hear my father, his low baritone cracked with hurt, muttering, to me or my mother or both. After a while I start to hear his words, hear ‘shiva’, and my guts twist again, counterclockwise this time. He is talking to me.
They want me to come home.
I land just in time for the funeral, crossing the continent in a few bleary eyed hours, and I arrive at the cemetery still wearing the sweaty reek of the plane’s cabin on my clothes. The coffin is almost into the ground before I can fully grasp what it means. That this is my brother’s body, and that he is dead, and this is forever. I’m still mulling this over, spinning it in my head like a smooth stone, when we arrive at the home we grew up in. I place my bags onto a familiar bed that looks smaller than it should, and then I return to the ground floor where I shake hands, and nod politely to a swirling fog of strange and aged faces from my childhood.
I answer the same questions over and over again, my job, my life, the past 20 years. There’s a rhythm to the answers I soon nail, and then I no longer have to think about the responses. The faces drift away with the daylight, and when the house is dark and empty, everything sharpens and solidifies. Every where I twist my eyes, something triggers a tiny explosion of images and memories. A dented baseboard. Dull silver on a salt shaker. View full article »