"We have fallen off the edge"
It was warm the night the kindling caught. Only secrecy visible outside the circle. The shadow figure towered off to the right. The mother device tossed down the photo like a well-placed bet and stated, "You were conceived there."
The mountain lushness of the glossy reproduction was unmistakable. Manifest, you wanted to say but the fire suckled your words.
"Just after a harsh rain, the trees were pixilated with dew," the mother pronounced. "We climbed the callow nub, then slid down the other side."
The shadow nodded assent.
"You must recall it," she continued. "Reticence or no, the love left in you by those beautiful people will stand still with you always."
You nodded without knowing.
"Anxious to make you animated, those modest people took you to their home, thronging roughly about you, lavishing without acrimony. You always liked those streets at dusk, the tenant farmers crossing their chests with godly mumbles, the police in their beds furnished with pity for the children. Call it a dream, but it must have happened all the same. I kissed the soil in front of them and adored it sotto voce. They let me do so without discomfort for they themselves had many soughs to unfold. Only here paradise suffered in your features, illustrating everything."
This chin rushed over you, then tore to the corner of the room where the other yarns huddled like soteriological study. Jesus, what do decent men talk about, you wondered, understanding the suggestion of nothing.
Caressing the greasy fringe of an oilcloth pillow, the shadow spoke up tenderly, "Enough of this. The alleged library is no more. We will read at home now. And sit without thinking at night. Show a little bravado: this is the age-old repartee."
You picked idly at a briar root, feeling your age.
"We are in the abyss"
We were supposed to be at the prom, empty dresses puffed out on the bed, all black and white and shimmering. The boyfriend sat cross-legged on the carpet by the stereo, idly flipping through albums. I tried on pants from a huge stack splayed across the window seat, overflowing onto the floor, a rainbow of muted tones my mother had picked up on sale. They were small sizes, twos, fours, the occasional six, but all much too big. Like the dresses, she would later return the ones I wouldn't wear.
"Do these make me look fat," I said, turning around to turn on the air-conditioner. It came on loud, rustling like tiny elephants stampeding in concentric circles inside the metal box.
"No," shouted the boyfriend, playing the new hip hop album, our favorite song on repeat. We couldn't get enough of that sample from "The Simpsons." We laughed every time.
Then sounds out in the hall, a clamor like banging but shrouded by the sounds of stereo and AC. I went to investigate. At the front door, several neighbor friends were complaining about a liquid dripping down from our apartment. As explanation, I mentioned the prom. They didn't accept this, continued mumbling and beating on the now open door.
"Oh, the old air conditioner," I said with palm to temple. This made sense and they went away, nodding, smiling, patting on backs.
When I returned to the bedroom, being sure to lock the door behind me, the boyfriend announced he was breaking up with me.
"A pass is required for entrance," the Iguana girl spoke from her cool, hush-hush interior.
You lifted your palm for the scanner, then she led you to the marshy bottom where the romance people defended dreams. Father had joined the others for dancing in the cavernous saloon. There was a sleepy mammalian ease about him. Faint but unmistakable, his fever smell. You followed at a trot as he trimmed aimless growths into pure, arched shapes. The ivied walls turning to angular plots with a snip of his eager hands.
The girl went back out with the hounds. You shadowed her as she soothed, "Yes, it was clever of you to find me among all this sensual isolation, such magnificent gloom. Will I be indebted, you wonder."
"Humor is a marvel created by the discharge of civilization into chaos," you found yourself saying proudly. "Every emotion is presented to the unconscious as a primary form. This picture equals a hundred poems."
"The beasts are real enough, but a strange sight, a haunting sight perhaps," she echoed you.
You touched her hand to the tune of Father's voice banjoing out of the darkness, "Come, let us watch until there's nothing more to see."
You three at the balcony's edge inspected the shearing dance. Retrograde, you wanted to call it, but silently you said to the girl, "I am amazed to discover that you are like me. I talk to you for an hour and grow even more disgusted with myself."
She smiled, so pretty her chuckling face. Later, stepping into her underwear, an overgrown toenail skidded across the fleshy back of her hand, drawing blood.
We were enjoying the sunset over Tokyo Bay when the businessmen spotted us. I wasn't in the mood to pin tongues to chins again, but sotted suits see lithe creatures with long hair and think: greenbacks. Our moment of metered reflection ended with the greed-addled gang looming over us, their tobacco plugs bringing up spit the color of blood.
"A wraparound skirt is a poor choice for a windy day," I whispered as I watched her tiny fist curl around a hairpin.
She lunged at the first yen-bearing male, but missed her mark. They were upon us like Catholics on pizza day. Then, faster than you can loose at three-card monte, blood flowed from somewhere other than the smooth men's mouths. It was her, red stuff pouring out of eyes, ears, nose and throat.
Notoriously afraid of stains, the young capitalists scrambled away with a yelp, scratching ankles, knees and elbows in their retreat, leaving an even longer trail of gore. I turned to her, ready to administer CPR, but she just smiled widely, her teeth glowing pink with the last light of day, and said, "Never underestimate the power of myth."
About the author:
Sarah M. Balcomb lives in Brooklyn. She has a look about her that some might call familiar.