|Autumnal Equinox 1998
Bill's stories have appeared in such magazines as F&SF, Science Fiction Age, and Realms of Fantasy. If you like what you see here, you can read more of his work at his website Inhuman Swill
He programs computers for a living at the Children's Television Workshop, and claims to be a close personal friend of Grover.
He currently lives alone with his conscience in New York City.
AIGE STOPPED BEFORE THE half-open apartment door. This was where the dog had gone in, damn its ugly hide. The little purple pennant was still in her hand -- Utah Jazz, it said -- and when she noticed she stuffed it hurriedly into her purse, why had she held onto the stupid thing? Her pulse was racing and she didn't know why, maybe it was the chase, or the climb up five flights of stairs, but no, she was in better shape than that, her heartbeat should have been almost back to normal. She had to admit it wasn't exertion at all, it was something else altogether, go ahead and say it, you coward, it's fear, that's what it is, no use fooling yourself. Through the doorway she heard the clink of her keys being dropped, then the soft padding footsteps of the dog as it circled and lay down. She didn't need this. What she needed was her car keys, Jeannie and Trish were waiting for her out there in the cold--
She huddled into her raincoat. The basketball game had actually been fun. Screaming her lungs out and waving her little pennant, she'd almost been able to forget that old Bill Ezrin was dead. Parkinson's disease, age seventy-seven, no living relatives, how sad. He'd gone just that morning, and with him went any hope of getting her case study done in time for a grade that quarter. She hadn't ever liked old Bill, in fact she'd hated him, but now he was dead and it felt like her fault. It was silly, but it still felt like her fault, because she had wished he were dead. She had wished him dead when his old man's anger frothed out and his cold dry hand seized her wrist, shivering her with a sensation like snakes slithering over her skin. His rage, his smell, his touch--it was more than she could take. Some nurse she was going to make.
Oh, sure, the game took her mind off all that, but it was just a short reprieve. There was more rotten luck waiting after the game, what with this stupid dog that attacked her from out of nowhere and bit the keys right out of her hand. It was so crazy you could almost have predicted it, and so absurd it could only have happened to her. She curled her fingers. At least the skin wasn't broken, so there'd be no stomach injections to worry about, at least she had that to be thankful for.
The door in front of her looked like it had once been painted white and gold, but now it was covered with chips and scratches where the wood beneath showed through. Light spilled from the apartment into the dim hallway, letting Paige see the threadbare carpet under her feet and the water-spotted wallpaper all around her, and suddenly she realized that maybe this place wasn't as nice as it had seemed at first, and if she hadn't needed her damn keys so bad she would have turned on her heel right then and there and caught a bus home, who cares if they towed her car or threw a chain around the axle, at least she'd be out of there.
Fear had chased away her anger, but now the anger came steaming back like a runaway train. She let it stiffen her resolve. Her face hardened into a cold, chiseled mask. She smoothed back her short hair, black as a raven's wing, and knocked.
Someone inside the apartment said, "Come in. It's open."
She pushed on the door and stood there as it slowly swung open. The first thing she saw was a man in a recliner. He was half-turned in the chair so he faced the door, and he couldn't have been a whole lot older than she was, late twenties maybe, and he had on a red T-shirt tucked neatly into his faded jeans, and he wasn't really all that bad-looking except that he hadn't shaved for a while and his hair was sticking out all over and his complexion was kind of sallow like he didn't get out in the sun much, and she could tell he was tall by the way his legs were folded up, and in his oversized hands he held a pair of binoculars, but there was this really weird puppet with floppy ears on one of his hands, like the kind you make in grade school out of an old glove. "Hello--" he said, raising the binoculars to his face. He aimed them at her purse. "--Paige."
He put the binoculars down and smiled. He looked tired, and he did nothing but stare at her. Paige was suddenly very aware of the clothing she had on beneath her open raincoat -- an unbuttoned sweater, a tight white tank top, black biking shorts -- and she pulled the coat shut tightly around her, feeling a little dirty, like maybe all her mother's advice wasn't so stupid after all, just give me a place to change and I'll be fine. "How did you . . . ?" Her voice trailed off in confusion and fear.
The man's eyes crinkled, and his tired smile softened a little, but she still didn't like the way it looked. His teeth were crooked. "How did I what?"
Through the window, the city stretched away to the Great Salt Lake under swollen gray clouds. She could see the gleaming Delta Center sports arena a few blocks away, and that reminded her of her friends out by the car where it might rain any minute. On the floor beside the recliner lay the dog, a big ugly mongrel, and her keys were lying there by its front paws, just two steps into the room, scoop them up, and she'd be home free. "Know my name," she said, steeling herself, ice collecting in her voice. "How the hell did you know my name?"
"I read your driver's license, how else? Geez." The man stretched, leaned back in the recliner, wiped his eyes. "My name's Eddie. It's nice to meet you."
"Oh, the pleasure's all mine, Eddie," she said sourly. "You're a laugh a minute, you're a real riot." What the hell was this wiseguy trying to pull on her anyway, did he think she was stupid or something, or was he just a smartass? "You realize those are my car keys there? I've been chasing your damn dog for five blocks."
"Yeah, I know. Jeffrey does good work. Thank you very much, Jeffrey. You've been a very good dog today." Eddie flourished his hand, the one with the silly little flop-eared puppet on it, and the dog jumped to its feet. He wiggled his fingers as if directing the dance of a marionette. The dog trotted past Paige and out the door. "I call him Jeffrey after Mutt and Jeff, you know -- get it? He's a mutt, see, and--" He was laughing, but she didn't react, she just stared at him, so he hurried on. "Yeah, well, anyway, I'm sorry about all this, but it was the only way I could think of to meet you." He stood up, retrieved the keys, put them in his pocket, and all of a sudden Paige got very nervous about mentioning them again. He threw the puppet into a corner. "Why don't you come on in and have a seat?"
She could feel the throbbing of her pulse in her temples, never a good sign, she'd felt it too many times already this week, and that was about three times too often. "Where do you know me from? Where have you seen me before?"
He laughed again, but it wasn't a very full laugh, it was more like the derogatory kind of laugh you give someone who's just said something really dense, and it barely touched the corners of his mouth. "I already told you, I--" He broke off and shook his head. "Forget it. Listen, I don't know you from Adam, okay? Or Eve, or whoever." He didn't look at her, he just picked something up from a little end table on the far side of the recliner, the side she couldn't see. He held it lightly in his hands and studied it, like you might hold a wounded bird. It was a naked Barbie doll. "So how did you like the game?" he said brightly. "Jazz were pretty hot today, huh?"
This was getting to be too much, she didn't know why she was putting up with it, he had her damn car keys, for hell's sakes. She stormed into the room and practically shouted in his ear: "What are you trying to prove?"
He didn't look up, he just kept staring at the doll like he was concentrating really hard, then he started to bend its arms, and then little bits and pieces from her last ab-psych class starting coming back, and she got a weird feeling in the pit of her stomach like why isn't this guy locked up somewhere, he's a complete sicko, they ought to come drag him away in a butterfly net. "I'm not trying to prove anything," he said levelly. "I was watching the game on TV and I saw you up there in the stands a couple of times -- you know, like when the cameras were on the crowd. I wanted to meet you."
Paige closed her eyes and shook her head. "You wanted to meet me -- so your bloodhound tracks me down from a picture on TV? You've got to be kidding."
Eddie was fiddling with the legs and the waist and even the head of the doll now, and he looked frustrated. He blew out his breath and slammed it down onto the end table, and it was like the doll had fallen there from a long way up, like maybe five stories, sprawled out with its limbs all bent the wrong way and its head twisted around like its neck was broken, like she'd gone sidewalk diving and the meat wagon was going have to come along and scrape her up with a putty knife, that's what it looked like. He stared Paige right in the eyes, his face haggard and alive, his voice intense. "Listen, do you know anything about synchronicity?"
Paige shook her head, just a little, not because she didn't know but because she had no idea where this was leading, was he trying to get metaphysical or was he making a pass at her or what? His eyes were burning a hole in her and she wanted to look away but she didn't dare, but then she did, just a little, just a shift of the eyes and a shying of the head that let her take in all of the cluttered little apartment with its maps and posters and shelves and record albums and books and plants and its grandfather clock and its dirty dishes and the little bits of this and that strewn on the floor, and even the swollen gray bellies of the clouds outside the window, it wasn't much but it was enough and she could face him and she could speak again, and she said, "What are you talking about? You read Jung?"
His hands started to flutter, like moths' wings. "Young? Like in Brigham Young, you mean?"
"No, no, Jung -- Carl Jung, the psychologist."
With a little shake of his head, he broke away and bustled off to the kitchen with these odd little twitches that had agitation written all over them and meant she ought to be getting out of there with all due haste and not come back without two or three burly cops to haul this nut off to the funny farm, who cares about the keys, and she heard the water running full blast in the kitchen and then Eddie was back with a watering can and he started in on the plants that were sitting by the one dingy window in the place, and he was saying, "I never heard of that guy Jung -- but I do have some stuff by that other guy, the one in the wheelchair, you know, the one who talks about the whole history of the universe ever since the Big Bang and stuff. There's some good stuff in there, but nothing about synchronicity, which was what I really wanted to find out about," and it was like some kind of ritual, the watering was, the kind they give psychotics to do in therapy to keep their minds off whatever else it is they're not supposed to be doing.
Paige didn't know anything about the guy in the wheelchair, which pissed her off because she liked to consider herself pretty well-read and the idea that this psycho was more up on things than she was didn't sit well with her at all. "So what do you know about synchronicity?" she said.
He shrugged as he watered, going from one plant to another with tight, controlled little movements. "I don't know. That it's a casual connecting principle and stuff like that. You know."
Eddie moved on down the row of plants, away from the window. Outside, the gray clouds were getting grayer by the minute as the sun dropped toward the horizon behind that thick, woolly veil. Something inside of Paige was getting grayer, too, as if old Bill Ezrin had just draped his shroud over her heart. "Listen, Eddie," she said, "it's really starting to look it's gonna rain out there . . ."
He was over in the corner by a grimy table with a globe and a sunlamp and a bunch of little ferns, and his arms were shaking as he tried to water them. "You're right," he said distantly, like he was thinking about something else, "it might definitely rain, that's for sure," and the can shook so bad that he spilled water all over the globe, and just then the clouds cut loose and a thousand angry fingers of rain drummed against the window so hard that Paige jumped and almost even squealed a little, but the cloudburst was over almost just as soon as it began and Paige had to work hard to control her breathing.
"But then again," said Eddie, still with his back to her, "the sun could be out again before you know it," and he flipped on the sunlamp and started blowing on the little drops of water so they'd dry out before they could damage the globe. Through the window Paige could see the lower crescent of the sun peek out from beneath the clouds, way out on the horizon over the lake, like a footlight shining from beneath a tattered gray curtain, and then a gentle wind began to stir through the sky, tearing off bits of cloud and tossing them around like wisps of cotton candy, and it was just like they always said about Utah, if you don't like the weather then come back in five minutes, tonight that really was true, and she looked over at Eddie and he was leaning on the table like he was gathering his strength or something, but his arms weren't shaking anymore, so she figured his little routine must have worked, it calmed him down, and that was reassuring.
"Eddie . . . ?" she said tentatively.
He spun around like she'd startled him, or caught him in the middle of some dirty act. "Oh, yeah, yeah," he said, eyes wide, "the synchronicity thing. Here's where I got that word from." He shut off the sunlamp, then he went to a shelf and pulled down a compact disc with a cover in garish red, yellow, and blue, it was Synchronicity by the Police, what else, she should have known, and he brought it over to her and pointed to some text in small white letters that was worked into the jacket design. "Right there," he said authoritatively, "it tells you that synchronicity is an acausal connecting principle. You know, like it talks about in the song -- effects with no cause and all that. You've heard it before."
She nodded. She had never paid attention to that particular song, but she figured it wasn't worth mentioning, especially since the sun was on its way down and her number- one priority was to get out of there with her body in the same condition it was in when she arrived, no point in sparking any more long manic digressions or she could be stuck there all night. The room was cool, so she didn't realize she was perspiring until a trickle of sweat rolled down her spine and set the flesh to crawling.
"There's some really good stuff on this album, too," said Eddie, and the look in his hollow eyes was just like one she'd seen on a police dog, all innocent and vulnerable and starving for attention but ready to rip your arm off at the slightest false move. "Why don't I put it on? There's some slow songs on here that are really nice." One corner of his mouth quirked up in an uncertain smile, and he opened up a cabinet and there was a compact-disc player inside and he set the disc into the little turntable and slid it in, and Paige watched it all with the same helplessness she'd felt as a little girl when she was so frightened of the water and would never get near a swimming pool and her father had dragged her kicking and screaming out onto the end of the diving board, we're going to get you over this one way or another, young lady, right now, and she'd stood there frozen because if she turned and ran there was no way she'd ever get away and if she stayed where she was she was going to get pushed right over the edge and she'd be in way over her head and would probably drown, that would serve the old man right, and maybe she would have known what to do about Eddie if she could have remembered how the hell it had all turned out, but she couldn't, it was one of those things little kids are so good at forgetting and now it was lost somewhere in her head and wasn't doing her a bit of good. The silent whimper of a little girl was rising in her throat.
Sharp but soft-edged electric guitar notes flowed out of the speakers like small drops of water from a leaking faucet. The music stitched its way around a drum beat that was slow, painful, and hypnotic. "Eddie . . . ," she said, squeezing shut her eyes.
He closed the cabinet and turned around, smiling his sad, tired smile as he swayed in time with the beat. Like a serenader tipsy on dangerous love, he began to sing along with the music, rasping out lyrics freighted with easy-going menace. Every breath she took, he vowed to her in song, he'd be watching. His voice was whispery, and it stung like a reed. Every move she made . . .
"Eddie, please . . ." Paige felt like she was strapped down, she couldn't move, and the steady pit-pit-pit of the music was like slow torture dripping onto her forehead, how could anyone stand it, no wonder people had gone mad under the Chinese water wheel.
He stopped singing. "What's wrong?" he said.
Her voice was tight and strained, and almost as weary as his. "Eddie, it's almost dark and my friends are out there in the cold waiting for me to take them home, and I really need to go. I'll come back and see you tomorrow, I really will" -- yeah, along with her friends in white coats -- "but right now I need to go. Please."
He grabbed his binoculars, oh no, not those things again, and rushed over to the window, and he cranked it open and leaned way out, peering off to the west, her car was parked off somewhere in that direction, why don't you lean out a little farther, Eddie, damn this music, just a little bit more, you'll end up just like the Barbie doll and you can consider me gone, what the hell are you looking at anyway please turn off the music Eddie damn you turn off the music! "But Paige," he said with a cheery note in his voice, something oh please no almost delirious, "your friends just flagged down a taxi! They've got a ride home! You can stay as late as you want!"
"Eddie, there's no way you could see my car from here, there's solid buildings in the way, just let me go move it somewhere else so they won't tow it, I'll be right back, I promise" -- this music is killing me, you monster, let me go!, and she was so angry and frightened and helpless that she stamped her foot on the floor and screamed out his name, she just wanted to get his attention, goddammit, and that's when the lightning struck outside the window, a brilliant white explosion of ozone, and for a split-second the room was all bright light and sharp shadows and thunder all around them like a freight train, rattling the windows and the walls and all the furniture and fixtures, it was like hell's fury, but when it echoed away nothing had changed, the music was still there, tapping like a jeweler's hammer against her skull, and she thought her head was going to split open.
But Eddie was looking at her differently now, with a strange mixture of awe and respect and even a little fear in his expression, like maybe he thought she had caused the lightning or something. He put down the binoculars and crossed to the old grandfather clock. It wasn't running. He opened the front and adjusted the hands to the correct time, he pulled down the chains that raised the weights, he gave the pendulum a little shove and set it to swinging, then he put his finger on the minute hand and with a sly little ugly smile started slowly pushing it forward, little by little, and the song that had been playing gave way to a different song, one about a little black spot on the sun, and outside the sun was sinking faster than it really should have and she felt the pressure building up inside her head and Eddie kept pushing that minute hand faster and faster, and now the guy singing was wrapped around someone's finger, and the clouds had cleared away, but the sky was turning black and the pressure in her head was incredible, wave after wave of nausea crashing over her, and the music was sweeping by so dizzily that she could no longer make out the words, and the breeze blowing in through the open window was like ice, that and the music probably the only things keeping her from losing consciousness, and then suddenly the music was gone altogether and still the hands of time marched on, and she slid down to the floor breathing like a deep-sea fish brought up to the surface too fast, she felt like one more breath and pop!, she'd turn inside out right there on the floor, and the window was as black as if it opened onto a mine shaft, or a tunnel into space, and it was sucking, sucking, sucking at her and she screamed, "Stop it, you crazy bastard!" and suddenly the world crashed back into place like a roller-coaster car braking from high speed and sliding smoothly into the station, and Eddie was on his knees beside her with a stricken look on his face gasping, "Paige, Paige, are you all right, say something, oh God what have I done, I just wanted to make it so late that you wouldn't want to go out on the streets all by yourself, dammit, please say something--"
When her eyes finally focused, it wasn't on him but on the face of the clock, the hands stood together right at twelve, and just then it started to chime, and with the first stroke of midnight she rolled over onto her hands and knees and heaved her guts up right there on the rug, and Eddie was there with a cool damp washcloth, cleaning her up and rocking her in his arms and saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," over and over again, and there were tears streaming down his face and by the time she had sense enough to know where she was she couldn't tell whether the hot tears on her face were her own or if they were his, but she shoved him away anyway and stood up, leaning heavily against the wall. She held out her hand, palm up.
"My keys," she said simply. "Now."
He sat there on his knees, grinding his knuckles into his eyes, and said, "Paige, do you have any idea what it's like for me, any idea at all?" When she didn't respond he shot to his feet, snatched the Barbie doll off the end table, thrust it at her as if it were a cross and she were a vampire. "Do you see this?" he cried. "Do you understand what I can do with this doll? I can control any woman in the whole city. If I move its arm, your arm moves. If I turn its head, your head turns. If I drop it on the ground, you fall down. If I shake it around, you start to dance. You can't help it. I'm in control."
He squeezed the doll in his fist until his knuckles turned white and his arm began to tremble, then threw it against the wall like a wineglass into the fireplace. His face was inches from hers, his voice a thin hiss. "But it doesn't work on you. It's like you're immune or something. You should have gone flying across the room just now -- but you didn't. I can't touch you." His feverish gaze faltered and he turned away, dropped heavily into the recliner. "That's what makes you so attractive -- besides the fact that you're so beautiful already, I mean."
Paige said nothing, unmoved. Eddie's large, awkward hands dangled limply over the arms of the recliner. He stared at his outstretched feet. "See," he said softly, "you're the only woman I could ever love. Hell, you're the only woman who could ever love me. Other women hate me. They're afraid of me. I can make them do whatever I want them to do, but I can't make them love me. I can't even make them like me. And I can't love them. I can hardly even think of them as human beings. They're nothing more than puppets acting out my fantasies. They're not real people at all. But you, Paige--" He looked up at her, flinching like a dog who expects to be beaten. "You're different from all of them. You're not a puppet, I can't control you. If there's anyone in the world who could love me, it's you. And if you can't, then there's no one in the world who can."
Paige wiped her face roughly with the back of her hand. The tracks of her tears were starting to dry and they itched like hell and she was so frustrated with this stupid charade that she felt like she was going to start crying all over again. "Will you shut up?" she said harshly, her body tensing as if electricity flowed through it. "This hasn't been a very good day anyway, and I'm about sick of your bullshit. I want my keys."
Eddie shot to his feet, grabbed the keys out of his pocket, and flung them down on the floor. "There they are! Take 'em! Get out of my apartment and get out of my life!" His face was taut as a skull, his fist trembled, it was like his self-control was about to go, and Paige didn't dare make a move. "You just watch what you're calling bullshit, because you don't even know the half of it. You're just like me, Paige, only you haven't realized it yet. You can do everything I can do, and maybe more. That's why I can't control you. So go ahead and leave. I can't stop you. I could try, but I can't keep you here forever against your will." He was pounding his fist against his thigh, and tears began to collect in the corners of his eyes. "I tried to earlier, and I got a little out of control. I hurt you. I'm sorry. I try not to let things go that far, but I can't always control what I do. Sometimes I hurt people. Sometimes I hurt a lot of them, sometimes pretty bad. I used to like to go to the airport, to watch the planes take off and land, you know -- but I don't go there anymore, not since that big earthquake in Russia. You know the world map that's painted on the floor there in the main terminal, right out where anyone can walk on it? Someone bumped into me, and I got mad and stomped my foot--" The tears spilled out and down his cheeks. "Now I stay home mostly. I read and I listen to music and I watch TV. And every morning I check the paper to make sure I haven't done something as unforgivable as that."
His eyes got cold, and he brushed away the tears like he might brush away a fly from his food. "The point I'm trying to make here, Paige, is that someday, probably someday soon, you're going to realize that I'm not just making this up. You'll crumple up a roadmap, and within minutes you'll be hearing earthquake reports from somewhere halfway across the country. Or you'll throw a paper airplane at the wall, and a passenger jet'll slam into some mountain and kill everyone on board. Or you'll be watering your garden, and a flash flood somewhere'll wash a whole town away. That's when it'll start to sink in. You'll realize that you have the power of life and death in your hands, and you don't even know how to control it." He reached out and took her hands. His voice was soft, but his eyes were hard. "Believe me, you won't want to be alone when it happens."
She pulled her hands away. "Pick up my keys," she said flatly, "and hand them to me nice. Now."
Eddie's eyes wavered from her to the floor, and slowly, very slowly, his face resolved into something devoid of expression, something completely unreadable, except for a faint trace of surprise or was it maybe na‹vet‚ clinging around the edges, she'd never seen anything like it before, unless it was on those masks that the Indians used to wear when they danced around the campfire. But then the corner of his mouth began to tremble, and he picked up the keys and set them gently in her hand. He went to the closet. "I guess I can't really blame you," he said. "I haven't exactly been a model host this evening, have I?"
From out of the closet he took a large cardboard box filled with what must have been a hundred or more candles. Paige had the keys now, she could leave any time she wanted, but one part of her was still for some reason fascinated by Eddie's psychological need for ritual, and she found herself watching as he set the candles into candlesticks on the little corner table where the globe and the sunlamp and all the little plants were sitting. When the candles were all set up, the table looked like a hundred-spired wax temple, or a fortress maybe, with the little blue and green globe sitting in a courtyard at the center, and Eddie went to the kitchen for a box of matches and started lighting those candles, one by one, until every last one was burning, and the room smelled like a dozen children's birthday cakes, and she could feel the heat rolling off them in waves, and flickering shadows danced in the corners of the room to the rhythm of that merry orange glow.
"Just remember," said Eddie without turning around, "if you ever decide you need somebody, you know right where to find me," and he licked the thumb and forefinger of his right hand and pinched out the flame on the nearest candle. A lonely wisp of smoke curled away into the air. "Goodnight, Paige," he said. She turned around and walked out.
When she had closed the door the behind her, she sagged against the wall and let out a deep breath. It was over. She was out of there and she had her car keys back and she was finally on her way home. She could relax. That's what she told herself, at any rate, but she knew it wasn't really over, not quite yet, not as long as this guy Eddie was walking the streets a free man. He was a nut, a space cadet, a certifiable rubber-stamped lunatic, a textbook psychotic with schizophrenic delusions, but most of all he was dangerous, and Paige knew she'd been lucky to get out with all her body parts intact. He needed to be locked up, and she was going to see that it happened, be a hero, everybody would love her, maybe she could even use him for a new case study, lay old Bill Ezrin's ghost to rest. Electroshock therapy might be pretty interesting to watch.
She took the elevator to the first floor, strolled out through the lobby and onto the front steps. She was feeling pretty good again. The dog Jeffrey was lying there when she emerged, and it sniffed at her warily, but she patted it on the head and it settled back down with a satisfied growl, but then a very cold wind blew down the street and the dog tucked its head beneath its legs and started to whimper. The night sky was very clear, and even through the lights of the city Paige could see thousands of stars twinkling up there in the velvety black. The wind was coming from the east, and as she turned her face toward it she saw that the stars on that side of the sky were winking out one by one, a star would be there one second and gone the next, she'd never seen anything like it.
She turned up the collar of her raincoat. Must be another awfully big storm blowing in, what with clouds so black they could blot out the whole damn sky and you couldn't even see there was anything up there. She hurried down to the corner, but the light was red so she pressed the button on the telephone pole that's supposed to give pedestrians more time to cross the street and stood there waiting for it to change in the cold wind.
She was facing west, with the wind at her back, her raincoat billowing like a stiff sail. There wasn't much traffic out. A spotlight several blocks away caught her eye, circling endlessly as it stabbed into the sky. Paige watched it for a few moments, but then the cold wind sent a prickle up her neck and onto her scalp. She turned around. The spotlight left no mark on the dark clouds as it arced around the sky. It was just swallowed up in the dark, as if there were no clouds at all, and no stars, nothing -- just infinite -- empty--
"No," she said bitterly, "oh no, you don't." A surge of anger flowed through her body as she stared into space, a white-hot blood-red fury that exploded like lightning behind her eyes, and she screamed, "Leave them alone, Eddie!" and spun around with her arm out and hit the button on the telephone pole with the flat of her hand, and she felt all the energy sucked right out of her and she thought she was going to fall over but when she looked up every star in the sky was blazing like a little white fiery diamond and there wasn't a cloud to be seen, not a single patch of black anywhere up there, just a beautiful, brilliant white field of stars, and she felt like she was going to black out.
She fell to her knees, and the jarring pain brought back some clarity. She stared at her hand, and then she stared at the sky, and at the button on the telephone pole, and she stared back up the street to where the dog was running back and forth madly and barking at the stars, and she thought of old Bill Ezrin wheezing out his last breath in a sterile hospital bed, and in her mind she saw the glow of a hundred dancing candles in a lonely fifth-floor apartment and she didn't for the life of her know what to do.
When at last she cried, a gentle rain began to fall.
© 1998 William Shunn, all rights reserved
RETURN TO ARCHIVES
Premier Issue 1998, Updated May 21, 2002
BLOOD ROSE is Copyright © M. W. Worthen.
"Synchronicity and the Single Girl"