No posts for the next couple days, taking a break. :) Be back on Friday!
The miniature leather saddle was the perfect size for a child’s imagination. I crouched in the booth of the flea market, putting myself on eye level with the saddle. Nestled between an antique brooch and the crystal chandelier of a dollhouse, it sat awkwardly without a horse to form it, missing its purpose.
Someone had put time and effort into it. The tiny stitches lined up perfectly around the pommel and down to the stirrups. The leather had been worn to make it easy to put on toy horses, used over years of play.
And now it was here, in a flea market, in a generation where toys were rapidly being moved to virtual environments. Part of me wanted to smile fondly and move on. What would my niece do with it, anyway? It didn’t have a USB port or wifi.
But there was something about it that stuck with me, reminding me of her. Maybe it was because we played horsie when she was younger, though that seemed too pat for the déjà vu that rocked me back on my heels.
Reaching out, I touched it. The world twisted and wavered.
I blinked, on my back, with the world warped. Everything stretched far away from me; the ceiling reached impossibly high. I tried to get up, but my legs wouldn’t respond. I fell, landing next to the saddle that was now big enough for me to ride.
Immense footsteps beat against the floor like an earthquake, a voice sounded like the roll of thunder. I looked up to see a man reach down for me. His immense smile stretched across his face as he picked me up. His words, when I deciphered them, chilled me. “One more for the collection.”
“What’s in the box?” Susan asked, rubbing her arms and looking around the empty basement. James pulled the sole, small battered cardboard box from the otherwise bereft shelves.
“I…well, it’s hard to explain.” James looked down at the box, refusing to meet her eyes. “I just…”
“Is this one of those things like in the movies? Do you have a collection of human thumbs in there?”
“What? No. Gross.” He wrinkled his nose. “What’s wrong with you?”
“You’re the one being all mysterious with the box.”
“Do you remember when we first met?” James sat on the stairs and put the box next to him.
“We should get back upstairs.” She looked back toward the basement door and the party she could only vaguely hear. “We don’t want Simon thinking I’ve run off with you, do you?”
“Do you remember?” He opened the worn cardboard flaps.
“Of course I remember.” Susan folded and unfolded her arms. The cold moldy smell of the basement made the back of her throat ache.
“It was January.” He reached into the box, then paused to look at her. “You had snowflakes caught on your eyelashes.”
“I said I remembered.” She rubbed her arms. Simon would come down the stairs any moment now to see what they were up to. Usually he refused to let her out of his sight. “Is this some sort of game?”
“No, it’s very serious.” He pulled another box out of the cardboard box. Paua shell inlaid the teak panels of the second box, shining under the bare light bulb. He cast aside the cardboard box and faced her, holding out the teak box like an offering. “Here, take this.”
“Why ever for?” Susan folded her hands behind her back. The box glimmered slimily in his hands. If she touched it, she knew it would stick to her hands. Her skin crawled.
“Because I asked you to.” He looked at her, “Are you all right? You’re acting weird today.”
“I’m acting weird? You’re the one who dragged me down into the basement, away from the party, to look at a box.”
“My grandfather brought this box back from the north pole.” James said, sliding the top of the box to the side. Frost rimmed his eyelashes, glittering behind his glasses. He put the top to the side as fog poured forth from it. It had to be dry ice.
His eyes reflected the colors of the box, the hues swirling in his icy blue gaze. She backed up toward the stairs, averting her eyes from the light. The basement’s increasing cold shivered down her spine. This had to be a joke, some sort of un-funny post-Halloween thing.
Singing came from somewhere, high pitched hums and guttural rumbles. Susan put her hand to her throat; the sound was coming from her.
Panicked, her lizard brain left her consciousness behind like a useless tail. She took the stairs two at a time. Run fast, run far, run away, run away, run run run.
Grasping the doorknob, she tried to turn it. When had he locked it? How had she not noticed? She rattled the knob, her heart thumping through her palms to the stoic brass. The beat reverberated through the door, through the walls. Dizzy, she braced herself between the door and the rail.
Holding the box like an offering, James ascended the stairs. Strange shapes moved in the box and it was suddenly too small for whatever it held. Her throat sang again, and she understood the words. Oh Frozen One, oh Majestic One, oh Mighty One. Her soul recognized them, reverberated with them. She refused to accept them.
James bowed before her. “Awaken, oh Majestic One. Awaken and rule your servants.”
The door behind her opened and Simon stood there. Susan turned to him, her eyes pleading, not trusting her voice. He bowed as well. “Oh Frozen One. Bless your servants with your visage.”
The fog roiled around her feet, freezing her with its touch. She knew she would have to look in the box. Any moment now she would look and when she looked she would be lost. This thing in her soul, this thing in her throat, would take over.
“What’s in the box?” Susan whispered.
The itch grew unbearable as he paced back and forth between the armchair and the window. He needed to check on it. He knew he should, for his sanity, to make sure they hadn’t found it yet.
He sat down in the armchair his hands on his knees, forcibly holding himself in the chair to keep from standing up and checking the window again. He’d seen the shows, he knew that they would be watching him, waiting for him to lead them to the evidence. All he had to do now was to sit and do nothing, to wait them out, then he would get the money. Then he would be free to do as he pleased.
It was an accident, at first. But as he had struck again and again, his determination had solidified. He would be free of the incessant nagging, the sullen looks, the sheer onus of it all. He would be free to do as he pleased, to meet whomever he pleased, to do whomever he pleased.
He told her he wasn’t able to have children, but he had gotten a vasectomy a year into their marriage. He had known even then that he didn’t want to be tied to her any more than he already was. There was being legally tied, and then there was genetically tied.
It had been a relief, a bloodletting like the ancients had once used to get rid of the vile humors. He had freed himself of the vile woman and none were the wiser.
But he had to check, he had to be sure.
He stood again and paced. The police would know. He knew that he shouldn’t. But what if they had found her?
It was one of those ideas that seemed like a good idea at first, but devolved rapidly into something quite unlike the original plan. Or at least, sweltering in this little tunnel, with a face full of Helen’s posterior, it had gone terribly, terribly wrong.
“I think I’m stuck.” The cascade of sand between us muffled her voice as she wiggled backward. Frantically, I scuttled back as well. We were close, but not that close.
I made it back five feet before the claustrophobia hit again. It had been off and on all morning, coming in waves as we dug our way under the city streets. It had been an infallible plan, the sort of inspiration that comes after a night at the bar, the two am brilliance of a plan not very well thought out.
Our grand plan had been to try to tunnel under a bank and see if we could get us some of that money we had heard so much about. We figured that no one had done it in so long that the banks wouldn’t be prepared for it. It was incredibly clever of us.
The problem lay in the fact that we had no idea how to dig a tunnel. Our initial effort collapsed on us, leaving us dirty and dejected. But we had committed to it and neither one of us was going to flinch first.
But I definitely felt like flinching now. I felt like curling up in a ball and waiting for the police to find us. I felt like trying to turn around and crawling back home with nothing to show for my day but a scraped elbow and dirt in my hair.
As I caught my breath, Helen had extricated herself and was industriously digging again. Her shovel thumped into something hard. “I think we’re here.”
“We are?” I inched forward to look past her.
“I think we are.” Breathless with excitement, I could barely hear her. Maybe it would be worth it after all.
“How do we get through the concrete?” She asked.
My enthusiasm deflated. We didn’t think of it that far. I curled up and waited for the police to arrive.
Anxiety twisted in his esophagus, draining down into his stomach with an almost palpable drip drip drip. He sat in his living room, nestled as deep as he could get in his comfiest armchair. It was easier to sit here, to not think about it.
They’d found the orbs in the basement of an ancient temple, and so of course he had to take one home. He had smuggled it in his luggage, and none of the border patrol had been the wiser. They had been looking too hard for drugs.
And now here he was, with it. It sat on the coffee table in the center of the room, on one of his grandmother’s antique plates. He had inherited it, and at the time it had seemed like a good place to put the orb.
But now he couldn’t get away from it.
It had started singing the minute he had taken it from the satchel where he had stuffed it. It wasn’t a loud noise, but it was persistent. He had been listening to it for a day now, unable to sleep.
The orb glowed now, with a pulsing light that strobed in his eyes when he closed them. The song haunted him; he knew it would follow him even when he went to work. Especially when he went to work. His coworkers would see the guilt in his eyes, would know that he had stolen a priceless archaeological artifact.
He could say that he had done it to study it. To do research on his own. They would understand that, they could forgive that. But the truth was that he had had to have it out of sheer avarice.
He shouldn’t have, he knew. But now, now he would find out what had killed the ancient people, what had driven them from their homes. It was the orb, driving him from his home.
It was driving him crazy.
I saw him between the aisles, a flicker of motion out of the corner of my eye that brought the same old anxiety. Was it him? Had I finally found him?
The day is still burnt into the back of my retinas. I see it every time I close my eyes. I see the man drag Jason into his van. I feel the helpless rage of chasing after the man who stole my son, of losing him. I hadn’t seen the license plate, and the van was like any other van in the city. The police had shook their heads and said it was a shame, but there was really nothing they could do with so little information.
I glanced at the man again as I paced the aisles. I imagined myself as a hunter. A hunter who sought the evil, the malicious, the perverted. I was righteousness to their sickness.
The torn photograph in my wallet itched in my memory. If I looked at it, I would know it was him Or I would be disappointed again.
Passing the toy aisle, I saw a partially deflated basketball. It was a sign. There had been one there that day too. I had tripped over it, my feet crushing its floppy resistance. I had fallen, chipping a tooth, losing sight of the van.
This was my chance for redemption.
I turned my cart across the space between the aisles, running it into his. “Sorry.”
I met his eye and saw no flicker of recognition, no sign of guilt. He extricated his cart from mine with a shrug. “No worries.”
As he walked off, the question died on my lips. What have you done with my son? It wasn’t him. It never had been.
I sighed and my shoulders slumped. What did I think I was? I was just a tired old man, looking for ghosts.
I glanced up and saw that he had looked back at me. I had seen that expression before. It was him.
I pushed my cart after him, as fast as I could go.
Her stolen horse broke down after half a day’s terrified flight through the desert. It collapsed and she threw herself from the saddle before the horse could roll and trap her. Landing rough, she gasped as her leg twisted. For a moment, she thought she had hurt herself, but the sensation passed with the resurgence of fear that jolted through her. She had to keep going. They were following her.
Or rather, it was following her. The curse. The thing that had plagued her existence ever since finding that lost gold mine deep in the mountains.
The men that left the dust plume in the distance were just the byproduct of that curse. It wasn’t their fault, she understood that. Even so, as she scrambled to a height at the top of the canyon, she drew her guns and readied herself to do what was necessary.
They came into sight as the sun rose toward noon. There were six of them, dressed in their outlaw finery. Their horses, lathered and panting, were nevertheless better off than her poor horse had been. They knew they had her trapped; there was no reason to hurry.
She crouched behind a rock and watched them coming. Once they saw her, there would be no more hiding, not with the sun as high as it was. It glimmered off her skin, shining where the gold had stuck. If she hadn’t fallen down that mine shaft, if she hadn’t been cursed, none of this would be her problem.
But no, now bandits chased her, wanting her for the fortune she had been transformed into. She tightened her grip on the pulley rig she had devised. They wouldn’t win this time, maybe never. She had been cursed, which didn’t mean she was helpless. And if it meant one less bandit in the world… well then that wasn’t too bad at all.
The deafening odor of sulfur cascaded from the hot springs. She wasn’t sure if it was worse or better than the stench of the body that floated face-down in the boiling water. The fifteen minutes she had spent at the crime scene had done nothing to dull her senses. Every inhalation was a fresh burst of eggy foulness.
As the coroner arrived, she stepped back from her contemplation of the corpse. She knew better than to move anything, but still she had been able to see the few small clues that remained to the visible eye. The corpse’s fist was clenched around something that floated slightly above the fist in the bubbling water. With the steam, it was hard to discern, but she hoped it would turn out to be forensically interesting, as her colleagues called it. She called it a clue, but she was old fashioned like that.
The other clue was the clothes the person was wearing. Old fashioned clothing, the sort of clothing reenactors wore. But this clothing was worn, used, nothing like the pristine costumes of the dilettante moderns. Either this person was a very true reenactor, or the impossible had happened.
Half of her almost hoped that the impossible had happened, after all. In all her years on the force, she had never had one strange thing happen to her, one inexplicable incident. All of the other officers and detectives described the eerie and the strange, the things that bumped them in the night and left them questioning. Her career had been banal, boring, even, in comparison, despite the murders and the mayhem of normal mundane crime.
“Well, he’s cooked, now isn’t he?” The coroner asked companionably.
“I would certainly think so, being in there like that.” She said, then sighed. It was going to be a normal case, with a normal explanation after all. The coroner wouldn’t joke if it was going to be special in any way.
She put on her latex gloves and got to work.
They watched in horror as the empty space suit approached, walking through space as easily as if it was taking a stroll in a park. The walls provided no impediment as it walked inside the spaceship and sat down. The crew of five stared at it. There was no way to tell whether it met their gaze, but they had a sense that it did.
Finally, Sheenah spoke. “What are you?”
The silence that followed echoed through the spaceship. Sheenah flushed. Of course it couldn’t talk. It was an empty space suit. The body and limbs were flat, devoid of the shape that would indicate the human form, sentience, knowledge.
“I… bring… warning….” The voice that emanated from the spacesuit crackled like a bad comm connection.
Sheenah waited, refusing to glance at the other crew. They would see her fear, her dread. She had dreamed of this day, feared it coming true and feared that it wouldn’t. She could never tell them that she dreamed true, she would never be allowed on the mission otherwise.
“Warning?” She prompted, knowing what it was, needing the other crew to hear it.
“You… know. You… have seen.”
She did glance at John and Michael then. They were staring at her as if she was a stranger, as if they hadn’t spent the last six months in transit with her. “What?”
“What are you doing?” Alissa asked. She had never liked Sheenah. She hated how the men liked Sheenah more. “What’s wrong with you?”
“You… have… seen.” The others ignored the space suit, their attention on Sheenah.
“What do you see, Sheenah?” Michael asked.
“A space suit. That’s all I see.”
The others exchanged glances. John walked toward her, his hands out. “I think you’ve had too much space.”
“You can see it too.” Sheenah protested. “It’s talking to all of us.”
John grabbed her, putting her in a bear hug. “Get the stasis chamber ready.”
“No! You can see it too.” Sheenah fought his grip but he was much larger than her. “Let me go. We have to hear its warning.”
“I’m sorry, Sheenah.” Alissa said as they pushed her into the stasis chamber.
She fought, refusing to believe it. She wasn’t crazy. She had passed the tests. It was real. “You’re all going to die!”
“Ah, yes Mr. Linder.” Sally glanced at John. Her audio guy rolled his eyes behind the interviewee’s back as she continued. “I’m sure we’d love to look at your antique doll collection after the interview.”
“But they are integral to the story.” Mr. Linder spoke carefully, picking his words carefully. His diction was a documentary-maker’s dream, but it took him forever to get to the point.
“Oh?” She shared another glance with John when the subject looked away. It was going to be one of those interviews. “Would you care to explain?”
“It started after my wife died.” He blinked rapidly before continuing. “The dolls started arriving, one after another. Once a month.”
Sally glanced at the collection; there had to be at least twenty of the dolls, their blank eyes staring at the camera. She had already directed her camera guys to take periodic shots of them, just in case. Mr. Linder was crazy, but that didn’t mean that it wouldn’t make for good video later. “Only once a month?”
“Wasn’t that enough?” Mr. Linder’s expression became wild-eyed. “One will show up today, that’s how they work.”
“Oh?” It was her favorite tactic, keep them talking by pretending rapt interest. She only wished that her niche hadn’t become interviewing the crazies, the conspiracy nuts, and the wackos.
“The dolls are stalking me. But I can’t lock them away. They just open the cabinets and resume their seats.”
“Would you care to demonstrate?” She asked.
“No.” He said. “Not now, not today. Not when another one will arrive.”
“Does that make it special—”
The doorbell rang.
“It’s here.” Mr. Linder took a deep breath and levered himself out of the armchair that had been slowly eating him.
The camera crew followed him from the living room to the foyer. Outside the front door was the box. There was no return label, no markings. Just a plain cardboard box.
“Can you open it?” Sally found herself whispering despite herself. They’d have to re-shoot this part. She gestured the camera crew forward.
“I’ll have to.” Mr. Linder crouched down and pulled a knife from his pocket. She exchanged glances with John.
The doll inside the box held its arms up. “Papa.”
The U-Boat captain stumbled across the desert, an empty canteen in his hand. He had never imagined a world this harsh, or one so dry. Compared to the Fatherland, this desert could drain one’s soul and leave it to blow away with the sands.
He trudged onward, not even caring any more that he left footprints that they could track him by. He half-wanted them to find him, even if it meant taking him back to the detention camp. They hadn’t treated them that poorly, after all. And there was no guarantee that the Mexicans would help him when he crossed the border.
The sun grew higher as his steps became less dogged. He stumbled and fell, rolling down the small dunes to a culvert. He laid there, his eyes closed against the sun. Red burnt through his eyelids anyway and he flung his arm over his eyes.
In the momentary cool darkness, he tried to think. He had been walking for four days now, headed south toward Mexico. Or as close to south as he could determine. Surrounded by land and away from his U-boat, his bearings were off.
Parched in ways he had never been before, he pushed himself to his feet and looked around. There had to be water somewhere, something to sustain the scrubby brushes and the small, twitchy critters that evaded his grasp. But all he saw on the horizon were mirages, the false promises of the desert.
He stumbled onward, promising himself that after an hour, after half an hour, he would rest. Labored steps drove him onward into the depths of the desert, toward freedom. He had long since forgotten to pray that he would reach his home. Instead, he dreamed merely of water and shade. Merely. He snorted at the thought.
The sun slowly set, fading him into the desert. With the night came the taste of his ocean, salt on chapped lips. He walked on, hearing the call of the sea. Even here, in the middle of a foreign continent, a stranger in this land, he could sense it.
Drawn toward it, he walked on.
The shape fights the motionless ink as I stare at it. Blinking, I look up at the psychiatrist, trying not to show my fear. He holds the card out with a calm smile. “What do you see, Mary?”
Terror. I see terror. I see the thing that has haunted my dreams for the past twelve months. “I see, a butterfly?”
I smile, hoping that I’ve given the right answer. I have to be able to go back to work. I have to be cured. I can’t go on like this, doing nothing, living with the label of crazy because of what I’ve seen. What I’ve seen and what no one believes I’ve seen. I have to lie and smile and pretend everything is all right.
“Good. And what about this one?”
He holds out the next Rorschach card and I flinch despite myself. This one’s worse. The shape is growing closer with each card that I see. I glance at the stack. There’s only three left. Despite myself I glance back at the card. Nope, it’s definitely closer.
“What do you see?” The psychiatrist leans closer, his eyes hidden in the reflection on his glasses. I can see myself in the lenses, small and afraid. I’m not hiding anything from this man.
“A dinosaur.” I fold my arms and force another smile.
He nods and sets the card aside. Taking the next one from the pile, he holds it up. “What do you see?”
The creature’s skeleton face, the bones protruding through the ink, writhing underneath the surface. I had seen it that day, breaking free from the shadows with the smell of ozone. It tore my partner apart with shimmering obsidian claws. I fired at it, once twice three times, emptying my clip into it with reflexive jerks of my finger. The bullets went through it, chipping the brick wall of the alleyway.
I smelled ozone now and looked up at the shrink. His eyes had darkened, the lenses of his glasses almost black. Black like obsidian.
He showed me the last card. “What do you see?”
She put her hand down on the plane seat and felt something cool and small. Looking, she saw a ring shine on the tattered blue upholstery. Gold and surprisingly small, she wondered who could have lost it.
Picking it up, she tilted it in the yellow light of the fading sun as it came through the airplane window. The ring glimmered between her fingers, warming to her skin. With no writing on it, no ornamentation or stone, the ring was nondescript and could have belonged to anyone, as long as their fingers were very small. It looked like a child’s ring, although she didn’t know anyone who would buy their child a solid gold ring was beyond her. It was bound to get lost.
She closed her hand around it. It got lost. That’s what happened. A small part of her knew she should let the flight crew know that she had found it. The rest of her wanted it, wanted to keep and hold it and claim it as hers. No matter that it was too small for her to wear, no matter that she didn’t like gold in the first place.
What was wrong with her?
Trying to put it down, she found that her hand wouldn’t open. Sweat broke out on her forehead as she used her right hand to try to pry the other open. Her fingernails tore gouges in her thumb as she failed to free it.
She hid her hand as a flight attendant passed, not wanting him to see her, to know what she had done. She had intended to steal it, and now it wouldn’t let her go. It was her punishment, she knew. She should have just turned it in. She should have…
Small, tinkling laughter broke through her panic. She looked up to see a child in the aisle. The little boy smiled at her, his teeth showing. Perfect, straight teeth. Adult teeth in a child’s face. She couldn’t stop staring as he walked to her and pried her hand open with incredibly strong fingers.
Biting her lip to keep the cry of pain inside she watched as he tore the ring from where it had fused with her hand. Blood welled from the open wound and she quickly clenched her fist again. The child stared at her for a while longer before putting the ring in his mouth and smiling.
She watched as he walked down the aisle of the plane and disappeared, not quite sure what had happened to her. Had she been cursed? Had she been redeemed?
Her heart rose to her throat as the plane took off and for the first time in her life, she was afraid of not landing again.
“Certainly you don’t expect me to fall in love like an animal?” Shavia looked at Alys askance. The shuttle had been delayed again. Waiting in the spaceport’s VIP lounge, she had resorted to conversation to keep the boredom at bay.
“I just think that maybe you should follow your heart.” Alys looked out the window.
“Monkeys follow their hearts.” Shavia sneered and opened her compact. Checking her teeth, she smiled at herself before continuing. “I mean to marry to better, not to partake of your culture’s primitive indiscretions.”
“That’s one way to put it, madame.” Alys’ voice chilled.
“Oh don’t be like that.” She turned and looked at her maid. “You know what I mean. It’s not your fault that I had to rescue you from that cesspool of a city.”
“Denver wasn’t always a cesspool.”
“But you have to admit that it is now.” Shavia arranged her skirts. “But to be fair any place on the surface is pretty much shot. You can see why I want to marry up.”
“But what if he doesn’t love you?”
“So what if he doesn’t? He needs a wife. I need a husband. We can both be satisfied with a mutually agreeable situation.”
“I’m sorry. I just can’t imagine—”
“You don’t have to, now do you?” Shavia smiled and stood up as the shuttle approached. “I’ll make sure that you’re happy. If you want a husband, you can quit now.”
“No, madam.” Alys looked down.
“That’s what I thought. Now you understand my position. It’s all about advancement, my dear.” Shavia shook out her skirts and led the way to the docking area. Forward, always forward. That’s what her mother had taught her. It kept her from having her heart broken again.
“It’s the biggest gravedigger of ‘em all.” He put his hands on his hips and gestured upward with his pelvis. “It’ll get ‘em.”
She looked up at the missile, her lips thinned at his vulgarity. “I’m not worried about getting ‘em.”
“Then what’s the need?” Folding his arms, he glanced at her. For the first time in their short acquaintance, he met her eyes instead of looking at her chest.
“I need something that will work to my purposes, sir, nothing more, nothing less.” She craned her neck up. It was too large. Too masculine. She needed something different. “Show me what else you have.”
He frowned and led her to the next exhibit. “This one will give you some good bang for your buck.”
Biting back a sigh, she shook her head. “No. No nukes.”
“Really?” He raised an eyebrow. “I figure they would be right up your alley.”
“Contrary to popular belief, bloody massacres aren’t really my thing.” She tapped her finger against her lips. “I think I’m shopping with the wrong horseman.”
“Oh come on.” War said. “You’re just stringing me on? It’s been decades since I’ve had any good action. You can’t leave me out of this one.”
“Oh you’ll have your turn.” She turned around one last time, looking to give his machines one more chance to inspire her. No, she needed something different, something organic. It would fit, after all, if she wanted to target just one species. She didn’t want to destroy the entire world, after all.
Death smiled at War and walked out of his armory. Plague would have exactly what she needed.
From his vantage behind the camera, he watched the careful choreography of the parking lot. One hour passed, then two, as he observed the movements, the careful maneuvering of the vehicles, the delicate weaving of pedestrians and cars, man and machine.
He took the occasional picture while he waited. It was the prop of the day, the disguise that let him sit and watch the patterns below him. He supposed he didn’t need it, but in this day and age, someone sitting anywhere for too long was bound to draw suspicion. And the excuse of wanting to watch the parking lot wasn’t enough to be believable. He realized he sounded like a crazy person in his own head when he tried to explain it. He couldn’t imagine what he would sound like if he actually had to explain himself.
Snapping another couple pictures, he reflected that the hobby let him treasure the moments of perfection he did find. Maybe he would catch one today.
He found it difficult to quantify them, those rare moments when all of the factors aligned into perfect symmetry. When he tried to predict them, he was inevitably disappointed. But when he simply sat and watched, he inevitably found himself immersed in the grandeur of the immaculate coincidence.
But it was not enough. He needed more. He needed it to last. He needed it to be there when he needed it.
Raising his camera, he took a listless photo. His legs ached from sitting all day and he blinked in the fading sunlight. The moment had passed. He knew that if he waited any longer, he wouldn’t get another one. It would just look weird for him to sit here.
He stood up and put his camera away. The light wasn’t right. He would have to wait until tomorrow.
He walked home, the visions of the symmetries dancing and shifting in his memory. One perfect memory and he would be complete. One perfect day and he would never have to wait again.
“I’m going to leave you to die.” She said, looking down at him. Dirt fell down the side of the hole and pattered on his face. In the sunlight, her hair gleamed golden as it fell down to shadow her face. An angel of death, he had thought as much when he had first met her, although he had been thinking of a death of a completely different sort.
Perhaps this was what he deserved after all his years of licentiousness. He smiled despite himself. It had been worth it. All those pretty girls with their full figures and long flowing hair.
He smiled up at her, but he couldn’t see if she smiled in return. He suspected that she didn’t. She didn’t seem the type, though he had been hoping to change that. He had been told that he had that effect on women.
This though… this was a fun new game. He hadn’t ever been buried alive before. He’d dig himself out eventually, of course, but that was all in the fun.
The first shovelfuls of dirt tickled his nose and he sneezed. She glared down at him. Deadly serious. She looked deadly serious. He giggled.
After he had been layered with several inches of dirt, she stopped and rustled around at the top of the pit. He waited, wondering what new amusement she would inflict on him. When she returned with a long elm pole, his smile wavered. No. She couldn’t think… she couldn’t know.
He struggled against his bonds, but she had soaked them with garlic. They cut and stung, and he couldn’t get them free. It had been a joke, a game. She couldn’t be serious.
She shoved the pole down, into his chest. Her impeccable aim struck straight to the heart. He stiffened, unable to move. He could still see, though, as she took a sledgehammer and hammered the long stake through him. The pain shuddered through him, nothing like he had ever experienced before.
The last thing he saw, before she piled more dirt on him, was her hard, cold smile. She had done this before. And there was nothing he could do about it.