|12-23-2007, 03:43 AM||#1|
Join Date: Dec 2005
Anniversary (Short Story)
This is a short story for a Magical Realism contest I'm entering. Brutal critiques are welcome. (And the title is a working title, it can change)
He lays on the bed, pulling the feathers out of her wings, smiling and whispering softly to himself: "She loves me, she loves me not..." She flinched at the first few, but now she just sits, brushing her hair in the morning sunlight. It is the day of the Anniversary and he can feel the tension in her shoulders, the apprehension in her spine. He pauses.
"Are you all right?" he asks. She shrugs and her face screws up into a confused sort of frown. She puts the brush down on the bed and her hands fall into her lap.
"Are you going out today or are you going to take the day off and stay in?" she asks. He pulls at another feather.
"Probably stay in. At least till later, till it's over," he says. Outside their apartment, the city moves. Cars are caught in gridlock and pedestrians sweat under the hot September sun. The polluted heat of the city carries up into the bedroom.
He has not been to the window to see, but he can imagine the same tension that is in her shoulders haunting the rest of the city. He can almost see the population's anxiety bearing down on them like a shadow.
"Would you rather know what was going to happen, or be surprised?" he asks.
"I already know."
"Do you like it like that?"
"I didn't expect it to happen, when I first came down here, but now that I think about it, I'm not sure I was ever really surprised."
"You saw it coming?"
"I wouldn't say that. Well, maybe. It's been so long since I came here, it's hard to remember what life was like before then."
"Staying in one place will do that to you," he says. She opens her mouth to speak, but the clock chimes 8:45. There is a single, deep shudder throughout the city as all the church's bells strike once in unison.
The population stops. Everyone is still and quiet in the streets. The city around them continues to move, but every living thing holds its breath. Some of the people have fallen to the ground, tears in their eyes. Others are standing still, their muscles burning with the stiff, determined lack of motion. Still others are resting in the shade of the tall buildings, taking advantage of the stop to catch their breath and rest their legs.
She has turned her head to the window and is staring idly at the half-closed blinds. He watches her for a moment, shifting his weight on the bed. Finally he sighs and pulls another feather out of her wings. She turns to him, her eyes wide.
"What are you doing?" she whispers.
"What?" he asks, innocently.
"You're supposed to stay still," she says, her voice hissing through her teeth. He lays back on the bed.
"Fine, wake me up when it's over," he says. She rolls her eyes and grinds her teeth together.
"You're impossible," she says. After a moment her expression changes and her eyes unfocus on the window. "Why aren't you afraid?" she asks. He laughs a little under his breath but does not answer. She straigtens up for the second ring of the bells and watches as a shadow passes briefly across the window. There is an echo of far of shattering glass and a rumble the resonates below the ear, down in the heart. There is the suggestion of a slight commotion down in the streets, a moment's breaking of the silence, until a heavy, terrifying calm settles like ash over the city.
He is sick of it and yanks at one of her remaining feathers. She flinches.
"That hurt," she says. He keeps going until she turns and looks him in the eye.
"Would you stop?" she asks, her voicing rising out of the whisper. She claps a hand over her mouth.
"Don't be so ashamed," he says, "That's why you came down here, right? To get a taste of a real life outside of your fancy gated community." She glares into his eyes, but after a moment she looks down at the sheets and nods.
"Don't get me wrong," he starts, "it's very honorable and kind of you to follow in the observation of Anniversary with all those other people down there. I just don't want to see it control your life."
"I can't help it. Ever since I've been here things have been upside down because of what happened. I came here to live and now I just feel like I'm dead and waiting for my heart to stop beating," she says. He pulls her down to him and wraps his arm around her.
"You never told me why you're not afraid," she whispers. He pulls at her feathers.
"I'm too angry to be afraid. I'm too pissed off at the nation and what it's doing to itself to be afraid of something that happen six years ago. I'm too angry at everyone else for getting stuck in their fear that I could never let it happen to me."
"I wish I was so angry I was fearless," she says.
"Start be being angry at yourself," he says. She is silent while he pulls out the last of her feathers, whispering softly to himself: "She loves me." He lets his hand fall onto her back and stares up at the ceiling. After a minute her breathing settles and she is asleep.
"Start by being angry at yourself for giving up the things you really want," he whispers into the sleeping ears, "Start by realizing that love and fear can do the same thing, they can keep you trapped in one place. Start by being mad at God for showing you how bad the world can be, for taking away your ignorance, for not letting you be an angel anymore." He sighs and reaches a hand behind his back to stroke the scars on his shoulderblades. A few minutes later he is also asleep.
* * *
She wakes up and decides to leave. She does not leave a note because she knows it would be unnecessary. She packs what she has and puts on her best suit and makes her face up. She puts her dark sunglasses on, looks herself in the mirror and smiles.
She walks out into the smoldering streets and becomes one of the sweating, grunting population. She feels like just another face in the crowd and she enjoys it. She leaves on a crowded ferry smelling of gasoline and briney water and watches the island fortress of the city receede. When she lands on the dusty, smoggy shore she finds a station and buys a bus ticket. She finds a city that looks convenient and points herself towards it. She decides on the south, because she wants to see where life is slower, where the heat is heavier, and where the people revel in their fear of death, change and God.
* * *
When he wakes up, he is not at all surprised to find himself alone. He stretches out on the bed, sending some of the feathers off onto the floor. He walks into the kitchen and makes coffee. He returns to the bedroom with his coffee mug steaming and sits on the window sill, pearing through the blinds at the streets, crawling with reluctant, still apprehensive traffic.
He almost knew she would run away. She had to. No one can be an angel forever, there comes a time when they have to shed their wings and fly away on dirty busses litered with candy bar wrappers, soda bottles and tired faces. He knows that much. He walks over to the bed and picks up one of he feathers. He does not blame her. She is, he tells himself, only human.
Last edited by Petey Cook : 12-23-2007 at 03:55 AM.