Category Archives: Stories
Still not sure if this is just me working myself out meta-cognitively, or if this actually works as a snippet of a story. So I’ll tag it as both and let you interpret it as you please.
“It’s really nice out.”
Well that was lame…c’mon, you can do better than that.
Greg kicked the nearest rock, then immediately regretted it. What if Lewis picked up on his frustration? Then questions, questions he wanted to answer but couldn’t.
He tried again. “The leaves changing and all, it’s really nice.”
That’s it? He’d wanted to say something about the way they seemed to glow on the branches, the way they fell with a kind of grace. He wanted to point out the way they spiraled upwards on the wind in little tornadoes, how they gleamed with the setting sun. He wanted to show him what he saw in the grass, the leaves, the very air that he breathed in to calm the machine gun going off in his chest.
And all he could manage was “It’s really nice”?
Lewis nodded. “Fall is my favorite season. It’s so beautiful.”
Damn…even that was better than what I said!
It was times like this Greg wished he could laugh it off like everyone else seemed to be able to do. Just laugh, and watch the frustration roll away on the shaking sound waves.
Lewis was rambling on, talking about his favorite memories of fall, what made them special–it was beautiful, the way he could let words flow out with such ease. Greg struggled to open the gates to his heart and catch as much of it as possible, let it rush in and sweep into the depths, where he could hold on to them and cherish them, let the memory float just the way he liked it–tingling, mildly intoxicating.
Then silence. Again.
Shoot. Now what?
Greg was about ready to kick himself. Well hey! It’s a hell of a lot better than I usually do! What more do you want!?
Gee, I dunno, maybe a little more CONVERSATION would be nice instead of being talked at!
Well maybe I COULD if you’d SHUT THE HELL UP!
Greg shook himself. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Just not much to say.” Bullshit. He pulled his jacket a little closer and tightened the scarf around his neck. “We’re almost there, just a little bit farther.”
“Cool.” Lewis continued his way up the wooded hill, like he already knew where they were going.
Greg sighed quietly to himself, trying not to let his squirming stomach get to him. Was it always gonna be this difficult? No; he had to hold onto hope. There was ALWAYS hope. He knew that, even if he didn’t feel it.
So he listened to the crunching of the leaves until they came to the top of the hill, the view he’d insisted on showing Lewis. It was peaceful up here, and a nice almost-silence, looking down on a little creek with tree-speckled slopes climbing up both sides.
Please…try. Just try.
“Lewis?” He didn’t dare to turn to see if he looked. “I’m sorry I suck so much at conversation. I wish I could tell you everything I was thinking right now.”
Lewis’s voice was lower, more soothing. “It’s ok. I know you’re trying.”
Greg chuckled a little. “It’s so easy for you, your words are like that creek. They flow so nicely, so simply. Even if they’re not perfect, they’re there, and they flow in a peaceful rhythm. Mine-” He pulled his hand out of his pocket to swing it at the trees-“they’re like the leaves; they only fall some of the time, and they just keep blowing away from me.”
Lewis nodded. “I understand. But maybe that makes them more special when you catch them.” He shrugged. “I dunno, I like that you listen so well. When you do talk, it’s always in earnest, it means a lot.”
Greg smiled. “I guess the trick is learning to run a little faster. I could learn a thing or two from you.”
Lewis smiled too. “Only if you’ll teach me too.”
Greg laughed, imagining a little frustration roll away. “It’s a deal.”
Walking back down the hill, Greg couldn’t help shrugging. Well, it’s a start.
I’ll say. Panting here. Give me a second to catch up!
They walked away again in silence. A silence that was…ok.
As he waved goodbye, his smiling face collapsed in exhaustion into his hands.
It’s ok…You’re ok…
It had been long. Far too long. Too beautifully, painfully long to begin to understand.
Breathe…slowly now, slowly…
He sank back into the chair, rubbing his temples. The wooden trunk before him creaked and moaned.
No, just stop…don’t…
The lid gently creaked open…
…very well, then…
Out broke a tangled network of rusted railways, humming with a cacophony of laughter, tunes, and tears. They beckoned him into himself, his inner world.
Just one…just take one…
With all the willpower he could muster, he crushed his world down to the size of a dime and balanced it on a ballpoint pen. He’d bent a few railways in the process, but at least it was all small enough that he could pretend he understood it. At least until he grabbed the first set of tracks in the tangle and began to tug.
As he slowly rolled his mind down the tracks, pulling rail by rail out of the tangle, the memories poured out on his bony fingers in a moan of relief. They burned his skin like acid as they fell, but they weren’t burning him from the inside anymore.
He had no excuse anymore. He had to untangle it.
Because he wasn’t alone anymore.
He looked to the crucifix on the wall. “Courage, dear heart…It will burn, but it is only a purging…I have already withstood these flames…”
Such a long conversation, at least in terms of its heaviness. Speaking in linear terms, it had been only a matter of minutes. But when his heart spoke, it went on murmuring for hours. It could either make the untangling delightfully easy or painfully difficult. And it always meant a new railway.
But it wasn’t something he could just stop; even as he untangled, his heart reveled in the words that passed from their lips into its lovingly prepared inner chambers. He was born to listen, to come as Simon to the crosses of others.
And yet he wondered if he would ever learn to open the wooden trunk, the doors to his inner life, before another.
“Hey, are you ok?”
No, no, no! They found it! They found you! They–
In the arms of his friend was a wooden trunk, creaking and moaning. Maybe he could–was it possible? Could anyone understand?
“Courage, dear heart…”
Could he set his world free? Let himself out?
His world began to stretch out, bend itself in a gentle arch towards this other…
…Very well, then.
“Actually, could we talk?”
“I will speak to you in the silence…but sometimes the best way to quiet your heart is to speak…Be not afraid, I have seen and redeemed your world, your life…Courage, be still…”
It’s been a long time since I tried my hand at short stories, and I’ve never really tried one in such a poetic style. But I kind of liked writing it, so I guess that’s all that matters.
Under normal circumstances (if there could be any such thing) Connely would have just raised his shield. But there was something that fought back, something that fell like an anvil between one side of his lifelong rut and the other. Something not quite like the other times.
Slowly, he lifted his shaded eyes to steal a glance at this passer-by. He had to make sure this time; there could be no mad rush, no clattering headlong, arms flailing and heart flying; the meeting of worlds was too austere for such behavior, he’d learned that (finally). If, of course, such a meeting was about to take place. There could be no certainty of that anymore, not now that his own world was buried somewhere in the shifting sands of his consciousness.
The glance was enough to confirm his anticipations and fears: their guards had come down, their eyes turned in at least a hint of interest at his own shadowy figure. He thought for a moment he saw a gleam, a spark, like the light he had so often heard of–what was it again? a star, a sun? something like that–but he couldn’t be sure; his shades had slowly grown darker over the years. It wasn’t wear and tear so much as the slow and deliberate hand of bitterness, wielding a pitch-black paintbrush in deadly strokes.
There wasn’t much use in walking on now–they’d seen him, and they knew he saw them too. He could try putting up his shield, maybe then he could–
No, it was too late now; his arm had gone all limp and tingly again. It looked bad enough from the outside, and the quivering shield left more than a few bruises. It had taken Connely years to put that shield together, forging it from broken ships that had wrecked on the outer reaches of his world and painting it carefully in the style of the day. But he’d never been trained in metalwork, and his hand was always too shaky to get the colors within the lines.
Not to mention he distrusted the thing, just like he distrusted everything else.
So he walked slowly to the group of faces now locked on him, trying to keep his cool. The usual introductions, the ceremonial lifting of the shades–
Connely reeled back, gasping, hands groping at his eyes. It was as if a billion lights had pierced his lungs and snatched away the mist hanging over his heart, like a thousand suns suddenly piercing the clouds and burning up the oceans.
They had looked on his world. Not just the stiff and proper outskirts–they had dared to look into the skylines, the slums, the steeples, the very streets themselves, teeming with life that was crying to be let outside the city walls. And yet it was so sudden that every last pulse, every internal tick, had fled deeper within to some ancient stronghold, long littered with broken memories and echoing with fearful whispers of phantoms that refused to die.
But they had seen his world.
For a moment, for once, he had a clear black-and-white choice: drop the shield and the shades and dive into their worlds as they dove into his, or stay safe behind his self-made walls and various defenses.
But he didn’t want to be safe anymore. Someone had dared to look into his soul the way he looked into theirs. Something about that was worth the fear of destruction.
So he lowered his shades and shook himself. “Sorry, the sun caught my eyes. What are your names again?”