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In the Dark (Short Story) July 2, 2014

Posted by michaelnjohns in Uncategorized.
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I wrote a short story for my lovely writers group meeting since I had the quite rare opportunity to actually attend.  The assignments are supposed to have a word count limit of 500.  This summer has been a working one, without a great deal of time to write or do much else.  I’ll be working again from the middle of July to the end of August, probably, so I’ll likely miss at least one more meeting before fall.  It was great to see friends I have missed for several months, as we all shared our stories and poems on the theme, “A House and the People who Live in it.”  I originally wrote it without the final section.  I thought to stop after the word “invitation,” but I decided I didn’t like that, leaving the reader in doubt about my character’s choice.  Since you know there was a draft ending there, maybe you can tell me if you think one way is better than the other.  For me, I decided it would be better without that loose end.  So here, without further ado, is

In The Dark         7/1/2014              Michael N. Johns

     In the house, all shadows and pitch and palpable darkness, he saw them all, as if in the morning light.

     His wife.  He watched her dance playfully in her sleeveless summer dress, full of magnificent beauty and curve and subtle power.  She saw him notice and smiled that closed-lipped half-embarrassed smile she always gave when he admired everything about her.  He felt himself reacting to the vision.  She blew him a kiss, and then he felt as though he were riding a bullet train that now made an emergency stop.       

     And she was gone.

     His head hurt.

     He shook it off.  The cheap beer sweated from the heat, on the small, sturdy table beside him.  He took a sip, then closed his eyes, knowing he’d regret opening them.  Damn.  He saw his beautiful daughter now.  Innocence and blonde curly hair and those passionately deep blue eyes that reflected whimsical skies- now clear, now cloudy, now violent, then clear again.  She lay in the grass, reading.  She turned.  He heard her voice asking for a glass of lemonade, and then, felt the sickening lurch once more as she dissolved into thin air.

     Nausea and pain gripped his abdomen.  He felt weakness from his shoulders to his knees, grateful he was sitting.  He felt the tears and running nose, and fought it all back.  His eyes closed reflexively from the combat.  Damn.

     He kept his eyes down, staring at his hand.  He saw his wedding band, yellow-gold, Cheshire grinning, just as quietly manic as the Lewis Carroll character.  Another sip of beer, keeping his eyes focused on the ring.  He heard the carnival music, and it was his black-haired son, asking for another cotton candy and money for the roller coaster.  He didn’t have to look, to see.


     They weren’t real but he heard them, saw them.  For God’s sake, he smelled his wife’s perfume.  She always dabbed, just a little, in that spot that made him want, like wildfire wants air.  It had been years, but they were still there.  And still gone.   He had helped pack the bags, sending them to a vacation trip while he stayed home to work.  And then he heard the news reports.  The rest was a hazy blur, but he didn’t want to focus.

     The other metal glinted at arms’ length, on the table beside him.  Beckoning, stark obsidian reflected in the clouded moonlight.  It was an open invitation.  He considered the objects on the table and, this time, again, selected the beer, lifting gently by the top of the neck.  He himself rose from the chair and then began to slowly dance.  Dancing to the door, he reached into his pocket and retrieved his wallet.  He took the cash and flung it into the air, and then his wallet followed.  Then he walked outside, lay in the grass, considered the moon, wished he had some lemonade instead of this cheap beer, and cried.



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