Friday, April 28, 2017


It was a long walk back from the remains of St. Cecelia’s church. Everything looked, felt, overly saturated; the leaves in the trees were greener, the abandoned factory a rustier red...the rainbow of oil droplets more vibrant.

I wasn’t sure how I got to Rainbow River, but I didn’t really mind. The sludge of colors, the mix of greens and blues and purples, nicely complemented the post-storm sky. As I walked farther down the river, I noticed something in the water. Getting closer, I saw it was a body of a woman, her form encircled by a corona of deep red.

Surprisingly, I didn’t react. I just stood there, watching her bob up and down in the water with the slight current. Her mortality - our mortality - became very apparent in that instant. The fleeting nature of life, its gifts and its cruelty, and its inevitable end.

All we have to cushion this uncomfortable truth is the illusion of control.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Entrance Stone

After cleaning myself up, I headed back outside to assess the damage to the town. I knew it had been a horrendous storm, but I hadn’t realized the extent of the damage. Several trees had fallen, criss-crossing the road and squashing people’s cars as if they were made of a soft putty.

A few crowds had gathered around the crushed cars and were attempting to drag the trees off of them. I glanced around and saw my neighbor, Ms. Wilma, staring hopelessly at her small Volkswagen beetle that was practically flattened. No one had gone over to offer her assistance, and there was no way she’d be able to lift the tree herself, especially in her old age.

I hurried over to her. “Ms. Wilma? Could I possibly offer you any assistance?”

“Oh, Lucien. Thank goodness you’re here,” she said in her characteristically frail voice. “I do need your help.” She reached into the pocket of her skirt and pulled out her wallet. “How does $60 sound?”

I extended my hand and gestured for her to put her wallet away. “Thank you, but I can’t take your money.”

She looked at me and smiled, understandingly, but didn’t say anything. I turned my attention to the tree, placing my hands underneath the trunk and lifting from my knees. I struggled with all my might to lift the tree, but couldn’t. I took in a big breath and heaved; my muscles were screaming for oxygen, but still the tree didn’t budge. One more time, I thought. I mustered all of my energy and strength and tried lifting the tree. I was about to pass out when the tree lifted up and flipped off of the car and onto the ground.

Gasping for breath, I looked up to find that Ms. Wilma, her car, and the tree had disappeared. Instead, I found myself sitting in the lone pew that remained from St. Cecelia’s church.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Snap, Crackle, Pop

It sucks not to have a car.

Lucien was leaning against the window of his apartment, gazing at the rain beating relentlessly against the glass, the lightning etching jagged streaks of white against the darkness in his mind.

He was hungry. In fact, the only thing louder than the thunder outside was the thunder inside his belly. He had forgotten to go shopping that week, so there wasn’t any food in the fridge. His only option was going out to eat at a local restaurant.

Except he hated rain. The way it soaks through your clothes, penetrates every pore in your body, and leaves your soul a drippy mess. But he had no choice. He had to eat.

Steeling himself, he plunged into the sea of darkness, cold, wet drops of agony seeping into every fiber of his being. Peering ahead, he caught sight of the dim light emanating from the local diner and began making his way towards it, as if it were a beacon of hope and he a wary traveler.

Once inside the diner, he saw that it was empty. There wasn’t even a waiter to seat him and take his order. He called out several times and was answered with silence. Finally, he heard a rustling in the back and from the kitchen emerged a short, old man wearing a waiter’s garb.

“Sorry for the wait,” the old man said. “The food will be out shortly.”

Before Lucien could form a coherent thought in response to the old man, the doors to the kitchen swung open and plate after plate of food streamed out, carried by faceless figures wearing the same uniform as the old man.

“Dig in!” the old man said cheerfully, staring at Lucien expectantly.

“Uh…thanks,” said Lucien, seating himself at a table and tucking into the piles of food before him.

And eat he did. Hamburgers, cheeseburgers, salads swimming in dressing, chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, fried fish, milkshakes, fries, the whole deal.

As the night dragged on, plates full of food were replaced by empty ones. Yet, Lucien didn’t feel full. He was practically shoveling food into his mouth, but it didn’t feel like it was reaching his stomach.

After a while, he stopped. It didn’t make any sense. How could he be eating so much and not feel full? As he pondered the inexplicability of it all, he felt something welling up from the depths of his belly. It grew larger and stronger until it burst – a rumble of thunder. Suddenly, he understood.

When he opened his eyes, he found himself lying in a crater in the middle of the road. The rain had stopped, and the sky was a pale blue. Sitting up, he saw that a crowd of people had gathered around him, gasping and pointing and whispering amongst themselves.

“What…what happened?” he asked. He couldn’t remember how he ended up in the middle of the street. His mind felt strangely clear, as though it had been wiped clean.

“You got struck by lightning!” piped up one of the onlookers. “And not only that – you survived!”

Lightning. I got struck by lightning. I closed my eyes, trying to absorb this fact.

“I open my eyes, and gaze out again at this brand-new world before me.”

Saturday, January 21, 2017

El Dorado

It was just before the break of dawn, and the streets of the city were completely deserted. Yet, there was Lucien, shuffling around in a drab bathrobe that hung off his thin frame and slippers that scraped at the ground with each step. It had been weeks since his accident, and despite treatment at the hospital, he had yet to gain back the memories he lost. So he resorted to this: walking around the city in a daze, hoping that something - anything - would trigger his memories to come flooding back.

So far, it wasn’t working.

But that didn’t stop him. He had taken a rather circuitous route around the city to get to the graveyard since that’s where all the hospital personnel told him the accident occurred. It was as gloomy today as it was that fateful day, but still, nothing.

Making his way past St. Cecelia’s Church and up Penny Lane, he began to feel the sun’s warmth on his shoulders. Up ahead, he heard the early morning bustle of people and a street peddler calling out the wares he had for sale. As Lucien approached where he had stationed his cart, he felt a wave of nostalgia take over him.


It was on this exact street, in this exact city, on a morning just like this one. He had to have been only 8 years old. And his parents, who had a penchant for early morning walks, were practically dragging him down the street.

“Lucien, pick your feet up! You don’t want to scuff your new shoes!”

Lucien didn’t care. “I just want to go back to sleep,” he whined.

“No, your father must have his early morning walk, God, Lucien, what will it take for you to listen?!”

Lucien’s eyes scanned the ever growing crowd before resting on a man with a cart on the edge of the road, calling out the wares he had for sale. The golden trinkets on the man’s cart glinted in the sunlight and caught Lucien’s eye.

For the first time that morning, Lucien smiled. “I want one of those,” he said, pointing at the trinkets.

His mother snorted. “Oh please, Lucien, if you want something gold we’ll get you something much better than that.”

“No,” he whined. “I want that.”

“Stop it, Lucien,” she huffed, dragging him along again. “We don’t waste money on cheap junk like that. Besides, he’s a good-for-nothing peddler. Do we associate ourselves with people like that, Lucien?”

“No,” Lucien whispered quietly, his head bowed in surrender. As they walked further down the street, the peddler disappeared into the crowd.


“Sir? Sir, are you okay?”

“Huh? What?” Lucien blinked several times and looked up. The peddler was standing in front of him, peering at him worriedly.

“You zoned out for a second, sir. Just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Lucien grunted, his mind still swimming with what he just remembered. The peddler, satisfied with that answer, started walking back to his cart.

“Wait!” Lucien cried. The peddler turned and paused, looking at him with mild surprise.

He hesitated, before asking, “Can I buy a trinket?”

The peddler smiled. “Sure thing.”

For the first time that morning, Lucien smiled.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Tabula rasa

The fog was oppressive. It suffocated all light that tried to reach the small town and left everything shrouded in darkness. But Lucien was drawn to it, as evidenced by his decision to take a mid-afternoon stroll.

As he wandered down Carrier Avenue, he could see the silhouettes of people walking past; present, but far away enough that the fog reduced them to shadows. The fog seemed to muffle all noise, too, for when he reached Only Way Street, he didn’t hear the woman in red calling his name until she grabbed him forcefully on the shoulder.

“Mr. Marr!” she said. “Are you lost?”

He stopped, poised to remove her hand from his shoulder. “Not particularly,” he replied, irritated that she had disturbed the silence.

“You seem lost,” she whispered. Her eyes, which were made bigger by the round spectacles perched on her nose, peered into his. “Your mind, much like this town, is filled with fog. You think you know where you are going, but you do not. You are lost. Perhaps it is time to clear that fog.”

“No thank you, I’m doing just fine,” he said through gritted teeth. Relieving his shoulder of her tight grip, he strode into the park next to One Way Street, hoping to lose the woman in the fog. After only walking a short distance, he heard an old man call out his name.

“Go, boy, bring Lucien over to me, I must tell him something.”

Lucien paused as a young boy, whose mouth was covered with duct tape, emerged from the fog and gestured him to follow him. Cautiously, he did. When they reached a large oak tree, he saw an old man sitting in the grass beneath it.

“Ah, Lucien, there you are. I see you’ve met the woman in red. What was it that she told you?”

He answered, unsure of how the man knew this. “Something about my mind being filled with fog. I’m not quite sure what she meant, though.”

The old man let out a laugh. “Oh, Lucien, but aren’t you the best man alive at solving riddles?”

Lucien, sufficiently disturbed, began to run. He couldn’t see where he was going through the fog, but it didn’t matter; he just wanted to get as far away from the old man and the woman in red as possible.

When he reached Grave Street, he paused to catch his breath and get his bearings. Except he couldn’t breathe. The fog was so thick that it was like drowning; every breath was empty, and every cry for help was silent. Panicked, he stumbled through the fog into the graveyard, hoping to reach St. Cecilia’s church on the other side. Before he could, however, he felt himself fall.

Everything went black.

When he awoke some time later, he was lying on the ground, a paramedic shining a light into his eyes.

“Sir! Sir! Can you hear me?”

He let out a groan. What happened? Why are there so many flashing lights?

“Sir, what’s your name? Can you tell me your name?”

Yeah, my name is...wait. What’s my name? I have a name, but what is it? Why can’t I remember my name?!

“Sir, you had an accident. You fell and hit your head on a gravestone. Do you remember this?”

No, but that explains the pain. He slowly reached up and touched where he had hit his head. Bringing his hand in front of his eyes, he could see something running down his hand. Blood.

“Sir, I need you to respond! You may be concussed and we need to take you in to run some more tests!”

“Sir? Sir!”


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Rainbow Clothes

He only became aware of the problem when the washing machine didn’t fill up with water.

“What the-” he swore. “No water? Really? And I thought this town couldn’t get any worse.” The only other water sources were Rainbow River and the fishing pond, and he was not about to wash - no, soil - his clothes in such dirty water. Then, it clicked. The gas station. It sells bottled water. He left his clothes in the machine and sprinted out the door, hoping no one else had had the same idea.

A soft ringing signaled his entrance into the Exxon gas station. Dashing to the back where the drinks were sold, he was confronted with the sad image of a refrigerator stripped of its contents. Just like the town, there wasn’t a single drop of clean water.

There were only the river and pond left. A simple coin flip decided his fate. Rainbow River it is. After a couple minutes of searching, he found a bucket. Bucket in hand, he sprinted out of the gas station, eyes fixed on the chaos unfolding around him. People were rushing in all directions, either hauling full buckets of water back to their residences or trying to take back the water that had been stolen from them. Clothes were scattered everywhere from when people had dropped them. It was worse than when the power went out.

Despite the cool fall breeze, his shirt was already drenched in sweat. He’d have to wash that too. When he finally arrived at the river, he began scouting out a spot with the least amount of oil slick.

“Hey, can you help me?”

He turned around sharply. It was someone he had never seen before, although that honestly didn’t surprise him. “Who are you and what do you want?” he quipped.

“I’m Henry Johnson. I dropped my book in the river. It’s really important to me, but I can’t afford to get my clothes dirty.” He pointed to a small book floating amidst the sludge.

Who does this guy think he is? Asking me to retrieve his book for him like that. Lucien was about to say no and walk off, but Henry’s simultaneously distressed and hopeful expression made him consider otherwise.

Ugh, alright. I need to wash these clothes anyway, what’s the big deal. “Fine. I will. But you owe me one.” Wading into the murky water, he gingerly picked up the book. He could barely make out the title, it was so ruined.

“Here’s your book,” Lucien said, handing it to Henry.

“Oh my gosh, thank you!” he said, putting the book back into his pocket. “I’m so sorry about your clothes.”

Lucien looked down. His pants and shoes were soiled beyond repair, but no matter. “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”

When he arrived back at the Victorian, full bucket in hand, he went straight to the public washing machines to wash his clothes.

Except they weren’t there.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Silver Spoon

He awakens to a loud rapping at the door.

“Mr. Marr? Are you home?”

“Whoizit?” he groans groggily, rubbing the sleep and the alcohol from his eyes.

“Laura Andersen with Southern Living. Are you free to talk?”

It’s too early for this shit. What the hell does she want? Reluctantly, he drags himself out of bed and swings the door open. Before him stands a well-dressed, bespectacled reporter and her photographer.

“Sorry to bother you this morning, Mr. Marr. I’m with the magazine Southern Living and we’re doing a feature on this town and its residents. May I come in and ask you a few questions?”

Begrudgingly, he resigns himself to his fate and lets them enter. The reporter thanks him and begins surveying the apartment’s interior.

“Do you mind if we take pictures of your place?” she asks. “A person’s home is an extension of their personality.” Ms. Mathews always reminds us of that.

“Sure, I guess,” he mutters, grabbing a container of off-brand yogurt from the fridge and parking himself on a bar stool, hunched over.

“Excellent,” she exclaims. She begins asking Lucien questions: how long he’s been living in this small Southern town, what he does, who he knows.

He impulsively turns a silver coin over in his hand before responding. “I’ve been living here since college. I inherited this place and everything in it from my parents. I do odd jobs around town for money, but I don’t actually know anyone here that well.”

Furiously scribbling away in her notebook, she ambles around the room before plopping herself on the couch. Are there any cushions on this thing? She glances around the apartment again. It’s all...grey. Grey walls, grey furniture. Expensive, like that dusty crystal chandelier amidst it all...but grey. Yet nothing in here looks comfortable. Case in point, this couch. She’s wondering how to make this all sound good for the magazine when she’s suddenly jolted from her thoughts by a loud “Hey!”

“I didn’t say you could take pictures of me!”

“Sorry, sir, but Ms. Andersen wants candid photos of you for the magazine.”

“My apologies, Mr. Marr. It won’t happen again.” She gets up from the couch and glances over the photographer’s shoulder. It’s a nice shot of Lucien with a silver spoon of yogurt in his mouth. “That’ll work for the magazine.” She turns her attention back to him. “Could you elaborate more on how you got this apartment?”

“My parents,” he remarks, deadpan.

They’re obviously not very close, she thinks, running her finger through the thick layer of dust ringing an empty marble vase.

A loud buzzing breaks the silence. It’s Ms. Mathews, reminding the reporters they need to interview at least three residents or they’ll face severe consequences. Laura thanks Lucien for his time and leaves the apartment, hoping to catch a resident who hasn’t already been claimed.

As soon as she leaves, he locks the door and downs a glass of whiskey. It’s only 8:50, but so what? He flings the curtains shut (That damn photographer had to open them) and crawls back into bed, waiting for the day to end.