Monday, June 26, 2017


The shapes keep swimming, shifting, blurring as soon as she looks at them. Sliding away from her gaze, like those amorphous things that float inside your eyes.

That first one is a four. Maybe. No, definitely.

But wait, it's a reflection, so it should be the other way around? Or is it? Does that mean four is the last number?

Night after night, never the same dream, always the same message - three numbers. Four and... nine? And... what?

Now they've become melting wax, now oil paint floating on a wind-driven pond, now wafting into the air like tissue paper. Or ash.

There must be a reason. She needs there to be a reason. She must be meant to remember them, that's the only explanation. The harder she tries to grasp at the memory, the quicker it slips free.

And the dream fades...

Sunday, June 18, 2017


There must be a pattern somewhere.

Everything has a reason, right? Nothing is actually random, not when people are involved.

There's a message here, has to be.

Something about how it's arranged, how one thing flows from another.

Was it inevitable? Frozen in place, the entire picture and path predetermined?

No. There were choices made.

But there it is, the pattern laid out for all to see. All who will look.

Perhaps only him.

Why try to figure it all out? Why not jut let it be what it is?

Things without all remedy should be without regard, what's done is done?

What was done.

Nothing can be changed now - not a single item added or removed. Everything welded in place.

Perhaps the whole thing would become clear if he had just one clue, a key to unlock the puzzle.

Perhaps if she'd said something.

Thursday, June 8, 2017


START TIME 13:44:40

"It's so beat up, and nobody could say it's pretty. Gawd, look at that face."

"Yes, sir, but it's still part of the protected historic architecture."

"I'm not saying to take it off, though that would be an improvement. Let's just drill out the eyes and put the cameras there."

"Sir, that would require permission just like mounting a conventional camera."

"We don't have to tell anybody! Do it at night, this street is empty after dark. The whole point is to make sure nobody notices the cameras."

"No, sir, we just can't do that. And anyway there's no need. Nobody looks for cameras any more. We have them above the doorway there, and there, plus the one on the corner. And the bank has two that cover the entire street."

"Hrmph, I suppose so. I guess I hadn't noticed the one over there before. Maybe it's enough to have three."

END TIME 13:46:03

Yes, sir. Three cameras. Three that you can see, and all the others you don't know about, and don't even bother looking for. We'll just keep it that way.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Hidden Meanings

"Brother Mainard, why is there a three-circle decoration above the door to our Holy Place?"

"A fine question, Timmy. The lobes of the Triple Loop symbolize the division of life into labor, play, and rest; the vine inside binds them together into the Holy Work. Within each..."

"I'm sorry to interrupt, Brother, but I overheard your explanation. I'm afraid it's incorrect."

"What do you mean, Brother Larch? It comes directly from the Third Catechism of Dennis the Wise."

"Dennis was judged a heretic by the Thirteenth Committee at the Cleveland Conclave."

"When was this!"

"Last January."

"I, well, ah, I never heard anything."

"The Committee sent quite a few text messages right after the decision."

"Oh, yes. I usually run out of data halfway through the month. Probably missed them."

"You should speak with Brother Jackson."

"Does he have special knowledge of the Conclave?"

"No, he moonlights at the phone company. Got me a great deal with unlimited data and no contract."

"I see. But what did the Holy Texts say?"

"The symbol refers to the time we start our meetings, three in the afternoon."

"But we start our meetings at four."

"Daylight savings."

And thus Brother Mainard was enlightened.

Monday, May 22, 2017

It's a Solid Piece of Work

"I particularly appreciate the variation in texture. Exposing hidden conflict through varied material choices, while retaining the fundamental paradigm of the brick."

"I'm impressed by the intentional skewing, very Kandinsky-esque. Regular that becomes irregular, chaos seeping into the perfect geometry, embodying the failed pursuit of perfection."

"Well, yes, I agree with both of you, yet the strongest statement is made by his choice of location. He's perfectly matched these surroundings while maintaining the tension between artificial and natural. Were we in a grassy field the pretension would be overwhelming, whereas this urban setting requires the viewer to find the art *within* his art."

"Oh, hello! Sorry I'm late, had to park. Do you still have time to see my sculpture?"

"Well, young man, I think I can speak for the entire jury that we're very impressed by your work."

"Ah, um... did you? I mean, you already saw it?"

"Indeed, we've been discussing this installation at length."

"Ah, it's, umm, the hand? About ten feet tall, coming out of the ground? It's at the other end of the block."

"Oh! Well, I see. And, ah, what's this then?"

"The bricks? I think they're fixing the sidewalk."

Saturday, May 13, 2017


Oh, this is perfect.


Ow! Okay, ceiling is low, it's a little cramped, and it smells kinda funny. But I don't think anybody's climbed all the way up here in a long time. Probably nobody even knows this room exists.

Nice, if I stand over here I can peek out the little windows. Not much to see though.

They are going to look so hard but they'll never find me. Hide and seek champion!

Hmm. It could be a while, maybe I should have a candy bar or something. Wonder if I can sneak out to the vending machine?

Wait a minute. What the heck's going on with this door?

Why is there no handle on this side?

And what *is* that smell?

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Leash

"Mind control."

Not again. Every time he drinks...

"Don't shake your head. Look for the antennas. There's one right across the street, on the old office building.

"Of course, otherwise our phones won't work."

A look of sad condescension usually reserved for small children. "I've been reading. A lot. Stuff they don't want you to see."

"They who?"

"I don't want to say the names, not here."

"What? We're in a noisy bar. You seriously believe someone is spying on you?"

Silently pointing to the black slab at the edge of the table.

"My cellphone? It's spying on you?"

Emphatic nods.

"Okay, fine. Someone could hack my phone, but that doesn't mean they can control my mind through a radio antenna."

"You can't sense it. You don't even know it's happening. I'm serious. They've been doing this for so long, it's totally hidden. They're playing the long game."

"Okay, let's talk about something el..."  BRAAP BRAAP BRAAP "Oh, it's my boss. I have to take this."

"It's eleven o'clock at night. Do you really need to answer?"

"Yeah, you know how it is, work and all."

A sage nod. "Yes, I do know just how it is."

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Grind

Stone Cloud Partners, how may I direct your call?

Oh, hello, Sam.

No, no, today's one of those days, you know? He's in meetings all day.

Yes, there's an extended lunch with the legal team. Then he'll be heading out to see a client, and he's taking them to dinner.

Hmm, no, I don't think he has any... oh, wait, something popped in since the last time I looked. Yes, he's booked tomorrow night too. And then on Saturday morning he has an early flight to Chicago, and he'll be coming back on the redeye, Sunday morning.

I'm afraid so, there's golf with a couple of legislators on Sunday afternoon.

Oh, well, I'm sure he'll sleep on the flight, and you know how he is, always ready for anything, right? Ha ha.

Umm, oh, I'm sorry.

Well, I didn't mean it that way. I wasn't thinking...

Let me see, I am sure he has an evening free next week. Ahhhh, yes, Thursday after six. He doesn't have anything, and I'll put a hold on it right now. What do you want it to say?

Okay, Sam, I've got it on his calendar. Yes, he will definitely see it, and I'll leave a note to remind him.

All right then, Sam. Oh, hey, let me know the next time you have one on a Saturday, okay? I usually have some free time on weekends, and I'd love to come too. Okay. Bye, now.

Calendar Entry: Thursday, May 4 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Location: Valley Park
Attendees: Samuel Benson, Sr.
           Samuel Benson, Jr.
Description: Sammy will be playing shortstop.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Vision

The sky is black, streaked with cotton-white wisps.

All around vague shapes, familiar in the way a glimpsed face calls forth the memory of an old friend, yet his attention is drawn always to the House.

Illuminated from some hidden sun, it alone glows bright, unearthly white. He knows every detail, hard and sharp even as the whole swims in a mist that he can only briefly penetrate. Each window a black gap in the slowly wavering fabric of its walls, hiding only emptiness, and yet...

He knows She is there. Not seen nor heard, only felt, always present.

Stepping through the treacly grass, feet held back by... what? No concern of his, only the need to reach Her.

Motion defied by the ever-receding facade, as in a dream. This cannot be a dream, though. He senses everything with such force, even as the picture ripples, shifts, fogs.


5:35 AM - Slapping his alarm clock, he dresses quickly, facing the wall so his glance won't fall on the empty pillow. Looking out the window as he gulps down the first coffee of the day he expects to see some half-recalled... no, nothing there.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Another Sign

"Okay, open your eyes! What do you think?"

"I think it looks... knackered."

"What's that mean? Is it good?"

"Ah, no. Worn out, old, ready for the dustbin."

"Well, it is vintage."

"Did you get it from some place that went out of business?"

"Yep! And a real bargain too."

"I think that sign is why they went out of business."

"Aww, c'mon. The name is great, SPARK!"

"I think you should install it backwards so it reads KRAPZ."


"That was not a serious suggestion! People are going 
to think we're out of business before we open."

"That's the best kind of publicity - word of mouth! Go to SPARK before they close, it could be your last chance! How much more hipster can you get?"

"You might have something there... fine, it will do for now."

"Great, I knew you'd love it! Now let me show you these awesome beanbag chairs I found..."

Friday, April 7, 2017


Unreliable moonlight couldn't penetrate the hazy air. Which cabin was hers?

A car's headlights briefly lit the snow, speeding downhill - revealing footprints that had to be Nancy's.

Her face at the door. "What are you doing, why'd you come up here?" Voice filled with anxiety, anger, desperation. Hope?

A reasonable question; she'd asked it herself.

She didn't find an answer until the words were spoken. "I came because you're here."

"Sophie, I'm sorry, I know I was wrong, I shouldn't..."

She stepped inside as another temblor rattled the windows. "It's okay, I understand now. But we have to go." A heap of belongings waited by the door.

"I can't. I tried, there's too much to leave. My pictures, all this work."

Sophie grasped her by the shoulders, found a calm she never expected. "It'll be okay. We'll have each other, we'll work together."

Nancy stared back in confusion. "We will?"

A nod. "I love you. I know that now, and I'm not afraid anymore."

By the time they'd filled the truck, its wipers could barely clear the ash from the windshield.

A cop at the evacuation area said they were the last to get off the mountain; everything behind them had been obliterated in the eruption. But everything before them was new, and that's what mattered.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Sign

A door opens.

"Good afternoon, welcome to Kay-nan Plastics. May I help you?"

"Oh! I didn't see you there, sorry, I, ah, was looking, someone to ask about..."

"I'd be happy to assist however I can."

"Well, I was actually, you know, wondering about something, ah, different?"

"We also offer consulting services."

"No, not that. I heard from, ah, a friend? 
There's a kind of special, ah, activity here, and..."

"Plastic molding is our specialty, we don't have any other lines of business."

"Well, he said that the lamp outside, it's a kind of signal, being twisted 
like that, it means people are gathering at the, ah, well, the temple."

"I'm sorry, your friend is confused. There's no temple here, just machinery. That old light gets loose sometimes. I'll have our custodian tighten it."

"Oh. Okay. Um, sorry to bother you."

"Not at all. Have a nice day!"

A door closes.

"Albert, get up here! Listen to me, you worm. I've told you twice about the return spring on the lamp, and now it's attracting attention. In Baal's name I swear, if you don't get it fixed, you'll be the one on the altar tonight!"

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Choice

Snow began as they crossed the frontier. "That's just great," muttered Stevens.

Larkin growled, "Keep walking."

Walk, or die.

The city looming out of the snow was broken, though not by fighting. The Syndicate pulled down buildings while retreating, preventing any refugees from staying in the contested territory.

A low moan made Stevens turn around. Brooke had stumbled in the woods, soaked her clothes. She was staggering, wouldn't make it unless she warmed up.

An old factory offered three walls and part of a roof. "We need to stop, make a fire. She's gonna freeze."

No one slowed. Larkin didn't even look back.

He'd managed to coax his tinder alight when the flash threw hard shadows around them; the shockwave knocked more bricks from the wall and showered dust. Another Syndicate gift - booby traps. Outdated munitions attached to tripwires; easy to avoid unless you were so exhausted that you could barely put one foot in front of another.

Brooke didn't stir. He wondered if he'd have to carry her in the morning. Or if he'd be better off looking for another bomb.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Test

"Teacher, what is faith?"

The older man nodded approvingly. A good question. "Do you know the doorway in the old warehouse, on the second floor, the one with nothing underneath it? Just a door in the wall?"

Excited mutterings. A hand raised up, "So faith is what lets you walk out of that door, and not fall to the ground?"

The resulting glare provided the answer. "No!" They recoiled from unexpected vehemence; he paused, collecting himself. "No, that's not faith. That would be... foolishness, stupidity. You can't step out of a door into thin air and not fall."

He waited, building anticipation, letting them settle into quiet listening again.

"We have faith that the builder had a reason to place that door in that wall with nothing underneath, even though we cannot understand why."

Closing his book, the signal that lessons were over, caused all the students to bow their heads in respectful silence. They sat in contemplation as he carefully stood, picked up his crutches, and slowly hobbled from the room.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

No Walk In the Park

"Ask Sam about it, he was an Occupier."

Their faces all turned expectantly toward the grizzled, unkempt man who'd been herding them along these seven weeks.

He nodded, barely visible in the shadow of the half-fallen wall. "Yeah, I was. Not in New York, but I was there, for most of it." They waited. "Well, I don't know what else to say. We had some shitty tents, it was cold, everybody smelled bad. But..." he trailed off, gathering his thoughts. "But we made a difference, I think."

A small voice piped up. "So it was a lot like what we're doing now." Cracked lips smiled underneath a bushy beard. "Yep. We're making a difference. And it's always cold and we all stink but dammit, this is better than one of the Realignment Facilities." A murmur, nodding heads. "I'm glad you agree because we have more walking to do. Everybody get some rest, sundown's in two hours. There's a safehouse but it's twenty miles. We need to be there before dawn."

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

In the Old Days

"Daddy, what's that?"

"The sign? It's for a church, that had a fallout shelter."

"I don't know what that is."

He paused. How to explain such an antiquated and foreign concept?

"Many years ago people were afraid of, well, this thing they thought might happen, and would be very bad. It would be the end of the world. And this is a place they went because they were afraid."

Wide eyes. "What thing?"

"It was something that would come from the sky. It would be so powerful that nobody could stop it. The people thought that if they came here, they would be okay, and afterwards they could start over again and make new lives."

"So this was a special place?"

"Well, no, not really, but they thought so. Nowadays we know that it wouldn't really have helped, but that's okay, because we also know that the thing they were afraid of will never happen."

"Oh. That's good. Thank you, Daddy."

"You're welcome." He sighed. At least he hadn't had to explain what a fallout shelter was...

Saturday, February 25, 2017

But soft (in the head)

He liked to think of it as her balcony.

(it's not a real balcony, just a decorative architectural element)

Perhaps she liked to stand there, lean on the railing, gaze out at the moon and stars.

(it's only a foot deep, the railing eighteen inches high)

Her long hair would cascade over her shoulders, drape along the rough stone.

(she'd have to be two feet tall for that to happen)

Just as a dreamy look of contemplation came across her face, he would whisper from the bushes.

(the neglected garden, overgrown, full of weeds and thorns)

Startled, she'd look about in confusion until he stepped into view, then a smile would bloom.

(more likely a shriek and quick call to the police)

Their moonlit conversation would last until the first shades of dawn, and her tears at their parting.

(nighttime temperatures just above freezing, so she'd be hypothermic)

He knew it would never happen.

(of course not)

But what was the harm in dreaming?

(well, you've got me there)

Thursday, February 16, 2017


A hushed conversation.

"Yes, I think she's made a lot of progress. You can see it in the way she..."

"But she still walks that way. You know, looking at the ground. She never notices anybody, walks right by her friends, everyone who says hi. I don't get it."

"Well, that could be a reaction to overstimulation. We can work on that."

They pause to look at the girl, reading a book. It's possible that she can hear them, but she gives no sign that she cares what they're talking about. Or even that they're talking.

As the whispers begin again, a quick glance from her. There's nothing she hasn't heard, half a dozen times before. She isn't counting. She no longer cares. She isn't shy, either. Or overstimulated. She just sees more when she's looking down.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

What Friends Are For

"Get out, I don't wanna see you here, never again!"

Big hand pushing him backwards, threat of more where that came from.

"But I just, we were just hanging out, he's..." choking on the words, pain in his chest that has nothing to do with the shoving match.

"He's not your friend. He's not nothing to you any more. He is never gonna see you again. If I catch you here, I'll break your goddamn neck."

Dust whispering down from the porch ceiling after the door slams, window glass set to rattling.

Danny is barricaded in his room, but can't stay there. When he comes out, more buises, another black eye they'll work together to cover up in the school bathroom.

It's dark. He should go.

His grandmother used to say whenever God closed a door, he opened a window. The hunk of broken brick in his hand is just the right size, and they're both fast runners. God never specified how the window was to be opened...

Friday, February 3, 2017

All Good Things

"Teacher, what are the things hanging down on the corner of the building? They look like wires."

She sighed. Only three weeks into the new year. She needed to encourage curiosity, keep them engaged, but this...

"Yes, Sarai, they are wires, for electricity. We learned about electricity last year, how the solar farm..."

The hand went up again. "But, Teacher, they aren't connected." Sarai was very sharp.

Now she closed her eyes to gather the pieces of an answer. She needed hours to explain how electricity used to be produced and distributed, days for implications of the choices that had been made, and their impacts. These children would never be able to truly understand how ubiquitous it had been, how central to everyone's lives before the End. They knew electricity as the dim pathway lights at night, the film projector on Saturday evening and their remaining medical machinery, no comparison at all.

And yet, there were stories that might help. "Well, children, once upon a time..."

Thursday, January 26, 2017

For the Ages

The stone thudded into place. Drops of sweat marked the dusty surface; his face was grit-streaked, an even exchange.

Pausing too long would earn a rebuke, so he pretended to study the arrangement, pushing the stone to see if it rocked. Soon enough came the rough voice, "Keep it up, son. Dinner in an hour or so." That meant two, possibly three, and more after the small and swiftly-eaten meal. At least by then the sun would be lower.

Trudging back to the rockpile he felt a hand on his shoulder. Without turning he waited, expecting a clout for his slowness. Instead, "I know it's hard work. But this wall will be here long after we're gone."

He walked on, silent in thought. The wall may be here, but after you've gone, so will I. And I'll never look back to know whether it stands or falls.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

From the Ground Up

The engine wheezes to a stop. His usual parking spot, in sight of his office. Well, the space where he worked; he didn't have a window. Or an office.

Two years in, and his mother still reminded him how lucky he was. "You have such a great career ahead of you."

His father would always add, "Beats digging ditches!"

Indeed. Though at least ditches are dug from above. All his career is still in the future, earth above him, pressing down. In forty years he might reach the surface, should he live that long.

Unclenching his hands from the wheel, picking up his case, feet carrying him to the door. Shoulders sinking under the weight, ready to start digging again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Two roads? Check.

Yellow wood? Ehh, not really, more grey and brown.

Choices? Lots of them.

What schools will you apply to? That one's very selective, better have advanced coursework. Your chances for graduate school will be better if you go there. Except it's a lot more expensive, and two states away.

You don't have to pick a career, yet. But to get into the best school you should know what you're going to do. At a small college you'll have a more personal experience. But if you change your mind, a university will have more options.


Today I'll follow this path. That's where my dog went, and somehow he usually gets it right. Maybe I can learn one or two things from him...

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Frozen Out

"Brr. Cold tonight."

The hint falls into the space between them, lands on the skate-scratched ice.

"I'm glad it isn't too crowded." Because you won't be distracted by all the other people. But you are.

"What a beautiful tree. Still, it's a shame they have to cut it down, you know, to bring it here."

A pause to admire the lights. Hands nearby on the railing, an opportunity for some contact, missed.

"You know, the whole tree is dying from the moment they chop it down. But the branches don't know that the roots got cut off. Until..."

Until the whole thing is dead.