8/21/15 Aporia Astrum (excerpt)

Mai nudged his foot under the table and smiled. This was one of her good moments. He thought it was one of her good moments, at least. He couldn’t tell if her eyes were seeing him or if she was seeing someone else. Someone she used to know.

“Hello there, dear,” he said smiling back. He picked up the dishes and took them to the sink and set them to soak. “Was it good?” he asked.

“I don’t like peanut butter much,” she said.

He had been wrong. This wasn’t a good moment. There were fewer and fewer these days. The doctors said there wasn’t anything to be done for her.

“Darling,” Gordy said. “We didn’t have peanut butter for dinner.”

“Nope. I have never liked peanut butter,” Mai said.

“How are the cocoons doing?” he asked.

Whenever she went off like this he tried to bring her back to something she knew. Something she loved. Loved more than him.

She put her hands on the hardwood table and used the back of her legs to push the chair back from the table as she rose to her feet. Her slippers made a shushing sound on the carpet.

Leaving the dishes until later Gordy half walked, half shadowed his wife down the hall.

“Hatching, or shedding, hatching or shedding,” said Mai. “My Monarchs should be done by now–it’s much like putting cookies in the oven.”

But it took much longer, thought Gordy.

He slid in front of her and opened the door to the garage and then put out his hand so she could hold on as she took the step slowly. Against the wall–he’d made the whole thing for her–was a wooden box, the top slanted at an angle, the front of which was set with a piece of glass. Inside were the colorful cocoons of butterflies pinned to the ceiling. Some brown, some green, some a metallic golden accented with midnight. And there were the butterflies that had just burst from their confines. Amazing to think those had been squirmy little buggers–caterpillars. He shuttered. Still, Gordy didn’t think they were much improved with wings, no matter the color.

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8/16/15 On Stage

Theo stared down at the swirling water, the boy suspended and swaying. Next to Theo was Kino and next to Kino, Felicia. Theo couldn’t take his eyes off the writhing water. The colors of it, even by the light of the moon, stretched and pulled, like tentacles. Like the vines of the forest.

Theo bent down to touch it, but his hand only met cloth. He pulled at the light scarf and it came with him as he stood. He held the scarf between thumb and index finger and looked at it, uncomprehending. A low murmur was rising all around him.

The play was over.

The crowed had noticed him on the stage. Theo was unsure how he had gotten there. Kino, Felicia–they stared at him. They looked as confused as he felt.

“You weren’t here,” said Kino.

“No,” said Theo.

“Then why are you?” asked the older man.

“I don’t know,” said Theo. “This isn’t my story.”

“We’ll get to that,” said Felicia.

“We won’t,” said Theo. “Nobody has ever heard it.”

The crowd was buzzing more now. All eyes on stage, though the fourth wall had been broken once Theo had climbed the steps. Had he climbed them? He would have had to come all the way from the balcony.

“You’re story still happened,” said Kino. “It will continue to happen and be told like all stories are told since the beginning of time.”

“Not mine,” said Theo.

“They’ll want it,” said Kino, indicating the crowd.

The glanced that way. A police office was in the front row. He was still in uniform. His badge stood out on his chest. He was salt a pepper and he looked at Theo with a comprehension Theo didn’t like. The police officer wetted his lips. The man’s eyes were probing and vicious and made Theo’s skin crawl.

He suddenly needed to be away. He felt his legs go shaky. He felt his mouth dry up. Theo couldn’t bring himself to go back to the crowd. There would be too many eyes there. He turned and bee lined a course for back stage. The rigging hung down revealingly. The light was dim. Theo tuned out any sound that might come from the stage. props and sets lined the walls. Some fake trees and vines for the oasis. He couldn’t tell if it had all been real, a dream, or a play. He had seen the whole thing. But it was more than just a spectacle. It was a hard truth in his stomach and heart. One Theo didn’t want to accept.

A door lead to the backstage hallway. Above the door an exit sign in illuminated red letters hung. Theo opened the door and was met with fluorescent white lights. His eyes ached for a moment as he stepped through and shut the door behind him. He looked to the left, then the right. There wasn’t another exit sign anywhere. It was time he left. It was time he got back to London and called the London School of Photography and inquire to why nobody had picked him–him–up. He could teach their students far more about art than anyone else. He knew. He knew this place was wrong and nothing compared to his creations. He had thought it was a chance for him to learn more, but now he understood it was nothing but a chance for others to steal his craft. Uncover the truth of his art–strip away the mystery. Make it base and low and completely commonplace. He’d not let them take it from him.

8/12/15 Dead Fingers

She took it and rubbed her dead fingers on it. The dirt under her fingernails was dark, but her hands themselves were clean. Nothing changed about the handbill at all. She handed it back to Theo. When he took it he felt a shift. It was at the back of his mind, or in the smallest sliver of his vision. It was like the first time he’d learned to taxidermy, or the first roll of film he’d ever developed. It was gears turning out of sight, gears that opened stone doors that were previously locked. Doors that Theo knew led to a larger world. It was an unlocking of possibilities he’d never understood. It was the reason he lived and the reason people died and the secret behind his photography.

The dead woman turned, and Theo turned. In the spot on Tudor Street where a Billabong store had just been, was a large dilapidated theater. White, but now gray with age, not even the slat shutters had escaped the inevitable creep of time–some slats were broken or missing altogether. There was no sign, no signal, no reason he should enter, but Theo was a mystic if mystics were right, which they weren’t, but Theo was, and he knew some things others didn’t. This theater was one of those things, and he knew this also. And with this in mind he walked with the dead woman, her shuffling feet, his dress shoes clipping, up the ten or so stairs to the double doors which would enter to a place he wanted to go.