clack clack clack clack
A handful of stones clattered onto the sidewalk. There weren’t many, and red, raw lines on his palms from holding them.
Chunks of gneiss marbled with minerals. Dull red granite sprinkled that sparkled with flecks of quartz. Smooth, crackly shale like pencil lead. A water-carved wedge of hard quartzite.
One by one, he picked them up with his fingers and took them onto the road, where a ring of large stones were laid over the warm asphalt. Lumpy, blue-mist blocks of basalt from the sea, hunks of sandstone like crystal cornbread, thin slabs of slate, broken pieces of limestone and calcite. The foundation for a mountain.
Every piece built it higher. Fragments of gabbro like a night sky glittering with stars, fine pebbles that lined loose bricks like glue, shattered rock fitted into the gaps. He'd build his mountain, his memory, brick by brick. Stone by stone. Old pieces of cement lying on the side of the road, matte shards of dolostone scattered across the sidewalks like broken glass, bricks that dropped from buildings like ripe apples, pebbles crinkling in the cracks.
To build his memory, brick by brick. Stone by stone.
The earth was an giant rock, filled with rock so hot it melted with cooler slabs of rock floating on top underneath more layers of rock dotted with lumps of rock. The roads were paved with rock and the houses were built of rock. Plants grew in a mixture of crushed rock and flesh hung on bones of living rock and ate food sprinkled with crushed rocks over flat rocks with cooked spikes of rock.
The entire world was made of rocks.
So why, then, was it so hard to find rocks?
He thought of the rocks outside buildings, smoothed by rock tumblers and laid in garden beds. They were too round.
He tossed a broken piece of slate from palm to palm, mulling things over. Rock things.
He was going about this all wrong.
Chunks. Fragments. Shards. Broken pieces.
He wrapped his fingers around a gray lump of quartzite. It was round like a millstone, pockmarked like an orange, about as big as a grapefruit. It was very hard, and wouldn’t fit anywhere in a mountain.
He was going about this all wrong.
He set it down on the side of the road, and began to run, deeper into the city.
* * *
The water that dripped from the walls seemed to leak between every thread of her socks, soaking into the cotton and making them ooze over her feet like sludge. Five braids were knotted into her dark blonde hair. Her toes were numb, as she lilted like a flower in the breeze, in front of an open fridge. An open and empty fridge, empty as a tree eaten hollow by a mixture of bacteria and time. The walls of the fridge were monotonously white, overshadowed with a dull blue in the unnerving darkness of a juiceless light bulb. The hollow drawers were void of even a sprinkling of crusted over ketchup drops.
Hm. No fresh food...but she had some sort of food, she was sure...well, she wasn’t sure, but she thought that maybe…
Her wet-socked feet squelched through the water to the ripple-grained cupboards. She opened one, but there were only a few old plates, round and white like full moons and chipped around the edges like layers of parchment. In another was a lone souvenir mug, and in another nothing at all.
She had to find something. Juliette couldn’t subsist on a random can of ravioli she’d found on the counter.
It had a strange aura, though. For all she knew maybe she could. She didn’t know how things worked. But it seemed just as likely to her with a glance that it was something beyond its purpose of digestion.
But then again probably not.
She opened some more cupboards, and unearthed a cache of more ravioli cans.
She took one of the cans in her palms and slowly turned in a circle, looking for a can opener. Rolling open a drawer, she grabbed a pair and started turning the toothy gears around the metal lip of the can. She metal sliced apart and the steely round snapped free.
She looked down the grooved sides of the can. The ravioli sat like dregs of tea at the bottom, swimming in soupy tomato stock. The ravioli was greasy and folded over, lace-lined pillows of noodle filled with low-grade meat. Red sauce bled over it like cold magma, dripping between the rippling pasta edges, swirling like cloud-soaked storms on the scarlet surface of Jupiter. Her eyes seemed to glaze over. It seemed strangely occult, a mysterious echo of some mystic plane of thought…
Her headache squeezed around her brain, making it throb. Fireworks popped in her head, crackling in rainbow colors behind her eyelids, suddenly bursting into real ones, crackling into the evening sky...The evening....The evening was...
The evening was cool and soft like moss, a dusky azure like peacock feathers. The air seemed to press on your skin and smooth over lungfuls of moist air, dipping everything in a calm blue haze that plugged worry bubbling the heart like acrid springs in buttery thickness. It was a lovely night to be out. An even better night to watch the fireworks.
PEW PEW PEW
They transformed the mellow blue world of the post-apocalyptic evening into a flaring light show, the delicious fizz in the blue raspberry soda. The thrills that throbbed through her heart and made her soul buzz with the adrenaline pumping through her veins. Glowing neons rippled over her skin, like starlit ocean waves licking over sandy shores, as sparks burned in her hair like fireflies. It was like floating in the ocean of space, swaddled in vacuum, looking on as stars collide in lethal glory, bleeding burning pulses of red-hot ice and broken slices of moon, chunks of meteoroids stinging over your cheeks. A few drops of blood mingle with the starlight. Debris crashes into planets and splits them at the seams, snapping their rings like record disks, shattering into burning gas and fragments of ice, spilling their broken bones into the stars and flagrant nebulas as stardust floats between your locks and catches in the flyaways.
PEW PEW PEW PEW WHIZ
A smile as someone swirled chocolate milk in a wine glass.
The eye of a hurricane, a hurricane she’d formed with her own hands out of thunderclouds and fire.
Breath rushed back into her lungs as Juliette resurfaced. Both the room and her head spun. She leaned on the table, trying not to sink any further towards the floor as stars popped over her eyes.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.
She grabbed the can of ravioli and stared into the sauces. There, she could see her vision, spelled out in the swirls and noodly ripples, clear as day.
A night of fireworks.
It was like tea leaves.
* * *
Tap Tap Tap Tap Tap
Starling’s shoes clicked on the bluish-black streets. They glistened, whispering with the slickness of a recent rain that had thundered onto the sidewalks and gurgled in the gutters. But she had not heard or seen such a rain. And yet, over the blacky asphalt and painted lines of white and yellow, a thin layer of water glistened, sending spongy reflections streaking down deep into the road.
Her black duffel bag swung on her shoulders, making the curlicues of macaroni rattle like drumming raindrops in crisp cardboard packages as they shook back and forth.
Smooth water pipes ran over plaster-covered bricks, blooming with clumps of butterfly wings at the seams. They seemed to be everywhere, crawling into corners and gleaming dully like waxen crayons through windows that reflected grey batters of clouds. It seemed there were too many clouds lately. The clouds smothered the sky like a gray blanket, tinting the bricks darker as the sun’s pale light diffused from a glowing bubble of white where the mist rolled over it.
Butterfly wings. They sprouted from her scalp and from the notches in her spine, and she could feel them pushing against her insides when she turned. The heat steaming from the candle kept the fog at bay, but she still didn’t know who she was or what was real. Like the strange shadows she’d been seeing.
Tap Tap Tap Tap Tap
Graffiti lashed colored letters of spray-paint over the alleyway, dulled somewhat by layers of dust and grime. It was like creeping ivy blossoming with flowers, overlaid with a thin casing that set it in fossil. Giant, almost incomprehensible letters that rippled across the walls, tangling together like string, in neons, pastels, bright teals and oranges. Less flashy curlicues of signature sprawled on the edges like marching ants, layering over each other and flaring swooping loops and tails. The colorful mania was like a peacock, or some other tropical bird fanning its feathers over the gray concrete, and familiar to the debris that was left of her memory.
But they turned duller, and stranger, fresher as new layered on top of the old, colors and jubilee leeching from them with each footstep, and filling with eerie foreboding and cryptic gibberish. They turned more pleading, more desperate, written inblack, then dripping red, unwinding into a chaos of squiggling lines that splayed across the concrete and bloomed onto the edges of the sidewalk.
Then it dwindled suddenly, lines of spray paint breaking off in trailing lines that streaked across windows and pipes.
Fear congealed like ice in her stomach. She put her head down and kept walking.