Once upon a time, a young man stopped in at Leon’s Neon City and asked for work to tide him over until spring. The shop foreman grinned and winked at one of his journeyman crafters.Too many folks thought bending glass was something anyone could do.
The foreman held out a clean and glistening length of quarter-inch glass tubing. “Show us what you got, kid.”
The young man accepted the delicate and brittle tube. He brought it close to his face to study it, running his fingers and his eyes along its length, smiling as if he could see and feel a hidden shape within. Finally, he stepped to a workbench, held the tube above a steady jet of blue-white flame and began to turn it into what he had found.
It only took a moment. He finished by attaching electrodes and pumping in some inert gas, then handed his creation to the foreman, who plugged it in and switched on power. A baby dragon, deep green as a polished emerald, came to lighted life in his callused hands.
A woman, a customer, murmured, “Oh, God, it looks alive.”
“Geez,” one of the glass-benders muttered. “That’s almost like magic, ain’t it?” Continue reading
The invisible sun has risen somewhere. The blare of the alarm wakes him up. Groaning, he braces himself for another meaningless day.
He clears a circle on the fogged window of his 253rd-floor flat. The air outside looks pregnant with frozen mist. Vistas do not stretch before him even at this height, only buildings in the city’s nucleus do. Yellow sulfur lamps illuminate halos in the blackness. Everything seems still.
He gets to the basin, his head heavy and eyelids heavier. He opens the spout and the water gushes. He wishes some things could change, on their own – maybe the transparent candy-red toothbrush, the curvy-edged mirror, the buzzer of the lift – just to keep up the excitement.
The long hand tells him that he should have been up 20 minutes ago. “I was”, he tells it, “but didn’t want to get out.”
“Am I the lucky one today?” He talks to himself but rejects the thought immediately. “How many people in the City? 5 million?” He doesn’t know. He was never good at guessing. “But should be around that number. So probability? 1:5,000,000. Not likely.”
I’m watching you and my father whispering in the kitchen. You’re going over the plans yet again. Neither of you looks sad. You don’t look happy, either. I suppose there’s that at least. But your faces show determination or maybe resignation. Either way, I had what I came for. Neither of you had been forced down this path, so both of you are to blame.
Down the hall I’m sleeping in my bedroom. My twin brother must be sleeping there, too. The twin that I remembered, but you denied.
Before I was old enough to realize that asking wouldn’t get me an answer, would only bring harsh words and long periods of tension, I inquired about my brother several times. I didn’t know he was my brother, exactly. I just remembered another boy, my age and size, who was there with me when I was very young. Those times, you always told me that I must be thinking of a cousin of mine. You’d ask my father, “What’s his name, dear? Your brother’s son. The one who lives out east?” He’d answer, and you’d say that must be what I was remembering. That they had visited for a month one summer when I was four or five. But I was sure you were lying. I wasn’t remembering just one summer. I was remembering someone who I had played countless games with and fought epic battles against with our toy soldiers. Someone who had always been there, back to my first memories.
The last time I questioned you about him, when I was eight or nine years old, I asked if he had been my brother. “Don’t be silly.” Your words were clipped. “No one your age has a sibling. You know that.”
I have what I came for, but I’m still watching. You’re both sitting, calm, as your cups of coffee grow cold. How can you be doing this? I want to scream at you, to tell you that you shouldn’t do it or if you must, that you should do it to me instead. But you can’t change the past. That’s how it works.
Jackson Keyes wiped the sweat from his face, once again cursing the heat of the southern California desert. He hummed one note, trying to concentrate on the road instead of the pain in his head. The car began to veer off the pavement raising clouds of dust, and Jackson lurched in the seat trying to pull the old auto from the soft shoulder.
Then he saw it, a small town, barely visible on the horizon. Probably no air conditioning, he thought, grabbing his soaked handkerchief to wipe away the sweat.
The town was tiny, a haphazard collection of one story cement block buildings with one central streetlight at the square. He sat through two cycles of red and yellow before a pickup truck behind him blasted its horn. The green signal lamp must have burned out.
“Yeah, all right,” Keyes grumbled and wiped his face again.
His stomach cramped and he coughed at the nausea. He had to get to that bank, he thought. The time was near. He pulled over to a young boy on the sidewalk and asked about the bank. Continue reading
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Artist: Dusty Crosley (View his artwork here)