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The Fable Online Issue 4 June, 2015

Editor-in-Chief Sarah Kedar

Š2015, The Fable Online|Contributing Authors Cover created by Nolan Leibert. Typeface used for cover creation and within the document by Junkohanhero

Contributing Authors Frederick K. Foote Garry Gunnerson Kyle Hemmings Rebecca Harrison Rene Salinas Robert Geyer Yuxing Xia


Home Alone by Yuxing Xia My eyes were fixed upon a rotating door broken near the rim. Vision unimpaired, senses indulged, I sat in the center of an empty hotel room. I wondered when my parents would return, why they left me here alone.

Yuxing Xia is a scientist by day, poet by daydream and has lived in Ann Arbor, Boston, Huaihua, Philadelphia and Zhanjiang. He plans to retire to a self-sustaining ostrich ranch. His senseless scribbles can be found at Strong Verse, Society of Classical Poets, Boston Literary Magazine, Otoliths, Star*line, Eunoia Review and elsewhere (See yuxingxia.wordpress.com).

Ophidian by Rene Salinas The facial, simplistic; schematics that govern the determination of my treacherous plans are firmly cemented in the dexterity of transformation. It is a skillful deception that manifests in the ‘make - believe’ of the mundane transformed into something that many should consider, understand and entertain. Using my fearless certainty for any impulse that may seem trivial enough or slightly kitsch or deep in a Feng Shui way, a bit ‘new - agey’ or just middle of the road, non effective. Oh, I would be there; with a swoosh and a flash of empirical Masterclass, I think while plotting my next move based on the common doctrines available to me; to you; helped by the suffix ending in ‘isms’. Be it Socialism, absolutism, consumerism as long as it allows for my well developed egoism. Somewhere between my disguised faith and the narrow passages of my convictions, I create interest where there should be none. I have tried to make a difference out of my impassive attitudes that proliferate with the mindless - masses. Blow them out of proportion into inexplicable magnitudes. Inwardly, I yawn at their misery, embracing every flavoursome aspect of their sickening, like a hungry ‘Serpentes Squamatas’ flicking its tongue feeding on any obtainable malignancy. I rejoice at the degradation that is not mine, an emissary of manipulation dressed impeccably so I can indulge freely through my inclinations. I continue to laugh at the lies, disperse in order to behold the sickness that surrounds the commonality of your human eye. I have become infatuated by my own contentment and created a spiteful snake out of the reality that I am immersed. I will use my venom to entice the feeble minds, trapping them as I wind the closing, the constricting tightening that will bind you all. That unforgiving embrace is only the shedding of this smothering veil designed to cover like a shroud; to asphyxiate the brainwashed and indoctrinated so that they can flourish in the despair we lay. As I stand here today using one of those phrases made to cause the right impact with nothing authentic whatsoever to uphold as everything that I use gets chosen by a team of specialists or so I am told. I say to you: “Thank you! Thank you!”

“Well, hi everyone and thank you for coming.” I will now give you a convincing speech using phrases that in some shape or form use expressions like: “War on {fill in the blank}” “Right - wing” “Frankly…” “Look!” “With all due respect.” “Just saying.” “That’s a no - brainer.” “At the end of the day.” “People.” My name is Ophidian, and I would like to be the next Senator.

Rene Salinas is an IT technician from the UK that loves to write; has participated for years in national and international competitions. Driven for the need of exploration in writing and the desire to follow in particular the path laid by Jack Kerouac and his views onto the methodology of ‘Spontaneous Prose.’

Flash Fiction

Evil is Afoot by Frederick K. Foote

Your limbs grow weary, and the inn is still far. Rest here. No need to punish your faithful and pleading flesh. Rest a moment, only a moment, and then proceed with new vigor and greater speed. “Hush, quiet your insinuations and temptations. The inn is fifteen easy minutes on a good road and dusk stirs; the sun lowers and your kind will be about soon. Still, still it’s too soon to vacate your gloomy tomb.” Tired and weak limbs, sore and battered feet, aged knees, and eyes dimmed by darkness, a recipe for a bruised or broken foot or twisted or sprained ankle or worse. At least slow your pace, watch your step, and scout the road with care. “Pap! Such chicanery, such shameless and relentless skullduggery. Your only concern is your taste for blood, your desire to destroy and corrupt and your insatiable greed. Every step carries me further beyond your reach.” I do care. I care more than a master who would have a loyal and aged servant out at this dangerous time in this notorious place. Even the rocks in the road care more for each other than a master like that cares for you. “Ha, and bah. You know nothing of it. I pled for this task. Implored my master to allow me to conduct this most important business. He did not send me. I usurped this mission. Get thee back into the grave. Your time is not yet.” Of course, you did. Your master selected a younger, sturdier, perhaps more comely servant for a “most important mission.” Set you aside to rest. Set you on the shelf to audition your replacement. I have heard it all before. I have had many masters. “Fool, blind, dead fool! Some things are beyond your ken. Loyalty, love, and friendship are well beyond your compass. Fie, on thee. Ahh, now on the next hill I see the inn. Set your greedy eye elsewhere.” Of course noble companion. Masters are well known for loyalty, love and friendship. That must be a rule of nature. You, servants, are duty bound to serenade masters with this hymn. It needs be the most popular tune of the day. Sing me that sweet melody now for my sallow ears have never had the ringing pleasure of that song. “Minutes three of four and I will be at the inn door. I will bid you ado before I step in.

Your company has been most unwelcome. I leave you to your taunting and evil pursuits.” Walk carefully. One may trip and fall even on the doorstep of safety. And as a gift of dismissal, a goodbye kiss could you hint at the nature of this perilous mission that you are compelled to complete? “No. You have lost this race. Be away with your deceit. The message I deliver is of no interest to your kind. Be gone.” And I shall away, but were I you I would wonder what message to the Master’s son is so urgent to be delivered so late in the evening when the son will be at the master’s grand Harvest Ball tomorrow. It makes one curious. May you sleep well and tomorrow bask in the goodness of your master’s bright light. Ado and Goodnight. Now, how did it know about the master’s son and his whereabouts and itinerary? Let me pause and dust off my livery, wipe my face and set my cap. I need to make a proper entry. I do represent the master. And I need to check the message. Humph, I have sweated open the envelope. Well, none the matter. My master will understand… Still it’s unsealed… A quick peek. What harm that after thirty years one look, what harm in that? “Dearest Son, if the old fool makes it to you, I owe you ten gold coins, and we can make sport again soon. Your loving father.” It is my darkest moment in a long life of labor. I weep. *** The night creature finds me sitting, waiting on the doorstep of the inn. It comes not as a raging monster, but as a handsome young gentleman dressed in quality and taste. I’m thankful for that consideration. We speak briefly of matters of mutual importance. He reseals my envelope and departs with a tip of his hat. Once, they finally gain the courage to open the inn door and snatch me inside there is a general celebration of my survival. My master’s son leads the tavern party. It foreshadows the master’s Harvest celebration tomorrow night, but on a much smaller and far more provincial scale. I have taken the liberty to invite an additional guest to that

grand gathering to add a bit of unforgettable color and excitement to the evening. I too will have my sport with the loving father and son.

Frederick K. Foote, Jr. was born in Sacramento, California and educated in Vienna, Virginia, and northern California. He started writing short stories and poetry in 2013. You can find his work online at spectermagazine.com, akashicbooks.com, pikerpress.com, everydayfiction.com, Short Fiction Break, Cooper Street Journal, The Fable Online, So Glad Is My Heart, birdspiledloosely, Sirenzine, The Blue Falcon Review Vol.2, CMC Review, Across the Marginand in the print copies of the 2014 and 2015 Sacramento City College Susurrus Literary Magazine in, The Way the Light Slants, by Silly Tree Anthologies, and in Puff Puff Prose, Poetry And A Play Vol.

Riverside Drive by Garry Gunnerson When they come for me it will be in a boat. One of the lake freighters I have so often watched plying the Detroit river. And it will be soon, the snow is melting. In the Upper Great Lakes, the ice is cracking, breaking up, making its way south. I wonder if any of it, flowing outside the windshield of my Jeep, will get all the way to the St. Lawrence and out to the ocean. The boats will come when the ice is gone. I'm pressing the release and pushing the clip back into my Glock 9. Thinking that doing the same thing over and over again, is one of the definitions of insanity. They'll come in a boat because they're not coming to kill me. They're coming to take me back, and a boat has lots of places to hide me. It's peaceful here. There's a clear channel on the far side of the river and the waterfowl are feeding. Highest are the gulls. They angle and dive, often submerging before coming up with something small and black in their beak. Below them the bald eagles. Eagles don't have the luxury of getting wet. If they miss on the first pass they have to reload and do it over. On the surface, in no particular order, a flotilla of swans, geese, and ducks. Grazing on whatever floats up from the bottom, never starting a war over it. Angry, I slam the clip back into the gun. In a town with some very hard men, I've made alliances. Am owed favors. I've had enough of the old causes. Turning tail and running from fanatics, again. What if all of them came to a bad end this time? Would there ever be another next time? Always. Would the retort from the pistol in my mouth disturb the peace of the feeding flocks? Or

the spent round ripping through my brains and the roof of the Jeep, harm them in any way? In my heart, I don't believe that to be true. I haven't taken into account the disparity in time between execution and ending. As I slump forward the gulls hear it first; the sound of the horn blaring. Then, as if of one mind, the whole of the feathered population rise from the water, scattering into the winds. And in the twitching horror of my last moments, I'm alone.

Garry Gunnerson lives in the city of Windsor, Ontario, Canada just south of Detroit, with Valerie, his wife of many years. Following a successful career in sales and marketing, Garry now devotes his time to Tai Chi, travel and writing short fiction.

The Girl Who Fell into Her Reflection by Kyle Hemmings There was once a father and mother and their crippled daughter, named Trulia. The parents were getting old, had made a living from tilling the land. The daughter was wheelchair-bound from an accident, had an unsightly face because of it窶馬ose slightly off to the side, one eye, almost completely closed. Every month the parents lumbered to the Guardian who sat in a high chair at the edge of the river. It was blue-green, and on some days it was so transparent, it looked like the fathomless sky. If anyone tried crossing the river without "paying" the Guardian, they would be shot by the soldiers of Orr. The river was what separated present and future. Trulia's parents as well as everyone else's brought the guardian gifts, expensive trinkets, silver coins, whale bones, seeds of exotic indoor plants, whatever, so they could win for their children a "future" across the river. On this side of the river, everyone would only work and decay. And each time Trulia's parents brought the guardian gifts, even the precious antiques from their ancestors, the Guardian would say, "It's not enough." Each night they dreamed that their daughter would inherit a future over the river and her beauty would be restored. And sometimes Trulia would wheel herself past the grassy hills and brown farmlands until she came to the edge of the river. The soldiers nodded at her in a menacing way. There, she would stare at her reflection in the river and think My parents will never have enough. One day, Trulia sat at the edge of the river and worked up the courage to lift herself from the wheelchair, her arms straining and shaking. She closed her eyes, and maybe prayed, and fell into the river. A gunshot was fired, but it could have been thunder. For years, soldiers talked about how Trulia floated face up with a delirious smile. Some still go to the river so they can see Trulia's reflection, not that of a disfigured young girl, but that of a beautiful princess. They claim that drowning in her reflection will grant them eternal happiness, a "future." Others claim that after a long drought, the river dried up, and Trulia's reflection can only

be seen on certain days and only with a particular formation of clouds. Some say they see Trulia peeking through the night sky on winter nights. And I, for one, can still see Trulia's reflection in the river. Like Trulia, the young Trulia, I am in need of a future. And like Trulia I am always tempted to lift myself from my wheelchair and fall in. But unlike Trulia, I never work up the nerve.

Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey. He has been published in Your Impossible Voice, Night Train, Toad, Matchbox and elsewhere. His latest ebook is Father Dunne's School for Wayward Boys at amazon.com. He blogs at Kyle Hemmings' Blog.


Red Tesla by Robert Geyer As I pressed down on the brakes and eased down the narrow lane leading towards the harbor, the gravel crunching under my patrol car’s tires sounded like grinding bones. Looking back in my rear-view mirror, I saw the traffic start to accelerate. Now that the threat of a speeding ticket was gone, the thick swarm of headlights raced down Highway 1 towards Santa Cruz. Ahead of me, Jimmy’s Fish House sat at the edge of the world, standing guard over the Half Moon Bay fishing fleet while the Pacific Ocean expanded endlessly beyond the moored boats. I threw the car into park and turned off the engine. The red, green and yellow lights from my patrol car’s electronics bounced around the inside of the car like a strip club at Christmas. Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” ran through my head and I could see Hayley’s face just like it was the first time I saw her green eyes feasting on me like I was prey, making me believe with a single look that I was the sole reason she was dancing up on that stage. I blinked and Hayley’s face disappeared as if it were a hundred years in the past. I knew I’d never see that version of Hayley’s face again. I closed my eyes and breathed in deep. My chest expanded, straining against my bulletproof vest. WHAM! The concussion shook my patrol car down to its frame. A dark shadow hovered over the hood of my car like a wraith. I threw open the car door and pulled my service revolver, ready to drop the idiot who just slammed his hand down on my hood. I should have guessed. Fortunato Costa pushed on the front of the car with his left hand like he was trying to stop it from rolling away while his right hand dangled a fluorescent orange rock cod by its swollen, rubbery lips, both of them smiling like lunatics, their glassy eyes staring back at me. I holstered my service revolver and stepped out of the car. The grating sound of the gravel under my boots made me think of the bones again. Hayley’s face popped into my head. I immediately blinked her gone. “Jesus, Fortune. Next time you pull that shit I’m going to shoot you.” Fortune pushed himself up off the hood. He wobbled back and forth, using the dead fish to keep his balance. “I kept one for you.” Fortune’s accent was extra heavy. The drunker he got, the more he

sounded like what he was—an honest-to-God, first-generation Portagee fisherman. “What the hell am I going to do with that? You think I have an ice chest in the trunk next to the shotgun and the safety flares?” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, which made Fortune look like he might cry. God, I hated weepy drunks. “Take it inside and ask Jimmy if he can use it.” Fortune marched back into the Fish House, waving the dead cod in the air, screaming out for Jimmy. I rested my hand on the patrol car’s hood. The black metal warmed my hand. The Crown Vic’s V-8 engine clicked and clanked underneath the hood as it began to cool down. I locked out my knees to keep my feet still. I didn’t want to hear the gravel crunching underneath my feet again. Hayley’s face was the last thing I wanted to see. Out behind the Fish House, flecks of gold sprinkled the water as the traffic racing down Highway 1 sprayed the harbor with their headlamp beams. I could see a handful of stars above me now that the sun had dropped off the world’s edge. Although the darkened sky above me was clear, I could feel the fog silently rolling in, coming to hide the rugged coastline beneath a weeping carpet of mist. I closed my eyes and tried to hear one of Mavericks’ monster waves crashing onto the break a quarter-mile offshore, but I couldn’t hear a thing—not the lone bark of a hungry sea lion begging for squid scraps or even the whine of a circling seagull. I wondered if I had suddenly gone deaf. “Jimmy’s cooking up the fish,” Fortune emerged from the Fish House, his boozy words tumbling out of his mouth. Apparently I could still hear fine. “You’re not driving tonight, right?” I watched him trip over an invisible obstacle and nearly do a face plant in the parking lot. “No. Walk.” Fortune could barely spit out the two syllables because it took every bit of concentration to stay upright. His face pinched tight. He was so intently focused on not falling over it almost looked like he was trying to comprehend the origins of the Universe or maybe String Theory. “Alright then, be safe.” Fortune stumbled towards the highway and never looked back. He lived five miles down the road in a dilapidated trailer that sat on an abandoned pumpkin farm. I thought someone from town would take pity on him and pick him up, otherwise it was going to be one hell of a walk. No matter how he got home, he probably wouldn’t remember anyway.

I stood up straight and adjusted my belt so it wouldn’t rub my hips raw. Carrying all of this crap around made me think Batman wasn’t so smart. I could smell the rock cod frying inside Jimmy’s place and for the first time all day I felt hungry—until I noticed the car parked next to me: a red Tesla. How was I just seeing that now? I took a closer look at the Tesla to see if it was the same one from last night. I could see the deep crease in the driver’s door. I took a deep breath and after one last bone-crunching step in the parking lot, I swung open the restaurant door and stepped into the blasting smell of frying fish while the sad version of Hayley’s face from earlier in the morning rushed back into my head. *** When my cell phone rang, my first instinct was to throw it across the room, but I knew by the number on the screen that the Sergeant was calling. It was never a good sign to get a call from the boss this soon after a shift ended, especially before 7am. She said I didn’t need to get into the office until later that afternoon, but I told her I’d be there in an hour. I figured it was better to just get it over with. There was no way I was going to sleep now anyway. I got up off the black leather couch where I had been staring up at the ceiling since I got home from my shift five hours earlier. I folded up the red fleece blanket and stacked it on top of the cat hair encrusted pillow and put it back in the hall closet. In my dazed state, I thought that if I didn’t leave any trace, then maybe Hayley wouldn’t know I had ever been home. That sleep deprived thought evaporated once I realized I had to grab a fresh uniform out of the bedroom closet. When I stepped into the shade-blackened room, I couldn’t tell if she was breathing or not. Hayley just lay limp on the bed, her face turned away from me. The only thing I could see was the hump of her back underneath the down comforter. For a few seconds, I let the idea of what it might feel like if she was really gone roll around inside my head. I grabbed a clean uniform from the closet and quietly padded out of the bedroom, silently closing the door and leaving my fantasy in the dark room behind me. Sitting outside the Sergeant’s office, I picked at the little balls of fabric on the chair’s stained blue seat. I felt like I was heading into the principal’s office knowing I was in trouble. The only question in my mind was: how deep of a pile of shit was I standing in? The door to the Sergeant’s office was closed, but I could see her through the tall rectangle of glass that bordered her door. She was squinting, her fixed stare boring holes

into her computer screen. After a few minutes, she leaned back in her chair and rubbed her eyes before opening the door to let me in. “Do you know why I dragged your butt out of bed to come down here?” She raised her eyebrows, daring me to be a smart ass. “I’m not sure.” I tried to suppress a nervous yawn. “Pissed off rich guy driving a Tesla on 280 sound familiar?” “Yeah, I wrote up a guy last night. The idiot thought he was a NASCAR driver.” “Well, will you tell me what the hell you did to that guy that has him filing a complaint? Because I’ve been looking at the video from that stop and it looks pretty damn routine to me.” I bit the inside of my lip. I could almost feel the wet droplets of fog clinging to my face as I replayed the stop in my head. Rolling west on Highway 92, the San Mateo Bridge filled my rear-view mirror as I pushed the patrol car towards 280. When I hit the cloverleaf of intertwined off-ramps, I headed north towards the City. San Francisco lay about thirty miles up the road, but since my route stopped at Daly City, I wasn’t going to see the city’s lights tonight. I glanced at the dashboard clock. It was 8:30 pm, barely halfway through my shift. The sun had slipped over the hilltops separating the suburbs covering the San Francisco Peninsula from the Pacific’s foaming waves. Even in the early evening dim, I could see Crystal Springs Reservoir lying silently to my left. The long and spindly lake looked like a dark stain trying to cover up the San Andreas Fault hiding dangerously below. I wondered when the big one would finally come to shove us all into the abyss. After driving only a couple of miles north on 280, I pulled into the rest stop that sat on the east side of the freeway. Looming over the public toilets, a twenty-foot statue of Padre Junipero Serra pointed westward. The Jesuit missionary wore an unsettling smirk on his face, which made me wonder if he was pointing out what a great job he did terrorizing the natives in the name of Jesus or if he was trying to tell me that he was coming for me next. I tried to remember the last time I had gone to confession. I found a spot where I could scan the freeway without being seen. Every now and again I preferred working without the radar gun; it just seemed more sporting. Northbound traffic was light. The big flush of traffic had come and gone, so now there was plenty of space between the cars. I didn’t have to wait more than a few minutes before I watched a pair of halogen headlamps swerving in and out of the lanes, rocketing up the interstate.

He was moving fast—so fast that I had to push my accelerator to the floor just so I could make contact with the car. I looked down at my speedometer and watched it steadily climb: seventy-five, eighty, eight-five, ninety. He was doing ninety-two miles per hour, almost thirty over the speed limit. Once I had him clocked, I lit him up. This was going to be an expensive ticket, but I was pretty sure this guy wasn’t going to care. I saw it all the time: rich Silicon Valley assholes racing up to the city from Sand Hill Road, driving like the freeway was their personal racetrack, indifferent to the poor slobs around them. The driver jammed on his brakes and pulled the cherry red Tesla over to the side of the freeway. After he stopped on the roadside shoulder, I kept my rooftop flashers on and trained the flood lamp through the Tesla’s back window. Two heads were visible. You never knew if someone might be ducking down out of sight in the backseat but I knew in this situation that scenario was unlikely. I opened the car door and looked back to make sure that some drunken, texting teenager wasn’t about to take me out. I didn’t need a stretch of freeway named after a dead version of me. As I walked up to the car, the driver rolled his window down and practically threw his license and registration at me. “My apologies, Officer. I lost my head back there. I forgot how fast this baby goes. You know it drives so silently. Have you driven one?” The chatty bastard with the British accent was going with a friendly but contrite strategy, confident I’d be a good sport and reduce his violation speed to save him some of his stock option money. There were other approaches he could have tried: confused about the speed limit, shocked he had done anything wrong, or even spilling crocodile tears. Flashing cleavage was still my favorite, but it obviously wasn’t an option for this guy. A quick look at his documents told me Mr. Martin Simpson was both the driver and the registered owner. I shined my flashlight in Mr. Simpson’s face to make sure everything matched up. I was certain it did, although it looked like he had put on at least thirty pounds since the time he took the picture for his driver’s license. As my light splashed across Mr. Simpson’s face, I discovered the reason he was driving so fast: two long legs wearing spike heels pouring out of a short red dress. While the legs were spectacular, I wondered whether the rest of her was worth the five hundred dollar ticket. I stooped low enough that I could get a peek at her. I nearly fell to the ground when I saw Hayley sitting in the passenger seat next to him.

“Sir, I need you to step out of the car.” I could feel the adrenaline starting to pulse through me. “But officer, I just…” the chubby Brit stammered. “Out of the car. Now.” Somehow I managed to keep my voice even. She had to know it was me. My voice had a distinctive gravelly rasp; I couldn’t mask my voice if I tried. Even my impressions of other people still sounded like me. She didn’t move a muscle or utter a word. She just sat frozen in the front seat of the Tesla, staring straight ahead. Mr. Simpson opened the door and gently planted his Italian loafers onto the glistening asphalt. Once out of the car, the beams from the oncoming traffic’s headlights momentarily blinded him. I imagined that the drivers of the crappy late model cars winging past us were thinking,“It’s about time one of those rich assholes got caught.” He instinctively smoothed down the front of his worsted wool slacks. His spongy paunch looked like it would smother his tiny prick under the gelatinous roll if he unbuckled his belt. Now that I had him out of the car, I had to do something with him. The video monitoring system was rolling, so I knew every move I made was going to be preserved forever in high definition, which meant I needed to quickly figure out how to stop my fury from taking over my brain. “Step to the side of the road behind the vehicle.” He silently did as he was told. “Have you had anything to drink tonight?” I leaned in close, trying to catch a whiff of even a molecule of alcohol vapor. “No, sir. Not a drop.” I considered putting him through a field sobriety test. I spied a steep culvert two feet behind him. I was tempted to help him find the bottom of the foreboding pit, but I knew once his blood alcohol came up clean, I would be the one hurting. “Get back in your vehicle. Don’t turn on the engine.” I needed a minute to think. “There’s not really an engine to turn on, Officer.” “Are you trying to be a smart ass?” I lunged forward, my chin and chest brushing up against him. His eyes betrayed his panic as he slid his feet backward. I could see his right heel dangling precariously over the culvert’s edge. “No, sir. I apologize.” I thought he was about to wet himself. I wanted so badly to knock this shit-head’s dick in the dirt, but I could already imagine the video rolling in an endless

loop on the nightly news. I took a long, slow breath that rattled the tiny hairs in my nose. “Then get in back in your car.” I left him hanging out there by the side of the freeway while I returned to my patrol car. I ran his license and registration, and of course it came up clean. I wrote up his ticket for 92 miles per hour in a 65, but I wasn’t ready to deal with him, so I decided to let fatty stew a little while longer. I turned on the radio and Steve Perry’s high-pitched voice was blasting from the speakers. Sitting in the patrol car looking at the back of the ninety-thousand dollar Tesla, I realized what bothered me most was the fact that this jackass was a doughy, middle-aged white guy with too much money and not some steroid-filled Neanderthal. I could almost wrap my head around Hayley being with a GQ-looking model-type with six-pack abs, but this fat fuck?I didn’t get out until after the very last “na na na na na na” from Journey’s “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’” finished playing. I slowly made my way back to the Tesla. The tiny drops of fog looked like falling snowflakes as the traffic buzzed by me, creating its own wind, spraying the wet dew into my face. I tapped the window with the butt of my flashlight. Mr. Simpson rolled down his window. “Sign here.” I pressed my lips together after I spoke, not wanting to bare my predatory teeth. “Again, my sincere apologies, Officer.” Once the milquetoast apology spilled out of his mouth, I couldn’t stop myself. I grabbed the top of his door with my free hand and slowly leaned into his car with my right knee, pushing until I felt the aluminum door buckle and crease under the increasing pressure. “Don’t apologize to me. Apologize to your girlfriend. It’s her night you ruined.” *** I drove back to the apartment after the Sergeant decided there was nothing on the video that supported Mr. Simpson’s complaint. The combination of no sleep and a rapid deceleration in my adrenaline level started to catch up with me. I squeezed the steering wheel so hard the tips of my fingers tingled and my knuckles turned white. Were it not for the glued on reflectors that divided the freeway lanes, I probably would have wrecked at least a dozen times. I stayed in autopilot mode all the way home. My fuzzed out brain remained turned off

until I hit the top of the stairs leading up to my apartment. I could see that the drapes were still pulled shut. I looked back down at the carport and I could see Hayley’s old dented Honda Civic parked in her usual spot. Part of me was hoping she had split for the day, but the other part of me was saying fuck it. It was time for me to deal with her bullshit. I slid the key into the deadlock, snapped it to the right, and pushed open the door. The mid-day sun rushed past me, flooding the room with glare. Hayley lay curled up on the black leather couch, my favorite red fleece covering everything but her face. The glow from the TV cast a sickly blue light that made her look like something from The Walking Dead. A half empty bottle of wine and a rainbow of pills littered the coffee table. The place smelled like cats, booze and cheap perfume. I pulled back the curtains and opened the windows as far as they would go so I could get some light and oxygen back in the room. “Jesus, Hayley, I thought you weren’t going to do this anymore. Who was that asshole?” “Nobody…just some guy from the club. He wanted some company.” “Got it. So how much cash will I find in your wallet if I check?” “Fuck you, I’m not a whore. You’re such an asshole.” “Right. I’m the asshole. Then if it’s not about money, what is it? You don’t have enough friends?” “You don’t fucking get it, do you? You’re such a selfish prick.” “Let me get this right. You’re pissed at me?” Of course she was mad at me. It seemed that she lived in a perpetual state of fuck you, with every element of her being constantly screaming at me: antsy feet, clenched fists, steel-hinged jaw, cynical eyebrows—all punctuated by her venomous words. After living with Hayley for six months, I knew this wasn’t some dramatic act. The only reprieve from her ongoing vitriol was the passionate insanity of our first endless days together followed by the first few weeks of her abbreviated pregnancy. Maybe it was the fact that I was ecstatic she was pregnant, not put out by the prospect of being chased down for the next eighteen years for child support. She had spent two days preparing how to break the news to me, girding herself for the full force of my resentment. She nearly fell over when all she got from me was a smile and a hug. My first wife had left me two years earlier, our marriage a slow motion catastrophe. I was

never sure if Rhonda left because we couldn’t have a baby of our own or if it was because of my constant begging to adopt a kid. She finally withered under the relentless pressure and moved up to Portland to become an organic beet farmer or some shit like that. After Rhonda left me, I buried myself in my work, which meant I drove around in my patrol car day and night taking my frustration out on the tax-paying public. For the most part, I at least tried to channel my bitterness at the people who could most afford to pay the price. After Hayley lost the baby, I took time off to be with her. We hung around the apartment eating ice cream and watching Netflix; I took her to Santa Cruz to ride the roller coaster; we had cracked crab at Pier 39 and watched the sea lions sun bathe on the docks. But no matter what I tried, happy Hayley was gone, and after a few weeks of waiting for her to show up again, I started working nights so I could escape from her, even if it was only for ten hours a day. Hayley had the blanket pulled up right to her chin. I could hear her sniffling back her tears. Her hair was pulled back in a messy ponytail, no make-up, all broken out and puffy from crying with a hangover. She was like the most pathetic puppy at the pound. I knew I was supposed to save her from the world and from herself, but I couldn’t do it today. Not after seeing her in that red fucking Tesla. “I’m going to take an extra shift. I’ll see you tomorrow.” When I opened the apartment door, I felt the breeze pushing at me like it was telling me to stay, but I just ignored it. I closed the door behind me, leaving Hayley lying there with only my mangy cat and her own self pity to keep her company. *** The combination of midnight’s black with the relentless wet air rendered my patrol car’s headlights useless. The red and blue rooftop lights ricocheted off the fog. I took a single step on the asphalt but then stopped. I could have seen better if I was holding a birthday candle. I wondered if anyone driving on this miserable stretch of road could see my lights from even fifty yards away. I pictured myself strewn across the middle of Highway 92, busted and torn into bite size pieces. Everything the wet air touched oozed with a rime of ocean sweat. I saw amber hazard lights flashing ahead of me, barely able to punch through the fog, like they were trying to escape a black hole. Even in the impenetrable darkness, I could see the primary hue and unmistakable silhouette of the red Tesla. The car sat perfectly still. I couldn’t hear an engine running, which cracked me up

because I knew there wasn’t really any engine to hear. Shining my flashlight on the car, I could see the deep V in the door that I had sculpted the night before. The fog was so thick the moisture ran down the crease in rivulets. I flashed the light inside the darkened car. The spent white airbag sagged like a used condom. Mr. Simpson leaned all the way back in his seat, eyes wide open. When I opened the door, I could smell the booze, which wasn’t any surprise. Just hours earlier I had watched him down his bourbon in one shot after he nearly shit himself after I spooked him at Jimmy’s. I wondered what bar he had been hiding in the past few hours. “You okay, Mr. Simpson?” He put up his right hand to shield his eyes from the light. Blood dripped from his nose, sprinkling the collar of his white button-down shirt with tiny crimson circles. The airbag broke his razor straight nose which now matched the crumpled up front end of his car. “Do you know what you hit?” “Don’t know.” He sounded more boozy than concussed. Typical drunk driver: nearly injury free and oblivious to the destruction around him. “Sit tight.” I knelt down in front of the wrecked car and ran my finger through the congealing blood that had pooled on the ground. I couldn’t see a body anywhere. Whatever was lying out there in the fog must be dead and gone. I tried to recall my high school physics to guesstimate the direction and distance of the dead thing. I stepped into the old pumpkin patch that paralleled the highway. My boots submerged into the mud up to my ankles. Sweeping my light back and forth across the fallow field, I spied something on the ground in front of me, the still form somehow blacker than the black that enveloped me. I tried to step silently as if there was a chance the sound of my tromping could somehow wake the dead. “What did you find?” The voice screamed out from behind me. I reached for my revolver and spun around. “Jesus, Fortune. Are you fucking kidding me? I actually thought I was about to find you.” I let out all my air. Suddenly dizzy, I felt like I needed to take a knee. I heard Fortune trudging towards me. “How was the fish?” Fortune sounded almost sober, most of his Portuguese accent worn off. “I’m kind of busy, Fortune. You need to go home.”

“That’s where I’m going. You see that deer over there?” I shined my light back behind me and saw the mangled doe lying on its side, its head craned at an ungodly angle, its legs twisted and bent back on themselves. “Yeah, I see it.” I walked through the muck back to the road with Fortune plodding behind me. “Goodnight, Fortune.” “Don’t drink and drive…” Fortune mumbled to himself as he walked away. A new set of red flashers slowly approached from the west. I made my way back to the red Tesla. “You feeling alright, Mr. Simpson?” “I’ve got a headache.” It seemed like the shithead was going to be just fine. I wished I could say that about the deer. I leaned back against the car. “Pretty lucky your girlfriend wasn’t with you tonight. The airbag would have messed up that pretty face of hers.” “Girlfriend? I don’t have a girlfriend. I’m married. My wife is going to bloody kill me.” “Huh. I think you’re probably right about that.” *** I watched as the tiny LED clock on the dashboard ticked over from 5:59am to 6:00am. I hadn’t planned on doing a twelve-hour shift, but the process of getting Mr. Simpson booked into the drunk tank took longer than usual. A soft yellow glow filled the patrol car as the sun began to rise over the bay. I turned off the engine. After I let go of a long breath, it became perfectly silent inside the car: no electronics buzzing, no radios crackling, no sirens wailing. I stepped out of the car and slammed the door shut on the last forty-eight hours, hoping the pain would burn off just like the fog had done. I took the stairs up to my apartment one at a time, each step representing a choice to either accept or reject Hayley, flaws and all, like some twisted version of “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe.”I unlocked the door expecting to see the same apathy and despair I left behind the day before, but instead I found a gleaming apartment. Gone was the detritus of my little girl lost: no wine or pills on the counter, the carpet vacuumed clean, the kitchen scrubbed spotless. The cat purred and rubbed against my leg, its fur silky and

smooth like it had been professionally groomed. The bedroom door was cracked open. I didn’t know if it was an invitation but at least it wasn’t a rejection. I gently pushed open the door and poked my head into the darkened room. Hayley stirred lightly at the sound of the creaky hinges, her breath coming out in a soft whisper, the first hint that she would be waking soon. I sat on the edge of the bed and watched her for a moment. Curled up under the white down comforter she looked so innocent. I wondered whether Hayley’s parents had seen her like this before they abandoned her to the system so they could stay lost in their drug-addled haze. I pulled my service revolver from the holster and set it gently on the nightstand and then unbuckled my utility belt and rested it on the ground. I kicked off my boots and slipped out of my uniform as quietly as I could. Pulling back the comforter, I could see that Hayley was wearing my pajama bottoms and one of my t-shirts. I slipped underneath the blanket and draped my arm over the top of her. She pushed back into me, sleepily offering to share her body with me. I hoped she might want to be pregnant again. I pressed back into her, trying to tell her without words, that this was exactly what I wanted, too—to have the chance to bring something good into the world, even though I knew I couldn’t be the real father. I was positive nothing had changed since the time Rhonda and I had failed to conceive; my boys were just never going to be strong enough to make the journey let alone pierce the tiny egg to create that first spark of life. I let the sequence play out in my head. Hopefully after a day or two of feeling sorry for herself, Hayley would get back to being her usual miserable self. After that, it would be just a matter of a few weeks before she started looking for something to make her feel whole again; I was pretty sure she’d start with the drugs which would lead to the man, instead of the other way around. I didn’t care for the pictures that were floating around in my head, but I knew this was the price I’d have to pay if Hayley was going to find some unwitting sperm donor to help me get what I wanted. And as long as it wasn’t some douche bag in a red Tesla, I was pretty sure I could live with it.

Robert Geyer has dedicated the past 25 years to helping people navigate the complex U.S. healthcare system while leading and inspiring teams of people through encouraging, heartfelt communication. Today, Robert is channeling his

passion for storytelling into fiction that explores our shared human condition. Almost as rare as a unicorn, Robert Geyer is a native Californian, and has spent the better part of his life studying, working and living (but mostly driving) somewhere along Interstate 80 between Sacramento and San Francisco.

The Summer by Rebecca Harrison One winter night, a woman huddled by the fire, listening to winds against the walls. Hearing footsteps crunch, she rushed to the door and stared out into the gloom. As the darkness swirled with snow, she searched for her husband's shape. She spied him striding from the shadows and reached for his hand. “Frida,” he said, stepping inside, “you must keep warm.” He pulled her into the firelight. “Remember you’re with child.” She wrapped a blanket round her shivering shoulders and watched him shake snow from his clothes. “I wish our child would only know the summer,” she sighed. The seasons passed, and in the summer their daughter was born. Gazing at her sleeping shape, they named her Gerda. Long, bright days drifted by, and the air grew golden. On the first autumn morning, Frida found the cot empty. “Eirik,” she cried to her husband, “Gerda’s gone.” Together, they searched the corners and shadows of their home. While Frida wept, Eirik sped to the village and hurried from door to door, gathering a crowd to scour the woods. The day dimmed and darkness sank on their hunt, but Eirik stumbled on till the dawn smudged the night. Then, with a heavy heart, he turned homewards. He found Frida sitting by the empty cot and clutched her as they cried. As the days shortened and autumn rains grayed the skies, Frida stayed by Gerda’s cot. Eirik paced the floor through chill nights while the silence stained their home. Soon, winter froze the woods and dust rested on the cot, but Frida still sat by its side. Winds and ice rattled the walls, yet she never raised her eyes. Eirik stared, unseeing, out the windows while the snows fled and the flowers began to bloom. The thawed sky gleamed over the green woods and still Frida sat by Gerda’s cot. When the sun rose on the first day of summer, a baby’s cry swept through the home, shaking them from their sleep. “It’s Gerda!” Frida gasped, snatching her from the dusty cot and rushing to Eirik. They wept and laughed and kissed their daughter until the sky was stretched with stars. Then, hushed, they watched her sleep. Warm, bronze days crept past while Frida and Eirik held their daughter close. But on the first autumn morning, Gerda had gone. Frida knelt by the empty cot and cried. She remembered her wish. “Will she come back?” she whispered as Eirik sank to her side.

And so they waited through autumn fogs and winter frosts and spring storms, and still the cot sat empty. But when the summer sunrise cloaked the sky, Gerda’s cries filled the air once more. All day long, Frida sat in sun patches, singing and cradling the baby while Eirik paced the floor and wondered how to keep her safe. Then, as moonlight leaked through the home, they watched her slumber. Frida wept silent tears over the cold months to come and buried into Eirik’s arms. When the first autumn dawn misted the woods, Gerda was gone. And so Gerda lived the summers seamlessly in a stretch of blue and bronze, and each year, Frida and Eirik waited through dull seasons for her return. Autumn days of hail and mud dragged into winter nights, and Frida sat by the fire, longing for soft sunlight. Her hands shook when she thought of her old wish. Eirik stood at the windows, watching the frozen stars dim into chill spring skies, and he sighed for warm, blue dusks. When the summer sunrise reached across the woods, Gerda was home. Time drifted, but after four years, Gerda had aged just one. And Frida and Eirik grew old as they watched her linger young. One winter, after many years had gone, they huddled by the fire hoping to see their daughter once more. There they passed away together, and on the first day of summer, Gerda was alone. Waking while sunrise poured into her room, she lay listening to the still silence. Sixty summers had passed since she was born, and she was now a young woman. Slipping from her room, she stepped softly down the stairs and shuffled into the kitchen. With a yawn, she sank onto a wooden chair in shadows and watched dust floating in sunbeams. While the woods trembled with birdsong, she waited for her parents to wake. Clouds thinned as the sky warmed, and she drifted back upstairs, pausing by their door. Silence seeped through the home. She pushed the door open and stared at the empty room. Gerda spent that summer sitting by her mother’s chair near the empty fireplace. She moved only to drift between rooms, shrouded in dust and shadows. She grew thin nibbling grains from the pantry, as the silence baked under the bright skies. She wandered windows through the short nights, staring without seeing, at bats against the starlight. When the first autumn dawn lit the sky, she had gone. The home sat still and silent, dust deepening on its floorboards while autumn harvests and winter feasts and spring festivals passed through the villages and fields. The shadows thawed as the light warmed, and on the first day of summer, Gerda was home. Waking when the sunrise rippled over the clouds, she lay still, sniffing at the stale air. She

closed her eyes and listened to crow flocks floating above the woods. Then, she slid from her bed and stepped downstairs, dragging her feet in the dust. Opening the front door, she let a warm breeze billow inside and coughed as the dust swirled. Sorry at the grime and dirt, she began to sweep each morning until the corners and shadows were clean, and the home looked her own once more. Finding only rotten grains in the pantry, she gathered berries from the woods. She sat beside sunlit streams as she sewed her shabby clothes. She took her father’s books and read beneath the tall trees. As twilight smothered the villages and fields, she curled into her bed and wept quiet tears. When the sun rose on the first autumn morning, she had gone. Her home sat, hushed and dark, through golden mists and glittering snows. The shadows waxed and waned on the floorboards while the days and nights went by, and as the summer dawn stretched over the fields, she was home. She swept away three seasons of dust, gathered a basket and a book and wandered to the woods. The days drifted, and she carried berries to the village to trade for eggs and flour, lowering her gaze when old ladies she’d known as children passed her by. On the shortest night, she stood at the field’s edge while villagers danced in the summer festival and watched them from afar. Throughout the late, bronze evenings, she sat in her mother’s chair and read her father’s books. When autumn came, she had gone. And so Gerda lived alone. She spent bright days in the woods, softly singing her mother’s songs beside shadows and streams. She embroidered her drab dresses with pictures of the seasons she’d never seen, sewing spring as a whirling wind filled with flowers which covered the slopes and rooftops with blooms. Some still mornings, she cooked small cakes and remembered her mother teaching her how to bake. Others, she read books in dappled sun patches, imagining her father’s voice shaping the words. When she visited the village to sell her embroidery, she kept her gaze on the cobblestones as passers by whispered and glanced her way. She plaited her hair while watching the sun sink, and imagined the winter skies filled with frozen sunlight which shattered and fell to the ground, cloaking the fields and woods with golden snow. In the blue twilights, she watched the shadows stretch and remembered her father storytelling by candlelight. Many years went by, and the village became a busy town. One morning, while the market bustled and the streets sweltered, Gerda walked past the inn as a young man named Friedrich, glanced through the window. He watched her step along the sunlit cobblestones, gazing till she disappeared. The following morning, he waited by the window, searching the crowds for her shape. He had travelled far and wandered in distant cities, studying maps and sketching scenes he passed, and his drawing papers

were ragged with pictures of beggars and palaces. Startling, he glimpsed Gerda standing in a sun patch, her basket of embroidery by her feet, the stitched scenes glinting gold and red. He stared while a tall woman gave her a copper coin for a bright piece. Soon, women young and old crowded Gerda, rummaging in her basket, snatching and buying embroidery until it was all gone. Sighing, he watched her gather the empty basket and vanish round a corner. That night, as moonlight settled in his room, he drew her face, sketching till his eyes were worn. In the morning, waiting by the window once more, he saw her weave between market stalls and shadows, and rushed from the inn. Pushing past gossiping people, he paused before her and with his eyes lowered, handed her a copper coin. Swiftly, he took a square from her basket and hurried away. That night, as starlight trickled through the window, he gazed at the sewed scene, a whirlwind of blue flowers soaring above a forest. Every morning, without a word, Friedrich gave Gerda a small coin for an embroidered square. Soon, dust sat on his maps and gleaming scenes crowded his desk. Each night, while shadows and moonlight tangled on his floor, he stared at the images until his gaze faded. Then he woke at dawn and looked at the glimmering stitches once more. In some squares, copper smoke stained the sky and rain washed its glow onto the woods. In others, frozen sunlight stretched in golden sheets on the fields. One day, as he reached into the basket, he glanced up at Gerda. “How do you imagine these things?” he murmured. She stood in silence against the chattering crowds, and thought of the seasons she had never glimpsed. “I see them when I sew,” she said and turned away. He watched as she stepped around the bustling stalls and vanished past a corner. All afternoon, he lingered in the sunlit streets while her words wandered his mind. When dusk drifted down, he shut himself in his room and gazed at the embroidered image of frost swirls floating over rooftops. As he slept, he saw her walking through the scenes she sewed, under winds of whirling flowers, and past great icicles of frozen sunlight that stretched from the sky. In the morning, he gave Gerda a small coin and reached into the basket once more. “Do you live here?” he asked. “Only in the summer,” she said. He watched her disappear into the busy streets, and then looked at the embroidered square. “Summer will soon be over,” he mumbled, staring at the frozen moonlight falling in shimmering sheets. That night, he dreamt of Gerda walking in a forest where frost swirls clung to the tall trees. In the morning, he waited and watched once more. The day

stretched and the streets swarmed, but she stayed afar. Soon, twilight gleamed through the town and shadows seeped over the cobblestones. He sat by the window until night deepened the sky, then sank to his room and dreamed of frozen sunlight crunching under her steps. As the days went by, Friedrich waited at the window, watching for Gerda. The skies cooled and the summer visitors fled, and he searched the streets for her shadow. While a copper moon lit the night, he glimpsed her in his dreams. When the first autumn sunrise swept through the town, he knew she was gone. He wrapped the embroidered squares in a silk cloth, shook the dust from his maps, and walked away without a look back. Far he journeyed, past fields heavy with harvests and villages glowing with festivals, but he saw only the scenes she’d sewed. Soon, the winds chilled and the trees were blown bare. He wandered by mountains and castles, but sketched only her face until his drawing papers frayed. While winter glittered through the woods and cities, he sat beside fireplaces, longing for warm skies. As night hushed the streets, he set candles in the snow to see it glow gold, and imagined Gerda stepping near. When spring thawed the light, he travelled along the coast, gazing at ships far at sea. In the rains, he pictured Gerda sailing upon waves stained copper by a melted autumn sky. As the orchards blossomed, he turned and began his walk back to the town. As the last spring days lingered in the streets, Friedrich settled in the inn. When the first summer morning billowed through the town, he sat by the window once more. The shadows thinned as the cobblestones warmed, and soon crowds clamoured in the market. He glimpsed Gerda weaving between sun patches and stalls, her basket sparkling against the sunshine. Rushing from the inn, he pushed through the chattering groups towards her. Glimpsing him, she began to step away. “Please stay,” he said. “Have you been here all this time?” “No, I’ve travelled far from here. I only came back to see you,” he said. She looked at him. Then, with a soft smile she handed him an embroidered square, shook her head at his copper coin, and disappeared into the crammed streets. He stood hushed as he looked at the sewed scene: a river of melted sunlight flowing down a mountain slope. For hours he drifted in the baked streets, imagining her walking along streams of thawed sunshine, and him by her side. As dusk poured upon the cobblestones, he sank to sleep in his room and dreamed of her still. In the morning, he hurried through the sweltering crowds. Gerda stood in a sun patch, rummaging in her basket. She looked up as he stepped near.

“Where did you travel?” she asked. “I’ve never been away from here.” “To other lands,” he said. She imagined him climbing through a land formed of one looming cliff, with towns and cities clinging to its side. “Will you tell me about the places you saw?” And so he spoke of palaces and mountains, and villages and seas, until the day slipped into twilight. Then, she gave him an embroidered square, wished him goodnight, and drifted away through the starlit streets. He watched her shape fade, and then looked at the stitched image of a storm of pale blossoms raining down from heavy clouds. That night, he dreamed they walked together through the scene. Each morning, Friedrich met Gerda in the sunlit streets. They stood together between the bustling crowds, while women gave copper coins for embroidered squares. Then they walked beside shadowed walls and in quiet corners till dusk lay upon their path. He spoke of his travels, and she whispered how she’d pictured the world beyond the woods and town. While night glinted down, she told him of seas shaped as mountains and crowned with floating palaces. Weeks passed, and they wandered the fields, sitting in sun patches as she sewed her bright scenes. They lingered in the woods, eating small cakes beneath the tall trees. As autumn loomed near, he held her close and asked her to stay. When the last summer sun set over the woods, Gerda hid her face and whispered goodbye. “I’ll come with you,” Friedrich said. He watched her hang her head. “Where can you go? You said you’ve never been away from here.” “I’m sorry,” she said. Her voice was muffled by tears. She took a step back and looked up at him, then she turned from him and ran into the woods. He froze as she disappeared between trees and shadows. “Wait,” he cried, stumbling after her steps. He rushed beneath branches that tangled with the reddened sky, calling her name while she hurried deeper into the woods. As twilight dimmed his path he scoured the shadows for her shape. Soon, night shrouded his search, but he staggered onwards. When the sun rose, she had gone. Every dawn, Friedrich woke from his dreams of Gerda and set out to search for her once more. While autumn settled in the sky, he scoured the woods and fields beneath the rains. When the moon glowed copper, he watched through the windows of her home, gazing at shadows deepening in the dust. He paced the streets against chill mists, and pictured her wandering across distant rivers of frozen sunlight. As winter glimmered upon the rooftops, he left the town. He travelled far, past seas shaken by winds and

forests lit by frost. While snow stilled the cities, he sat under firelight and gazed, unseeing, at Gerda’s embroidered scenes. The nights thawed, and he lingered in the dark streets, wishing to find and follow her footsteps. Soon, gossip and birdsong filled the air, but he sat beside shadows and stared at his blank drawing papers. When the trees bloomed, he began his journey back to the town. While the first summer dawn shone through the woods, Friedrich waited by Gerda’s home. He watched the fields and pathways for her, as clouds and birds drifted upon the sky. Startling as the door creaked open behind him, he turned around and saw her. “When did you come back?” he said. “When the sun rose.” “Where did you go?” “Nowhere,” she said. And without an upwards glance, she spoke of how she’d lived the summers without cease. “I can’t stay with you,” she whispered. Silence stretched around her words. “We can be together in the summer,” Friedrich said, reaching for her. And so they spent the summer together under the bright skies. As they wandered the warm woods, Friedrich told Gerda about the seasons she’d never see, of copper forests and silver meadows. While starlight glittered between branches, she spoke of her long summers alone. Each night, they slept amongst moonlit shadows. In the still mornings, they watched the sun rise over the fields and she whispered of her imagined lands. In the twilights, he sketched her face while she sewed. The days swept by in a rush of green and gold. On the last summer morning, they were wed in a small church by the woods. That night, Friedrich whispered his dread of the bleak months ahead and Gerda murmured that for her there would be no parting. Then dawn seeped over the stars and he watched her fade. All autumn, Friedrich sat in their still home as silence settled in its corners. He gazed at the blank walls, while chill winds shook the woods and dark clouds dimmed the town. Soon, winter shimmered across the fields, and he stepped on the sunlit frost, wishing Gerda could glimpse the season. That night, he watched from the window and painted the starlit snows for her gaze. All winter, he wandered under the frozen skies, painting sparkling scenes. Soon, pictures crowded the walls of their home. As the days thawed and the fields flowered, he sketched Gerda walking amongst the blooms. On the last spring night, he lay in bed under moonlit shadows, waiting for the dawn. When the

sunrise poured through the window, Gerda appeared by his side. All summer, they lingered in the warm woods, as the dawns and dusks floated past. And in Friedrich’s pictures, Gerda saw winter and spring for the first time. She sat in sun patches and gazed upon the gleaming scenes, while the trees trembled with birdsong. When the first autumn dawn lit the day, he watched her vanish. The years went by, and Gerda lived always with Friedrich beneath the bright skies, but he drifted into chill seasons and waited for her return. As the days dragged through mists and frosts, he painted the world without her. The thin light hushed the woods and fields under the faded skies. Each evening, he lit candles and gazed at the embroidered squares now dulled with age. Then, when the summer sunrises filled the sky, he held her close once more. But he wearied wandering the fields and woods, and they stayed beneath the warm light within their home. As night glittered above, Gerda watched him sleep, and wished to sit with him through the cold seasons. As time passed, Friedrich’s eyes dimmed from painting the chill scenes. He put aside his drawing papers and turned away from the windows. While fogs and snows flooded the fields, he sat amongst shadows between the blank walls. When the first summer sunrises cloaked the woods, Gerda came home. She sat in sun patches by his side and would not see he was old and worn. His pictures crumbled and she saw the other seasons no more. She held his trembling hands and wished they could walk together through the world he had once shown her. One autumn evening, he huddled in the gloom, trying to remember Gerda’s sewn scenes. He listened as the walls shook, and imagined the winds filled with blue flowers. Then, he looked at his wrinkled hands and knew Gerda would soon be alone. In the dull dawn, he left their home. She waited for him through all her summers.

Rebecca Harrison sneezes like Donald Duck and can be summoned by a cake signal in the sky. Her best friend is a dog who can count. Her stories have been published in Maudlin House, 99 Pine Street, Rose Red Review, Axolotl Magazine, Wild: A Quarterly, Quail Bell Magazine, The Story Shack, and The Teacup Trail.

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