The heavy swipe of windshield
wipers in the dark night.
The smell of rain through the
open car door.
Out there, somewhere, he was
struggling with the gate lock.
Maybe it wasn’t too desperate a
situation, but the rain certainly made it feel that way. It was a nondescript
car, maybe a little too nondescript though. The sedan sat there in the dark at
a heavy idle, as the windshield wipers mechanically swiped back and forth
Why hasn’t he come back in yet?
Why is the gate still locked?
We were supposed to be there; it was my facility.
“God damn it’s cold out,” I said
We walked a few more paces before
she replied “really, not that cold out.”
I could feel the freezing air hit my
face as we walked towards the car. It wasn’t a terribly long walk, but it was
across a very unsheltered hilltop.
“Yea, anything approaching thirty
degrees is too cold,” I said.
“Who said that thirty degrees is too
cold?” she asked.
“Water said it’s too cold. That’s
who,” I replied, smiling. I knew it was a good joke before I finished telling
We smiled as we finished the walk.
Hands trembling, not visibly, as she
grabbed the mic.
There was supposed to be forty
people in the audience, at least that’s what they predicted.
Walking into the small cordoned off
area that represented a stage, she saw a room awash in a sea of spectators.
There had to be hundreds of them, standing room only.
It was nothing short of a fire
hazard to have that many people in the small cafeteria, she knew that.
“Hello,” she said hollowly into the
The rancorous crowd went silent.
“Judging by your silence, I take it
that you can hear me.”
That moment of doubt.
Clicking refresh on the top right
corner of the screen, I know I booked it,
Quickly scrolling through the list
of names, but yours isn’t there. Navigating back through the menu, clicking
Your name isn’t there, it simply
So, what’s next?
The moment of anger.
Why didn’t I double check until now?
I’ve been registered for three months, there was plenty of time to check
earlier. Plenty of time to do it again if the system dropped me.
The moment of fear.
What the hell am I going to do now?
“Hey, you alright?” she asked,
peering in through the broken window.
Turning back to her partner, Officer
Jones, “I don’t think he’s gonna wake up.”
“That’s probably true, look at this
mess.” Said the partner, who was looking around the other side of the vehicle.
Officer Espinoza called out to
dispatch for a code three ambulance, and a utility company van. “Yea, this
phone pole is down on the roadway, and power is out in the neighborhood,” she
told the voice on the other end of the radio.
“Alright, helps on the way,” she
“Thank God for that.”
It was a small victory.
But, it was all they had for the
In a season of defeats, the
candidate took the stage for what he thought might be the last time during this
campaign. The crowd was sparse, hardly filling up the chairs his staffers had
arranged in the cafeteria. As he grabbed the mic, the sharp feedback easily
overpowered all of the voices in the room and a chilling feeling of finality
“You know; I really shouldn’t be
here today. I should’ve dropped out a long time ago,” he said to the now
“You’re about to make rank, so what
would you do to him?” Asked my tired looking Chief.
Leaning back against the bulkhead.
“I’d convince him why doing soundings are important,” I replied sharply.
“What do you mean?” Asked Chief,
“Well, we’re supposed to be doing
them for a reason. So, convince him that it’s a critical task that shouldn’t be
gundecked.” I continued. “And if you can’t convince him that they’re important,
then maybe we should see if they really need to be done anymore.”
He quickly changed the subject.
Obviously that wasn’t the answer he
was looking for.
The cold snow swirled in little
eddies around the edge of eaves as the sharp wind pushed it against the brick
Walking quickly, under the dim
streetlights, she made a direct path for the unmanned doors. As she got closer
to the building, she heard a howling from the wind as it ripped past the
Outside, it was dark and it was
Reaching the doors, they opened in a
quick swoosh, allowing her into the hospital.
“Good to see you Dr. Richards, how
were the roads?” Asked a nurse.
Inside it was warm and it was calm.
Sometimes I question my hearing.
I know that the brain can make you
feel things that aren’t there because I’ve watched this happen. Someone sprayed
with water from an OC canister will wince. And a more than a few of those
people will actually fall down from the pain.
what about sounds?
morning I watched a wave crest, and then crash near the shore.
could’ve sworn that I heard it crash, but don’t know if that’s possible.
years near the ocean, did I develop a ‘wave track’ to fill in the blanks?
wave noise here-
“Pro-tip for survival, if you use
the small pot to cook ramen wash it out afterwards.” I said, smiling.
“Makes sense, but survival?” he
“Yea, I’ve got this thing about
ramen flavored tea in the morning, it puts me in a rage. Kinda’ like if you had
spaghetti flavored coffee.
He started laughing, before stopping
and saying “yea, that’s happened more than a few times.”
“Oh, sorry about that. It was an
accident, really.” I replied seriously.
He laughed, “it’s all good.”
Thinking about the situation for a
few minutes, I thoughtfully asked “but how’d it taste?”
“Of course I know what social media
is, because I can remember a time when it didn’t exist.” I said, smiling.
“What does that even mean?” He
Leaning further back in my chair I
started. “Well, having lived in a world without Facebook or Instagram, I can
distinctly remember what they brought to the table because I’ve got a good
first-hand account of what was actually different after they showed up.”
“So,” he replied bluntly.
“So, what you think these programs
don’t actually do what you think they do, and you can’t just use them as your
Every hallway looks like the one
With each passing corner I can feel
myself getting more lost.
I hadn’t left the ground floor and
there were signs everywhere, so it should’ve been easy to find my way back to
But it wasn’t.
I have a faulty memory for that
So when I turned the first corner,
my fate was already sealed. I was already lost.
And the more lost I got, the less
bandwidth I had to figure it out. It is a self-compounding problem,
and it’s always the same.
A rapid descent into lost panic.
Her footsteps rung hollow on the dry
wooden deck. The boat was empty, and the sounds
echoed off of every surface.
“Hello?” She called out.
There was no response.
Walking further along the deck, she
reached the ladder into the lower cabin. There were no lights below deck, the
power had failed long ago.
CLICK- her bright Streamlight
flashed into the dark space, illuminating large circle of the galley.
THUD-THUD-THUD her boots fell loudly
on the steps of the ladder.
It was perfectly quiet, and perfectly
“Shit, there hasn’t been anyone down
here for months,” she said aloud.
Relief, that’s what I felt when I
handed over my phone. It was their phone really. I was just using it for them.
Maybe there’s no better symbol of
retirement than that.
My office had been worked on, or
otherwise unusable at some points during my time there, yet I still got the job
done. People could still reach me.
The same thing with the computer, it
was important but not critical.
My phone though, and that number,
had been the lifeline of my job and department. It was the one unchangeable
condition of running things, I had that phone.
The dull clicking of buttons filled
The music had stopped hours ago, as
they continued building.
On the television in front of them,
four small windows subdivided the screen. Each person controlling a corner, and
each contributing to the structure of the castle.
For a while, they were so involved
that none of them could hear the clicking, it was invisible background noise.
Then he pointed it out, the
From that point forward, it was
impossible to ignore or escape the low clicking of the four controllers.
Even with the music back on, the
clicking was there.
“This isn’t going to go how you
think it’s going to go,” he said coldly.
His admonition unanswered, he
continued watching the situation. It was precarious, as any third party could
have easily seen.
“Maybe this whole think looks better
from your perspective,” he said, again with no response.
Still, he watched as the situation
got even more precarious.
“And, now I suppose you want me to
leap into action?” He asked, to a puzzled response.
Reaching the end of the bookcase,
the cat turned her head toward him.
Unable to turn around or walk
backwards, she meowed for help.
The hillside was quiet; a dense
blanket of fog had absorbed all of the sounds from the town below.
“I know that the town is down there,
humming along like always,” said Alex as she looked towards the undistinguishable
“Maybe, but what’s your proof?” asked
“Considering that it’s always been
there, and that something powerful enough to make it go away couldn’t be quiet.”
Replied Alex, as she continued walking down the hillside.
“Maybe we aren’t on the right
hillside,” responded Tamara.
They continued walking down the hill
for a few more minutes.
“Is that possible?” Asked Alex.
Of course time isn’t linear, I thought.
It’s just a construct, a cheap trick
we invented to understand something that doesn’t exist.
Meh, I’m not sure anymore.
People are always saying that you
can save time, or that you can waste time. Like it’s some sort of tangible
object. At work, I even set up spreadsheets to capture time.
None of it worked.
And I’m starting to suspect that it’s
because time doesn’t exist. It’s just a measurement, like feet or meters.
An object can be three meters
But three meters is not a thing that
“It’s funny what sorts of things can
be the actual sign of impending doom,” said Vo to the small crowd.
Leaning back in her chair, she asked
the question everyone else was thinking. “What do you mean when you say actual
“Well,” he started before clearing
his throat. “People are always looking for the starting point or leading
indicator of a tragedy. So they can use that moment to prevent the next
tragedy. Problem is, most of the signs people find aren’t the right ones. But,
sometimes the right sign is something very unexpected.” He explained to the
The low rumble starts while you
aren’t paying attention.
You can hardly notice as it turns
into a high-pitch whine, because the crashing waves beneath mask the transformation.
Then almost without warning, it’s
there. All four engines screaming at
full power as the jet races off skyward.
Sometimes I swear that they are
barely making it over the cliffs before reaching the open ocean.
And then, almost as quickly, the
aircraft turns right.
Yup, there’s a bird on the tail of
that one. They’ll be in Frankfurt twelve hours from now.
Minutes later, I’m left alone again
with the waves.
“What do you want?” Asked the Chief
Engineer, as she met the auditor in the passageway above the engine room.
“Me, oh well nothing much really,”
he replied shakily.
“Okay, then why are you here?” She
asked, looking directly at him as he nervously fidgeted with the pen in his
The two stood there, as he awkwardly
tried to say what he was sent there to say. “It’s just these gaskets, they’re
way over budget and. . .”
“Whose budget?” She asked, sharply.
“Because I definitely remember putting this into the budget I submitted.”
“But, yea.” He started.
The high pitched engine purrs as the
car idles at the light.
Quickly the little car tears off
from a standstill, gracefully gliding through the first corner as the engine
smoothly screams through the gears.
The freeway is dark, city lights
flashing by on either side of the freeway, as we weave through the light traffic.
Sometimes slow motorists are welcomed obstacles, especially with good music on
Like a well-tuned tadpole, the Mini
masterfully cuts between the slower cars like blades of grass in a pond.
It’s almost organic, in the most
mechanical possible way.
The stem of the boat was cutting
smoothly through the water, parting the sea, as it were, as I leaned over the bulwarks.
It’s one of those precarious angles,
just a slip away from tumbling headfirst into the ocean. But the picture was
worth it in the glass smooth water that day.
Underway Sundays can be great,
provided you don’t have the doubles
After taking some pictures over the
bow, I moved aft. Maybe there’ll be some
cool looking clouds over the horizon, I thought. It didn’t matter though, I
had forever to do nothing.
Or at least until watch.
There’s a place just south of the
It must be a local’s place, because
I never see too many people there.
You start from a small disjointed
parking lot, or patch of pavement really, and walk north along a wide gravel
To start, there are some small
houses overlooking the cliffs above, but that mostly fades away as the trail
descends towards that narrow strip of beach that stretches off into the
At low tide you’ve got about thirty
yards, between the crashing waves and the unstable cliffs.
We’ve always called it fossil beach,
for obvious reasons.
“What in the hell are you talking
about?” He asked, angrily.
“Trust me, I’ve done this before.”
Replied Kim, the chief engineer.
The engine continued to roar and the
boat continued to pitch, as the two stood there next to the leaking water pump.
“It’s not going to work, but whatever,
it’s your engine room.” Said Ben, snidely, as he walked off to the shop.
“You’re damn right it’s my engine
room, and I worked for years trying to prove myself to people like you to get
it. I you don’t like it, get out and I’ll find someone else.”
“That’s not a sign of strength,” I
said loudly, to compete with the television.
They all turned, looking confused.
“No, it’s true. Any bully can pick
on someone smaller than them,” I started before pausing briefly.
“Don’t be stupid, we can’t just let
them keep doing that.” Said one of the other veterans.
“Keep doing what? The same thing we’ve
been doing for the past seventy years.” I replied. “I don’t give a good
God-Damn if they do develop the weapons right now, because that’s exactly what
we are pushing them to do.”
The television racket continued in
“But those warheads could threaten
the peace of the region, and even the safety of the US,” said the same guy from
“Sure, but how does that justify
what we’re doing presently?” I asked.
There was a brief pause.
“It’s sending a message that this
President is serious, unlike the last administration,” he said.
“No, that’s not what it’s saying at
all,” I started. “It’s actually telling Mr. Kim Jong-un that he’s really
important and justifying his actions to the people of North Korea. If someone
parked a bunch of military assets on our boarder, how would we respond?”
Green-water coming up over the bow,
the ship was sloshing through the turbulent sea.
The bridge crew could see it all,
from high up in the superstructure.
Down below decks, however, the
engineers were oblivious to the outside. Their world rolled from port to
starboard, almost mathematically.
A whole world of work was humming
between the frames of the engine room. Water was getting purified, electricity
was being produced and propulsion was maintained.
With almost clock like reliability,
the engineers completed watches, transferred fuel and adjusted the ballast
tanks. Working always below decks, in the windowless depths of the ship.
The lights in the window come in and
out of focus as I try to fall asleep.
The high ridge gives the house an
almost airplane like perspective above the rest of the small coastal town as I
sleepily gaze out the large glass panes.
The streetlights and errant kitchen
light are the constants.
A steady stream of ant like lights flicker
across on the freeway far below.
In focus, it makes a world of sense.
Out of focus, it’s like a maze of
new constellations against the dark backdrop of night through the windows.
A world of dancing lights.