From the Desk of the Editor;
Hello and welcome to Larks Fiction Magazine! Returning favorite Jerry Guarino and mysterious newcomer Carl Barker join us today bringing you two fiction works of quirky, adventurous, and thought provoking entertainment.
In news: Neil Gaiman mentioned the magazine on his blog after last week’s link to his website. CHECK IT OUT HERE!!!
On a similar note happy April 1st!
Daniel J. Pool
Anything but Indian Food
By Jerry Guarino
Sid (short for Siddhartha, his given name) sat across from Kelly in the romantic Italian restaurant, in the university town where they were seniors. In spite of his parent’s arranging an engagement for him with a suitable Indian girl in Mumbai, the second-generation college student only had eyes for Kelly, quite possibly the antithesis of everything his parents had planned. Kelly was protestant, preppy and the only daughter of a good, upper middle class family from Boston.
“Why don’t we ever go to Indian restaurants Sid? Don’t you like Indian food?” Sid took a bite of his risotto, smiled and looked into Kelly’s eyes. “No, I don’t. Cumin and curry are disgusting and every Indian dish has them to excess. Look at Italian food. Elegant, delicate and romantic, like you.” Kelly blushed. “America is my home. I have no desire to visit India, much less marry someone my parents have arranged.” Kelly squeezed his hand. “Sid, you know how I feel about you, but what will your parents say?” Sid’s expression told Kelly she had nothing to worry about. “They will see in you what I do, the light of my life.”
A violinist played an Italian aria accompanied by a heavyset waiter in a tuxedo, serenading the patrons as they ate in a restaurant Kelly had always wanted to visit. “This is so romantic. What a perfect night.” Kelly was in love with Sid. He was smart, athletic and handsome. They had been together for a year now. Their relationship had taken off, since she first saw him on the football field. But Kelly loved his mind as much as his body; with a 3.85 GPA in Economics, Sid made college look easy. She took another look at the menu. “Sid, this is so expensive; we could go to four dinners for what this is going to cost.” Sid appreciated Kelly’s watching the budget, but this was a special night.
The violin player came over to their table as the tenor began ‘O Sole Mio. “Do you know what the words mean in English Kelly?” She shook her head. “No, but it’s beautiful.” Sid translated. “It’s about a man who sees the sun come out after a storm, then tells his lover that her face is even more beautiful than the sun. That’s how I feel when I see you. I love you Kelly!”
Kelly leaned over and kissed him. “I love you too Sid.” They could feel the moment, smell the food and were at peace. It was one of those times that don’t come along very often, when everything is in sync.
Sid pulled out his chair, kneeled down next to Kelly and looked deep into her eyes. “Kelly Ann Caverly, you are my sun.” Suddenly, everyone around them was listening. “When I wake up, you are what I want to see. At sundown, you will be the light that keeps shining. With you by my side, I will always have the warmth and light I need. Please do me the honor of lighting up my life. Kelly, will you marry me?”
Kelly began to cry. She reached out for Sid, nearly knocking him over. “Of course I will. You are my sunshine too.” The tenor hit his high note, the other diners clapped and the couple was now engaged. The owner put the Tarantella CD on and for the rest of the night, Sid and Kelly had an engagement party. There were cannolis for everyone and a cake the restaurant reserved for special occasions.
The last year went by quickly. Sid and Kelly were planning their futures and their wedding. Kelly had an internship at Deaconess Hospital and Sid had offers from several banks. On a warm afternoon in May, they walked hand in hand in Kenmore Square, to see a Red Sox game. Outside the stadium, they stopped for a steak and cheese sub, smothered with onions, peppers, mushrooms and grease. Just as smoothly as their life was going, so were the Red Sox, coming off their first world series win in 86 years.
The next week, Kelly was planning on meeting Sid for lunch when she got a call on her cell phone. Sid had been taken to the hospital and Kelly rushed to the emergency room. Waiting for an hour, she began to cry, not knowing what had happened. Finally a doctor came out to see her. “Kelly Caverly?” She quickly got up. “Yes, I’m Kelly.” The doctor took her into a treatment room. “Sid had an acute attack in his intestines. We’re running tests now. We’ve sedated him, but you can wait here with him.” Kelly thanked the doctor and sat next to Sid, holding his hand as he slept.
When Sid woke up, Kelly told him what the doctor said. “I’m so glad you’re here, not out on the street somewhere. What do you think happened?” Sid groaned and rubbed his stomach, still in pain. “Maybe something I ate, but nothing unusual in the last few days.” The blood tests were done quickly at the emergency room. A beautiful young Asian doctor came into his room and gave him a tablespoon of medicine and told him to rest. Sid’s face turned sour. “Argh. This is terrible.” Thirty minutes later, she returned to his room. “How are you feeling now, Mr. Patel?” With Kelly by his side, he looked exhausted but relieved.
“I feel a little better now. Am I going to be all right?” The doctor smiled and reassured him. “Yes, you had a parasite; just take a tablespoon of this every six hours for the next week.” Sid grimaced. “A week! It tastes awful doc.” The doctor nodded. “Yes, I know. It’s the cumin, but it kills the worms faster than anything else.”
About the Author;
Jerry Guarino’s short stories have been published by dozens of magazines in the United States, Canada, Australia and Great Britain. His first collection of twenty-six critically acclaimed stories, Cafe Stories, was released in November, 2011. It is available as a paperback on Amazon.com and as an e-book on kindle.
LOVER, COME HOME
By Carl Barker
I saw her today, I’m sure of it - on the far side of the arboretum, where the sweet trees sometimes blossom. Blue rain fell from an unfamiliar sky, tumbling down between the heart-shaped leaves like tears, and for a moment, I saw an impression in the flow of water, standing before me with arm outstretched, and I wept.
She was not there to talk to of course. Not to touch or hold. Not to take her in my arms and tell her how hard the days and nights have been these last few months, lost in a world that is not our own, so far from home and her warm embrace. But she was there, at least in part, of that I am certain.
Something of that half-forgotten place has drawn me close several times. Perhaps it is the visual similarity to the park in which we last sat down together, or perhaps a vague sense of geographical alignment when compared with what details of our own city I can still hazily remember after passing through the Fissure. I cannot be sure, but I know that for some threadbare reason, pulled taut within my scrambled mind, I am able to find a kind of peace there, amidst that unkempt copse of trees.
The Tripeds never seem to go near it I have noticed. I think perhaps it is the sickly sweet smell which wafts down from the overripe blossoms and coats the air like treacle, which is so unpalatable to their enlarged olfactory organs. Not that I mind of course. To wander through this land so resolutely apart from those who surround me is not an easy thing to do and a brief moment of solitude here is welcome. Everywhere I go, the Tripeds are still wary of me. Yet, having come to realize that I pose no threat to them, these docile creatures have seen fit to ignore me for the most part, and go about their daily grazing with a minimum of disruption.
The young are a different matter. At least that is what I believe them to be, for in most species it is usual for infants to resemble much smaller and immature versions of their kin. Having noted at least four distinguishable sexes amongst these strange beings though, I am at a loss as to their social politics.
The children come close in clusters, tiny bands of insatiable curiosity, grown courageous enough by virtue of their swollen number to venture forth. They come to view this strange and unfamiliar creature, which bears no vestigial carapace of spine or scale and walks upright, without need of a third appendage for balance. Occasionally, the bravest of them will stretch out a mottled trunk to gingerly sniff at my face, seeking to understand that which is so alien to them via the strongest of their three senses.
The feel of their hides is a strange one, at once undulant and pervasive. Yet I do not pull away, for fear of frightening them with my rapid movement, so jerky and apprehensive when compared with their own unhurried gait. They push gently at my flesh, feeling how taut and unresponsive it is, roaming my facial features as a blind man might in quest of recognition, before pulling back and conferring with each other in that low staccato chitter, which I can only assume is either intense discussion or nervous laughter.
The older Tripeds eventually come to shoo their young away, clearly not comfortable with the scent of my ungainly form around their children, but I cannot fault their kindness. Since my unexpected arrival through the silent Fissure (which the creatures have no real awareness of, save a tenuous vibration in the air above their heads), they have cared for me as best they can.
Soon realizing that my surroundings were completely unfamiliar to me, the eldest Triped bade his herd scour the city gardens for as wide a variety of foodstuffs as they could find, in the hope of finding sustenance suitable to my unique digestion. Themselves subsisting on a mixture of ground-based fruit (which they cultivate) and moisture drawn directly from the humid atmosphere by gills, the Tripeds presented me with myriad materials ranging from shells and vegetables to a flowering foam, which over time hardens into a solid not unlike concrete.
Gathering round me like so many fussing hens in those first few days, they eagerly attempted to push various edible objects into my mouth and ears, confused by the presence of more than one orifice and evidently alarmed by the possibility of my rapid malnutrition.
Not able to understand the series of clicks and whines which pass for their language, and surrounded by these sightless creatures that are unable to engage in the concept of signing, communication has proved initially difficult. By method of a tentative trial and error, I have quickly learned that the orange egg-shaped vegetables may be cracked open upon the ground to yield a viscous brown fluid, which is not unlike caramel in its taste. Having gathered a vast quantity of these shells for me, the Tripeds at least now seem content in the knowledge that I shall not starve, and have left me to my own devices.
There is one still, who comes to visit me every day. A female I think, from her diminutive size and weight. She usually arrives with the setting of the two suns, her flattened back laden with a fresh bounty of food to add to my ever growing stockpile. Often, she will sit beside me on the ground and reach out for my hand, entwining her soft trunk around it like a teenager on a first date as she mournfully sniffs the wind. Though they have no ocular cavities to speak of, these creatures bear two vestigial depressions not unlike sunken eyes. Long and drooping, these features give the impression of tears long since dried and make me think of an ancient race, which has cried away all of its sorrows long ago. She has lost someone, this female I think. A mate perhaps, torn from her by circumstances I cannot hope to gauge, to leave her barren and alone. We sit together most nights beneath these unfamiliar stars, conjoined in our unspoken grief and unable to voice to each other the pain we feel at being so removed from the one person that we love most.
I saw him today, upon the corner of the street by the park. A vision seen at the corner of the eye, that you cannot be sure is really there or not until you look directly at it, at which point it dissipates on the wind, like smoke. I wanted to reach out for him, take his hand in mine and feel its warmth, but no sooner had the thought occurred to me, did the image vanish. I don’t know if it was real or not. I’m not sure if that’s even important. He was with me for a moment and that’s all that really matters to me.
Time here is immaterial, for though the clocks chime the hour and the sun continues to rise and fall in the sky each day, there is no human soul (save me) to see and hear them. I am alone in this pale and impotent carbon copy of my own city, with only the incumbent birds and beasts for company. The roads lie bare of traffic, the concrete pavements do not ring with the fall of feet, and at night I drift asleep only to the sound of Nature as she slowly reclaims this barren city as her own.
What was it that happened here in this place to leave it so strangely intact, yet void of human kind? Was it some new weapon of mass destruction I wonder, instantly vaporizing the entire populace like hot breath blowing out a candle? Or did everyone depart this land in alien craft, born forth to the stars by distant stellar cousins, to abandon their broken ambitions and start anew in far off galaxies?
Around me on every empty building, a strangely tentacled root has begun to climb the walls and tower-blocks. Invasive to the extreme, this unfamiliar plant has forced its way into every nook and cranny of the brickwork, rapidly widening small holes into jagged rips and tears, such that the taller structures have already become unsound and are no longer safe to enter.
I spend the days of my solitude industriously, scouring cafes and counters for both food and information. A newspaper, book or teletype - anything to give some meaning or explanation for the mass exodus I have evidently arrived too late to witness - but there is nothing, no trace of written word at all. After days of searching, it is as if the people of this place had never learnt to read at all.
One afternoon, I found a child’s bike and journeyed across town in search of the central library. The layout of this place proved identical to my own city, but instead of the library, I found only collapsed ruins and an oversized crater, as though the building had been torn from existence for reasons I cannot fathom. It is more than that though, for there are no banners or road signs to mark the various overlapping routes which I have taken. Billboards stand empty and unloved and not one street corner plays host to a newspaper or magazine kiosk.
Did they grow afraid of the written word itself? Does it have something to do with the strange purple root which has taken so aggressive a foothold here beneath the ground and steadily rises up to choke the life from the buildings and crumble all that man has accomplished into dust and mulch? Was there some reason that they became afraid to commit their language to paper and celluloid? A virus perhaps, spread via written communication, which infected them all at some terrible cost and rendered man defenseless against an unseen assailant? Is the root itself some form of alien life form, I have begun to wonder?
Wary of stepping too close lest it ensnare me, I have watched the thing from a distance, as it burrows upwards at an almost imperceptible rate. Its botanical origin is unfathomable to me, yet its strange biology is fascinating, for it seems able to break down and digest almost any material it comes into contact with except metal, and utilizes the nutrients it obtains from this process to further propagate itself.
The thought of what an aggressive organism like this might do if unleashed into a world such as my own is frightening, and I am thankful that the only Fissure I have been able to find is the one through which I came here, in the centre of the park where thus far, the root appears to have no interest in exploring.
It is for this reason that I have chosen to sleep amongst the trees, having scavenged a tent and sleeping bag from a nearby department store and set up camp beside the Fissure. Each night I lie awake, listening to the rustling of wildlife in the surrounding undergrowth. I stare up into the whirling cloud, allowing its hypnotic swirl to lull me into fitful sleep, where I dream of seeing him emerge into this world in search of me. He will find a way to reach me I know, no matter the cost, and so I wait patiently, telling myself that it is only a matter of time before I can go home.
Had we realized, things would have been very different now. It was so innocent a suggestion, the idea of a picnic in the park that day. Not wanting to disappoint her on her birthday, I caved in early, deciding to take the rest of the day off. Of course, the Fissures had already appeared by that point - gradually fading into existence at seemingly random intervals across the surface of our world like pin-pricks in reality, before slowly gaining form and expanding to the size of bus wheels, such that we could no longer ignore them. Our scientists and thinkers ran innumerate tests, cordoning off the various sites and probing each Fissure for days at a time, before moving on to the next with furrowed brows.
‘Harmless,’ they concluded eventually. ‘Just symmetrical pockets of ionized gas, which appear to have little or no effect on surrounding matter.’
We listened and nodded sagely, trusting in the minds of more learned men, and then returned to our everyday lives, taking the ever growing number of Fissures in our stride.
Children played next to them in groups, taking turns to stretch out their fingers and feel the slight tingling sensation which came from penetrating the clouds. Dogs bared their teeth and barked in frustration. Religious types gave out their usual spiel about the coming end of days, but essentially the Fissures became part of our existence, much as the weather or the steady passage of time. Until that fateful day, when all things changed and our slothful race came to curse its own stupidity and dwindled sense of curiosity.
Sitting together in the park that day, happily entwined in each other’s arms, we had talked about the future, of our respective hopes and dreams, and had found much to smile about in the knowledge of our apparently converging paths. Safe in the thought that our next steps would be taken together, we lay back in the grass and closed our eyes, suddenly feeling that first tingling sensation of static charge in the air. There was no way we could have known, as we both glanced up at the sky, expecting an approaching storm, that worlds were about to collide and conspire to tear us apart.
The quickening motion of the Fissures was soundless, spiraling eddies which began as nothing but quickly whirled to life in a matter of moments. Thinking back, so very many must have been caught unawares that day. Grandparents napping in the afternoon sun, toddlers taking the first of many steps to come, even birds caught suddenly mid-flight; all would have become trapped in the overwhelming currents and like me, all must have been sucked up into those once harmless clouds, to vanish without trace.
Did she turn and run I wonder? Did she seek shelter from the vortex, only to return later and search for me? As I stare up into the Fissure, my mind spinning with a dirge of half-remembered scientific jargon that does not help my plight, I imagine her sitting cross-legged in that same park, a shawl draped round her shoulders against the cold of what must be Autumn now, waiting for her lover to return.
I stare at the constantly changing colours of this dense miasma and ask myself is it worth the risk? Can I trust this wretched portal to carry me home again? If I’m right, then I have but to stretch out my hands for home and find myself there once more. But if I’m wrong, and if the strange physics of the Fissure have altered, as I suspect from its changing colours, then I may end up who knows where and find myself further removed from her, lost forever to face horrors as yet unimagined by human minds. A little knowledge is a curse it seems.
The connection seems strong between us still - the dreams, the half-seen visions that plague my days and nights - they give me something to hold onto, to keep my mind from shattering beneath the unforgiving hammer of isolation. I pray that our bond is a beacon which soon may guide me home, but I must be sure, and so for now, I wait.
The idea has been growing in my mind for days now. The seed of inspiration, once planted, has burst forth from my subconscious to override my fears and climb the walls of my desperation.
This morning, I awoke from the same dream as always and sobbed quietly beneath the dwindling morning stars. By now I might have carried his child I think, feeling life grow steadily within me for the first time, as we began to build the foundations of our life together. My only companion here though is loneliness, a deep chasm that gnaws constantly at my insides like a rabid dog with a brittle bone, making me stare up at the still remaining skyscrapers and wonder what bliss it would be to fall from those distant tops.
The root is everywhere now, a cancer which eats away all it touches, gorging itself on accomplishment and history, till it is grown fat and distended. Still though, the park stands alone and unmolested. The trees around me: sentinels, stood tall and unafraid against the surrounding purple hordes. I have enough provisions to last me for months and the fountain at the centre of the park has seen fit to provide me with fresh water for now. I dare not walk the streets again. The last time, I almost became trapped, caught unawares on the far side of the square by the increasing speed of the root as it continues to consume and evolve. I know now that it is hungry, for I have seen the occasional piles of bones and heard the pitiful cries of animals ensnared and dragged towards their death in the dark. The smell of rotting flesh hangs like a fog in the streets and the underbrush around me no longer rustles with life each night. The only sound I hear is the root’s wretched crawling, steadily creeping across the cityscape like a shadow come forth to put out the light. I dare not sleep too long, lest it come for me as I huddle beside my tiny fire. I stare down at the pencil and blank sheet of paper in my hands and wonder - is it worth the risk?
The nights are drawing out I think at last, though it is hard to tell from this accursed twin sunned sky. My restlessness is a fever which burns across my skin with time. Nellie has done her best to comfort me, having soon realized that my unhappiness is steadily growing with each passing day, but she cannot dull my pain.
I named my companion thus some time ago. It seemed appropriate, given the Tripeds’ distinctive features and vague similarity to those much larger beasts from my own world. More than that though, I think it was because she has helped me not to forget - both who I am and what I have lost. So many times I have come close to diving wide-eyed and desperate into that swirling cloud of vapour, grasping for the straws of home amidst the aether of the Fissure and each time I have, the sight of Nellie, waiting patiently and ever-faithful beside me, has reminded me that hope is not lost until I choose to throw it away.
I see my lover’s face whenever I close my eyes, and know deep down that the visions and images I continue to witness come from inside me. I take comfort in that though, despite the realism of isolation it brings, for it means she is a part of me and nothing here in this empty place can take that away. A sign is all I ask for in my prayers each night. Something to prove to me that the path home still lies open, and that I do not merely stare into the abyss each day with madman’s eyes. Just a little hope oh Lord, to keep me safe and burn the home fires bright.
It is done, and it seems my worst fears are confirmed. No sooner had I put pen to paper did the root sense my presence - an abrupt and terrible rustling signaling the about-face of several over-sized tendrils infesting the square. Hungry for fresh intellectual blood, they now slither gradually towards me in fascination, drawn by the scent of my scribbled cry for help.
The note was simple and to the point. A message to my love, lest he think I’m dead and gone. A screwed up ball of paper tossed up through a hole in the sky. Crumpled hope thrown to the harsh wind of Fate, where perhaps with luck, he will find it and trace my words to their source.
The stones of my fire are long cold, my supply of fuel exhausted. I dare not tear branches down from the surrounding trees, for it is not wise to spit in the face of one’s protectors. My lover still comes to me in daydreams, his arms a warm blanket against the cold. Without his strength, I don’t know if I would have lasted this long, or what I would have become without him.
The root’s progress is unstoppable, and soon it will begin to breach the borders of my garden. A rusted metal pipe, scavenged from some dark alley, lies next to me upon the grass – a sword for my dragon – but I pray it will not come to that, for I have little strength with which to wield it. Time crawls as slowly as the root, and soon it will be dark.
I am afraid.
Something came through the Fissure today. I didn’t see what it was, for I was some distance away, and unable to stop Nellie from scooping the object up and blindly inserting it into her mouth whilst grazing. From where I stood, she seemed to sniff cautiously at first, the object obviously registering as foreign, but then, perhaps having grown used to my continued presence and scent, she allowed her curiosity to overwhelm her apprehension and swallowed the item whole.
My frustrated anguish at her actions has scared her, for she has moved some distance away to mingle within the safety of her herd. I do not know if she will return to me.
Was it some message in a bottle or a lifeline from home? Or perhaps just happenstance indigestion from the Fissure’s core, belched out into this reality like a bad case of gas? The answer to my questions lies hidden with the belly of a dumb beast and right now, my sense of injustice is such that it could consume this wretched universe and everything in it. My knuckles ache from where I have beaten my fists repeatedly upon the rough ground and I sit, brooding uncomfortably beneath the Fissure like a sullen child. I cannot give up, no matter what. Believing that I will find her again has become as important to me as breathing. Without it, I cannot survive.
The first oaks fell at dusk - an unpleasant cracking sound rousing me from sleep as my first line of defense fell beneath the root’s inexorable onslaught. They toppled unceremoniously onto a thick carpet of purple with dull thuds, splintering into so many aged toothpicks and quickly being gobbled up for tea. Before it got dark, I saw the root writhing upon the ground, criss-crossing the pathways like veins, grass blackening beneath its touch as it thoughtlessly wrapped its tendrils round Nature’s throat and squeezed. Now I lie awake in a huddled ball of fear, surrounded on all sides by predators, praying that this last small copse of knotted barks will repel all boarders till help can come. I cannot leave here now, for when the trees are gone, I will be the last line of defense before the Fissure. Knowing that were he stood beside me, he would choose to defend this place as well is a comfort of sorts. I face the dark, clad in the armour of his love, and shall not falter from my duty. The root shall not pass.
Nellie is sick. At dawn, she sank upon her knees and would not get up. Laid upon her side, she pawed the air and called weakly to her kin. The other Tripeds gathered protectively around her in a tight circle and at first refused to let me near. Each time I approached to offer help, they warily pushed me back with solid trunks - the creatures’ hides having hardened as part of some previously unseen defense mechanism. As the suns rose, they finally yielded and let me through.
The elder sits crouched beside Nellie on the ground, his head hung low as he strokes her carapace softly with an affection which betrays parental bond. Occasionally, he lifts his head in my direction and emits a forlorn and miserable whine. It is obvious that the Tripeds have no knowledge of medicine or care. They stand huddled in small groups around us like mourners, unsure of how to act. Employing what limited skills I have, I have performed a rudimentary examination of Nellie’s condition and then gathered as many plants and foodstuffs as I can, to begin to try and fashion some sort of cure. Now more than ever, the question of what came through the Fissure is eating away at me. I gnaw nervously at my fingernails, listening to the unhappy sound of Nellie’s breath rattling in her chest. I know that she is dying.
There is no possibility of leaving this place right now. I have obligations to these creatures and a debt which must be repaid. If my love were here, I think she would understand that at least. The memory of her still occupies my mind, reminding me that, when my work is done, I will return to her. I shall never be alone here as long as I hold on to that dream…
The afternoon is almost spent, and as old Hobbs begins his rounds for the evening, he finds the Park deserted. Ever since the opening of the Fissures, it seems that few have the courage to venture out once the sun goes down. Not that the dark bothers Hobbs of course. Having taken night-shifts by choice on every job he ever worked, Hobbs has learned long ago to ignore the childish tricks that the mind can play on you when the shadows lengthen and the moon comes out to play. An old dog like him isn’t scared of anything much, except maybe his rickety knees aching like crazy when the winter comes each year.
Still though, there is something disquieting about these Fissures. The way they swirl continually without sound, hung in the air like mantraps, all teeth and gas, waiting for some unsuspecting creature to happen by and become caught in their eddies. People say that if you stare into them long enough, you lose your mind. They say your soul is ferried away to whatever terrible place it is that those unfortunate few were taken some few months back.
The newspapers claim that nobody can make heads nor tail of these damned clouds. ‘Doorways to nowhere’ is how the tabloids succinctly put it, casually burying the actual names of the missing along with other news in ‘continued on page 5’. The whole world is going to hell in a hand-cart, old Hobbs thinks to himself, as he wearily props his arms atop his dustcart and stares across the vacant park with glum expression.
The path across the grass ahead of him is still cordoned off with hazard tape, warning signs having been hastily erected to alert people to the presence of portals in this area. The two Fissures in question hang in the air opposite each other on either side of the gravel path, pools of hypnotic vapour gazing into each other’s swirling eye. Locals affectionately refer to them as ‘The Lovers’, but to Hobbs they are merely borders with an outside world he doesn’t ever want to know. Heaven only knows what lies on the other side of those god-forsaken doorways, and Hobbs for one will be first in line to buy a gun if Johnny Foreigner, extra-terrestrials or even Elvis Presley decide to stick so much as a toe outside that cloud.
As Hobbs watches, a slight disturbance passes across the surface of one of the Fissures and something emerges from the gas. The old man’s breathe catches in his throat for a moment, and his fingers tense apprehensively around the handle of his broom. Then, upon seeing what has emerged, he relaxes slightly and stares in disbelief.
The ball of screwed up paper lies upon the ground, midway between the two Fissures. Hobbs leans to one side and spits, casually wiping his mouth with the back of one dirty sleeve.
“Shit” he mutters to himself, before shuffling forward with his dustcart. ‘It isn’t enough that bloody aliens from another universe have decided to rip open a billion holes in the world and start abducting people at random, but now they have the nerve to start using our sodding planet as a dumping ground for their garbage as well!’
“Not on my watch” he says out loud, trundling to a stop beside the hazard tape.
Extending his litter-picker to its full length and dangling precariously over the top of the tape, Hobbs manages to skewer the piece of rubbish just before it can be drawn up into the second Fissure. Grinning with satisfaction, he deposits the crumpled ball of paper into his cart without a second glance, secures his tools and turns to leave.
Pausing for a moment, he glances back at the Fissures and scowls cantankerously. Reaching into the dustcart, he rummages around for a minute or two until he finds what he is looking for buried amongst the garbage: a stained Styrofoam box bearing the logo of some global fast food company upon its lid. Tossing the piece of trash into the centre of the second Fissure, he watches it become sucked into the void and vanish.
“There! See how you like it, you God-damn litterbugs,” Hobbs mutters to himself, before turning and wearily trundling his cart back out of the Park.
As he makes his way solemnly back through the trees, he passes a pair of missing persons posters stapled to a nearby tree: the faces of a man and a woman. The description lists them as having last been seen together, having disappeared on the very same day, a month ago.
Hobbs stares contemplatively at the poster for a moment, knowing full well what has likely happened to these two lovebirds.
“Ah well,” he mutters somberly to himself as he heads home to an empty house. “Whatever god-forsaken place those two may find themselves in, at least they’re together.”
The unread note lies buried at the bottom of Hobb’s dustcart until morning, when it will be fed into the park incinerator along with the rest of the trash. No one will ever know the message of hope and heart-felt longing contained within those few scrawled words:
I know that you are out there somewhere in the darkness, perhaps looking up at the same stars as I, and wondering if we will see each other again. Though I am alone here in this place of discarded history, I know you have not forsaken me and clad in the warmth of your affection, I shall endure the months and years to come with grim determination until at last, the day comes when my task here is done, and I shall finally be allowed to come home to you.
Until then, you will live in my thoughts and my dreams forever. Wait for me.
About the Author;
Carl Barker has previously been published in magazines such as Dark Horizons and Midnight Street and has stories forthcoming in Estronomicon and anthologies from Damnation Books and Pendragon Press. He maintains a web presence at www.holeinthepage.co.uk.
I hope you have enjoyed this issue of Larks Fiction Magazine and that you will join us next week for more great indie fiction! Also you can find Neil's real site here. It is good stuff.