Dustland

Lourdes cupped her hands tightly around the paper to-go cup that steamed beneath her nose, warming her face from the bitter cold. The city loomed tall and grey around her, the clouds closing the everyone in, like ants in a glass box.

Christmas was coming, but the city was bare of decorations. Corners that would regularly have sparkling lights wrapped around the poles and displays in the corner windows of shops, all prepared for the consumerist demand of the season, instead were draped in ash and sawdust. Chunks of concrete littered the ground, like a giant game of bocce played by Greek gods.

Lourdes remembered the splendor of her city last Christmas, standing on the same corner, sipping mulled wine from a paper cup instead of weak tea. She, and everyone around her, had been so happy, celebrating time with family and friends.

Today, the streets were barren, and the wind kicked up clouds of dust and ash, sweeping through the corridors between buildings.

She shouldn’t be out here. It wasn’t safe.

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An Idiot’s Guide to Button Collecting

I love buttons. Okay, some people might say I’m a hoarder or something, which I think is incredibly rude. Hoarders keep everything.  I just happen to love buttons. All shapes and sizes of button, the weirder the better. Hand em’ over. You don’t really need that bottom button on your shirt or vintage 1950’s hot pink blazer, do you? No, I didn’t think so. At some point you’re going to realize that, and I’ll be there, ready to pounce.

Yes, you might think I’m absolutely crazy. I get that a lot. I haven’t had a girlfriend since 1996 for that very reason. They all think I’m nuts.

But you know what? I’m happy, and that’s really all that matters, isn’t it?

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Desert Rose

The cicadas chirped in the blazing summer heat, and the shimmer in the air combined with the cicada symphony made the world feel dream-like. Tall wheat swayed gently in the fields, golden waves dominating the view in every direction.

It was heaven for Josephine. She lay sprawled on an old Mexican blanket, spread out in a haphazard rectangle on the wheat, the long stalks waving around her, looking up at a square of clear blue sky, not a cloud in sight. She couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

She had her eyes closed, humming the tune to a well-loved country song when a shadow blocked out the warm sun on her face. She squinted her eyes open and gazed up at the silhouette blocking her heat source, a shining halo around the figure’s head where the sun was still trying to reach her with its bright caress.

“Nate, whaddayou want?” Josephine asked, a hint of grumbling tainting her southern accent.

Nate moved out from in front of the sun, blinding Josephine momentarily. She groaned and sat up, leaning back on her hands, legs stretched out in front of her.

“Jose, it’s Desert Rose. There’s been an accident.”

Josephine leapt to her feet, the calm feeling she had been enjoying vanishing with the wind.

“What happened? Never mind, I gotta go see her. Right now. Is she at home?” Without waiting for an answer, Josephine took off through the wheat field, Nate scooping up the blanket she had left behind and following after her. Continue reading

Purple Butterflies

She painted purple butterflies in his eyes. Every day he would wake up to her smiling face, but it existed only in his mind, compelled into being by his own wishful thinking. Drawn in bright sparks on the backs of his eyelids.

He lay in bed while his alarm screeched at him, staring at the ceiling but only seeing butterflies. The blue ones she scribbled in the margins of her notebook. The pink ones on the back of receipts and ticket stubs. The purple ones that adorned her left shoulder, that he had only caught glimpses of when it was warm enough for her to wear a tank top and they had gone out for drinks as an office in the heat of the summer. It was a rare occurrence that the thick strap would slip off her shoulder, but when it did, it upped his heart rate just the tiniest bit.

He knew it was cheesy to even think it, but in his mind he thought about how her eyes sparkled like morning dew and her thick golden blonde hair held the scent of coconut. Any time he caught the scent, it turned his head. But it wasn’t her any more.

Of course it wasn’t.

How could it be?

He’d seen the police report on the news site he checked every day on the computer in his tiny cubicle, often only reporting vaguely on events that barely even interested him. He just read it because it was something to do. Routine.

But.

Woman Found Murdered In Home – Police Search For Suspect

He hadn’t wanted to believe it. The article had no photo but the name Rhea Harnett stuck out in his mind like the letters had come off the screen and were burning themselves permanently into his skull.

It wasn’t a common name.

When she hadn’t shown up to work, he knew for sure. It office was quiet, but the knowledge was palpable, like someone had spread it lightly over a piece of warm toast with a butter knife and it had melted slowly into an almost invisible layer, settling over them all. It lasted for longer than he cared.

Murdered.

That didn’t happen. Well it did, but not to people he knew. Not to people he cared about. He shivered at the idea of her death, but the sadness that oozed out of him concentrated itself into fear. Fear that those things that only happened to ‘other people’ could actually happen to him. The purple butterflies wilted to black within his brain, flapping halfheartedly and falling to the floor.

He was not immune.

And that scared him to death.