The Centilogue

Short Fiction by Christopher Peterson

Month: July, 2012

Waiting, or The Descent

It didn’t take long for the headaches to come back. Standing in an empty mauve hallway awaiting an elevator, the fluorescents droned behind plastic fly graveyards as he uneasily glanced down the circular corridor in either direction. He tossed his eyes suspiciously over his shoulder to watch the grain on the motionless door to the doctor’s office pulsate and gyrate under the fake lights. The world began to radiate and shift, his teeth began to ache. A door opened somewhere out of sight. The doors slid open and he rushed in and desperately pounded the CLOSE DOOR button. Down. Down.

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Prodigal Son

He entered the ruin of his childhood home and found a madman squatting in the rubble, sifting through the mishmash of faded photographs and animal waste strewn about the matted, stained carpets throughout what were once the rooms where they fought and embraced and wore at one another like the weathering of mountains into sand blown carelessly across the barren plains to meet an unknown yet preordained resting place. The madman mumbled an incoherent warning to the grown child in an invented language only they two understood and smashed a greasy fist against the wall, shaking loose a hanging mirror.

Simulacrum, or The Disciple Reborn

Nearly an hour after the confession, the priest left the confessional and eyed the empty nave in quiet horror. He genuflected habitually and rose slowly, walking unsteadily to the chancel and kneeling in prostration before the altar, his hand against the tabernacle draped in velvet and silk that now felt somehow vulgar. The experience of God, the physical sensation of the metaphysical that birthed and nurtured his belief, lay somewhere on the floor of that otherwise empty confessional, wilted and shriveled as flowers on a neglected grave. He wept mourning the absence of the divine, the grief his new faith.

The Ambitions of His Age

The old man sat alone in a rusting wheelchair on the concrete slab that passed for a terrace behind the nursing home that reeked of urine and feces and disinfectant and regret and death and watched a rat crawl out from between the overflowing dumpsters near the alley and into a drain running along the bottom of a crumbling brick wall. He hadn’t heard his given name spoken in months since the last of his acquaintances left for the hospital and died of sepsis, and in a moment of savage epiphany he envied that rat and that acquaintance their fates.

The Pyre, or Farewell to Dawn

He stood behind the dense phalanx of firs at the forest edge, watching the thick gray smoke billow tempestuously into the cobalt sky as the first whispers of dawn crept over the mountains. The specters of curtains and loose papers wisped seductively in the scorched window frames like glimpses of veiled dancers tempting him in the still dark. Soon the second story would collapse in on the first, leaving an ashen burial mound atop the foundations they’d built together. He thought he could hear a faint, impossible whisper amidst the cracklings, but left it behind and turned, entering the wilderness.

The Frantic Birth of Despair

The child pressed his wet face against the dusty mesh of the storm door off the front of the house, his eyelashes catching between the mesh squares with each tearful flutter. His throat hoarse, gasping hysterically between futile pleas, he pounded his weak fists against the aluminum frame, causing an irksome rattle that couldn’t drown out the sound of heavy leather suitcases and overstuffed black garbage bags landing decisively in the rusted trunk of the aging coupe. Slamming the trunk shut, the father turned and scowled in unabashed disgust and disapproval as the child let out a final, hyperventilated “Stay.”

Giazotto’s Betrayal

Closing the door behind him and walking in grave motion to the street, he had no emotional or spiritual or visceral vocabulary to codify the state of being into which he had been thrown. The conversation had been terse and clichéd, yet for some reason he could not have predicted this extrapolated reality. The pasteboard mask of the universe had been torn away, revealing a featureless wretch beneath. A woman screamed from far off and his mind found an adagio, the most beautiful and sublime forgery ever known, as he feet followed his subconscious compositions into the symphony of traffic.

Endgame: Zugzwang

As the dry, metallic click rang through the dark and smoky room, his eyes shut tight, squeezing the sweat cascading down his brow out from the corners of his eyes and along his rough, unshaven face. With that fifth hollow toll, every second he had left to live lost any meaning or warmth or hope or succor, turning existence into a stale, reviling thing that he could not bear to part with nor bear to tolerate any longer. He reached out with a trembling hand across the stained felt table to grasp the greasy revolver at the end of time.

Endgame: Zwischenzug

As the dry, metallic click rang through the dark and smoky room, his eyes opened, relaxing his finger squeezed around the trigger of the greasy revolver and lowering it from the corner of his eye down his rough, unshaven face. With that fifth hollow toll, every second he had left to live became as two mirrors of possibility set opposite one another in the sunlight, a vibrant, seductive thing that escaped any words yet spoken or dreamed. He reached out with a steady hand across the stained felt table to release the greasy revolver and become a denizen of time.

Concerning the Events of June 13, 1927

Tickertape showered down in torrents on the day of the return of the hero triumphant. Men applauded and threw their hurrahs from the curbsides and storefronts. Women waved and cheered and cried to glory, hanging out from the tall windows and spilling from the stoops along the avenue. Children waved flags atop the shoulders of their fathers and hanging from lampposts and squeezed amidst the masses. It seemed the whole city came together in ecstatic rejoice. Unbeknownst to all, an aged janitor swept the dusty halls of a vacant office building three blocks down, refrained and far from the world.