The Centilogue

Short Fiction by Christopher Peterson

Month: September, 2012

An Important Purchase

He stared at the black glossy paneling and couldn’t find his reflection. He gradually tuned out as the salesman went on about the high quality craftsmanship, the upholstery hand-stitched by the finest craftsman. He picked up where the salesman mentioned how sometimes you need to do something nice for yourself. He wondered aloud to himself if this would be the right fit for him, to which the salesman intimated that it was as if this one had been built for him specifically. He nodded and shook on the sale, running his pale hand over the cold lid of the coffin.

The Fresh Start

The cops still hadn’t figured out what started the fire, and he knew they never would. The landlord seemed uneasy about him, but still offered to come today to help unpack. As he piled singed boxes in the corner, the stink of smoke filled the room and sent a chill through his weak body. He paused as footsteps crossed the floor over his head towards the basement door. Coming, he hollered. He climbed the stairs and found the hallway empty. He walked to the front door and saw no car in the driveway. Terror set in. It was starting again.

Bad Neighbors

Digging in the garden, he paused and leaned on his shovel, peering over the fence. The new neighbors were strange. They looked like an unsavory bunch, covered in tattoos and keeping the queerest hours. The rumblings of motorcycles pulling up into their driveway after midnight had woken him on more than one occasion. A few times, he saw bonfires in the backyard.  Once, he could have sworn he heard chanting coming from the garage. Yup, somebody ought to do something about it. He wiped his brow before laying down the shovel and dragging the dismembered corpse into the fresh hole.

The Dare

His new buddies dared him to hop the fence and touch the lightening-bolt sign past the transformers. He climbed over with a flashlight and began crawling under the dangling, buzzing power lines. Scooting on his knees and elbows, he crooked his neck to look ahead and saw a figure creeping beneath the wires at the opposite end. With every labored crawl it came closer, moving as if in a clouded mirror. Almost at arm’s length, he shined his flashlight forward and saw his own face staring back, lifeless and scorched pitch black. He screamed, springing up into the live wires.

Settling Old Affairs

She sat down across from him at the table by the window and folded her hands in her lap. His hair was gray now, but his friendly smile remained unchanged. He reached out his hand for hers, his ring clinking against an empty glass like a small church bell.  She smiled and reached into her handbag, gripping her gloved, wrinkled fingers around a small, heart-shaped locket. She gently placed the golden heart in his weathered palm and curled his fingers up around it with both hands, smiling into his welling blue eyes before quietly standing and walking to the door.

The Death of Two Men, or An Errand

All he heard was the crunch of heavy, ice-glazed snow beneath his shoes as he trudged down the sidewalk, peering into the dark, empty windows on either side of the empty street. The voice on the phone only told him a time and place, but it used his real name. He hadn’t heard that name for years, so foreign to him now that he didn’t recognize it at first, but hearing it aloud undid the last two decades of his life. He thought some sense of justice or absolution would comfort him, but it didn’t. His family would not understand.

Tuesday 0937

Eleven years later he was running on a treadmill, his heart exploding and imploding as sweat tumbled from his brow. He thought how funny it was that he’d been running for so long and still hadn’t gotten anywhere as he looked up to the mounted flatscreen and noticed the ticker crawled names instead of stories. He’d forgotten what today was. His breath caught in his chest as he saw his name pass across the screen like a hearse through a halted intersection. He stopped the treadmill and collapsed in tears, mourning all those that had died with him that day.

Kinfolk and the Accomplice

They sat around the campfire in the woods, the car stowed behind the tall brush along the county highway. The brothers dumped the satchels across the needled carpet and divvied out two equal piles at the dim edge of the firelight as he sat cross-legged near the spitting timber. He stared into the bright heart of the flames and spent his share in his mind. As a rough hand gripped his chin and pulled back, his eyes followed the smoke up through the treetops into the starless sky before the blade broke into his throat and carried off his breath.

The Hangman’s Son

As a boy, he suffered a bout of influenza that brought him to Death’s precipice. He survived, but every childhood fear – every dark room, every shadow, every closet door – was replaced by the constant and hollowing sensation of mortality. In his face and in the faces of all those he loved and hated and knew and would never know, he saw the impermanent, the finite, the dying. The threshold below Death’s door now lay before him at every step. From that day on, he was condemned to feel his life like the raw itch of a noose around his neck.

In The Home of a Widower

He set his keys by the urn on the table and took off his coat, hanging it over the back of the chair. They’d insisted on cleaning after everyone had left a few days before, and the house retained an unfamiliar, uninhabited air about it. He thought of pulling out the chair and sitting, but it felt like someone else’s house now, and he doubted that feeling of belonging would return. Somebody said how these things take time and how eventually things would get back to normal, but now he stood in quiet desperation, looking for a place for himself.