The Centilogue

Short Fiction by Christopher Peterson

Month: January, 2013

The Interruption

Madness came quietly to him one evening. While reading alone on the patio in the gloaming, his eyes straining against the dying gold-magenta of day’s end, madness rested a warm hand on his shoulder. He lost his place on the page and, despite rereading the lines countless times, his ability to make sense of it was gone. He set the book down gently and rose with quiet surrender as madness beckoned him through the dimming hallway to the bathroom door. From the doorway, staring into the dark mirror, he lost himself in the unfamiliar face of madness as night fell.

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Pleasantries

He stepped up into the bus and fumbled through his suede wallet. She tapped fake nails against the wheel impatiently. With the tone of a rusted trumpet, she demanded the fare or he would have to get off. “Nobody has time to wait on you.” He rolled his eyes to flash her a look like daggers before pulling out his bus pass and swiping it hard through the scanner. He mumbled, “Bitch,” through gritted teeth as his leather briefcase knocked into the shoulder of a woman in the third row whose angry eyes met the driver’s in the rearview mirror.

The Interview

The room was indistinguishable but would gradually become unforgettable. He sat down in the cold, bare metal chair across from the imposing but familiar steel desk, topped only with a murky glass ashtray into which the interviewer flicked the ashes of a freshly lit cigarette. The interviewer smiled and took a long drag before leaning forward and veiling him in a cloud of smoke. He squinted and coughed as the hot fog penetrated his lungs. When his eyes cleared, the burning tip of the cigarette was closer to his face than before. The interviewer leaned against the desk, asking nothing.

A Father’s Will

Upon their father’s death, the inheritors assembled before his hearth, in which a fire had not been lit since the first of them had left for war while the others played and cried in their cribs. The mother felt what could only be called disappointment at his unwounded return, having hoped one of hers might become heir in his stead. Her wishes, however, were buried beside her as the executor, a stuffy and impersonal man seated in the father’s chair, announced with paternal authority that the whole estate was left to the one she always called Bastard. His siblings mourned.

The Feminine Paragon

He looked up at her from the base of the sanguine marble staircase, the object of his ambitions draped in ivory taffeta seemingly haloed by the champagne light of the crystal chandelier above. Her aristocratic silhouette against the fading tapestry of The Courtship of Persephone hanging behind her blocked the goddess’s desperate and anguished expression from his view, an aesthetically unfortunate but wholly unnoticed omission for a mind such as his that found wealth and the potential for wealth most beautiful. Meeting his gaze, she successfully feigned a smile as her descending steps upset the bruises beneath her shimmering gown.

The Xeroxed Man

Staring blankly into the flickering monitor at rows of bright green numbers, he paused as, glimpsing his reflection in the smeared glass, a feeling that he could only describe as profundity married to quiet horror rolled over his brain, down his spine, and into the pit of his frenetic stomach. He came from heroic stock, history’s great but unsung adventurers separated from him by only a generation, a war, and a continent, but his life bore as little resemblance to theirs as the faded copies of copies pinned to the frayed fabric walls of his aging cubicle to their originals.

With Their Whole Lives Ahead Of Them, Or The Runaways

The road through the plains lay out before them, unbroken to the infinite horizon as if God had drawn a line from what was to what could be if only they followed the line straight enough and true enough and with enough conviction. He pulled to the shoulder and stepped out and shaded his eyes to the noonday sun as he looked back and then ahead and couldn’t find anything else, living or dead, on the entirety of the great highway. He paused as all men do at the precipice before she leaned from the window and cooed, “Let’s go.”

Remembering That Which Was Forgotten

He’d forgotten what it was to cry. Through both wars and all that life had thrown at him in between like snowballs packed around jagged chunks of broken pavement, he hadn’t once shed a tear. Life and its ambitions had become mere existence, subtle and unavoidable and now a matter of tolerance. You wondered if he would mind in the slightest if he found out that tomorrow he would have a heart attack or be struck down by a passing car. Yet, as she held his hand and smiled, not unlike she had countless times before, he wept without consolation.