The Centilogue

Short Fiction by Christopher Peterson

Month: March, 2014

Canto CI

Midway upon the journey of their lives he found himself in a dark mood, where the right way was lost. Ah! how hard a thing it was to tell her what this rough and difficult mood was, which in thought reinforced his fears! So bitter he was that death was little comfort. But in order to treat her as the better he found in living, he would tell her the other things that he saw in their lives. He looked up to her, and saw in her eyes the rays of the sun, which led him aright along every path.

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The Good Old Days Not Yet Come

On long summer nights when the sun sank slowly behind aging barns and silos, they sat around the bonfire on the outskirts of the cornfields and drank cheap beer and sang the songs their parents used to sing along to on car radios and played their guitars and harmonicas and ukuleles that they would also pass down and beat the rhythms out on wooden boxes while their own children chased the dogs around the yard and sang the melodies in sweet unison and slept soundly in the tall grass as their mothers waved away the mosquitoes and stroked their backs.

Anecdysis

He removed his coat, folded it over his arm and draped both across his lap as he waited nervously on the torn vinyl sofa, the smell of heavy, cheap perfume intermingled with stale tobacco in the dark sitting room lit by a tangerine neon glow radiating through the nearby window. He stared sideways between the cracks in the fading paint on the bedroom door and rocked on his hips uncomfortably. The door swung open and a sweaty, obese man wiped his brow and grinned triumphantly at him before exiting. He stood, slicked his combover perfunctorily, and penetrated the musty boudoir.

Alex Colville: Horse and Train, 1954

He stood cross-armed and stared longer than the others would have, transfixed by the cool tones of slate and fallow and asparagus and charcoal neatly ordered across the small rectangular canvas upon which a gravely calm oceanic semblance of a dark prairie rolled forth, slashed by two hypnotically static parallel bands of quicksilver creating the providential track above which the onyx equine behemoth hovered faceless as it both stood defiantly and galloped full-stride towards the serpentine iron Cyclops spawning from the dark horizon where its ferocious smoky billows blocked out the subtle complexity of the timeless clouds hanging infinitely above.

Securus

He caught the latch at the gate behind him and looked at his small, plain bungalow for a brief but easing moment. Footsteps clapping the cold pavement echoed around the nearby corner, hurrying him up the front steps and rushing his hand to slip the key into the lock. The footsteps grew louder as the unseen pedestrian approached the intersection, sending him bursting through the front door and quickly but quietly shutting it, hurriedly turning the deadbolt into the strike plate and slipping the door chain into its track. He sighed in the rich contentment afforded by a locked door.

The Songstress

The hot kaleidoscopic stage lights washed a semblance of life over her pale cheeks as she pressed her horn-rimmed glasses to her delicate, bookish nose. She hadn’t left the house for two weeks and, despite the handful of friends scattered amongst the high-top tables and barstools along the walls smiling somewhere in the darkness, she still felt vaguely alone, save the cumbersome hug of the dreadnaught against her fragile frame which provided some sense of companionship. She leaned into the microphone, snorting with a sheepish grin and began strumming the intimate, familiar chords she’d knitted tightly to her deepest emotions.

Impatient

Her fingertips rolled rhythmically on the chipped pressboard desk, clicking the Refresh icon every few seconds as her eyes struggled to maintain focus on the glowing screen in the oppressively arid air crammed from the radiator into every corner and crevice of the old office. Winter was finally coming to a prolonged and agonizing end as the trickle of melting snow echoed from the storm drains outside, adding a petulant bladder to the myriad irritations stretching every second into a breath held in anticipation unto perpetuity. A final click confirmed a new message from her doctor’s laboratory to her inbox.

The Descendants of Daedalus

He chewed his gum deliberately as the plastic-tasting air blew from the small nozzle above into his clammy face, greasy fingers itching against the too-short armrests with the sticky buttons. Earbuds lodged beneath his hair leaked subtle bass and razor treble out to his fellow passengers, who busied themselves with filling overhead compartments and adjusting seatbacks and buckling in excited and irritable children. He exhaled shortly to fight a surge of nausea shaken with anxiety cramped high in his stomach as the door shut with an irrevocable lock and the cabin lurched back away from the gate into the unknown.

The End of the Line, or Unforeseen Consequences

The world passed outside of the train windows like a backdrop cranked by stagehands hidden behind it, sporadic posts and signs whipping by illegibly as his mind bounced between where he’d left and his destination. He couldn’t tell how long he’d been on the train with how many times he’d dozed off and the overcast sky hiding the elusive sun, but no single moment of his trip matter more than any other. Only the end of the line meant anything, the point at which his ambitions and freedom would come to an end with a stranger and a strange child.

John the Revelator

He had visions. Since childhood, he would awake in cold sweats soaking through his sheets, screams still ringing in his ears. He saw tidal waves block out the sun while washing dishes. The sky burned with nuclear sequoias as he flipped burgers on Independence Day. Deluges of corpses floated past as he sat in traffic on rainy Monday mornings. He never told his wife and children, although the natural cataclysms and manmade disasters on the news every year tempted him to speak his premonitions. However, his visions never came to pass, and he questioned their meaning on his quiet deathbed.