“The Accoutrements of Rest” by Del Wrennen
Thursdaze (because the weekend won’t come fast enough) features original flash fiction modeled after our Drug Chronicles Series. Each story is an original one, and each encapsulates the author’s fictional experience with drugs. Our print series has anthologized authors writing about marijuana, cocaine, speed, and heroin, but contributors to the web series can focus on any drug, real or imagined, controlled or prescribed, illegal or soon-to-be legalized. Submissions to Thursdaze will be judged on an author’s ability to stylistically emulate his or her substance of choice. Submissions are also limited to 750 words, so try to focus. (They have a pill for that.)
This week, Del Wrennen enters a hazy world.
The plain was measureless. Aside from offering the occasional visual cue in the form of a tarweed shrub or boulder, it held no real sense of distance or direction. Further, though Jared felt movement—the rhythmic plodding of his horse sent soft vibrations up through the saddle horn—there seemed a lack of forward inertia. The earth acted as if on a great axle that was slowly spinning in counterbalance to the horse’s hooves. As hooves punched into parched earth, dust gathered around the mount’s hindquarters, and from a distance it appeared as if the animal trod upon a low-flying cloud: the world’s first wingless Pegasus—in flight, yet bound by oppressive heat to the ranks of the lower atmosphere.
Horse and rider traveled across this heat-swathed limbo for some time. Eventually, the wobbling, liquid-mercury rooftops of a small town breached the horizon. By the time Jared passed under the wooden arch marking the town’s main entrance, it was sundown. By the time he walked through the batwing doors of the squat-framed building that was his destination, it was nightfall.
As Jared entered the building, he was enveloped by gossamer tendrils of opaque grey smoke that intertwined to form a damp fog. Vague humanoid forms—seemingly formed of smoke themselves—glided among the low-set cushions and scattered debris that festooned the floor. Jared sat down on a blanket set in one corner of the room and rested against a slivered wall.
Eventually a small man carrying a tray formed out of the fog. On the tray was placed a hollowed wooden shoot with an attached brass bulb, and an oil lamp—the tiny, tight, yellow flame of which danced inside a thin, glass eggshell–like casing. The man handed the tray to Jared.
“Here, sir. Please pay now.”
In response, Jared mechanically reached into his trouser pockets and produced some coins. The man took the money and melded back into the fog.
Jared sat up and observed the contents of the tray. Of the chipped and burned bamboo pipe and its appendage, Jared had little interest; they were just tools. But the flame was something more. It was small, but it was bright. The light pierced the darkness of the room like a tear in a curtain drawn at midday.
As he contemplated the flame, Jared’s eyes fell upon the glass shell that encased it. Blue stain had been lightly applied onto its clear surface in intricate patterns. Faint lines traced the arches, peaks, and valleys of cresting waves that circled the perimeter of the glass. As Jared’s eyes rode those waves, they came upon another distinct design. On one side of the shell, the waves coalesced and crashed upon the bow of a faint, yet discernible, blue cutter. The soft flicker of the lamp’s light gave off the impression that the tiny ship’s mainsail was fluttering in a green-blue wind.
Jared picked up the pipe and, using the same flame that was drafting behind the cutter’s mast, lit the bulb. Jared slowly inhaled odorless fumes. Small ethereal wisps the color of dirty glass entered through his mouth and lazily dripped from his nostrils.
Jared ran his palms over the slick surface of the starboard railing. Lubricated by an amalgamation of unknown sea vegetation and saltwater, Jared’s hands moved fast along the wooden plain, until, arms outstretched, the man bore his chest to the black sea below. A cool, briny spray misted over Jared’s face and stung his eyes. While the mist dampened his skin, salt crystals carried by soft currents tangled and coagulated his hair. The yellow moon, singular in the sky, was refracted a thousandfold upon the liquid depths below.
“Beautiful night, eh?”
“Yes.” Jared responded slowly.
“Just beautiful. Look at that moon . . . so bright.”
“Why is everything else so dark?”
“Well . . . that there moon wouldn’t shine so bright if that there sky and that there sea weren’t so dark.”
“How long do we have?”
“Don’t know. No one knows . . . it’s something you’d have to ask the Lord.”
“I have asked.”
“And what did he say?”
Jared awoke very cold. His left arm was tingling under the weight of his body. He slowly placed his right hand flush to the floor and pushed himself up against the wall. Splinters cracked against the sleeves of Jared’s jacket. The darkness of the room remained and the lamplight was out, but much of the smoke had cleared.
DEL WRENNEN is a Los Angeles native currently residing in San Francisco.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Thursdaze flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your submission should never have been published elsewhere.
—Your story should feature a drug, any drug, and your character’s experience with it. We’ll consider everything from caffeine to opium, and look forward to stories ranging from casual use to addiction to recovery. Stylistically, we’ll respond most favorable to stories that capture the mood and rhythm of your drug of choice.
—Include your drug of choice next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected], and include THURSDAZE in the subject line. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
About the Drug Chronicles Series: Inspired by the ongoing international success of the city-based Akashic Noir Series, Akashic created the Drug Chronicles Series. The anthologies in the series feature original short stories from acclaimed authors, each of whom focuses on their fictional experience with the title drug. Current releases in the series include The Speed Chronicles (Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, Megan Abbott, James Franco, Beth Lisick, Tao Lin, etc.), The Cocaine Chronicles (Lee Child, Laura Lippman, etc.), The Heroin Chronicles (Eric Bogosian, Jerry Stahl, Lydia Lunch, etc.), and The Marijuana Chronicles (Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky, etc.).
Posted: Mar 5, 2015
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