Each month, I team up with Emilio Pasquale – he gives me a photo and I write a story inspired by it. I barely made it for April, but what follows is the photo he chose, and then my story. His photography is impressive, so if you haven’t checked out his site, you really should (but I hope you will read the following story too – it’s less than 500 words :) )
Photo by Emilio Pasquale (story by me)
I shift my weight to relieve the pressure throbbing in my heels. I don’t know how long I’ve been standing here because I lost all concept of time… well, I don’t know how long ago. Minutes, hours, days and weeks carry no meaning for me anymore. I hear muted voices and whispers at my back, a brush fire threatening to consume me. I lean toward the porthole window so I can’t see any metal in my peripheral vision. Had it not been for the scraping of forks on plates behind me, I could imagine being alone on a raft drifting into the ocean. As it is, I feel the shoreline pulling away.
“Has she eaten today?”
“Probably not. She’s been standing there for hours.”
I have a name. My thought doesn’t translate into words because I deem it unworthy of the effort.
I squint and focus on the clusters of palm trees. I start counting, just to prove to myself I’m not completely gone. My vision always blurs around eleven; that’s when I cease to differentiate tree trunks from sailboat masts. I begin counting again, my unblinking gaze moving across the horizon.
“I don’t think she’s right.”
A laugh. “None of ‘em are. It’s called job security.”
I’m not crazy, I’m lost. Again, my thought doesn’t earn the privilege of spoken words.
I can’t discern if I am running away from or toward something. I decide it really doesn’t matter as I lean forward until my forehead rests on the glass. The drumbeat in my chest grows to such intensity that little room remains for my breath. I take what I can get. The glass warms beneath my skin until it feels like an extension of me. I’m mesmerized by the fogging and un-fogging caused by the interplay of my breathing and evaporation.
I hear shuffling feet behind me and voices fade. Isolation envelops me, clutching my insides in a twisting grip.
My muscles twitch beneath the hand resting on my shoulder. I close my eyes and inhale, although I can’t claim much air. I want so much to take in the dampness and taste salt from the ocean. Instead, I realize that hopelessness smells like meatloaf and Pine Sol. Desperation has a taste: the sour bile that creeps up my esophagus and stings the back of my throat.
I don’t resist the tug on my arm and we both stumble. My right hand knocks the picture off the wall and the glass shatters. Shards dig into my bare skin when I land on the ground. I don’t feel anything. My muscles spasm, as if separate from me. I watch, intrigued. I hear a panicked call for help. I don’t care. My eyelids grow heavy as I search for white light or shadows. I see nothing. I half-expect to feel fear or anticipation. Instead, I’m indifferent toward death and life. Commotion surrounds me and I almost pity them.
Why can’t they see the futility of saving what is already gone?
This time Emilio almost stumped me. I was drawn to the obvious with this photo, and if you have read my fiction before, you know I do try to avoid obvious! It’s not exactly an uplifting story, but I thought finding out the character was lost in a picture and not out to sea may have been unexpected, although clues to the setting are there. Thanks so much for reading :)