C.M. Humphries Blog
Winter '22 Featured Story 2/3
Day & Night
Originally published by Fashion for Collapse, 2010.
For a while I think I’ll never wake. Every night, for as long as I can remember since Jen was taken away, I’ve ended up in the same town square. I’m never sure where exactly, but I know it might be somewhere in Lovington, the second-most crime-ridden town of Chase County. No lie there. They have less crime than Raven’s Crook, Chase County, but in my night terrors, it’s all the same. Something always lurks behind me, an ominous presence breathing down my neck.
I travel the flooded streets of this town with Jenn at my side, window-shopping in front of bakeries, pawnshops, and jewelry shops. The jewelry stores usually capture her attention, and consequently mine, but we both know it’s beyond our reach. For the most part, we can’t even afford the pawned off jewelry. But this evening feels different than the rest and closer to being reality.
This is the evening that I had a little to spare, so we bypass the bakeries and pawnshops. Instead, we enter the real deal: Ralph’s Jewelers, home of unique cut diamonds rings and pearl necklaces. Despite their commercial claim, they are almost the same as the other pawnshops, but there’s prestige to a jeweler, right?
A sterling silver anniversary pendant necklace is the item of desire, whether or not she knows it. I think it would be something nice for a change.
Soon, I find the necklace in my hand and I’m reading the inscription. I can’t make out the words. Even though they say you can’t feel physical pain in dreams, there’s not much written against real emotions.
“It’s beautiful,” Jen says before I notice the police officer in the far corner eyeballing his gun. Nothing seems suspicious about that, for some reason.
“Down!” the cop shouts, and in a retrospective slow-motion, I recall everyone slowly dropping down to their knees; hands over heads.
But not Jen. Not at first. Her instinct involved bravery. I flashback to the day I forgot about the grill.
Flames soared high, and the lovely fire department’s phone lines are unresponsive. “All circuits are busy,” that mysterious voice said to me. Really, the fire department?
To my surprise, Jen rushes out into the yard, ABC extinguisher in hand. Probably not the best technique, but she fights every flame to its dim death.
And now she wants to save everyone in the jewelry store. Some madman dressed as a cop waves his gun, and all at once, she forgets about everything else, even the closest person to her. And I do not mean me.
Then I really wake up to the gray world, where I’m once again in a dark living room. If I would’ve known I’d pass out like that again, I would’ve have struggled up the stairs, to my bedroom. Hell, I knew. I just hoped I wouldn’t pass out.
The night terrors have become too much to keep enduring. The quivers, the cold sweats. I can’t do it anymore.
In a haze, I lean over towards my cell phone on the end table. The touch screen reads 8:04AM. No, I mean 4:08 in the morning. Sometimes I do that.
“Shit,” I mutter. I never want to sleep, yet even when I succumb to the sensation, I receive or steal no more than ten winks, or about five fence-jumping sheep.
I can’t take it.
I hear something tap and look at the clock again. Why can’t I figure things out? It’s 8:04 for sure.
Jumping out of my seat, I rush to the blinds and peer out. Contrary to my first instinct, there is no one out there; no UPS or FED-EX truck. Nada.
Even with the lack of delivery men, I scurry to the front door, like a child rushing to a Christmas tree littered with presents on Christmas Day. That was the plan for our child: spoil the shit out of him or her.
Hesitant, I reach for the door knob. The turn. The gasp. The click. I rip the door open, slamming it against the front wall, and I allow a blue sky to have a peek of my face for a few seconds. It’s hard to bear much of the world these days. It sickens me that everything still moves and still goes on, despite my life feeling static.
There’s no one at the door, though. There never is. However, a small package sits at my feet, addressed to my wife.
Why would anyone do this to me?
I step outside and breathe in the fresh air coming in from the lake. Glancing around, I can see an elderly woman strolling around the block with some children. I bet those are her grandchildren. There are also two girls on bikes and a group of friends heading down towards the beach.
I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed living at a lake. Disappointed, I turn around and stare at the box again. I feel the need to open it.
And I think I’ve made a great mistake once I rip away the masking tape.
Knowing nothing better to do, I pull apart the box and find myself staring at cotton. Just a necklace box. Empty. I feel like there’s something to it, a greater meaning of sorts. Maybe I just can’t see it, so I remain outside, clutching the case close to my chest, and I observe life passing me by.
I notice a strange thing. Clouds look like clouds, not animals. And the streets are nothing more than pavement. The world holds no analogy or metaphor.
Only during nights do these things morph into flooded dark streets and the inviting jewelers. Awake the world is always constant and brighter like a sunset in the country. And all this means nothing to me compared to the empty box in my hands.
Hey guys, I hoped you enjoyed this throwback. Flash fiction was my jam for a while there.
I finally decided which story I'm going to post for the third and final installment of Winter '22 Featured Stories. It'll be a slightly longer read than the last two, but I think you'll like it.
What is it? You'll just have to stay tuned. The new tale goes live on 02.03.2022... for no particular reason.
As always, thanks for reading!