In desperate times desperate people head here – an online journal of Apocalyptic-themed fiction and commentary.


Copyright © 2006 by Don Traverso. All rights reserved.


     The afternoon shadows flicker like dark fire on my ceiling. A light breeze ices the sweat on my forehead and chest. Sighing, I roll over onto my stomach, resting my chin on my arms. A beam of pure sunlight separates me from the stereo across from my bed. Its small control buttons remind me of pupils, dark eyes staring back at me. Salome had dark eyes, so dark you almost couldn’t see the pupils. Gone, now. Don’t think about it.

     I reach through the light stream, the sun slicing my arm at the wrist, to one of those pupils. I poke it until I can hear the guitar playing while the singer laments. The notes drift, rise and fall, and I ride with them, my thoughts floating through space like windblown dandelion, the cool vacuum enveloping me and sinking through my skin. It reminds me of when, as a child, I was learning to swim at a large round pool. A dark-haired woman — I’m not sure if it was my mother or a friend of hers — threw me into the deep end. Sometimes, in my mind, she looks like Salome. I remember how I thrashed feebly as I sank, the cool water swallowing me slowly, calmly. Behind the memory, the singer wails.

“A strange day…. A strange day….”

A screech yanks me down hard into consciousness, my body jolting as if hit by lightning. I push myself off the bed, feeling the faint breeze cooling the tears on my face. I wipe them away, leaving streaks of ice on my cheeks.

I walk to the open window of my small apartment. The ceiling, walls, floors, cabinets and fixtures are all immaculately white and sterile, as is the windowsill. I look through it, down at the backyard next door. There are six children there, three boys, three girls, dressed in bathing suits of various colors. Their laughter dazzles the air, rippling with the sunlight in the swaying trees. One of them sprays the others with a garden hose. A band of colors shimmers around the cone of mist emitted from the spray gun. My hands grip the peeling white paint of the windowsill. I lean out, studying the dancing multicolored band, the darting mist, the leaping laughing children….

I am. I want. I need.

I launch myself out the window, the green grass of the yard rushing up toward my face. I do not blink as green abruptly becomes black.

Laughter stops.

My heart is still.

My breath is suspended like an autumn leaf clinging to a tree.

My soul is calm. Quiet. Asleep.

I feel a hand on my shoulder. My body is twisted around. The afternoon sun sears my dead eyes. Then, it is eclipsed by a shadow, dark blonde hair ablaze about soft shoulders. Her right hand cradles my head, the left holding the spray gun. Water flows, glistens down her left arm. She aims the gun at my face. I am exploded in cool mist and bands of color.

Air bursts into my lungs, jolting my heart to action. My eyes blink water away in large drops. My hands push at sand as I sit up, then stand, staring at the colors blending in her eyes. The mist clears. The sun is aglow over the ocean, its light framing my assassin’s dark blonde hair and tan brown body shrouded in a white gown. Her full lips stretch into a smile. The gown ripples across her body, a gauzy sail caught in the wind. She offers her hand. Small, thin-boned, but the grip is strong. I feel skin soft, smooth.

She pulls me toward the rolling waves of the sea. Our bare feet stick to the wet sand. The water curls around our ankles. Waves collide with our knees. Drops tickle our thighs. I gaze at her bemused smile, at her curled hair cascading down along her slim neck. Her bright multicolored eyes never leave me, and I am lost in their oblivion. I laugh in sad joy, drinking delicious despair. The gown membranes her slowly heaving breasts. Her throat shimmers with droplets like tiny diamonds.

Together we step down off a craggy reef and breathe in warm water. Twilight fills our lungs, stills our hearts. We drift among the corals, our hands clutched tightly.

Schools of silver, green and gold fish glide past us as the currents gently push us farther, deeper. Light softly crackles on the surface over our heads. The warm undercurrent caresses our skins as the strands of our hair tangle about our faces. We are like windblown autumn leaves in slow motion.

Somewhere, muffled by the sea and distance, an electric guitar plays a mournful tune. Our hands clasped, our bodies gently pulling each other, being pushed by soft water, we drift toward the sound. Up toward the surface we dance like windblown silk. Seaweed slices across my arms, wraps loosely around her neck, and glides away. The surface presses against our faces, leaves a light wet outer skin. We ascend slowly, fluid pouring from our mouths like blood, pushed out by our lungs and our awakening hearts. We step onto the surface, which is cold and shimmering under our feet. Electric breezes shake our muscles. The chill makes our hands grip tighter, our skins erupt with pinpoints of ice. We can hear the guitar clearly now, accompanied by the woeful singer.

“A strange day…. A strange day….”

I reach out my left hand, the sunbeam setting fire to the droplets on my arm, to silence the singer, but my dark lady in white turns my head with her right hand and kisses me, her lips and tongue salty and moist. I withdraw my hand from the stereo and caress her cheek, neck, then, sliding under the sticky membrane of her gown, her breast. Within moments I dive into her oblivion, her eternity, her serenity, and I willingly lose myself inside her, wiping myself away.

Meanwhile, outside, next door, the children play their war games.


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