My Last Night in California

by | Jun 8, 2021 | Fiction, Issue Twenty One

A couple of questions. Can memories be captured in shabby snow-globes? Are redistricting initiatives aligned with the dysfunction of certain honey strains? Alfalfa. Buckwheat. Clover. You aren’t sure which direction to go, or how best to influence the direction in which you will travel, but still, you proceed to fall to earth in some kind of organized procession. There are millions of you. Some of you are mythical beings who walk on all fours, defying biological classification and hording your protozoan impulses for use at a later date. Even those who walk upright have plant-like characteristics; broad leaves covered in waxy ciliates and arbitrary veins composed of a milky white substance.

You find one of these creatures has fallen to earth in order to use your knee as a pillow. They stabilize themselves on your shoulders while getting dressed in the morning. Some of their traits are more human than others. There are fresh scratches up and down their arms and chips of paint embedded into their skin (if you want to call it that). You help them scan their eyes scan across the page, “Most of us read from top to bottom.” Left to right. Back to front.

The two of you walk through a landscape of semi-abandoned strip malls and freeway underpasses. They describe the paradox of gravity, “Floating is overly restrictive and dependent upon the schemes of urban planning.”

Their voice recalls the peculiar sensation one gets while watching silent films.  

The bank buildings have flat roofs and house ATM stands, but little else. A filling station is a discarded shotgun casing. Abandoned paper cups are caught in some kind of slow moving and unseen whirlpool near the entrance, which appears to be locked.

You say, “Now that you mention it, floating, that has a certain ring to it.”

Other structures—boxy, monochromatic—are non-descript and seem to be waiting for a car chase or explosion to occur. But nothing happens. It is a bright, sunny day, but there are no shadows. Without adhering to the properties of light, the sun is little more than a prerequisite for some permanent and ghostly twilight. Even the streetlights are out of whack; they blink on and off in a haphazard fashion—there is no rhythm or logic to these transitions.

You don’t believe in the moon or the sun or even any of the clusters of galaxies that dot the night sky. “That all happened such a long, long time ago.”

After many hours of exploration, you arrive at the ocean. It is dusk. The creature you walk with lurches towards the water, but the water does not move in order to receive them. Small, invisible particles are present in overwhelming numbers. They begin to glom onto one another and rise up out of the water, towards you. “They are signaling. They want us to signal back.”

You raise your hands and begin an awkward, counterclockwise circular motion. After a few moments of this, you switch directions. You feel these eye-catching motions should garner some kind of response, but the horizon just sits there—pink and white wisps of clouds floating lazily at the periphery.

You say, “Transformation is not the same thing as renewal.”

Can anybody help you? You put your hands back down.

On cue, the creature you are walking with morphs into something else. Their form appears more human than before, but they do nothing to validate this impression. Soon, they are a quivering mass of parallel rows, disconnected and levitating, but somehow maintaining connection and balance with the ground beneath them.

They wrap their form around you, until you’ve become one. It is cold one moment and then warm the next. It is dry and then moist. Your own body divides—bifurcates—and then reconfigures. You’ve become temporarily aware of your own shape and size; unaligned, unrecognizable and the byproduct of some mysterious, chromosomal rearrangement.

Night has fallen and the tide has come in somewhat.

You’ve stood here, in this exact spot, on countless nights, but this is the first time you’ve witnessed any bioluminescence. Comb jellies, crustaceans and arrow worms have shot to the surface of the water, emitting a distinct yellowish-green light. The light pulses from one end of the beach to the other. A car pulls into the parking lot above you and leaves the engine idling, until almost imperceptibly, the headlamps dim. 

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