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Fiction Contemporary

FIRETRUCK RED


everything entranced, everything helpless firetrucks; nothing could stop the red.


painful. not because it is bright, because it is dim. my eyes, not pained. my soul, my being, instead. the sun. dying. waving farewell. a ghost; no, an almost-ghost.


my fate, too. not yet, i thought. will be, though, too soon. the sun, on the edge of what i knew. maybe the edge of what i knew. my fate, the sun’s; not the same, i realized. sun comes back. always. 


i wouldn’t, couldn’t.


with its last rays, lights a burning fire. in me. kindling i didn’t know about, ablaze. i was bonfire. a rage; verve, the opposite of what it had come from. unadulterated fire, the purifier, purified. purifying me, truth from lies. 


i was mad. at the sun. will revive. will rise again in the east. a baby. not Me.


the sun is; I was.


I WANTED TO SCREAM. AT THE SUN. WHAT I WAS NOT. WHAT I COULD NOT BE. 


IMMORTALITY; NOT JUSTICE. IMMORTALITY; NOT PEACE. IMMORTALITY; NOTHING ELSE. SHINES, SHINES, SHINES. NOTHING ELSE. DRINKS THE ETERNAL SOURCE, BREATHES THE DIVINE LUNG. I COULD NOT AND I WANTED TO. 


TO GIVE JUSTICE; TO GIVE PEACE; TO GIVE ALL. I WOULD, WANTED TO. TO BE ABLE TO GIVE ALL. BREATHE ETERNAL; SIP ALWAYS. 


BETTER. I WAS. THOUGHT IT—KNEW IT.


but i didn’t. scream. in me, it built up. the red. i knew—know i can. do better. but i, will. away, will flit. my soul. mortal. destined.


the fire—my fire—did not, will not. like the sun, it cannot. die.


me: bright red. 


i am.


White


Blur of sand, smell of salt. Waves crashing into the rocks, almost-fireworks. 

I sit; hot sand envelops. Close my eyes, bask, soak in the warmth, the glory. Music engulfs me, harmonizes the crashing waves. Pina colada in hand, juxtaposing the warm. Bliss.

Time, the ocean, flows. Finally, feel a chill, get up. Stretch, start back to the resort. Children running near me, playing games, building sandcastles. Parents half-watching, half-talking. I stand, watch. In amusement, fascination. Crude sandcastles; waves destroying them. Laughing, screaming. More castles, more destruction, more screaming. Feet stomp the sand: waves. Joy bubbles up: foam.

And I want it. Realize, for the first time, my dream. To have kids, my kids. With a lover, a soulmate. People who would always love me, who would stick by me, who wouldn’t, couldn’t judge. Family. Perfection, innocence. Love.

Suddenly awake from my reverie. Look at the children. Happy, joyful, always. A younger child, a toddler, joins. Can’t keep up, can’t build castles, is shut out. Pangs of remembrance, painful deja vu. Something I know. Being shunned. Toddler walks away, starts toward water. Majestic, beautiful sea. Majestic, yes; not for toddlers. Protective—parental?—instincts; Toddler shouldn’t go there. Look at the parents; still happily chatting. Their daughter, not mine. They have experience, know what they’re doing. 

Watch Toddler play in the ocean. Touches the water, runs away, screams. Runs back. Dances, plays with the sea. Courage builds, goes further in. Realizes it’s harmless, realizes how fun it is to play with. 

She runs back in, tiny ankles covered in water. Foam swirls; she laughs. This time different, though. Water doesn’t stop. Accumulates, becomes deeper. As it retreats again to its home, it pulls Toddler. Screams, falls, is swept away. Pulled with the sand, like the sand. Grasps, reaches. Head goes under.

Fragile life is swept, carried, taken. I panic. Try to scream, nothing comes out. Frozen in horror. The ocean, stealing perfection. The ocean, a thief. Anger builds. Waves clawing at the sand, hungry. Not majestic anymore; violent and horrible and insane. 

And I, just as bad. Watching my dream escape, taken by the ocean. Watching, not doing.

I seethe. Rage helps me scream, yell, summon help. Run. Parents look up, see Toddler, scream, run. Toddler keeps being swept, head bobbing beneath the foam. But I am there, parents are there. Collectively, a shrieking choir, collectively panicking. But everyone knowing, somehow. All will be okay. 

Toddler pulled up, coughing. Rescued from the true waves, the malicious waves, the waves behind the facade. Choir of shrieking becomes a chorus of audible joy. Frantic, dysfunctional melodies, now harmonic. Hugging, talking, relief. Toddler is fazed; everyone is. But everyone, everything is okay. And wet, soaked, but alright.

Because of me.

I fought the waves, won. Exposed them, looked behind their false front. The sunset, orange; the water, blue; the rocks, brown; the umbrellas, red. Colors, dissonant and glorious. But I, glowing, radiant, pure. All of the colors, but none. True, perfect harmony. 

Bliss.


forest green


meadow. fog. trees. dirt. moss. creek. green.


everything, wet; everything, green. everywhere i look, nothing i know; everywhere i look, something new. meadow swallows me, i sink. jeans even wetter, flannel clings tighter. 


lost. me, lost. 


first, i want to deny. me, lost? never. me, the finder. me, the navigator. “the compass”. lost in this sea of green and fog? no. but the truth, the reality, my inmost being; i can’t ignore. 


lost. okay with that. not my fault. 


second, i want to blame: 

the meadow. was distracting, i entered, looked around, couldn’t find where i’d come in.

the fog. amount of visibility? none. basically. 

the trees. each one the same, no distinctive markings.

the dirt. no traction, no grip. slowed me down; i’d be out by now on hard, packed dirt.

the moss. had no good reason, which made me more mad.

the creek. tried to refill my water, slipped, fell. twisted my ankle. 


third, i want to release. to scream, pin my blame on anything but me. on nature.


WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME? WHAT HAVE I EVER DONE TO YOU? 


nature accepts my screams, echoes. throws them back at me.


i look down, a candy wrapper. my lunch.


retribution.


Black


Immersion in black, star pinpricks eyeing me from their perch. Shining ice underneath, endless sky above. Infinite ice, infinite sky. Glorious, but collected, calm, cool. Glorious but still; though I move. Flitting over the smooth. Skates scraping the ice, gently, sounds splitting the vibrant silence. Feet, legs, arms; perfect sync. Moving, running, gliding. Practically dancing. Cinderella. 

Twisting, curving, jumping. In circles, in pirouettes, gliding with nature’s aura. Channeling its energy, a celebration, an appreciation; a respect. Nature dances, I dance. Fused. Moving together; two are one, lines blur. I am ice, I am stars, I am night. Ice, stars, night, are me. Prince Charming: Nature. Both of us, in love.

Harmony. Perfect.

Suddenly, midnight hits, calm is spliced. Noise, unnatural noise. I spin, look around. Far off. Ice is different, more jagged. Cracking. I realize, panic. Run, skate, glide. To the shore, to the shore, to the shore. Strikes like lightning in the ice, at my feet, in front, behind. Everything, adrenaline; everywhere, cracks.

Crystal ballroom, gone. Cinderella, but more than a shoe. Cinderella, but more than a prince.

Worse than cracks, though: the separation, the malice. Between myself and the forces, the energy; I had been one. With Nature. Had been enveloped by pure, sheer power. Had become power, energy; had been fused to it and with it and for it. Had been in love with it; energy was gentle, kind. Now, same energy, but murderous. Towards me. 

Panic-skating, I feel ice giving way under me. Panic-stricken, I think. How? Energy, natural energy, was pure, was perfect, was beautiful. Now, insane and malicious and, and—horrific. Is out to get, wants to kill. Can’t be, though, not this. What is pure, always pure; perfect, always perfect; beautiful, always beautiful. Is it? Can it?

It can. It is. I realize. I don’t, can’t, make sense. Who, though, am I? Cog in universal Nature, tiny piece of a puzzle. I can’t, don’t have to, understand. Nature can, is right, always. Why resist, even? I can be one with it, forever. 

Shore within reach. Can make it, now. 

Then, realize: I don’t want to. Cinderella and the prince, forever. Always dancing, even in death. Midnight, lightning, cracking, power, energy, forces, nothing. Will pry us apart. An eternal romance. 

So I sit. Only takes a few seconds. Whisked away in the arms of my love, my soulmate. 

Eternal bliss, I hope.

February 24, 2023 15:33

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6 comments

Zack Powell
10:42 Mar 03, 2023

Nathaniel, I'm late, but wow! This is one hell of a story. Wild ride from start to finish, especially given the formatting and structure. I think my favorite thing here is the title, and the way that it frames this piece. It was a clever way of separating the narrative into four parts (I read that as seasonal symbolism, but I might be reaching), and each is more tragic than the last. And yet - is that really true? Sure, there's some major traumatic events in here, like the child almost being swept out to sea, but the story actually ends on a...

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Nathaniel Miller
20:31 Mar 03, 2023

Wow, Zack - thanks so much for such a thoughtful comment! Really made my day :) This was quite a gamble to write, and I'm so happy you enjoyed it. Like you noted, it was really fascinating to think about ourselves in the context of all of nature's grandeur and power; to almost contrast ourselves with the infinite being that nature is. And yes, the capitalization of each of the titles was intentional for many reasons, but at its most fundamental, it was meant to contrast the rage in the first narrative with the fear in the third, and to em...

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Wendy Kaminski
20:42 Feb 24, 2023

This was a really good approach to the prompt! I could see this performed like a Shakespearian soliloquy: it is a very dramatic piece, with evocative passages that would absolutely fit that. I really enjoyed the different biomes/seasons in which the narrator found themselves in awe of and a victim of nature... and finally gives into it. I think my favorite line was "the sun is; I was." Nicely done!

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Nathaniel Miller
20:39 Feb 26, 2023

Thanks so much, Wendy! Really appreciate the thoughtful read and comment. Good point about the soliloquy; hadn't thought about that but I can definitely see it. Writing about the figurative "forces of nature" in the context of the biomes/seasons you pointed out was really interesting, especially within the context of this prompt... nice to do something different, something that feels like art. At least in the experimentalist spirit of what art perhaps should be. Again, thanks for the read - always appreciate your thoughts and writings.

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Michał Przywara
18:36 Feb 25, 2023

Four crayons, four colours, four catastrophes. Each of us show us a human life juxtaposed against nature. There's a theme here, how we're separate from nature and yet part of it. Another, of how nature can be beautiful, but underneath the awe it's also dangerous, and doesn't much care for us specifically. Lots of life and death here. I like how the grammar/capitalization degrades when panic sets in - that's a neat effect. It's an interesting way of conveying the emotions.

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Nathaniel Miller
20:48 Feb 26, 2023

Thanks for the read and comment, Michal! Always appreciate your insights. I've always admired the human capacity for self-inflation, especially in the context of the greater world, and writing about how inevitably unimportant we are when we're juxtaposed against nature was really interesting. In the end, nature will run its course regardless of what we do, but we can make short alterations to that course. Writing differently in the context of panicking was also interesting to explore. Thanks for your thoughts and expertise - really nice a...

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