Fiction Fantasy Romance

Thunk, thunk, thunk of plastic against glass. A downpour of fake emeralds from the sky, no bigger than a child’s palm. They rattle the window, gather on the sill, filtering the harsh morning light into something glowy and soft and viridian, transforming the bedroom into an aquarium.

Must be Tuesday, you think.

The bed is warm, but you are awake, and you need to get ready for work. The rain beat your alarm clock. It goes off in two minutes, hardly worth waiting for, but you do, watching the rain fall. In two minutes, the harsh blare startles the fish from the wallpaper. You watch them disappear behind your dresser, your bookshelf. There are less this week. Have been less and less every week.

The bathroom floor is cold, as is the water that pours from the tap and shocks against your face. You floss, you brush, you groom and groom and groom, all the while the emeralds come down. You look into the mirror. You see a face. Must be yours, but something’s changed. Maybe changed a while ago. The jut of your jaw, the shine in your eyes, green as the emeralds rattling down the drainpipe. You don’t want to be late for work.


Crack, crunch, snap of plastic beneath your shoes. The emeralds splinter and scatter across the driveway, the suburban street muted with the quiet din of hollow, plastic thudding. The gems are always hollow, hollow as a heart, richly coloured and translucent, like gummy bears. You scoop a pile off the windshield of your car, and they are sun warm in your adult palms.

Two snowbats hang from the tree in your yard, huddled and cuddled away from the rainfall. It’s a little late in the year for them to still be lingering. It’s nearly April. There hasn’t been snow for weeks, just the plastic gemstones. The snowbats normally opalescent wings seem dull, the glitter and glimmer of their white, sinewy bodies melting with the coming of spring. They chitter and squeak, nuzzling closer to one another. They should be heading north. You should be heading to work.

You sigh. The emeralds slip between your fingers, bounce underneath your car, rattle on the hood as the engine turns.

You watch the snowbats through the windshield. Thunk, thunk, thunk. The larger watches back with one milky blue eye, the other socket empty and scarred over with yet more shiny white flesh, its wings wrapped tight around its friend.

You pull out of the driveway. You should be heading to work, but you want to make a stop.


The parking lot of the coffee shop is half-empty, the early morning regulars taking up their usual spots. You see there, nestled between a truck and soccer-mom van, The Ladybug; a glossy red punch buggy that likes to wink and flutter her absurdly long lashes when you walk by. And there, sprawling across at least three spaces, the crystal carriage drawn by two swarms of rat kings the size of black bears. Jim can’t park for shit. And over there, of course, Blair’s car. A baby-blue Kia Soul.

You knew she’d be working today. It is Tuesday, after all. And still, something warm blooms in your chest. Not quite anticipation, but a shiny sort of dread. Shinier than the emeralds that still trickle down from above but much weightier. The faux leather of the steering wheel squeaks with your tightening grip.

You step out of your car. Then step back in. Turn off the engine. Step back out. Pocket the keys. Pat your pockets.

As you pass The Ladybug, catching a wink and a giggle, you also catch an emerald straight to the face. Your cheek stings but your hand doesn’t come away red because it’s already wrapped around the cold metal bar to push open the door to the coffee shop and you’re walking in and you see Blair behind the counter and you’re lost in the momentum and can hardly hear the ring of the bell overhead or the indecipherable chatter of patrons or the acoustic-singer-songwriter-indie-pop-neo-folk-soft-rock radiating from somewhere and there’s no line so you’ll need to walk right up to the counter and you do and she sees you and you see the stars climbing her ears and you’re still walking when she smiles and you’ve stopped on one side of the counter with her on the other.

Thunk, thunk, thunk of your shiny, dreadful, hollow heart.

Blair nods at a window, her pale hair swinging across her eyes. Pale as snowbat wings. “Rain’s letting up.”

“Must be Tuesday,” you say.


“Nothing. Never mind.” The coffee shop smells like, well, coffee. As one would expect. It’s not great coffee, though it’s not bad. Just alright. A doable downing of a brewed beverage. A mild sort of suffering.

She smiles again, soft and small and mostly to herself. You feel a little bad for catching it. “Small, two milk, two sugar?”

“Yes, thank you.” You want to smile back but suddenly she isn’t anymore. Suddenly she is staring at you, pale eyes wide and concerned, mouth downturned, eyebrows upturned.

“You’re bleeding.”


“Here.” And she is grabbing a small brown napkin and leaning across the counter and reaching for your face. And you’re leaning forward and letting her touch your face and staring at anything but the focus in those blue, blue eyes. You land on the silver adorning her ears, a chain of stars glimmering and winking at you like they know better.

The napkins are cheap and scrape against the cut on your cheek, but Blair is painfully gentle. She wipes and swipes and stops, a blush blooming beneath her freckles.

“Sorry,” she says. “Should’ve just let you do that, I guess.” She laughs, handing you the napkin. You can't possibly laugh, so you smile instead.

“You have a nice smile,” she says and blinks. You blink. And suddenly you’re wondering what she thinks of the rest of your face, the one you don’t quite recognize anymore. Wonder if she ever thought anything of it before today, before the sky cut it open, left you bleeding and vulnerable. You’ve thought of her face, her stars. A lot. (Not like, a lot a lot (but, yeah. A lot)).

“Hey, Casanova! You’ve made your order now get outta line! Some people got places to be!”

You glance over your shoulder. One of the rat kings from the parking lot writhes in a heap on the dingy floor, waiting an appropriate few feet behind you in line.

“Sorry, Jim,” you say.

Rats cascade in what can only be a saucy eyeroll. Jim scoffs, the sound coming from... somewhere. “Yeah, yeah.”

You turn to face Blair again, but she’s moved to the gleaming, steaming machinery on the back wall, brewing you a small cup of not-good-not-bad-just-alright coffee. Move on.

Clack, clack, clack of the narrow man’s cane upon the floor, your only accompaniment in the Wait Here for Your Order! zone. He is adorned in a black-tie affair, complete with dandy top hat and coattails dancing on a jaunty wind that jaunts only for him. Blair hustles and bustles about and you watch her while trying not to at the same time. She walks over. Places two large paper bags on the Wait Here! counter.

“Here you are, sir,” she says. “Seven-and-a-half chocolate glaze donuts, three blueberry muffins with 26 blueberries each, the whisper of the wind on a midsummer’s eve, two large lattes, a small hot chocolate with a shot of bittersweet childhood nostalgia, the thread that will unravel this whole damn mystery, and some extra napkins.”

The narrow man nods, a pleased grin revealing his many pearly teeth, and scoops up the bags. “Ta-ta!” Clack, clack! He strolls out the front door.

“And your coffee.” Blair places the cup next to a small pile of scratchy brown napkins.

“Thank you,” you say. “For the—” you pick up the coffee. “And the—” you gesture at your face. “And you know, the—” and you smile. Not your best.

But Blair is smiling, soft and small and at you.

Thunk, thunk, thunk.

“Happy Tuesday,” she says. “See you around.”

“Definitely.” Too quick, too obvious. But she laughs, and you really should be heading to work. “I should be heading to work.”

You pocket the napkins, grab the coffee, and run, that laugh trailing you like a comet.

In your car, you watch the narrow man pop a grate in the sidewalk with his sleek black cane. Bags tucked underarm, he drops straight down the hole, the grate crawling back into place after him.

The coffee seems unusually sweet today. An aftertaste of stars. Shiny. Real shiny, not like the faux shine of the emeralds which have stopped falling.

You pop open the car door, leaning out, and grab an emerald from the ground. Hollow, translucent, gummy bear green. You pocket it beside the napkins.

You head to work.


Click, clack, tap of old keyboards on plain desks and plain heels on thin carpets and thin pens in twitchy fingers.

“You’re late,” says Mr. Jack. Jack is in fact his first name, though he insists on the Mr. with the tone of a man who wants someone, anyone to ask why. Mr. Jack is as narrow as the narrow man from the coffee shop though nowhere near so jaunty, no matter how much he wishes he were so.

“Sorry,” you say. “Must be Tuesday.”

You sit at your desk. It’s close to a window. You thought about getting a plant, but Mr. Jack has a thing about plants.

“Why keep life cooped up and contained in such conditions? They should thrive and live and jive with the natural world!” he says.

You sit at your gray desk in your gray suit in your gray office building. You watch cotton candy clouds part to reveal a baby-blue sky. Nearly-April sunshine melts the emeralds on the asphalt, puddling into pools of brilliant, rich, gummy green.

You sit at your desk. You are now at work. You type very important words into deeply important documents that you will send off with your shiny corporate email to the distinguished inboxes of other co-workers and incomprehensibly important managers and supervisors and acronyms and you will do that for about eight hours, with 45 minutes to eat in the middle, and then you will go home and feed the fishes in the wallpaper and maybe read or watch TV if you have the energy for it after a day of such very, deeply, incomprehensibly important work. You will think of the snowbats and hair as pale as their wings and stars that know better. You will later stand on the cold floor of your bathroom and groom and groom and groom and not recognize the face in the mirror except now—

Now there’s a harsh red line across your cheek. And it stings. And it could be bleeding again.

The napkins are now pocket warm with your body heat, though no less scratchy and cheap. You do not have so gentle a touch.

The napkin in your hand is brown and scratchy and smeared with ruby red blood. Ruby red blood smeared across ten digits in looping, glittery ink. A phone number. Her phone number.

You blink. Thunk, thunk, thunk.

You sip a lukewarm, sweeter than normal, goodbad coffee. Sip, sip, sip. The cup is empty. It was only a small, after all.

A phone rings somewhere in the office. Someone wails. Probably Miranda. Miranda hates answering the phone. Why she took a job as a receptionist, you’ll never know. With those wings she could be anywhere in the world. You often wish you had wings. Leathery and broad, shiny as a snowbats, strong enough to carry two.

The phone on your desk is silver. Reserved for disgustingly important work phone calls. The receiver drones a dreadful tone into your ear. Tap, tap, tap of ten glittery, blood-stained digits.


Thunk, thunk, thunk. Rubies rain down. Bigger than a fist, hollow as ever.

Must be Tuesday. You smile.

No alarm but the rain this morning. You took the day off work. You don’t have plans until the afternoon, when the ruby rain will have melted to heart red puddles and drained into the sewers, staining the streets a lovers blushing pink.

The fish crowd the wallpaper, their phosphorescent orange bodies, the colour of anticipation, aglow against the royal blue of your wallpaper. They dart and flit and hurry behind pictures frames and door jambs and bedroom furniture.

Rubies rattle the tree in your yard, the snowbats having moved on since last Tuesday. The tree is in full bloom, dripping with silvery flowers from its lanky branches that catch an iridescent sheen in the golden morning sunshine. You remind yourself to pick a bouquet for this afternoon.

The bathroom floor is cold, but your feet are warm in your slippers. The water is gentle and invigorating. You groom and groom and groom. The face in the mirror is indeed different. A pale scar graces the curve of your cheek. Maybe it’ll stay forever. Or maybe your face will change again. The plastic emerald sits on the edge of your sink. Normally they melt by now. Maybe many things could be different now.

Thunk, thunk, thunk of the rubies against the window. Thunk, thunk, thunk of your hollow, hopeful heart.

March 02, 2024 01:39

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David Sweet
15:22 Mar 04, 2024

Interesting story! I kept singing "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" as I read through it. Fascinating world you have created: a surrealist world that seems very lived in. Thanks for sharing the story. I look forward to reading some of your other work.


C. J. Peters
15:25 Mar 06, 2024

Thank you so much!


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