In her mind, the potholes in Newark just kept growing, their edges crumbling catastrophically, the mad relentless traffic never allowing a single moment for city crews to go about their patch work. She swore she would never drive in Newark again, and funnily enough, it came true.
I am a girl from the valley with a penchant for espionage. I sit for hours in a wan little Chinese restaurant, waiting for the ruination of the world, and I eavesdrop the customers. There is little food left now, but some rest here from habit and consume litres of jasmine tea while faking normalcy. A younger woman sits with an older man. I don't know their relationship, might take a stab at therapist and patient, but I can tell there's a mutual respect and platonic love even, passing between them like a subliminal eyeblink memory of something better.
The waitress brings fortune cookies, a signal they must leave soon.
She breaks hers open and sighs. He breaks his and reads, and winces.
He says, "This would be a good fortune if I had anything other than nightmares these days."
She says, "What does it say?"
He reads: "Your dream-maker is making your dreams real."
"What does yours say?"
"I don't mean it's blank. I mean there's no fortune in there at all."
"You've been shortcha—"
And that's the moment the doors blow inward and the bedlam arrives at last, to annihilate us all.
Many times and in many places an old man sits on a porch to watch the sunset and listen to the crickets, and this time is no different, except this night there are no crickets. It's a quiet scene, the gold warmth in the window a contrast to the cold blue-green of the porch light. Daubs of bloodred dimming in the darkening west, and out on the dirt road an ancient GMC pickup idles, its presence betrayed by twin pencil beams and the grainy lines of its own hunched and reptilian profile. It came here from some other place, from swamp murk and levees, from out of an industrial night blue-black as tumultuous domestic secrets. And its lone occupant is biding his time. The old man smokes and waits too; he's not going anywhere. They await full dark for the end game.
We all stood around on the boardwalk, feeling the gravity waves of the ferris wheel at our backs, no longer sure of our place either here or in the world itself, and then he came striding from godknowswhere, some feeder street, an open car door, some grim nest, polished brogues on sanddrift wood, his jacket lifting behind him like dark wings, his gaze though never lifting, his pale Siberian eyes locked on our timid huddle like a sidewinder tracking heat.
Green things no longer grow. All is stark now. In the muted forest shroud, perched amid blackened needles and withered leaves, the crows make their rasping judgments in echoless puppet calls. All is lost.
She approached the hunched thing by the roadside. It was a dog. And whatever fires had stoked its core were now cooled to naught, all its heat diffused in the chill night, along with all its loyalty and love.
"Bless you," she whispered, and then she cried for a long time.
The gods are not gods; they are ghosts we've given too much responsibility. They long only to return to former haunts, where things are simpler and they can be left alone once more, to haunt themselves for eternity.
In the beginning there was New Jersey and the Manhattan skyline. Yes. Good. I've told the last story now, and there's nothing more to be said. This was the dry road I was walking down, and that was the wide shining sky.