SmokeLong Quarterly

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Story by Maryanne Stahl (Read author interview) March 15, 2004

A snake lives beneath this rock; he suns himself on it, thick and black, as long as night—and as motionless. Once, he opened his jaw to me, revealing the tender, white cotton lining of his mouth. We have come to an understanding.

Air like amniotic fluid holds me now, suspended between one life and another. An ending is always a beginning, a beginning an ending, as the serpent swallows his tail.

Wet grass slips beneath my feet. Early morning and the fog is thick and colorless like the hair of an old woman, a blind seer, the world silent but for the rhythmic lapping of water on rock, or the scratch of pen on paper as she writes writes writes what the spirits move her to say.

I walk toward the river and look back at the house, rising out of the mist like an icon in a film. The home is the nucleus of horror—each locked room, each shadowy alcove bursting with sin. You’d think the walls would explode, but they don’t, they absorb. Or they are penetrable to the evanescence of ghosts.

And I know this will never change.

I enter the house, green blades clinging to my toes. I walk through the kitchen, through the hall, past the antique, gilt-framed mirror where I pass myself, a spectre in my white robe.

He doesn’t see me as I enter the room he fitted as our dungeon, though his eyes are open. He lies on the stone floor, gazing past me, the blood pooled around him dry and brown. I sit beside him and once again I explain to him, now that he has time to listen.

Three days have passed since the fog rolled in. Three days since I’ve seen anything clearly as I wander from house to river, from river to house. I’ve seen no one, only shapes that might be neighbors, or authorities.

Sometimes I walk the dog.

About the Author

Maryanne Stahl has published two novels and a bunch of other stuff. She’s a contributing editor at Ink Pot/Lit Pot. Check out her website at http://www.maryannestahl.com.

This story appeared in Issue Three of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Three

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