SmokeLong Quarterly

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Winter Light

Story by Zach Yontz (Read author interview) March 19, 2018

Art by Larm Rmah

In the morning, I am surprised to find that I have lived through the night. There is grey light behind the blinds. I roll over and check my phone, look at the time, turn off the alarm before it rings at me. My girlfriend sleeps still under heavy blankets that make her disappear. I get up gently and go to the front door and look out the window at the top of the door. I try to stare into the sky.

When I say that I used to have a brother, what I mean is my brother still lives, is somewhere doing some thing, but is no longer doing it in the context of being my brother. I want to make sure that this is clear, that whenever the sky swallows me, there is a record of this.

I self-consciously make coffee in a too fancy glass carafe. I set the timer and measure the water’s heat. I touch the wood handle. There are shadows moving outside the windows, shadows of trees and other things, the sound of a train in the distance, the sound of cars not so far. I think sometimes that the sound of the train is somehow amplified by the fan over the stove, that when I’m cooking there I can hear the train coming and going.

Three weeks ago the light changed through the blinds. It went from golden soft to a flat grey, a monochrome filter placed over every natural light. But try as I might, I can’t get anyone else to see it. I am told it is a mistake in my brain, in my eyes, that everything is the same. But when I look up into the sky, I see the circling thing, I see the dark blur growing. I know it is coming, but I can’t warn anyone but myself.

I have stopped going to work since the smudge appeared in the sky. I didn’t really quit, although I think it was clear at a certain point that I was in fact quitting. It had become a sort of sad game, seeing how long I could go in while doing so little without anyone doing anything about it. I look back now and think, what the fuck man. This was an easy job. It was money. Just embrace how things are and enjoy what’s left.

When I say that I used to have a brother, what I mean is that I had a brother and we did things. We did great things. We traveled far and saw deep canyons and high peaks. We felt snow on our feet and tasted a long day.

Every day the clouds are replaced by indistinctness, curdling at the edges like a book left near an open flame. I look outside in the morning and think they are getting lower, lower towards me. E says no, the clouds remain as clouds, the sky remains autumn and the clouds move swift and light. I see them growing heavy, melting into themselves, a hazy blank darkness. I know how this sounds.

I leave the house and walk to the grocery nearby. I sneak a flashlight in my pack against the growing darkness. I look in vain for the glow, but mostly I buy bread and eggs and candy, lots of candy. The fleeting sensation of chocolate in my mouth or of the mashing of bright flavors. I struggle to breathe as the sky flattens to dark grey, no clouds, just the haze, haze everywhere.

I was once driving through farmland, alone deep in the Midwest. Between the rivers, in the rutted corn fields, fog spread high and thick.

I had a brother once. We flew places and back. He came to me, and I to him. One day he did not want this anymore and I did not understand. I did not and will not understand. I cannot and do not understand.

Every night now I wait. It doesn’t get dark or light at night; it is grey and grey and grey. The haze lowers itself over me, pushing me closer to the ground. Soon I don’t think I will be able to make coffee unless sitting on the floor. Soon I will not be able to sleep in the bed, but on the ground. Soon I will have to dig and dig if I want to escape it, into the ground, digging and digging for light.

About the Author

Fiction editor of Gigantic Sequins. Bus rider.

About the Artist

Find more of Larm Rmah‘s photography at Unsplash.

This story appeared in Issue Fifty-Nine of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Fifty-Nine

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