New Stories for November 16th, 2015
Kaniksu Falls • Tuesday
Nikki paused at the four-way stop, considering her options. The problem with taking a road trip to find oneself was that she wasn’t really lost and now she had arrived in Kaniksu Falls and was heartily sick of the company, but still no closer to any decisions. It was 7:30 p.m. on a Tuesday, which meant that her grandmother would be firmly ensconced at the bingo hall for at least another hour. A flash of headlights behind her indicated that she’d taken too much time even by polite Washington standards. She took a left and headed for the tavern sign she could see cycling through a pattern of lights that formed an arrow pointing at a dark building barely visible in the dusk of day and smoke haze from the nearest forest fire. She could get a drink and a burger and then go home to her grandmother, who was almost certain to have pie.
The bar was called the Kessel Run and it was decorated in a plethora of twelfth man football flags and kitschy alien crap.
She thought about calling Donny. Theoretically, he would also be in town somewhere. After their brief rendezvous in LA, she figured they had a lot of catching up to do. And she really did want to talk to him, but not on the phone. Phones were never secure these days. Nikki scanned the parking lot. There was only one car, a boring blue four-door. Nikki shook her head. She couldn’t understand why anyone would drive a car so devoid of personality. She couldn’t even tell what kind it was—Oldsmobile? Buick? It was the equivalent of the high-school wallflower, going out of its way to not be noticed. Volvos were like the AV club, full of weird boxy angles that no one understood, but were beloved by the in-crowd. Sports cars were the popular kids. SUV’s and trucks were the jocks. This car was so blah, Nikki wanted to key it just because it would be character building for the car.
Early morning mist rising from the ground enveloped the shoddy encampment beneath the gray November sky. It would rain soon, he could feel it in his bones and smell it on the air. The ground still hadn’t dried out from the last storm and he was tired of having wet, muddy feet. At least it hadn’t snowed yet; that was true misery in these conditions.
Tomas stretched, joyful for the brief moments of fresh air as he wandered around the exercise yard, turning his face toward where he believed the sun to be hiding behind the clouds. He stopped to gaze longingly through the well fortified fence at the meadows and forest beyond. He was jolted out of his daydream by the snarling dog on the other side. He turned away and went back to join the others. He hated that dog.
“They say that the fence is there to protect us, but I don’t believe it.” He lamented to another resident of the encampment. Jake nodded in agreement and whispered “Something is not right here.” One always had to whisper, as loud declarations drew unwanted attention. Sometimes, one didn’t even need to be loud nor draw attention to themselves to be drug away by their captors, never to be seen or heard from again.
A pot of chicken noodle soup bubbled quietly on the stove. The scents of thyme and parsley drifted towards her as she dipped a wooden spoon into the broth. Opening her lips to take a sip, the lines framing her mouth fell into well-worn creases. “Maybe a bit more garlic . . .” she muttered.
Turning away from the stove, she shifted her gaze to the window. She could see her three children playing outside. A chorus of “Tag! You’re it!” echoed into the kitchen, prompting a smile to spread across her face.
Her two boys, Riley and Noah, raced across the lawn, a blur of red and blue cotton. They ran in circles around their sister, Emma, whose brow started to crinkle. As she reached out towards them, her fingers formed a rainbow of nail polish. After a few minutes of sprinting behind them, she paused. Her knees shook as she gulped in several deep breaths.
Noticing that Emma’s smile had begun to fade, her mother reached towards the windowsill. Her lips hovered, waiting to yell a warning to the boys. Just as she leaned towards the window frame, Riley stopped.