The Best of the Year

Most Fridays over at the online rag Fantasy Magazine there is a “Blog for Beer” contest in which they give $10 cash on the barrelhead for the best F/SF comment – either a bit of original work, a review, or whatever. This last week they decided to have a special year-end version of that contest, with a bigger prize and more time to post. Entries were to be on the theme “The Best of the Year”.

What the heck, I figured, and the other night I jotted out a little blurb that in the end really had nothing to do with fantasy or science fiction. It was an OK mood piece though, a late-night ramble through a quiet part of my head, perhaps closer to the spirit of flash fiction than most things that use that name. It needs some work to be actually good, but it was a decent rough draft. It didn’t follow the contest guidelines but I went ahead and posted it anyway.

My post was followed by a very complimentary post by a guy who recently quit his job at the post office to become a writer. Judging by his comment, he may be hoping to be the Bukowski of fantasy. I’ll let you decide from there.

Since then the comments over there have been pretty quiet. I’d feel pretty good about my chances to bring home the bacon if I had somehow found a way to include some sort of Fantasy or SF element, but in the end they just didn’t fit. (Unless you count a wee bit of license with meteor showers, but heck, Arthur C. Clarke moved Sri Lanka south.) There are hints of things going on that, if expanded, might invite some sort of fantasy explanation, but they are not explored in the blurb at all.

Of course that leaves the door wide open for you, faithful readers, to post something profound or entertaining that has something to do with the genre, and scoop up a book or three. Plus, you can make the editors feel better about their contest, so they’ll be more interested in doing it again. And remember, every Friday there’s ten bucks of beer money on the line. While you’re over there, hang out and read a couple of stories. I haven’t read the latest one, but a couple of them in the past have been pretty good.

Just for giggles, I’ll go ahead and reproduce what I wrote over there, but you really should follow the link and see what other folks have wrought.


The Best of the Year

He stood in the darkened hallway of his childhood home, listening to the silence. Waiting for something, maybe. A nudge in one direction or another, or the echo of a voice from long ago. The memories sifted and stirred, but none rose into view. On nights like this he believed in ghosts.

“What are you doing?” Claire’s voice came from the guest bedroom — once his room — and sounded sleepy.

“Nothing. Just thinking.” He walked into the room and in the pale moonlight for a moment he thought he saw Gwen there instead; it was Gwen who had always wanted the curtains open even in that south-facing room. She had complained about the sun every morning, but would never consider sleeping where she couldn’t see the sky. Now it was he who felt trapped when the blinds were closed, and Claire who patiently tolerated his idiosyncrasy.

“Now, honey, remember what the doctor said about thinking. It’s bad for you.” She tried to keep her voice light, but he could tell she wasn’t really joking. There is a time for thinking, a time for the mysteries of life and the mad world we occupy, and there’s a time to lie quietly in your lover’s arms, knowing nothing but the scent of her and the heat where her skin touches yours.

“Let’s go for a walk,” he said.

“Are you kidding? It’s freezing outside.”

“But there’s no wind. Once the moon goes down it’ll be perfect.”


“There’ll be meteors.” They had a tradition of kissing whenever they saw a falling star. “It’s the Quadrantids. The best of the year.” He heard an echo when he said it, like deja vu but not quite; the last time he had been the one in bed.

Claire smiled seductively and flipped the covers back, showing her skimpy nightie. Her Christmas gift to him. “Come on to bed, sweetie.”

He felt the pull of her, her form indistinct in the darkness but radiating heat. He took a step toward the bed when a flash of light streaked across the sky outside. “I just need to go out for a while, have a look,” he said, but he knew he was lying.

When Claire heard the door close she knew he was gone. She had felt him slipping away almost the moment they met, as she cast her net and drew him in gently, ever so slowly, trying not to hold too tight. Bastard. Now here she was in his parent’s house, and in the morning it was going to be up to her to tell them their son was gone. Where? I don’t know. When is he coming back? A shrug. Maybe never. Would she be able to say that?

At least now she would be able to sleep with the curtains closed.

She rose from bed and stood at the window, her hand on the pull cord for the curtains, looking out at the stars as they clustered in the black high desert sky. The stars he was looking at, somewhere else, not far away as the crow flew but light years along the crooked paths the heart followed.

A meteor flashed past, and another. She stood, her bare legs gooseflesh. Another. If she had followed him they would be kissing now. She wondered how she felt about that. The sense of loss wasn’t the acute distress of a breakup, but the yearning for something she had perhaps never known. Another meteor, another bit of drifting debris, ancient, consumed silently in the time between two heartbeats, a flash of light and no more. Billions of years and then poof and that was all.

Finally, tired, she crawled back into bed, but she didn’t close the curtains.

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