Visions

“Do you want to talk about what you saw?” I asked softly

She nodded, wringing the hand that had shaken his.

“Now?”

Hesitation, eyes watery and unfocused. She nodded.

We made our way to a quiet corner of the party where we could pretend to look out a window at the city. I was quiet at first, wanting to give her the opportunity to speak first. My imagination swirled with possibilities either tragic or gruesome enough to trigger this sort of reaction from her. But I had learned early on not to press her about her visions. She couldn’t help glimpsing a person’s final moments, but that didn’t give her the right to share them. Even after nine years together, she still hadn’t told me anything about my own death.

So I waited. She remained too shaken to speak “It was a bad one,” I said, more an observation than a question.

“Not exactly,” she answered. “He’s . . . happy. Maybe a decade older. He’s in a hospital bed, but he’s surrounded by people. Mostly family by their looks, but friends too.”

“That sounds beautiful.”

“I’m there too,” she added. “But . . . you’re not. By then . . .”

Understanding, cold and merciless, opened my eyes.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Music

They moved with bright steps through the night, bouncing to the rhythm of songs that still flared in their ears.

“I told you!” Lena cheered

“I had no idea,” Gwen laughed. 

“I told you!”

In the parking lot around them, there were people singing and people fighting, people pulling and people kissing. The music had gone quiet, the light show had ended, but the air was still electric. They barely noticed, too caught up in their own euphoria. 

“That was amazing,” Gwen said,  curls bouncing as she shook her head. 

Lena’s face was suddenly illuminated by the glare of her phone. A few swipes and taps and music started to play, the same song they had just heard live. “She really is brilliant. And people don’t talk enough about her lyrics.”

They walked close together, bodies colliding between energetic strides. “I’m sorry no one else could come,” Gwen remarked.

“They’re missing out,” Lena agreed.  

“I’m kind of glad though. Tonight has been so…”

“I know, right? Just incredible. I love her.”

And Gwen said it. “I love you.”

“Oh,” Lena stammered. Clarity cut through their electric daze. “Oh,” she said again,  more softly. The music swelled. Lena began to smile. 


Story by Gregory M. Fox

Worried

“But, you have kids?”

Scott’s face scrunched up in confusion. “Yeah?”

“Doesn’t it worry you? With all the shootings and . . . everything?”

His jaw tightened. He held out the gun he’d been showing off. “Does it worry you?” Moving with practiced efficiency, he dropped the clip, showing it empty of bullets, opened the chamber, displaying the same. Finally, he pointed to the safety, which was engaged. “Trust me,” he said soberly, “I know what I’m doing. This gun isn’t in danger of killing anyone.”

“But . . . you have kids,” she repeated. “Aren’t you worried about—”

“Of course I am.” Scott spat. He holstered the gun, but kept his hand firmly on the grip. “Connor and Jamie know gun safety. I’ve taken them to the shooting range. They know what they’re doing.”

And they did.

Twelve days later, Connor deliberately unlocked the gun cabinet. He placed the bullets into the magazine one by one, inserted the clip into the gun until it clicked, pulled the slide loading a bullet in the chamber, then carefully released the safety. All was quiet. The gun was heavy and cold in his hand. But it warmed.

“Fuck,” Connor whispered. “Fuck everything.” He pointed the gun at himself.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Hot

“Balls!” Joselyn hissed. She clenched her fist tightly and pounded the counter waiting for the burning to subside.

“Everything okay?” Eddie called.

“Oh yeah,” Joselyn called out wincing, “just dandy.” Moments later she stepped into the room holding two mugs of tea, steam rising in wisps and curls. “Careful,” she said, holding out one of the mugs “it’s really hot.”

“Oh,” he said gingerly accepting the proffered mug. “Thanks.”

Joselyn settled into the couch beside him and blew on her own cup of tea. She glanced over at Eddie to see why he hadn’t pressed play to resume the movie and found that he was staring at her instead, a slight grin tugging at his lips. “What?”

“You sipped my tea,” he said.

Joselyn panicked. “Is that… I thought it would be okay. I mean, we’ve already made out, I figured… but I know it’s different with drinks. I’m sorry—”
“It’s okay.”

“I just thought—”

“No, no,” he insisted. “That’s not,” he paused, gathered his thoughts, looked at her with a tender smile. “You burned your tongue for me.”

Joselyn suddenly felt warm all over, and not from the tea. “I… I guess I did, yeah.”

“I love you too.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Millennials

He smiled broadly as she approached. “Wasn’t sure you’d come.”

She shrugged, settling into her chair. “Why wouldn’t I?”

“I don’t know, might be busy or have trouble finding the place or just … you know, not be interested.”

“I’ve never missed one of our appointments before, have I?” she said frankly.

“Appointments.” He chewed on the word, swallowed it reluctantly. “Well, how’s the last century been for you?”

A frown. “Perhaps you should be a little more discrete.”

“Huh? Oh, about the time thing?”

“You remember what happened in Byzantium…”

She was always cute when she was flustered. “Hah! How could I forget! But folks aren’t that superstitious these days. You tell one of these so-called ‘millennials’ that you’ve actually been alive for millennia, they’ll think it’s a pickup line.”

A flat stare. “Do you spend a lot of time trying to pick up young people?”

“I knew you were gonna go there.” Voice low, teeth clenched. “Atom bombs, lunar landings, global warming, the internet—all the miracles and catastrophes of the last century, and you want to talk about her?”

Slow, anguished words. “Perhaps we are both selfish and narrow-minded. Perhaps, despite the evidence, we are both still human.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Table

A creak, a figure in the doorway. He lunged for the table, for his pack, for the gun inside, but found a rifle pointed in his face instead.

“What are you doing in my house?” the newcomer asked.
“I didn’t think . . .” he hesitated. He couldn’t claim the home seamed abandoned when he had been caught stealing as much unspoiled food as he could carry. “I was hungry,” he said instead.

“You’ve been fighting in the war?” the other man asked.

His uniform was disheviled and discolored, but still recognizable. “Yes, sir.”

“And where’s your battallion?”

No answer.

The man behind the rifle studied the intruder: young, shaking, ashamed. “I see.” He gestured to a chair on the opposite end of the table from the soldier’s pack. “Sit.” The soldier complied. “Hands on the table.” Keeping the rifle aimed, he circled the table and stepped into the kitchen. Ignoring the scattered foodstuffs, he instead withdrew a tall glass bottle from some corner and set it on the table.

A confused expression. “But . . . you know what I am.”

A shrug. “What? Lost? Stupid? Scared?” The rifle lowered as he produced two glasses. “What are you? Are you my guest? Or my enemy?”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Vitals

Carla had been watching the monitors, so she was already dashing toward her patient’s room when the code blue announcement came on overhead. Aurelio was coming from the opposite direction with the crash cart, but she was the first to reach the room. What she found was a panicked tech alongside a very awake and alert patient. What she couldn’t find however, and what none of the other doctors, nurses, or other clinicans could find were any vital signs. No pulse, no respiration, no blood pressure, and a temp slightly above room temperature.

“Is something wrong?” the elderly man would ask.

Carla would look to whichever practioner was fumbling to assess the patient, and when they avoided eye contact, she would answer, “Just some trouble with our equipment.”

He was still apparently fine the next day, though his appetite had vanished with his heartbeat. Security was posted outside the room to keep away the curious, leaving Carla even more uncertain what to tell the visitor who had shown up asking about him.

“Are you family?” Carla asked.

“Not quite,” the old woman answered. “He broke a promise, see? And he doesn’t get to die until I get what I’m owed.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Somewhere

Examining my hazy reflection in the elevator doors, I wipe mud off my face with a napkin I found in my purse. There’s not much hope for my clothes.

“Sorry,” the girl had called over her shoulder, carefree smile on her face. It was like she had barely even seen me, like we existed in different worlds.

I’m staring out the window when a ringing phone jars me to attentiveness. I reach to answer and find the napkin still wadded up in my fist. I’m a second too late and hear only a dial tone. How long had I stood there with the phone ringing? I know I should call back. I should check my email. I should open the stack of briefs on my desk. But my gaze drifts back to the window.

Somewhere off to the south is the apartment where I grew up. Somewhere much farther is the university where I molded myself into the powerful woman who now looks down on the streets that made her. Somewhere down there, a girl and her bike. A hazy reflection of who I’ve always been: just a girl trying to go somewhere.

Streets spread out below.

I feel lost.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Interjected

I looked back and forth between the two of them. Neither of them was looking at the other. Jeff was looking over the kitsch and memorabilia nailed to the restaurant walls while Mallory traced swirling patterns in the sauce left on her plate. Jeff coughed. Mallory’s fork clinked. “I’m sorry,” I said, though I didn’t know what for.

“You’re fine,” Mallory said, licking some sauce off her fork and setting it aside. Her cheeks were flushing red.

Jeff was smiling. “I’m the one who should be sorry,” he said. “Crashing girls night.”

“Oh,” I waved, “it’s not—”

“Don’t worry about it,” Mallory interjected, turning to look out the window, or maybe at a reflection.

“You can stay if you want,” I offered. “We were thinking of having dessert?” I tried to catch Mallory’s eye, but she just shrugged and turned her attention back to her empty plate.

“I’ll get going,” Jeff said.

“Okay…” I said, confused.

For the first time they made eye contact. I was aware that I couldn’t fully grasp what was transpiring, but now I felt the depth of it. “If you want,” Mallory said.

Jeff nodded, drummed his fingers on the table. Then he was gone.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Prize

Derek didn’t mind the cold; falling snow made the moment more romantic. Almost giddy, he declared, “I’m here to win you back, baby.”

Sela remained stiff and aloof on the other side of the threshold. “It’s not a contest,” she replied. “And I’m no one’s prize.”

Derek grinned even wider. “That’s just it though – you are a prize. I was too stupid and selfish to see it before, but I know now. I know how lucky I was, how lucky any man would be to have you.” It was everything he had been wanting to say. The moment was perfect.

“You can’t have me,” she answered.

Snow crunched beneath Derek’s feet as he shifted his stance. “So. Who is it?”

Her eyes flicked away. “What are you talking about?”

“You’re seeing someone, aren’t you? Already?”

“His name’s Jeremy,” she said, shaping the word into a smile.

“I don’t care who he is. He doesn’t deserve you.”

Sela shrugged. “He makes me happy.”

“I don’t care if you’re happy,” Derek spat. “I only care if you’re mine.” The echo of his own words struck Derek like a blow. He turned away from Sela’s shocked expression, and fled into the winter night.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox