Tag Archive for ‘Fiction’

The Spectrum of Space

 

“What are you doing?” I hear a man ask, his footfalls coming to a stop behind me.

“Reaching out into the cobalt chasm,” I reply from behind my camera, taking the shot.

“Reaching out for what?” the man asks.  His voice sounds lonely, searching for conversation with a stranger.

“Meaning, I suppose,”

“Meaning?” he asks.  I can hear his smile.

“Yeah.  My late father once told me that many people look to the sky for purpose,” I say with muffled words, the camera still covering my face as I lean back and turn my lens towards the sky’s meridian.  “Maybe I can somehow capture it.”

The man clears his throat. “Meaning is a construct of the mind, my friend, not of a universe that lingers above those trees.”

I shrug my shoulders while looking through the viewfinder, adjusting the focal length on the lens to take in more of the sky. “Where else would you look for purpose?” I ask, noticing the sky growing darker, draining of color. I turn the camera to take a vertical photo.  I capture the shot.

“The search for meaning elsewhere is a madness of the mind,” he says. “I’m Mr. Lem, by the way.”

I suddenly feel my feet leave the ground, and I pull the camera from my face for the first time. I’m now floating high above the trees as Mr. Lem, hands in his coat pockets with a shock of gray hair waving in the breeze, tilts his head back and watches me fall up into a sky that darkens into the color of space.

Mr. Lem continues: “Man has gone out to explore other worlds and other civilizations without having explored his own labyrinth of dark passages and secret chambers, and without finding what lies behind doorways that he himself has sealed.”

The Earth falls away beneath me as I float into the vast obsidian cosmos, camera in hand. I watch the sun shrink into the size of a pixel, then disappear into the black backdrop of the universe.

Swimming in this vast void, I try to capture a shot of the immense starscape that surrounds me, but there’s not enough light for the camera’s sensor, even at slower shutter speeds.  I should have grabbed my tripod as I was leaving Earth.

But soon, burning bright against the void among the light of two orbiting stars, a planet bathed half in blue light and half in red light emerges from this sea of liquid black and deep silence.

“It’s called Solaris,” the voice of Mr. Lem tells me. “And it manifests what you think you seek.”

“It’s stunning,” I say as I float down to the surface of this distant planet, a small island in the middle of a vast ocean.  I bring my camera to my eye and capture the shot.

This planet, covered mostly with a liquid I have yet to identify, speaks to me through my lens.  Mr. Lem was clearly wrong, for I have found a bastion, a purpose far from my own planet full of dread and loss and death.

Or perhaps Solaris found me, both of us traveling alone through the vacuity of the universe.

I raise my camera for another shot, but notice someone approaching me.  It’s not Lem.

I narrow my eyes.  “Dad?” I ask, dropping the camera at my feet.  He smiles at me as he gets closer

© Mike Yost

Novel excerpt and creative inspiration from Solaris by Stanisław Lem

Strange Terrain

Stop,” I hear, though no one is around.   The soles of my shoes scrape lightly against the asphalt as I turn my head, looking up and down the alley. It’s full of parked cars, but empty of people.

Just stop,” the voice says gently. I lock my legs in place, tilting my head sideways. “Stop and look around you.

“It’s just an alley,” I reply to no one in particular, surprisingly comfortable with the fact that I’m talking out loud to myself in an empty alley.

Look down,” the voice says.

I glance at the tops of my shoes, white and orange with threadbare shoelaces running loosely through the holes. “Yep,” I say to myself. “Those are my shoes. Bought them years ago at a skate shop, even though I don’t skate.”

Next to your shoes,” the voice replies patiently. “Look.

I sigh, pulling my gaze from my shoes.  It’s then that I see it. “Whoa.”

Precisely.

Strange Terrain_1

I get down on one knee and carefully examine the ice, the water still frozen in the tall shadow of an apartment building selfishly absorbing all the sunlight.   “It looks like the surface of some exoplanet.”

Strange Terrain_2

An entire alien world waiting patiently to be explored,” the voice replies.  “Sitting silently next to a pair of shoes you bought at a skate shop, even though you don’t skate.

Strange Terrain_3

“And I would have walked right by without noticing.”

You’re welcome,” the voice says.

“Who are you?” I ask, leaning in closer, now traveling through deep canyons, climbing towering mountains, and exploring rugged landscapes made entirely of ice.

Stop asking silly questions,” the voice replies.  “Just look.

 

Photographs and Prose copyright Mike Yost 2016

Serrated Sky

I walked past a homeless man, a derelict human being with deep lines cut into his forehead as he slept on a fractured sidewalk beneath a blue, threadbare tarp that snapped sharply in the breeze.

I quickened my pace, shuffling between the broad shoulders of two abandoned buildings looming over me, their skin of cracked brick and broken glass an echo of possibilities negated and forgotten.

I glanced upward.

Serrated Sky

There they were.

There they had been.

Hovering high above me as silent witnesses to the muted madness far below.

Photograph and Prose copyright Mike Yost 2016

As It Begins to Rain

I stare at the digital clock on the nightstand. It blinks 12:33am. A flashing of red light that splashes rhythmically onto the white walls of the bedroom. I roll onto my back, scratching at the stubble on my chin before stretching out my arm. The pillow next to me is cold. I run my fingers along taunt sheets still tucked and unwrinkled.

The sound of typing bleeds in under the bedroom door. I slowly crawl out of bed, but the room begins to tilt as I stand, and I fall into an oak credenza, gripping the wood, waiting for stillness to return. Waiting for a semblance of calm that has taken flight to somewhere unseen and unknown.

I rub the bandages wrapped tightly around my wrists as I glance out the window. Sullen storm clouds loom high above the city, their pregnant bellies illuminated yellow from the noise of street lights below. A gust of wind shakes the branches of a few Ash trees rooted in an empty park across the street, their trembling shadows dancing silently on freshly-cut grass.

The hardwood floor creaks under my bare feet as I walk down the hallway, pulling on a black t-shirt over my head. Jeremiah’s at his computer, blue light from the screen spilling over his bare, freckled shoulders. His shock of red hair standing almost upright.

I walk up behind him and lean down, wrapping my arms around his chest. He continues to type. I kiss the back of his neck, but Jeremiah leans forward.

“I need to work,” he says amid the ceaseless clacking of keystrokes.

“Have you eaten?”

More typing. The minutes slide away between each breath.

I turn and walk into the kitchen. The clock on the stove flashes 12:47 in green. The ignitor clicks loudly as I turn on the gas burner, pulling out a large skillet of leftover campanelle pasta from the refrigerator. The sharp smell of pesto crowds the kitchen walls. Ice cubes ring sharply as they fall into two tall glasses. I fill them both almost to the brim with cold green tea, then toast two slices of bread in the oven, adding butter and a pinch of garlic salt. I garnish both plates with fresh parsley.

“Food’s ready,” I say, standing behind Jeremiah.

More typing. “Not hungry.” The clicking of the mouse.

I’ve heard that time heals all wounds. That’s bullshit. A maddening lie. Rather, time pulls and tears at the tender edges of the delicate flesh. It festers into scars soon to be fastened forever on the surface of the skin. A piercing echo of a mistake that cannot be unmade.

I sit at the kitchen table next to an empty chair, slumped forward. It’s only after the ice cubes have melted that the typing stops. The hallway floor creaks behind me. The bedroom door shuts quietly. My fork scrapes loudly against the surface of the plate as I push the pasta around in circles, parsley tumbling to the linoleum floor.

The clock on the stove blinks 1:49 in green just before the power in the apartments shuts off. Yellow light trickles down the walls. A flash of lighting. Thunder rattles a framed picture hanging next to the refrigerator.

And for only a brief moment I saw us both smiling, standing on the summit of Mount Elbert, both of us covered in dust and sweat, my head resting on his freckled shoulder, his arm around my waist. The Rocky Mountains, ancient and timeless, stretching deep into the horizon behind us.

I hear tapping against the kitchen window. I glance outside as it begins to rain.

Fiction and Photograph copyright Mike Yost 2015