Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saturday Snatch: Shepherd's Gambit by Alec Houze

The economy has fallen apart. With it so, too, has the country. Walls have been built up as the businesses, and the cities they called home, crumble. Jonathan Monroe, however, is doing just fine. He is a cleaner–a man whose task is to clear out the abandoned buildings that are becoming more and more prevalent. But a bar, that is not a bar, is the beginning of an explanation, and might help him understand why he woke up half-frozen underneath an interstate overpass.
          The wind shook the house. It would hold, of course. It always did. But it was enough to wake John up. He rested in bed, counting the seconds between gusts. He knew that they would repeat, like contractions.
          “One-one-thousand. Two-one-thousand. Three-one-thousand.” The window above the bed began to rattle softly. It, too, would hold. “Four-one-thousand.”
He counted the same way he had ever since he was a boy; it was a nervous habit. He had never learned to trust his internal clock. “Five-one-thousand.” The roof was creaking like the spine of an old man attempting to rise. “Six-one-thousand.”
          John felt the bed shiver under his prone body. Six seconds, he thought to himself. He didn’t bother counting how long it lasted. He never did. After it was over, he began counting again, waiting for the next one. He made it to eight before the house shook again. Had he glanced at the clock, he would have seen that it was barely three. But he wouldn’t; it would only depress him. Time itself depressed him as a way to track a day. Though John knew that it was necessary, he had decided long ago that it merely served as a way to measure the space between events.
          As such, he only paid it heed when he was forced to––except at night. Every night he would find himself shaken awake by minuscule tremors as the wind rushed through the hills and assaulted his house.
          John remained in bed, trying to remember his dream. It had seemed important at the time, but they always did. Dreams were the one place where time became paramount. They existed as a paradox outside of himself. Time marked with the constant ticking of a giant metronome off in the distance. Whether he was in the mountains or stranded in the ocean, it was there on the horizon––methodically ticking away the life of his dream. The base was black and the wand white, blending into the sky with every swing. But the sound reverberated through his entire body, matching the beating of his heart; proof that although he was dreaming, he was still alive.
          “Forty-two-one-thousand. Forty-three-one-thousand. Forty-four-one-thousand.”

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