Monthly Archives: November 2013

Chute Girl

Denise slid all the way down the chute and landed on a metal slab. Mechanical humming. A faint whistle. The whole desert smelled like burning. Just then Jason popped his head out of his tank hatch. We’ve got company, he said.

Denise shifted and sat up. The metal was cold on her naked body. She could just barely see the shape of Jason’s tank as it crested the hill but his silhouette was recognizable: the big round head and telltale methy twitches. Hey, she’s over there! The turret swung around clumsily. Denise reached her hand out toward the tank as it bumbled down the hillside. Her fingers vibrated, causing distant molecules to shift and displace themselves. The metal of the tank went from a cold army green to a smoldering orange in seconds. The soldiers screamed but Jason managed to jump clear with only second degree burns. He opened fire at her with his sub-machine gun but the bullets just went plink plink plink, bouncing off her white flesh.

As the tank twisted and melted away into the sand she moved towards Jason. The hot tank metal caught some brush on fire and soon there was a small blaze going, back-lighting Denise’s crazy hair and her bare shoulders. Jason continued to fire at her until all his ammo was spent. He threw some knives and then rocks, sticks, his canteen. Then he leapt at her, encircling her neck with his big soldier fingers.

When she was through with him he was a pile of black dust. She just kept going, listening as the other tanks circled the crater and men on radios shouted orders back and forth. This will be interesting, she said, and the flames rose and spiraled around her. I’m glad I came back.




Lara glared at me from her side of the hot bench seat. Popped open the glove box to see a .357 in there. Carefully lifted it out and pointed it at me. Are you scared? Laughed. Without turning my head I reached over and aimed the gun away. That’s loaded.

She pointed it at the windshield and pulled the trigger. The glass exploded all over us and I careened to a stop on the shoulder of the interstate. There were little pieces of glass all over both of us and all over the seats. I could feel glass dust and chips on my tongue. Whoops, she said. I thought you were kidding. You’re always kidding.

I went to grab the gun out of her hand but couldn’t pry open her fingers. What would you do if I shot myself right now? she asked. I’ve dreamt my own death a thousand times.

How does it end? Like this?

No. Like this. She grinned and squeezed the trigger. Freezing cold emanated from where the bullet tore through my chest. Then another deafening blast and I saw her fall back.

I slumped over the wheel, focusing my willpower on getting my hand up to the ignition. When I finally touched the metal of the key it took everything I had to twist it. Now blood was tickling down my ankle into my shoe. I hit the gas and we spun out, traffic screeching every which way. I swung the wheel back and sent us down into a ravine.

Two weeks later I woke up in a bed soaked in blood. Instantly fell in love with my nurse: ebony skin, kind smile. She spooned water into my mouth until I fell back into a deep sleep. I floated for a long time in a purple, swirling abyss as one thought after another appeared and then sunk away. Scrambled eggs with fresh ground pepper. Lara, cool smile, hair in her eyes. Spiders. Toby, counting bullets. My military fatigues on a hanger.

I rolled over and lost consciousness on sheets that felt like cardboard. My nurse was gone and the cold wind launched me back into darkness.




It was a clammy hospital bed and the flowers were spent and faded. S leaned over to see if they had taken her roommate away but the duvet on the other bed was bunched up so she couldn’t really tell. She hadn’t heard anything from that side of the room in days but she could still feel some kind of presence over there. Human? It reeked. No medical staff had come for days but the machine appeared to be keeping S nourished for now anyway. Do they ever leave you alone in hospitals for this long? It seemed somewhat outrageous.

Her favorite thing to do was to walk through all the rooms in her father’s house and smell the onions he was frying in the kitchen, smell his pipe smoke in his study, listen for the creak of the stairs as she walked down to the sitting room. She would do this all day long lying in her hospital bed.

Other times she listened to the hum of the machinery. She would hone in on the sound and hours would pass. HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM…

There was a time when her day would start with an abrasive clang clang clang and she’d be in the shower, waking up before the sunrise. She’d go to the plant, put on her radiation suit, and flip switches and load carousels. Lunch she’s spend on her cellphone talking to Marty who worked in the plant adjacent.

Sometimes she’d stare at the carousel ten minutes and wonder if she’d already loaded it with radioactive isotopes. She had done the same routine so many times that she would forget she’d done it the second after completion.

There were no leaves on the trees outside the hospital now, which helped her remember winter was coming.

She wondered if her roommate was dead? Sleeping quietly? Did they sneak in and take her out in the middle of the night?

S sat upright, pulling all the tubes taut that went to the machine. All she saw over there was a big mound of duvet and pillows. But there could easily have been a person, underneath.

One by one she disconnected the tubes. They leaked and hissed as she swatted them all aside. She hung her white legs over the edge of the bed. Placed her feet on the cold linoleum. Walked unsteadily toward the other bed, pressing her gown close. When she was near enough she saw the dead body and, even though it was what she expected to see, she was still shocked.

So shocked that she didn’t go back to her own bed. She went to the hall. A hall that had been lit and lively with people when she first arrived and that was now dark and littered with fall leaves that must have blown in through a window somewhere.

The emergency lights were on and S stumbled ahead, determined to find another survivor.