A Useless Wrapper

Mike loved candy. He always had a stash of sweets at hand, and it was a short distance from hand to mouth.

More than anything, Mike liked to indulge his sugar addiction with hard candy, letting the sugar form a thick layer of deliciousness upon his teeth. Years of this activity caused his teeth to slowly decay and in their place grew new teeth of crystalized sugar.

Mike’s sugar-based diet had taken a toll on his health. He now lay dying, too weak to even lift another piece of candy to his mouth. Still, he felt no repentance for his gluttony. His last breath escaped him like a belch after a long gulp of pop.

God reached down into his stash of humans. ‘This one is ripe’, God said as he latched onto Mike’s limpid form.

God plucked the sugary teeth from Mike’s mouth. ‘No use for the wrapper’ God muttered, crumpling the now useless corpse and tossing it down toward hell. Mike’s discarded flesh dropped through the heavenly regions, a lonesome soul on a lonesome journey, downward and further down.

A passing angel took notice, swooped in on mighty wings, and used its talons to grasp the curious object falling from above. With a single thrust of wings, the angel returned to its perch among the clouds.

The angel added this new find to its nest, placing it with great care just in the right spot alongside some moss and a piece of string. Before the angel nestled down, Mike looked around and thought to himself, ‘The clouds look like cotton candy’.

The Many Rooms of Time (fiction by Ben Steele)

He had inherited this old house from a side of the family he didn’t even know existed. Apparently, his name had been at the end of a long list of heirs. It was fortunate for he needed a place to stay. His landlord, prior landlord that is, had recently evicted him. He had taken in a stray cat and cats were prohibited… it said so in the lease. So, he arrived at this house, just himself and the cat. The cat promptly disappeared, surely exploring as cats like to do. He decided he should also explore as it was a very large house.

He went from the foyer to a side room to a dining room to a kitchen, every room with doors leading to other rooms and in every room clocks: cuckoo clocks, massive grandfather clocks, simple wall clocks, and even a few hourglasses mostly in the kitchen. He finally came to a room that had display cases of wrist watches, pocket watches, and unusual devices that he thought might be timers. Looking at these time pieces, he realized all of them were stopped. He now wandered upstairs and it was beginning to dawn on him that none of them worked. There was a loose pattern to the times they were stopped at as if each room was not only stale with settled dust but also with settled time.

He now stood in what must have once been a bedroom. A table with a mirror, where he imagined a woman might have sat to comb her hair, had become cluttered with small clocks of the sort found in souvenier shops. These clocks were held by small figurines or enclosed in globes, and they were all set a little before five as if they waited to be called down for dinner.

Walking on, he noticed that each room was captured in its particular moment. When he made his way to the attic, even the clocks in boxes were stuck in their shared crevice of time. He kept mental notes of these times hoping he might discover an order to it all, but he couldn’t grasp why a room with clocks set almost in unison at quarter after 9 pm was next to a room with clocks set at times dispersed over the hours of late morning. After a while, he began to notice something or rather a lack of something. No clock or time piece in any room was set between the hours of 2 and 3 in the am.

Continuing to wander, he ended up in a wing of the third floor. He came to the last room he had yet to enter which was at the back of the house. The door was part way open and it creaked as he stepped inside. This room was furnished with just a bed and a bedstand, but more importantly there were no clocks. He was so struck by this oddity that he didn’t initially notice the cat curled upon the bedcover. The contented feline purred and squinted up at him.

He suddenly realized how tired he was. The time had slipped by and it was now quite late. Sitting down at the edge of the bed, he tugged his shoes off placing them upon the floor and he unstrapped his wrist watch laying it upon the bed stand. He lay back, the bed felt so comforting. The purring of the cat fell in sync with his own breathing. In a half-dream state, these sounds slowly merged into the clicking of gears and the whirring of springs. As he further settled into the soft mattress, it felt as if the whole house shifted ever so slightly… but he was so deeply asleep within a moment of time that he didn’t even hear the clang of chimes and other distant clamoring noise.

Mother’s Voice (fiction by Ben Steele)

I’m standing in a kitchen, but it isn’t familiar.  I’m on the phone talking to my mother, but she isn’t my mother… she is all mothers, a piecemeal recollection of primal longings for mother.  Her voice is, at first, the voice of a mother from a tv show… now, shifting, the voice of the mother of a childhood friend.

I’m so focused on this voice that I’m barely aware of the kitchen, but I sense there are children nearby, my children.  I too am a mother.

The cord to the phone lengthens as I feel myself moving (stepping?) backwards across the kitchen floor.  In the periphery of my vision, I see flickers of movement.  I worry about the children getting tangled in the phone line.

Then, as if stepping back onto stairs that aren’t there, I’m falling.  It must be the basement I’m falling into… oh yes, there is the door to the kitchen, a framing of light.  I clutch the phone tightly, the cord still connecting me to the light above.

“Mother, are you there?”  I hear her breathing, her heartbeat.  I grip the phone against my cheek as if it were my mother’s breast.  I can now see where I am.  I’m falling down a hole, the walls almost within reach.  Faces appear in the walls, strange faces melting into one another.  They luminesce like dying lightbulbs, but when they smile and giggle I know they are my children.  I still clutch the phone and the line still stretches upwards.  I know the cord will only stretch so far before breaking.  Should I let go?