Deus Ex Machina

She walked in the middle of the road, trying to know her own name.

Her world was slathered with broad strokes, with just enough detail to expose a bare minimum of information. She felt unfinished, like a badly developed photograph, as if, when her story ended, everything else would be sucked into her wake and just disappear.

She was a genie in a bottle.

A thunderstorm crashed the air above with alarming rapidity. Lightning flung their light among the green eaves of the oak-lined street. Hail raced across the asphalt. She turned and ran, determined not to scream like a  b-movie extra. The tattoo of her frantic steps led her up the drive of a house she knew to be hers. The world had melted into a strobe of shadows. She pushed through the front door and rushed into the livingroom and  threw herself onto the green velvet couch. Why wasn’t it so strange that the room and the house, but for the lamp on stand and the couch, was bare? She huddled in horror on the green leather couch. She imagined cackling deities straddling the electric arcs of thunderbolts swarming into her life like so many hornets. How wrong she was!

There was only one god and he watched her in his mind as he crafted her story. He hadn’t decided whether she would be a blonde or a brunette. She clutched at the cycling hues of her hair and sobbed, “What is happening?!” Perhaps it didn’t matter. Was she plump, or is anorexia her way of life? She knocked the lamp over in her panicked oscillations of mass. Haphazard silhouettes camped and leered across the livingroom wall in a precession of devils. She collapsed in a heap on the lush carpeting and, as soon she saw her skin shifting through the ethnicities, sobbed some more. She felt like a flesh-colored prism, no—did she really think that? “Stop it!” she screamed, knowing she wouldn’t be heard, but told. “Stop it…”

She slept the ragged sleep of exhaustion that those teetering at the brink of death or madness welcome. She awoke on a floor smooth as marble and lay for some time in a bare and cold cone of light. She could see nothing in the absolute darkness ahead. Tears sprang from her eyes and pooled on the floor. Her livingroom flickered into existence, then a local pub with regulars laughing through foam flecked lips, then the house of the parents escaping fluid memory, and it was quickly like a rolodex thumbed through at an incredible speed whirring through scenario after scenario until she started screaming.

A river of obscenities churned through her larynx like a niagara, pummeling her own eardrums. Did he want her to say that? Did he hate her—no, himself—so much? He felt uncanny pity for the figment. He soothed her tears, closed her eyes, and when she came to she was seated in front of a warm fire. A mug of hot chocolate steamed on the coffee table and a novel lay splayed on her lap.

“I must have fallen asleep,” she murmured to herself as she watched through a window the snow whitewash the land.

He smiled and clicked save. He would leave it at that.


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