Short Story Excerpt: Untitled

The night: a hollow of retreating formalities as I, from within, watch the thin nylon barrier dance between us. The tent is a language of liquid; relentlessly, it forms and reforms to the natural voices in erasable expressions. Rain, the intermittent rhythm, falls. Breathing pervades from the two lungs beside me, and coyotes scat some far distance beyond us. Alone, I revel somewhere in between these musical phrases and the ambient silence. I hesitate to say if I’m fully awake, for, while I can’t sleep, I imagine myself bodiless: the desert part dream-catcher and dream.

When we’d arrived, the moon was dimmed out of existence by dark looming clouds. We trailed a neglected road, warning signs on the fences, searching the labyrinth for off-shoots. The desert—a nocturnal breath—spread discreetly like an unimaginable dream, wrapped us within itself. I wish to think it was the other way around—us as the essence, the deep mythology of the place wrapping outward from our skin— but no. The desert was its own presence—us reaching in.

Alongside me, sleeping now under the familiar Arizonian desert, were two considerable friends: those very people you’d imagine you’d die for if you had to. The kind you talk with unabridged and without guards. The ones unsatisfied with themselves—ever reaching, ever soaring further. The kind you think about without even realizing. The fallible, brash, interrogating types of friends that remind you of yourself. The friends you know both everything and nothing about.

We had agreed to sleep in a single row, perpendicular to the tent opening, three across. Farthest from the opening slept Tony, but everyone called him Tono. His complexion was dark and his hair darker. He had a wire-frame body and inviting brown eyes. He was neither entirely outgoing nor reserved but carried a thoughtful and engaging presence about himself. His voice was not deep enough to sound gruff, and was articulated with a well-tempered neutrality.

In the middle of us two slept Catherine. Catherine, of course, was entirely too pompous of a name, so she went by C.T. She had straight black hair, the length reaching beyond her shoulders, and turquoise eyes that expressed a striking intelligence and clarity. Her walk was purposeful and entirely balanced. She was both pensive and demanding, private and expressive.

Nonetheless, they were this—and so this they are—leaving me, patiently awaiting the clock still hours in advance of ringing, listening to the steady chant of rain drops.

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