by JW Burns

No one except Katherine Duff noticed when the room began to vibrate.

The papers were neatly stacked in the center of the table, stamped, initialed, factored, weighed, sealed and hyperlinked. Now the room was a testament to black coffee without sugar or crosshatched space or a monkey without hands.

“Well,” Fred patted his stomach, “I’m glad that’s over.” Put the leash around the polar bear’s neck.

Katherine had stood and was gathering her belongings when she felt the floor tremble. Walls found their rigidity intolerable, wobbled. Like eyelids the windows fluttered causing light to celebrate. Styrofoam cups displayed their impulsive nature by shuffling on the table’s polished surface while a laptop wavered.

“Hell and hoarse-tense yes,” Adam stretched, his arms reaching to fill the coat falling into place.

There had been another time. One late October morning when she and a friend had stood in a clearing not far off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Horseshoed on three sides by oak and hickory in full color, it was as if they were standing in the middle of a towering red/orange bonfire. Only the area to their east was clear, abruptly dropping off into isoprene haze and mist. The world burned —but she was relaxed, content, hugging her shoulders.

“Inherit the electromagnetic radiance.” His index finger brushed her tit.

“Void in the hallow sphere.” Katherine patted his bottom.

They were traveling from Key West to Boston in a slow, meandering way. Red was fire. Not blood, though it’s constantly associated with blood. Granted, when blood is first viewed outside common boundaries, it’s bright red, not unlike turning leaves, but such hue decays quickly. Blood pools dark crimson. Dries dull brown. Later, flecks almost black. And rarely if ever is blood accompanied by a hothouse orange rash.

Katherine first noticed the vibration when she glanced in the direction of the open space, the mist seeming to scrub the exposed Permian outcropping. Then the earth under her feet was trembling, the fire stirred, flaring, leaping, ripples flowing through the vegetation. Finally a feverish lump streamed throughout her body, smooth on the ascent, thrilling on the descent—then it wasn’t a lump anymore but was everywhere at once: calves, shoulders, nose, sternum, biceps, breasts, tummy, anus, heels, etc.

Now it was happening again. The same but different.

Every one else emptying the room as usual, relieved, a bit disgruntled, maybe slashed by a thin omniscient blade. Katherine held in a frozen shudder, the red from remembered leaves broadcasting the great distance it would take to make the parts of her body move. The odor came full-blown with music from the Met and a pock-nosed dwarf side saddle on a earless donkey trotting between the conference table and a huge window which made up one wall. Quickly, vultures land on the backs of empty chairs,  their goals pitch-perfect in the silent room.

Katherine watched the window, hoped that a hawk would emerge from the quizzical clouds, soar, dive, disappear where fire was pure as the sun, flowing from a volitive ventless contraption in which you could fit three universes and a pregnant brontosaurus. Just as before, the vibrations complete with attendant visions passed leaving only an after-detachment. She stood holding her briefcase and purse listening to the A/C make cul-de-sac cool.

On balance she hoped it wouldn’t happen again.

About the Author:

JW Burns enjoys living in Florida in spite of the sometimes oppressive political and natural environment. His poetry and short fiction has been published in several journals, most recently in The Danforth Review, Ginosko Literary Journal, The Rialto and Menacing Hedge.