As Seen in a Merry-Go-Round Blur
by Michael Kelly
The moon’s wan light spilled into the room, through the open window. A faint summer-scented breeze stirred the paper-thin curtains. They billowed like the ghosts of childhood; sounded like dead leaves scuttling along dry pavement. A thick-limbed tree branch brushed the window, making scratching sounds, as if it were trying to claw itself into the room. Funny, she’d never really noticed the tree before. Twenty-four years and she’d paid it no heed.
In the near dark, Evelyn stared around the tiny bedroom. So small. A box. A trap. She glanced at Bret, sleeping. Sighed. They should have moved, she thinks. Should have left years ago, when the kids were still here, still young. A starter home, Bret said. Until we get on our feet. Until—and he winked mischievously—we get started. She’d laughed, because in those early days they’d still laughed and smiled at each other.
But not anymore. The kids were gone; the house was too small; and Bret’s once gentle touch was a thing of the past, his affection spirited away by books and football and greasy car engines. Spirited away like leaves on a chill autumn breeze.
She stared at Bret, watched his chest rise and fall, rise and fall. “Where’d it go, Bret?” Evelyn whispered. “Where’d it all go? The years, the love.” She glanced around the room. On the dresser was a series of pictures of the children, a tableaux, from infant to toddler to teen to adult. “Time,” Evelyn said. Bret stirred, shifted, flipped over to sleep on the other side, facing away from her. The clock on the end table ticked mercilessly, ceaselessly. Tick-tock tick-tock ticktock ticktock.
The curtains billowed, fluttered like the wings of angels. The tree branch tapped the window. She wondered if it were a sapling when they first moved in. Twenty-four years ago. Half her lifetime. She couldn’t recall the kids climbing the tree. And it looked like it was a good climbing tree.
But the kids were gone. And soon they’d have their own children. She’d be a grandmother. They’d call less and less. As it was, she only ever heard from them when there was a problem; when they had to get something off their chest. And the calls and visits were becoming more and more infrequent.
Evelyn felt old.
When she was young, a child herself, she’d run through the meadow, chasing butterflies. She’d play hopscotch, and skip “double-dutch.” And she’d go to the fair, eat cotton candy and ride the Scrambler as the wind whipped her pig-tails, breathing in the intoxicating, heady scents: sweet roasted corn, damp sawdust, stale hotdogs, spilt Coke. She’d ride the merry-go-round; watch the neon slide by in a blur, as the calliope sang a song of sweet innocence, as the sights and sounds and smells drifted lazily along on summer’s night air.
So many years ago, Evelyn mused. Time had passed in a merry-go-round blur.
Evelyn stared at Bret, listened to his grunts and snores. She slipped a hand into her pajama bottoms, touched herself. It’d been so long since she’d done anything for herself. There were the kids, the house, and Bret to care for.
The wind sighed. The curtains billowed. And the tree tapped the window. Tap. Tap tap. Evelyn stood, tiptoed to the window. She lifted the window sash further, stuck her head out. The night smelled of smoke and dark mystery. Somewhere far off, Evelyn imagined she heard laughter, and a calliope playing. She grinned. She couldn’t recall the last time a smile had creased her face.
The tree branch scratched her cheek, drawing blood. Evelyn wiped the blood from her face, stared at her sticky fingers. She licked them. It was not an unpleasant taste.
Evelyn stared up at the tree. It was tall and thick and black, stretching into the night sky, stretching into forever. Evelyn turned, looked at Bret’s lumpy form, looked at the pictures of the kids that dotted the dresser. And she heard the calliope again, heard the merry-go-round, the shrill laughter, the sounds of youth. No clock ticking away, inevitably counting down the remnants of a lost life. Tick-tock. So she turned, stepped out the window onto the thick branch. She heard the night music, could smell the carnival. Evelyn climbed, unafraid, higher and higher. The tree did not end. It shot skyward, straight and true and unending. But the music still played, so she kept climbing, up, up. Evelyn did not look down.
She did not look back.
"Time, As Seen in a Merry-Go-Round Blur" copyright © Michael Kelly 2005
About the Author:
Michael is a
fiction editor at The Chiaroscuro/ChiZine.
His fiction has appeared in a number of journals and anthologies,
including Flesh & Blood, Nemonymous, and Space & Time.
More work is forthcoming soon in All Hallows, Feral Fiction,
H.P. Lovecraft's Magazine of Horror, The Book of Dark Wisdom, and the
anthologies Alone on the Darkside, and The H.W.A. Presents: Dark Arts.
Lone Star Stories * Speculative Fiction and Poetry * Copyright © 2003-2005