(Contest submission, fiction category)





Alicia Tokoph, “Untitled”

Why are you over there, while I’m over here?  she speculates.  The image transmitting across video messaging lends an almost palpable dampness to the air around her; the saturated ground reflects her mood to a T—stagnant and oppressive.  And the leaves floating over the pixel surface represent the myriad contrivances separating them, even beyond the vast miles yawning between here and there.  She takes note of how they keep from sinking in the mire, as if taunting her with their reality.

“Wade over to me,” she hears him say over the speakers, the audio spotty.  “It’s not too deep.” 

She knows he’s teasing, but still she rises from her chair and visualizes placing one foot in front of the other.  Icy fingers skittering through her imagination crawl up her bare legs; she can sense the muck pulling at her feet, yet she feels neither hot nor cold.  She briefly wonders if a season of duplicity has simply numbed her senses.

She cannot see his face; he’s somewhere off to the side of the camera.  End call flashes across the screen and the image of water and leaves, grass and a lone chair temporarily freeze in front of her.  In a moment of clarity, she realizes this is all they will ever have, as long as he is over there and she is over here—as long as neither one of them is willing to meet half way, knee-deep in flotsam and jetsam. ~ cs