Character: New Flash Fiction
Though the question occurs…whether this is not a product of nostalgia, this notion…
Of character or coherence…
Coherence, adhesion, McAlley says to himself. Redundancy. Like healing like. Things that were familiar have fallen to schemes, none of which looks promising of success.
McAlley, from his corner, sees two broken businesses, housed in buildings never valued enough to slide mortar in among gapping bricks, wash dead insects from the inside of glass, to start the clock ticking again. Each has a feature. The little belfry, or cupola…or elfin watchtower…that rises from a half-roof of Spanish tile—
The rest is only stucco, square windows that must have been added…but decades ago. And the other, a columned portico, welcoming lost customers into a squat coffer of a space; here the bricks full-skeletoned at the edges, enough light coming through to see around the corner.
Then contrast the skyscrapers seen to rise above the yellowed signs, made to light inside, not lit at the moment. The drug store still advertised under the logage of its past owner. And this that was a movie theater. But at the fringe, an ugly disharmony.
McAlley imagines a world of dead canyons, of wind and chill and danger, roaming scavengers waiting for a scrap of façade to plummet. Every day someone dies under the raining wreckage. Finally the storm comes and the conflagration.
All this is as the prophets warm, he tells himself. A vision. I see what others don’t, the end of days.
He crosses. He is looking for someone, as he does each prowl away and home. It seems to him this super-seeing, gifted to him, must be also a link in a chain, intended by time to bridge, from awakened intellect to awakened intellect, the chaotic present and the rising that comes after. And therefore, though one’s fellows are rare, one must know them, locking eyes.
He has never yet been certain he has. But here is a woman in a red coat, who walks in an aura of sweeping gusts. Devils take up leaves and paper cups, spinning and shooting them into the street. It would help to speak to her. Her eye may not be caught.
McAlley says: “Look at me.”
She glances over her shoulder, because he has got close and tapped her there. He takes the risk, because…it is a small martyrdom, to be misunderstood.
But she gives him a direct stare that keeps for a moment, and then allows him to walk by her side.
(2018, Stephanie Foster)