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  Table of contents Issue Twenty-two DREADFALL

by
JAN CRONOS
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fter shoveling a pitiful clump of dirt into the grave, she bit her lip. “My husband was a fighter. We wives don’t cry,” she said. They buried Enrico in darkness with the blue-white brightness of a flag.



A thin scum of goo covered the sky. The clouds were speckled, the heavenly snow begrimed by offal and evaporating sewage. In the distance sounded the faint, throaty murmur that signaled the onset of a deluge- not water, but the angry overflow of heaven from the human bloodbath of constant war.



A body plummeted with a loathsome thump, spilling foulness. The corpse was a homeless spirit become corporeal. She vomited: someone’s brother or father was now sewage. Another floated down graceful as a blimp. Its face was pale and smudged; she heard strangled words of loneliness or hate before it burst, impaled upon a shard of glass. Ducking beneath a canvas awning, she waited until the storm stopped, until the streets and gutters were littered with broken bodies and slabs of meat.



Covering her nose, Jen gagged. “Oh dear Lord, must you punish us?” The Lord is not dead nor doth he sleep. She recalled the words from bible school years ago and cursed the politicians and generals.



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Once home, she sat beside the window pane, her tawny hair unwashed and straggly. As darkness came she stared at the silver crescent moon, watching until it was blighted by a wispy murkiness as dense as smoke. Had Enrico’s body already fallen and if so, where? Did the cascading corpses have direction or was their travel random, like kites taken by the wind? “Oh darling, don’t be angry; if I knew I’d place a net to catch you!” She clamped her hand to her heart.



The knock was unexpected. It repeated three times more as if sending a code. Opening the door, even in the dimness, she recognized his face and gasped. A hollowness below his eyes was filled with sorrow.



How to address the walking corpse that once she loved she didn’t know. He stood there silently with eyes so large and blue and forlorn. “Lord, I don’t care!” Throwing her arms around his neck and closing her eyes, she pressed her mouth against the dead man’s face. Parting her lips, she was beset by pleasure. His tongue was wet and warm and sweeter then Enrico’s ever was. Recoiling, she stared at him. His face was stone.



“I’m sorry.” Touching a finger to his mouth, he studied the ground. “I couldn’t make it to the funeral in time. I hope I didn’t scare you. I’m Roberto.”



Enrico’s twin had a mild stutter and his voice an unfamiliar lilt.



“You look so like him.”



Roberto’s laugh was empty.



Outside, a gusting wind and drifting shadows, their blackness obliterating black.



Quickly, she turned on a tiny lamp. It filled the room with hazy amber light. “I’ll make some tea and scones.”



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He spread raspberry jelly on his scone. It was as bright as blood but he did it with an artistry that fascinated her, that was so unlike Enrico’s indifferent smearing.



“I’m a painter,” he said. So now I’m here, while my braver soldier brother’s dead.”



“He never spoke of you.”



“’Rico hated me after I refused to enlist. Unpatriotic coward, he called me. But I still loved him. When we were children, we were close.” He sighed. “We even dressed alike.”



The tea was hot. She blew on it to cool it down.



“I’m sorry I kissed you.” He smiled. “Enrico always had a temper. He would have slashed my throat.”



“It’s okay. I’m just a widow now.” She tried to grin, but her cheeks were flushed. “It’s getting late.”



He nodded. “I should go. I came to send regards, that’s all.”



“I’ll walk you out.”



They exited onto the porch. The air was fresh and the stars seemed newly minted. “I think I’ll sit awhile,” she said, hugging herself.



“May I join you?” Without a word, he sat down next to her. Quietly, she took his hand and then leaned close. Their second kiss was even deeper than the first.



Overhead, a glowering shadow of splintered bone gathered speed as it hurtled down.



   
   

 

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Jan Cronos lives and writes in New York City. This includes flash fiction, short stories and the occasional novella or poem. Genres include sci fi, horror, contemporary.



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