‘November Story’ by Mike Lee

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It was in the beginning of November, on All Souls Day, when Eliana became sick.

This illness came upon her as a sudden malady, as if being struck by a loose and crumbling brick that had fallen from an inner urban tenement windowsill.

The sickness made its presence known, heralding with a short, sharp shock of pain that flowed from the front of her brain, down her spinal cord and straight to her lower abdomen.

She stood up in her cubicle, with an explosion of sweat. Then she ran down the carpeted floor in stockinged feet to the bathroom, barely making it to the stall in time.

Eliana sat on the commode for nearly twenty minutes, feeling corrosive while expunging disgusting bile. After she was finally finished she told her boss she had to leave, and took a Lyft home.

On the way to her house, she visualized the scrambled eggs she had at the morning buffet. This prompted another wave of need, and the last three blocks were pure hell, but she did make it in time for a much longer evacuation of bowels after she arrived home.

After pulling the keys from the front door, texting her boyfriend to say she arrived and to come with meds and herbal tea, she showered, wrapped herself in a bathrobe, and pulled the comforter out of the closet.

Half-dragging the comforter to the living room, she spread it on her daybed and curled underneath it, sweating from a miserable fever.

Her boyfriend, Anthony, texted he was stuck in traffic. In the midst of typing her response, Eliana felt another rolling wave of pressure and gas. She made it to the toilet on time, but found little relief. The aching and fever was coming on strong.

“Stomach fever,” she murmured, distraught. “With eggs on the side. Ugh.”

“Thank you, fucking eggs.”

Eliana leaned back against the pillows and closed her eyes.

How long she slept until reaching the dream stage is unknown, but Eliana opened the curtain of sleep and entered a soft delirium of delightful sensation, framed with hypnopompic hallucinations.

She cut the delicate fabric with her fingernail, slicing through with a shimmering that echoed around her. While coming through the opening, Eliana found herself falling upwards above an endless plain of field grains, its orange color burnished by multiple suns.

The fields soon vanished into endless desert sands under a tourmaline sky, speckled with stars.

Eliana floated above it all, her colorful, striped bathrobe transforming into Technicolor wings. Immediately upon their formation, she tested her newfound means of flight, unafraid of falling. As luck would have it, or fate, Eliana was caught up in a slight current of air from a westerly direction. This she used to her advantage by confidently turning to her left to gently glide above the endless desert.

She dared to look below, and found a green dot. Spreading her arms outward Eliana began to swoop downward toward the oasis.

When she landed, soft-footed in the undergrowth, Eliana was overwhelmed with the fragrance of teak, tamarind and palm; vespertine flavors surrounding her with the blossoms of unknowable flowers growing impossibly high for such a tiny garden in the wasteland.

This oasis garden granted her a tranquil moment, stealing from her the sickness she endured, and erasing discomfort as she stepped over the soft ground toward the sound of water, a spring surrounded by a wall of ferns and herbaceous plants. The spring was fed by an underground fossil river, which provided enough water for heavy vegetation, including a grove of eucalyptus.

She made her way to the water, cupping her hands and drank the clear fluid. The waters acted as an opiate and Eliana leaned on her side and rolled over into the deep, lush green, staring at the eucalyptus looming above.

This felt too good. It’s pleasure forbidden, like symbolic adultery. Or symbiotic, parasitical, its messages carved in stone with vermiculated script. She wandered endlessly in her mind as she stared into the treetops.

***

She was startled by Anthony’s face looming above her. He was pulling her comforter closer to her chin.

After drinking a glass of water, she started talking about her vision, hoping by doing so she would not forget it.

When she was done, Eliana asked him. “Have you ever dreamed of anything so wondrous and weird?”

Anthony paused briefly in contemplation, stroking his chin until he responded.

“I dreamed I was being suffocated by multitudes of dog snouts,” he said, with a shrug.

Eliana closed her eyes, nodding as desert sands blew over the comforting singing waters of the oasis.

“I am at a loss for words,” she said, feeling ill again, a little more so than before. When she closed her eyes, she tried to remember the oasis, yet as it is with all dreams, her vision had already begun to fragment those internal memories into precious bits, floating away.

Anthony sensed he inadvertently did wrong.

“Sorry,” he said.

With that, he glanced out the window, watching the cardinal fly to the birdhouse in the backyard to feed worms to her chicks as the autumn breeze carried the first fallen leaves swirling into the air.

Mike Lee is an editor, photographer and reporter for a trade union newspaper in New York City. His fiction is published in Soft Cartel, Ghost Parachute, Reservoir, The Alexandria Quarterly and others. Website: www.mleephotoart.com. He also blogs for the photography website Focus on the Story.

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