Apr/May 2009  •   Fiction

Two Flashes

by Charles Frisbie

Death in an Empty Room

He slept for most of three days and three nights. When he shifted in slumber, his spine scraped the hard surface of the bed like rock on rock. The cold room barely changed, except for a subtle blue shade painting the ceiling during morning hours.

Time ceased to have meaning. Dark waves of sleep and restless wakefulness washed over the seamless hours.

In this dreamlike state, his mind flooded with pictures. The deep, blue-green of the river outside his home in spring. The copper color of the river bottom. Driving up to the hospital, lit like an airport, in the dark winter mornings when the halls still had that scratching silence hanging in them. The stiff grey drapes and the smell of scrubbed cigarette smoke at his father's funeral. The smoothness of her legs under the light print dress on that first summer day.

The room was damp. Every slight movement set up a noise bouncing off the stone walls and hanging in the thick air.

Later that night, he grew stiff and cold. He said the only words he had in all those days, his throat rusty, "I can see it coming." And that was all.



Three weeks before his death, he looked like a bundle of dried twigs left in the snow. After he died, he looked like a few straight, black rods glued together at strange angles. It was hard to believe a mere three months before he was a young member of the city's more desirable social circles. While never athletic, the sharp corners of his body were always closely wrapped in fine clothes, giving a pleasing effect.

When the young girl died in that unfortunate incident, and he came out of the car, white as a sheet with a swath of red down his pressed white shirt, no one would have expected the unfolding events.

He acted strangely for a few days, tapping his fingers, rolling pencils absentmindedly in between his thumb and forefingers, walking with a new, shuffling unease. Then he was just gone from sight.