Like the abandoned building itself, the adjacent land had surrendered to disuse, transformed after four decades into a disorderly copse. Thin aspens and birches crowded against each other like commuters on a railroad platform jostling for an open door. No tree in the untamed collection allowed sufficient space for any other to grow to its full potential. Overhead leaves provided a dense canopy in summer, yet in lifeless winter the grove extended pale fingers into the grey sky. Rejuvenation would come in the longer days of spring; until then, the lot idled in a restless slumber.
Her daughter’s interest in dolls had already vanished, so the laundry-room playset would get as much use as a garden rake in January.
The manufacturer offered a refund, but only to the credit card on which it had been purchased. Her husband’s parents would therefore see the return. Her in-laws loved their granddaughter, but would investigate who had spurned them.
Holidays with her in-laws were already exhausting. An additional occasion for their petulance would make them wholly insufferable.
The plastic toy’s sole purpose would be as an object of discord. Better to leave it harmlessly unused in her daughter’s room.
He replied curtly, hoping but not expecting to pause their argument, then tossed his phone face-up onto the dashboard.
The western horizon was colored in wine as he exited the rest area. The ruddy brilliance promised good weather that evening, into the following day. Perhaps that would take an edge off their confrontation.
Oncoming headbeams filled the cabin with light, and he saw in his windshield the phone’s reflection. He’d received another text, no doubt from her, but he was driving now and would arrive in ten, fifteen. Enjoying the fading sunset seemed a better use of his time.
For this week’s Friday Fictioneers, I chose to ignore that the cars in the photo prompt appear to be driving on the left side of the road.
Coal. Since the building was over a century old she assumed the stairway’s original purpose was to deliver fuel for basement coal furnaces.
The locked gate at the top couldn’t prevent detritus from littering the eleven steps. Oak leafs, plastic bags, wrappers and receipts. Discarded after windswept journeys.
Midafternoon sunlight allowed her to see that the bottom steps were largely uncluttered. Less wind, but gravity… she then saw the gray box on the wall. A transmitter for wireless meter readings, mounted above the third step. The installer must’ve cleared the steps during setup.
“New superseding old,” she murmured, walking away.
“Not now,” she whispered futilely. The phase energy prickled her fingertips like frostbite, and when it crawled onto her toes and forehead she knew the unpredictable change was proceeding.
The kitchen around her began fading from her sight as new objects appeared simultaneously. “A street,” she murmured. She wasn’t wearing a jacket, but fortunately the weather in the world she was entering seemed pleasant.
Mid-way through her transition, she realized how the two worlds appeared like a reflective bay window, its view of the outside world mingling with the reflected image of the interior. Sighing, she surrendered to the change.
“Really?” she responded. “Using the name of a technology firm as a verb?”
“Well we’ve refered to this condo as our Airbnb, so there’s a linguistic precedent.”
She laughed while turning to the condo’s bay window. The horizon’s sunset seemed divided by the nearby bridge, a solid burnished red beneath the stone and metal line but a faint yellow quickly giving way to blue above. She wanted to enjoy this natural spectrum further, but was also hungry. “How far is the restaurant?” she asked.
He checked his phone. “One point four miles.”
“Let’s walk instead.”
After taking a week off to enjoy a tropical vacation, it feels good to return to Friday Fictioneers.