Dawn/Dusk: Short Story by Harrison O’Brien

For my first official post on the blog I have decided to share with you one of the stories that has been sitting on my computer for far too long. I’m a little nervous… Really I’m a lot nervous. So nervous that when I was texting my close friend and editor Hank about today, I spelled it nervius.

I really shouldn’t be though. I’ve been writing for quite a long time now. Yes, that’s including the Mission Impossible ripoff I wrote in the fourth grade. I still have it. I even drew the cover art.

Writing has become a wonderful outlet for me lately, with work taking a lot out of me. I tend to feel like a shadow by the time I get home. But with Hannah helping to ease some of those work wounds and writing, I get to live a very happy life indeed. So here it goes.

Written By: Harrison O’Brien

Edited By: Hank Bieber

Dawn broke earlier that day than previous days. As someone who was always awakened by the sunrise, I found this strange. There was a silence in the air, amplified by the coolness of the breaking spring. The usual humming of energy that I felt most mornings was nowhere to be found. By noon I was through with the tasks I had put off for the week. The bills were now paid, the apartment cleaned, lunch made.

In the afternoon hours I fell asleep watching a poorly made daytime film on television. I awoke in a cold sweat, groggy and unaware of where or who I was. I spent the rest of my day performing my tasks in the order I always do, but each thing was finished a little earlier than usual.

At first this was only a slight annoyance, but as the day progressed my earliness irked me more and more. After all, when had I ever had time to fall asleep watching daytime TV? I rubbed my eyes to try and work the tiredness out of them. I drank a glass of cold water, feeling the cool rush in my stomach. I showered to wake up my dulled senses, letting the heavy pressure massage my back and scalp, all to no avail.

I decided to break the spell once and for all.

I walked outside, shutting the door lightly behind me. The busier street at the end of mine echoed traffic down to my front door, Top 40 radio blaring and bouncing its electronic voodoo into my ears.

I never listened to the radio much. When I did it was simply to keep up with the news. In the comfort of my apartment, with the light flooding through the blinds and the coffee pot steaming on the table in the kitchen and my eyes blinking awake in the kitchen, sure then I would turn on the radio. The morning radio for me was always a college jazz station that didn’t quite come in right.

. . . . . . . . . .

The first day I moved into this apartment, I remember the smell quite distinctly. It seemed to come from the kitchen. An earthy, almost ancient smell. Slightly sour, like rotting wood, but also comforting, like one hundred years of family meals were being served to me in the bright dining room. I imagine the worn brown carpets had been there for about that long.

That’s the impression I have of this city in general. Everything seems to have survived time. Every home still has the hearty nature of the turn of the century. The scent is always what prevails. It makes me feel a little more connected to a world that leaves you otherwise faceless.

. . . . . . . . . .

As I walked down the street that day, feeling the sun on my back, the rumble of tires on the pavement, my worn leather shoes on the sidewalk, I knew I had to do something to break the spell.

I started running.

Not in a measured pace, but a reckless sprint. I weaved between people on the sidewalk and rushed to move around lampposts. Dusk was breaking and lights flickered on as I crossed the street. A damp wind blew from the lakefront and whispered in my ear.

I ran faster.

I threw myself off the curb and into the street. Horns blared. I didn’t slow my pace. I continued running, sprinting, past parked cars and storefronts. I stayed my course in the street and ducked down the alley past Morton’s Cleaners.

The wind was now picking up and carrying with it the taste and smell of the lake. Houses flashed by as my frantic running blurred the world around me. I caught glimpses into the world of the homes along the street. Blink, and I see a family sitting down to eat; blink, and I see a scene of a man mowing his lawn; blink, and I see troves of children playing. Blink.

My leather shoes straining under misuse, squeaking in protest, I threw myself out of motion. I rolled on the hard concrete sidewalk and felt my skin tear lose under my fine cotton shirt.

I looked down to see little droplets of blood peeking through the material.

The light changed. I picked myself off the ground and sprinted faster and faster, the whole world a series of streaks of light, no longer any semblance of the world that I normally knew. I bounded across intersections and left dogs barking in my wake. I chased after the sun, but it always managed to stay a few steps ahead of me.

Lungs exploding, body aching, feet blistering and pulsating in agony, I stopped.

Before me the sun was making its final descent behind the horizon. I looked down to see where my feet had brought me.

I was at the overlook beach point. The lake wind had blown me here. I stared out over the crystal reflection of the setting sun. My body collapsed into itself. As I lay crumpled on the ground, knees tucked into my chest, I began to weep. But the wind blew again and brought my weeping to a sudden halt. I felt a moment of pure happiness and joy, a clarity of which I had long been in search for. I laid back, tucked my hands behind my head and closed my eyes.

. . . . . . . . . .

“I found him here lying just like that,” the officer told the paramedic. “I was making my night rounds through the park. Dispatch told me they got a complaint about a man being in the park after closing hours.”

“You know how these people are around here,” said the paramedic. They love to see every last tax dollar spent how they see fit. Let alone let people use a public space in a way they don’t like.”

“Bastards”, said the officer. “Well anyways, when I went to wake him up, I noticed how peaceful he looked. So I decided to leave him be for the night.”

He paused for a moment.

“The captain sure is going to have my ass for this one. I should have followed protocol and woken him up then.”

The man died of a heart attack yesterday around sunset”, said the paramedic. “There’s nothing any of us could have done.”

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