Reading Time: ~10 minutes
The boat set sail early in the morning, on a summer day. Mark boarded it first. His wife, Linda, followed. The children came last, jostling each other other in their excitement.
“Stop that,” Mark said to them, embarrassed.
They either didn’t hear or him or ignored him. Tom pushed Alice and Alice pushed Tom. Tom was about to push Alice again, giggling, but Mark caught his wrist. “God damnit,” Mark said. “I said stop it.” He shook Tom for a few seconds and then released him.
Tom bolted to his mother, crying into her dress. Linda put her hand on his head. “Mark, honestly.” Alice trailed behind. Mark led the way to a lady with a clipboard. “The Waldens,” he said. The humidity hung heavy, broken by bursts of an intermittent ocean breeze. He took out a handkerchief and dabbed at his temples.
Reading Time: ~15 minutes
The floating island was home to several hundred men, women, and children. Beyond it, a floating mist perpetually floated, where clouds clung together like errant dreams. Rivers squirmed through the tropical air, bubbling in the misted sunshine, and spiraled off into infinity. Long, endless vines hung from the grassy edges of the island, tendrils dangling down into churning swirls of fog. People told stories about brave men and women who had dared to hang from the vines and try to climb down, but no one could imagine what lay underneath the island or past the clouds, so these stories primarily resulted in disappearances.
The people of the village lived in houses constructed from the moist bark of the island’s palm trees. They tended fields of worthless green hay for hours and hours, until their skin felt like it was melting from the wet heat of the sunlight. Night would fall like ash over the island and people would retire to their houses, talking quietly and telling stories. It wasn’t a bad life. There were no murders and no suicides.
Reading Time: ~10 minutes
Harold’s wife is cheating on him. He knows it. It’s obvious. She gets home later than usual. It’s happened for a few months. Her excuse is that the newspaper has had to fire some copy editors, so now the reporters have to look over their own articles. It takes a few extra hours.
“Hours,” she says. “Can you believe that? They make us stay like we don’t have to get to dinner with the family.”
Hours, he thinks. Hours of animal pounding, half-heard words in dark sweaty rooms and coiled sheets. The temporary release from the material world and the monotony of stunted dreams and evaporating ambitions. The escape from life through the thrill of sex and the thrill of betrayal.
He knows. He grins when she tells him.