from the archives
I wrote this back in March of 2016, and posted it to my personal blog, Draft Copy. A friend and I tried doing prompted writings; I think this is the only one that I actually finished. I’m reposting it here because it fits with the theme of FUTURESIGHT, but also because I just absolutely love it — it surprises me what small details feel exactly current and which have a tinge of ancientness creeping in about them. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
If you’ve got a prompt that you think might be fun to see a story crafted around, please don’t hesitate to send it my way. I make no promises, but who knows, maybe it’ll be a great jumping off point for something absolutely unforeseeable.
[prompt: can a catastrophe be private to an individual? contained? ]
the water had been spiked. all the water, for the entire city of macon, georgia. we didn't know it at the time, but it was one of many facts that became clear in the aftermath. the CDC is still working to determine the exact pollutant. my friend marty said that it reminded him of the time he took meth while tripping on mushrooms out in the salt flats.
they caught the lady, but we're all still as stumped on motive. she was of average height, brown hair, sort of librarian looking. wore glasses and worked from home while taking care of two children. her husband worked courier during the day, contracting himself out to local construction companies and neighborly errands via some startup's app-centric delivery service by turns. on construction days he'd take the ford f150; the smart car or bike on the others, his saddle bags cleaned and empty, ready for a day of heavy use.
they still don't know where she got the drugs from. or why she did it. she's in the county jail now, but isn't talking about it. there wasn't any residue at her house. no large packages delivered in the last six months. no trace of it anywhere, at all.
macon split in half that day. literally, the sky parted in two, one part of the sun in each half. the middle was filled with a black velvet that shimmered, pinioned between the two sides of the sun. i asked my mom about it, she says that that never happened. she says it turned violent green. she's still sunburned for spending so long laying on the grass, trying to reconcile where the land ended and the sky began.
the facts are this: at 9:36 a.m. while on a tour of the local water municipality, the perpetrator gained access to the fluoride supply and contaminated one of the barrels with a neurotoxin. by 12:10 p.m. the contaminated fluoride was being piped to the entire county. she had been chaperoning her oldest child's class field trip.
after the sky ripped in half, i went inside to find george. he had fallen over the back of the couch, and was laying on the cushion, his feet up in the air, his head hanging down toward the persian rug, a modern reproduction of a safavid design. his eyes were open, tracing lazy lines along the curves of the ceiling, and his mouth hung slack, drool seeping down, slowly toward his eyebrows. i still can't get him to tell me what he was seeing. he says it's hard to explain, but it involved something with gravity and the world going all topsy turvy, just for a day.
they pulled her children in for questioning. by the time they had traced the contaminants to her, three weeks had already passed. the oldest child couldn't remember anything from the water trip. she did mention a canvas tote bag, but the authorities haven't been able to locate anything like that. not yet at least. the younger one seemed to be tripping at the time of the interview -- she wouldn't do anything other than mimic back what the questioners asked her, mimicked it back in bird song.
jill doesn't think she did it. when the drugs wore off, jill found herself curled up in a grocery cart at the local fiesta mart. the last 8 hours were a blur of dried pasta rain, ice cream aisle parties and vegetable art. cans of tomato sauce and black beans surrounded her cart -- someone had made her a fort to nap in, as best as she can figure. her cheeks were wet -- when the elation wore away, she dissolved into tears over the loss of her last child, miscarriage, again. can a catastrophe be private to an individual? contained? her fellow shoppers had tucked her away, laid to rest on a bed of puffed marshmallows.
they say it was a miracle that no one died. they say we're lucky the insane asylum is miles from the nearest gun shop. they say that they don't know if it was a terrorist attack yet but that they should know, soon. for now she's locked up in isolation.
case and i spent the afternoon in the hammock out back deep beneath the poplar trees, twined up together like two cats with bellies full of cream and as much time to idle away as any. case talked about the book he had been reading, about how our lives were like microcosms of the world yet lived, tracing back all the things that he knew, one by one to their origin's origin's origin.
rumor is that she hasn't been given a lawyer yet. if they do hand it out, i'll probably get it. being the public defender means defending all types, but she'll be the first terrorist i've defended, if they decide to go that way. they retro-tapped her phones and text messages and emails and app content. both her and her husband. they say the evidence they found there is totally useless. maybe it was just a part of her destiny, that part picked out for her from birth. her parents haven't been located yet, otherwise they might give some insight to why they called her catastropha. she goes by cat for short. cat, the brilliant mastermind. cat, the criminal savant.
when the sun set that night, it began from the rifted middle, exploding outward in a steady stream of color: hot yellow, magenta, bloody red, violent violet, then the deepest emerald green.
Photo from https://wallpapers-stocks.blogspot.com/2011/10/green-sunset.html