And now for something completely different.
About a year ago, a good friend of mine from high school, Jason Whitmore, asked if I had any short stories that I thought would make good short films. Jason’s an incredibly talented filmmaker and I knew he’d do something great with whatever I gave him, so I sent him some things that I’d recently finished. He really liked a story called “In the End,” a flash fiction piece that had come almost fully formed out of a dream.
Jason took my basic idea and ran with it, creating an amazing work of art all his own and it rightly got a very warm reception at Florida State University, where Jason got his MFA. It’s being screened tomorrow night at the WGA Theater in Los Angeles as part of a showcase of the “Best of 2012” short films from FSU. In honor of the event and for a little bit of context about my role in this whole process, I thought I’d put up the original short piece.
In the End
Nicole M. Taylor
It was the last day of our world and I could not find Galliol any place that I looked. He was not in the apartment we shared with its squashed view of the dark, sickly river. I lingered though. I took the ring that had been Galliol’s mother’s from the jewelry box beside our bed. He hadn’t given it to me, said he was waiting for just the right time. The opal winked like a single cataract’d eye on my finger.
He was not downstairs in the grimy little deli where the owner had shot himself and was lying next to the open cooler of liquor. The bottles were sweating unpleasantly. I tried not to look, but I saw the owner from the corners of my eyes. His features all looked as though they’d slid upwards.
He was not in the alleyways between the cramped buildings. Baria, who lived down the street and was always in the deli complaining about shitty bagels, ran by me. She had a little girl in her arms, maybe three or four. The little girl wasn’t moving.
I found Galliol in the street with his camera. He crouched on one knee, the tiny, intricate workings of his camera clicking and sputtering. The streets were empty, but for us, the tall buildings blank and sightless. The little juttering clicks of the camera seemed to come at us from all sides.
Galliol did not speak. I leaned down and looped my arm through his. “We have to go now.”
The ships had landed crookedly, throwing up big piles of earth with their metal feet. Thick lines of people swarmed around the ships’ mouths. In their arms they clutched unwieldy packages, haphazard piles of clothes. The blank-faced soldiers walked placidly up and down the queues. Galliol clutched his camera to him like a child.
“Hey.” His brown eyes were distant and unfocused. I pressed my hands to the back of his neck and pulled his face down to rest against mine. “Hey,” I said, and his mouth was unresponsive beneath mine. “Hey,” I said again, and realized that I was crying.
I tarried, trying to stop my tears. A middle-aged woman with cut lip let me wipe my face with the corner of a bed sheet.
“Where’s Galliol?” asked Josa, behind me. I pointed towards the far end of the line, where Galliol stood with his camera in both his hands, staring into the dark lens. Josa narrowed his eyes. It made him look like Galliol, though for brothers they had never had any great resemblance. “He okay?” he asked.
I tried to laugh, it came out strangled. “Who’s okay?” Josa took my arm in a familiar way that I disliked, I edged away. In the distance, the light was getting bigger, it made strange orange shadows on all of our faces. “Are they gonna-” I began and heard shouting from one of the ships.
Galliol was struggling with one of the soldiers. He clutched his camera to him, the solider attempted to wrestle it away. “Galliol!” I said, and the soldier tilted his head like a cat. Galliol ran and the soldier did not follow him. The light in the sky was huge and bright, and there was nowhere to go.
I moved to follow him and Josa pulled me back. “Where are you going?” he hissed. I shook myself out of his grip and went after Galliol. He had vanished already.
“Orna! Stop!” Josa’s breathing was ragged and urgent right behind me.
I met Galliol on a riverbank, I was reading a little book of poetry. He took a picture of me. In it, I look thoughtful and weary, there is a long strand of hair stuck to the corner of my mouth.
“We don’t have time for this,” Josa complained, keeping pace with me.
“Then go back.”
“Orna.” It sounded like he was crying, “don’t do this, come back with me. Galliol’s gone, everything’s gone.”
Once, when Galliol and I had been dating for about a year, Josa came up behind me while I smoked over the kitchen sink. He grabbed my hips and danced us slowly across the tile floor. He smelled like cologne, not anything like Galliol, who just smelled like white soap and clean, bitter sweat. I just stopped, planted my feet and smoked like it was my last cigarette. He dropped his head until it touched my shoulder. “I’m so goddamned drunk,” he said.
“Come back with me,” he was saying, over and over again until it was wasn’t words, just strange slurring sounds. I pulled my hands out of his one at a time.
“Go back now, Josa.”
I found Galliol on the second floor of a warehouse. I think he was trying to get to roof. He had gone over a railing, maybe on the third or the fourth floor. He was sitting up, resting his elbows on the window sill as I climbed up to him.
I sat down beside him, his legs stretching out uselessly beside me. He was bleeding from an open cut just above his eyebrow. I licked my thumb and wiped the red away.
He looked at me, looked at my face and my wild hair, my torn shirt, my dirty tennis shoes. He looked at my hand, where his mother’s opal stared up at us. “I should have given you this a while ago,” he said, touching my ring finger.
“Yeah,” I said. Dust choked my throat.
Outside the window, the light was getting big and yellow. I thought I could hear the sound of the ships firing their great engines. Galliol turned to me and raised his camera. He looked like some bleak machine. I stared steadily into the dark lens. The camera gave an orderly, brittle snap and he lowered it, revealing his dark and lovely eyes.
“Beautiful,” he said.
And then we turned and watched out the window as the light got bigger and bigger, burning everything it touched.