Black Petals Issue #102, Winter, 2023

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Betterment Day: Fiction by Malik Mandeville
Bridget Magnus: Fiction by Dean Patrick
Cemetery Road: Fiction by Richard Brown
I Quit: Fiction by Michael Stoll
Ivory Tower: Fiction by Aron Reinhold
Letter from a Poison Pen Pal: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Neck of the Woods: Fiction by Harris Coverley
No Angels: Fiction by Kilmo
It's A Dry Heat: Fiction by Roy Dorman
Requited Love: Fiction by Travis Mushanski
Stuck in Transit: Fiction by Michael Woods
Cold Yearning: Flash Fiction by Kat Sandefer
I Married a Zombie: Flash Fiction by M. L. Fortier
Snack Time: Flash Fiction by Zvi A. Sesling
The Boy Who Loved Bolt: Flash Fiction by Ron Capshaw
The Cutting Room: Flash Fiction by Karen Schauber
Dirty Blue Bandana: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Bidee Bodee, Bidee Beaux: Poem by Thomas Fischer
Blood of Whitechapel: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Rotten to the Core: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Seque into Shadows: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Sensitivity to Light: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Boo Hag: Poem by Richard Stevenson
Paranormal Parasites: Poem by Richard Stevenson
Huggin Molly: Poem by Richard Stevenson
In the Morgue of Memory: Poem by Hillary Lyon
Unexpected Culinary Opportunity: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
OI (Oo-ee): Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Plant Eater Gone Carnivorous: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
They Shouldn't Be There: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
The Needle Spins: Poem by Rp Verlaine
Cold: Poem by Rp Verlaine
The Sleepwalker: Poem by Rp Verlaine

Roy Dorman: It's a Dry Heat

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Art by Hillary Lyon 2023

IT’S A DRY HEAT

 

Roy Dorman

 

Humans may live for as many as a hundred years, but not many more years than that.  Other beings of a type not to be named here may live forever.  Is that fair?  No one has ever said life was fair.  In fact, the opposite is often said to be true.

 

Robert Morrison woke up with the scratchiest throat he could remember ever having.  He tried a tentative swallow and found he’d nothing to swallow. 

He was spitless.

His eyes also felt grainy.  Opening and closing them felt like the lids were lined with sandpaper.

He was in a depression of hard packed sand that was still warm, though the air was starting to cool.  There were a million stars overhead, and if he didn’t feel like he’d been run through the wringer a dozen times he could’ve enjoyed the display.  He watched as every fifteen to twenty seconds a shooting star raced across the sky.  He tried to see where they started and ended, but was always too late.  Just got the middle part.

For a reason he couldn’t figure, this bothered him.

A full moon had just begun to start up the sky on the horizon.

Was he maybe in the desert?

He lay on his back and tried to remember what could have possibly brought him to someplace in the desert.

“That cute woman in the bar with the dark hair and blue eyes,” he thought to himself.  “Her boyfriend had gotten drunk with his cowboy buddies and she was hitting on me to get his attention.  I knew what she was doing and let it happen.”

He felt no pain and figured they must’ve just knocked him out and dumped him here.  But how far was “here” from “there?”

It would probably be better to try and walk to civilization at night while it was cool.  Maybe he could get to a highway.

Robert tried to sit up and found he couldn’t.  He did manage to roll over onto his stomach and bring himself to his hands and knees.

Panting from the exertion, he paused and looked down at his hands.  With the bright moonlight he noticed his shirtsleeves were tattered and faded.  Faded on one side, like from the sun.

How long could he have been here?

Still on his hands and knees, he surveyed the area around the roughly circular twenty-five-foot depression.

With the help of the moonlight, he could see the area about eight to ten feet out from the worn lip of the depression.

“I must be in some kinda dried-up waterhole,” he whispered through dry lips.

Surrounding the waterhole were the skeletons of all sorts of desert life.

What looked to be dried desert rats and mice, armadillos, birds, and maybe rabbits, were joined by a number of scorpions.

Robert had been on his hands and knees for a couple of minutes when his left femur broke away from his hip and he collapsed onto his stomach again.

There was no pain.  Why wasn’t there any pain?

He thought back to his awakening and realized that with his dry throat and scratchy eyelids there hadn’t been any pain either.  Just the sensation of …., of what?

He looked at his right hand.  In the darkness, he couldn’t see a lot of detail.  With his left hand he tested the strength of his ring finger.  He bent it back and forth as far as it would go and then it …, broke off!

“That can’t be good,” he said, whispering again. 

The finger he’d broken off was mainly skin and bone, with a small amount of dried flesh wrapped around the bone.

Robert was curious as to whether all of his body was that dry.  But not curious enough to continue experimenting.

Still lying on his stomach, he knew he was never going to walk out of the desert. 

***

Two pairs of glowing red eyes had been watching Robert from a distance of about thirty feet.

“He’s finally finished,” a voice murmured from near one pair of those eyes.

“Yes, Alphonse,” said another voice.  “He’s dried quite nicely.”

“Twenty years is a long time to wait, Edgar,” said the first voice.

“It’s like letting a fine wine age,” answered the second.  “The powder derived from this gift’s body will provide us with life-giving essence for centuries to come.  The job of keeping him just alive has been difficult, but well worth the effort.”

“Come now.  I’ll bring the urns.  Let’s get this done and get back home.”

“Oh, what a welcome we’ll receive!”

***

Robert watched as two old men walked up to him.  They looked like garden gnomes.

“I could use some help here,” he said.  “I don’t think I can get out of the desert by myself.”

The men hunkered down in a squatting position in front of Robert, setting two golden urns to the side.

“You are a very valuable commodity,” one said.  “And we will take special care that all of you gets out of the desert.”

The second of the two picked up the finger that Robert had cast aside.  He rolled it around in his palms, being careful not to lose any of the dust he was making.

He transferred all of the “Robert Dust” to one palm and gently snorted a small amount.

He let out a sigh.  “Exquisite,” he said offering his palm to his comrade.  “The elixir added to the pond’s water was just the correct amount.”

“Of course it was the correct amount, Alphonse.  I prepared it and added it to the pond myself.”

“Testy, testy.  I said it was correct, didn’t I?”

Robert grimaced as one of his arms was pulled from his body.  Based on the conversation he was listening to but not a part of, he came to realize he might be the ingredient in some sort of recipe.

A recipe for life.

But not his life.

Alphonse addressed Robert once more as he carefully broke off a leg at one of the knees and pulled it from the pants leg.

“Your life essence has been enhanced by the process.  Your DNA will course through our families for a very long time.  We thank you for that.”

As Edgar was wrenching Robert’s head from his neck, Robert thought about the Huntington’s Disease that had killed his father and his father’s father before him. 

“What do you suppose he’s smiling about?” asked Alphonse.

“Who knows what humans consider humorous,” answered Edgar pulling the head free.  “I’ve always thought them odd.”

 

THE END

 

Roy Dorman is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for over 65 years.  At the prompting of an old high school friend, himself a retired English teacher, Roy is now a voracious writer.  He has had flash fiction and poetry published in Black Petals, Bewildering Stories, One Sentence Poems, Yellow Mama, Drunk Monkeys, Literally Stories, Dark Dossier, The Rye Whiskey Review, Near To The Knuckle, Theme of Absence, Shotgun Honey, 50 Give or Take, Subject And Verb Agreement Press, and a number of other online and print journals.  

Unweaving a Tangled Web, recently published by Hekate Publishing, is his first novel.