Friday, June 4, 2010

Fata Morgana

Note: Pieces of this story have appeared separately. Section 2 was published at Six Sentences (see link at right), and sections 1, 3, and 4 have appeared at this blog.

Driving on the Arctic ice, he sees a city on the horizon where one shouldn’t be. He emerges from the vehicle, bitter air and silent moonscape, to admire the sight. Twinkling lights, bustling streets, a parade of flower-covered floats. Don’t look too close, he thinks, else the illusion will be destroyed; instead maintain a favorable myopia, a likeable distortion. The rest of the world below him—he’s buried its false promises, its broken streets, its burnt dusted graves. He thinks of a corresponding soul standing on the same longitude, looking north toward the same point, dreaming of a new life.

In the Saharan desert, all mouths salted with sand and heat, he films mirages in the vast wasteland of beauty. It’s a documentary filmed by aliens from the Andromeda Galaxy, he says, an inscription for a future plaque, his face framed in metal framed goggles, his eyes hidden behind black hole lenses. In the distance, there are always voices singing in Arabic, reciting tales of paradise, the voices never coming closer. The crew rides along, often seeing the Atlantic Ocean coming into view. But it’s just more endless desert. They look at him. His face reveals nothing, forever looking forward.

The Fay has lived many lives, from times of long dead languages to the present. Sent to a convent as a child. Cast out of brother Arthur’s court. Plotted against Guinevere, his not-so-faithful queen, seduced Lancelot, her not-so-pure knight. After Arthur’s death, she resided with sirens, lured na├»ve sailors to their doom, made grand castles float in the air. Now she looks into mirrors wondering, who is this being, what’s her story these days. She ignores a ringing phone. She walks onto a city street. The people—cuckolds and marks, adulterers and charlatans. The possibilities. The world remains the same.

A boy, caked in dust with a mangy black dog by his side, stands outside the village, watches the approaching vehicle, the lazy dust devil it’s created a looming shadow. His parents regard him as a dreamer, his dead stares and wild stories the symptoms of some desert sickness. The vehicle slows down. He can see inside: foreigners with cameras, focusing on him, as he, unmoving, locks gazes with their machinery. The vehicle accelerates upon passing, trailed by the dust cloud, disappearing into the horizon. He’ll tell his parents about this. They’ll look at each other, not smiling, saying nothing.

She lives in Canberra’s outskirts, confined to a wheelchair, in a town known for its athletes. Local legend says the dams upriver release holy waters dripping with nutrients. She finds the legend cruel, fate’s knife twist on her condition. The legend has it that the released waters create waves so powerful that surfers could ride them downstream, arrive like extraterrestrials, dressed in bright-colored wetsuits, sun-kissed skin. On a hot day she could look north, see a false image of a tall wave. She imagines someone riding this wave, his hand the healing touch that would lift her from her chair.


  1. I liked all five, but I particularly like 3. The world does indeed remain the same

  2. I agree with Maria - I think 3 stands out, but all are examples of extraordinary writing.