The first portal that appeared in town belonged to Mr. Hogan. It showed up in one of his bathrooms above the sink, blocking a good deal of his vanity mirror and causing several shaving accidents. I don’t know why the portal appeared to him. It’s not like he was the type to attract otherworldly things.
Water will not put out a reality fire. Those little red extinguishers are useless. A reality fire will not be tamed. As the eyes move from object to object each bursts into flames and is consumed, gone forever, and no smoke either — for a reality fire will consume so thoroughly that nothing is wasted. No smoke escapes. Never any smoke. From a reality fire there is no smoke.
I was twenty-six, working full time at the Bagelry in suburban Chicago, avoiding the future. The future did not seem like anything you could count on. Even in suburban Chicago, where Public Works employees smiled while scraping up roadkill, people were unhappy, desperate to convince themselves of something good. Desperate.
Jeff is getting ready to start the meeting, pretending since I walked in that he hasn’t seen me. I don’t blame him for that, but I feel like telling everyone that most of the shit they spout in these places isn’t true. If it were, Jeff wouldn’t be ducking me; he’d be taking me on in front of everyone and forcing the Truth. Where’s your Fearless and Searching Moral Inventory, Jeff?
Once there were two hogs and a sow who lived in a sturdy pen outside an old man’s hut. Then the old man died. That morning, no one brought food to the pen; the next morning, no one brought food to the pen. By evening the animals were panicked and ravenous, the bottom of the trough licked smooth as tile.
I’m just drifting off to sleep when a creature in the bushes outside my window screams like a human baby. I run to the kitchen. What is that? I ask my mother. Mother says, That is a fisher. I’m eight and have never heard of such an animal. A fisher, says Mother, is a kind of weasel that lives in the woods. It eats cats. It could even, she says, eat a very small dog.
Once, a donkey ascended to the shining gates of the kingdom of heaven. The gates were open. The donkey heard music more beautiful than anything he had ever imagined. Each note was a star going supernova, a pack of wolves running down an elk over snow. The song poured itself into the world. The donkey stood transfixed. Without thinking, he opened his mouth wide and brayed.
Then Hallie meandered in twenty minutes late, glowing in bright colors — orange and green and purple. Her clothes looked like they’d been knitted by a blind person. She wore a scarf on her head and yellow combat boots, and I would give anything to experience that same fear and elation again, the feeling that we were starting something new together.
I got the call in the middle of the night. I dressed fast, expecting Parker to wake up any minute and make me come back, but he didn’t. It was summer, and the air felt warm even at 2 AM. I made a cup of coffee and walked down the long driveway to the road. Julie was giving me a ride, but she’d never been to my house before. Nobody ever came there to see me.