Lonely girl. Face bathed in the glow of your phone.
You were walking to the supermarket. A person walking in front of you fell to the sidewalk. You checked her pulse; she wasn’t dead. Just sleeping.
All around you, people began teetering. Falling asleep on their feet. Cars rolled aimlessly to a halt. Some bumped into the curb.
At the supermarket, customers and stockers and cashiers draped over each other in the aisles. With no better idea of what to do, you left money by one of the cash registers and carried your groceries home.
Turned on the news. The anchor was asleep at her desk. The camera angle was funny too.
Turned the faucet handle, but no water came out. Then the power died. Walked outside to see what was happening, but from every open window came the sound of snoring.
“Oh, for God’s sake,” you thought, a sick and helpless jealousy blooming within. “Am I going to have to do it all on my own from now on?”
Mouthful of Molybdomancy
A superpower common to all social animals: invisibility. To vanish, be alone.
I haven’t been able to finish a song since the day it started. The lyrics just stopped coming.
In the morning, I asked my husband to put new batteries in the kitchen clock. He needed to stand on the piano stool to reach, so he pushed it toward the kitchen with his foot. I swear I’d seen him do it just that way before.
At the supermarket, two middle-aged women in kimono walked past me. One said to the other, in confidential tones, “He ruined himself.” Without thinking, I looked around at her and realized I had seen someone in an identically patterned kimono standing in that spot years earlier.
People were collecting money near the crosswalk outside the Marunouchi subway exit. There had been an earthquake, maybe in the Middle East. An older man in a tasteful suit started to argue with a girl at the collection box. I don’t know what about. He lost his temper and upset the box. It felt so eerie that I had to sit down.
Three boys were standing in the shadow of a pedestrian bridge. Not talking or moving.
When our son got home, I found out he’d lost his kanji workbook again. Usually he ignores me no matter how I scold him, but this time he burst into tears and ran to his room. I was mystified, so out of character was this for him. And yet—not.
And this evening, in the light of the pachinko parlor entrance, the disconsolate girl sitting and crying silently: Hadn’t she been there before?
Dale Stromberg studied writing with the novelists Richard Bankowsky and Doug Rice, and has published short fiction in After Dinner Conversation, Rue Scribe, Sonder Midwest, American River Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Malaysia with his family.