Steve Gergley ~ Golden Eyes

In the mid­dle of the night, I wake up in a room that isn’t my room. The room is huge, as big as a cathe­dral, and the walls and floors are com­prised of yel­lowed pan­els of oak and gray blocks of gran­ite pol­ished smooth by a hun­dred years of dead feet. Thick flakes of snow leaf from the vault­ed ceil­ing. Gray plumes of smoke loi­ter in the chilly air. Sharp par­ti­cles of dust scratch the back of my throat.

As I clam­ber out of bed and start the five-mile walk to the kitchen to get a drink of water, I try to remem­ber the mean­ing of life. Moments before I woke in this place I had grasped the answer to that mys­tery and all oth­ers, but now that fero­cious and dev­as­tat­ing insight eludes me.

An hour lat­er, I trudge across the park­ing lot of a Dunkin’ Doughnuts. The lot is emp­ty. The sky is half & half. Humming sodi­um lamps cough cones of cerulean light onto the spot­less snow. The deli­cious smells of choco­late dough­nuts and hazel­nut cof­fee fill the air around me, but I keep walk­ing, straight through the dri­ve-thru lane and out the oth­er side. I don’t want to work here any­more. Dunkin’ sucks. The dri­ve-thru lane sucks. The cus­tomers are nasty and impa­tient because they haven’t had their cof­fee yet. Eleven dol­lars an hour is not enough for the dri­ve-thru lane. My life is a mess. I wish I was a nine­teenth cen­tu­ry philosopher.

Stepping off the pave­ment, I start the trek across the mud­dy field behind the Dunkin’ park­ing lot. Wet clumps of cord­grass and pur­ple blooms of deer­tongue lick the spaces between my toes. The gnarled fin­gers of a paper birch tug at my wrist, my ham­string, the meat of my naked thigh. An ex-girl­friend once told me I have a good thigh. She said it was mus­cu­lar and well-shaped. To this day that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.

Stumbling upon a stone wall no taller than my ankles, I look down at my steel-toe work boots and huff a slic­ing sigh. What’s the point of all this walk­ing? All this fuck­ing and eat­ing and work­ing? Everything that has ever exist­ed on earth will be anni­hi­lat­ed five bil­lion years from now when the sun bal­loons into a red giant, so what’s the point of doing any­thing? These seem like ques­tions for the philoso­pher part of me, so I ask him. He says he doesn’t have an answer right now. He says he has to think about it. He says he’ll get back to me in due time. I thank him for his hon­esty, but I don’t expect any answers. I know how he operates.

More walk­ing and I sense a man as thin as onion­skin clump­ing through the snow behind me. I know exact­ly who he is, but I can’t remem­ber his name. This is very embar­rass­ing. From the sound of his crunch­ing foot­steps I can see his shin­ing white hair, his mir­rored sil­ver skin. His gold­en eyes that shim­mer like the August sun at noon­time. I’m a lit­tle bit afraid. I don’t look back.

Three hours lat­er, I arrive at my bed­room door. As I raise my hand to turn the knob, the onion­skin man cross­es six­ty miles in a stride and press­es his nose to my face. Why does he always do this? He has a sharp nose. His breath slides cold and metal­lic across my cheek. His pinky glides down my arm and unzips the skin behind my elbow. Trembling in fear, I close my eyes and try to turn away. But still I see him star­ing, my eye­lids as clear as glass.


Steve Gergley is the author of the short sto­ry col­lec­tion, A Quick Primer on Wallowing in Despair (LEFTOVER Books ’22), and the forth­com­ing nov­el, Skyscraper (West Vine Press ’23). His short fic­tion has appeared or is forth­com­ing in Atticus Review, Cleaver Magazine, Hobart, Pithead Chapel, Maudlin House, and oth­ers. In addi­tion to writ­ing fic­tion, he has com­posed and record­ed five albums of orig­i­nal music. He tweets @GergleySteve. His fic­tion can be found at: