Little Town

by Brooke Powell


The clock struck midnight- at least I assume it was the echo of the chiming that I heard ringing in my ears. Now that I think about it, I don’t remember having ever seen a clock anywhere in the town square before.

Then again, I often hear things that I can’t see.

Whispers,

cackles,

screeches.

I suppose that in the grand scheme of things, a clock striking twelve when there’s no clock around isn’t that strange.

The grass was damp and the air was heavy with the feel of autumn. The sliver of the deep red moon reflected off of the like-colored leaves, turning the world crimson. Last time I saw so much scarlet, it was warmer, but I don’t mind the crisp atmosphere. It keeps me alert, awake.

(If awake is what I am. I never can really tell.)

Like usual, the brick buildings stood firmly around the center of the city, quiet sentries with no one to protect. Glass doors remained closed to the outside world, glaring yellow ribbons with the word CAUTION printed in angry black ink keeping any stragglers from wandering in. Faded papers precariously stuck to the solitary structures writhed against the wind: posters showcasing the faces of men long dead with slogans long forgotten; flyers advocating the latest advances in emotion-removing technology; pamphlets displaying nothing but the phrase WHY DIDN’T WALT WHITMAN NAME HIS BOOK BLADES OF GRASS. Occasionally a stray page of a book, edges burnt and slightly smoldering, fluttered by my feet. I didn’t look at the pages, didn’t read the words, but I knew what each page had printed on it. Bits of dialogues, snippets of plot, fragments of character development- each resounded in my head.

All in all, it wasn’t an unusual night.

I picked myself up off the dew-covered ground, just as I had each time before. And just as each other night, I saw no one else.

(I’m sure they saw me- they always do.)

The chime of the clock still resounded, though the town square, bouncing off of the unforgiving walls of the Mental Recalibration Center and the steely windows of the Central Control Complex. Off in the distance, the birds shrieked in response. At least that’s what I assume- the Forgottens aren’t usually so loud at this hour, so it must be the birds.

Of course it is.

Dragging my bare feet across the manicured lawn, I walked until my skin was greeted with the callous cement of the street. The roads wind and curve and make sharp turns- a merciless maze plastered with the red light of the moon. Breathe deep, exhale slowly, trust your gut, walk forward, turn here, repeat until you’re out of the city.

Brick walls and glass doors and wire fences riddled with signs reading ENJOY YOUR STAY welcomed me at every turn. Left, left, right- no, left again. There has to be a way out, there’s always a way out.

That’s how mazes work, right?

Right, left, right, left. Each night I arrive, I set out on a new path but the city knows my every move, keeps me from leaving. The flyers on the walls whisper to one another, telling secrets, watching my footsteps. Left, left, left once more. The crimson moon bathes the streets, the winds picks up and blows more pages of print down the barren road. Right, left, right, right.

I can’t hear the chime of the clock anymore.

Dead end.