signs of life
Photo owned by zoetnet (cc)

The crescent moon is a fingernail mark pressed into the darkening sky. An anxious star tugs at it, trying to pull it up farther. Hands swim below the surface of the water. Birds cradled in the wickerwork of leafless branches eye the restless fluttering of the fingers.

Someone calls, but no one answers. Shadows sweep along the banks of the lake, pulled and stretched into awkward shapes by passing headlights. No one answers.

Someone walks and feels the dry stiff grass lace itself around their ankles, tracing lines of frost. The hands continue to crawl and the moon creeps up the sky.

No one answers.

Tin dancing mice revolve in the warmth of the kitchen. One watches the light of the moon as it moves down the blue stripes of the wallpaper. It marks the time with one ticking paw. The mice click and whir, dancing frantically, trying to forget that their clothes are only painted on.

The salt and pepper shakers, shaped like ears of corn, sit sullenly. Upstairs, sleepers move restlessly, their dreams escaping, leaking into the feather comforters.

The moonlight reaches the fifth bar of delphinium.

There is still no answer. Someone longs for the heated air of the kitchen, but instead sits on a bench and watches the movements of the hands. Fingers break the corrugated surface of the water and return to counting the pebbles in the silt below.

Ducks whisper among the reeds, revealing their secret journey. Their tickets are crumpled birch leaves, spiderwebs of veins eroded by the autumn rain, gilded by the guilty starlight. Someone takes one and tucks it in the pocket of their jacket, where it tangles with milkweed down.

The moonlight reaches the twelfth bar,and the mice spin slowly, regretfully, back into their boxes. The comforters are stained crimson and ebony with the dregs of dreams.

The hands swim like memories in the process of being forgotten. Someone waits, and no one answers.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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