Rain Shadow


Ran rolled the small amount of water around in her flask. What if she were to chug the whole thing down, right now, and feel refreshed, only to feel greater thirst later? Instead, she took the smallest of sips. Ran was lost.

It was only supposed to be a two-hour hike to Riverside, but it seemed like her navigation skills were not what they used to be. Using the position of the sun, she had continued to journey in what she had hoped was the direction of Riverside, but the wooden shacks at the edge of town had never materialized.

She slung the flask back over her tingling shoulders. The sun could mummify her skin.

She tried not to think about the pain in her feet. Sharp burning has subsided into an ongoing ache, that was beginning to give way to numbness.

If only she could sit down, like the Buddha, cross-legged in the sand, and dream herself back to where she wanted to be, back to New York City, back to the stuffy, creaky sitting room of her old girlfriend, Karen. She could see Karen sitting in the splotchy red-violet armchair, watching the news on an old set. What wouldn’t Ran give for Karen’s rickety, old Jeep? She would go back to New York, after a short cruise, in the Caribbean.

The orange desert dwarfed her. It was a slow rolling plain, ringed by distant crags. Above, various black-winged birds screeched, wheeling in the white sunlight. They hung like stationary planetary mobiles, in a quivering blue sky that was painful to look at.

The night would be cold and brittle. She could dig for water then. Right now, she could find some shade and rest in it. But only shrubs sat along the orange expanse. Rocky outcroppings were far away and off in the direction she would be going.

It was a trade-off: take some time to rest or perhaps even stay there, under a cliff, or in a cave, until someone came by, or use what little, time, water and nutrient bars she had left to keep trekking in the direction of where she was supposed to be. Ran didn’t recognize any landmarks. She could be travelling deeper into this desert, deep down in the heart of the United States.

Four days ago, she had been to the sea. Ran had come here from the West Coast, from her surf shop in Los Angeles. Visiting San Bernardino had been a holiday. It was strange how the simplest of things could get so radically overturned, spun in the wrong direction. Ran tried not to let things get her down. She cleared her mind; it was a blank plaster wall, as flat as the land in front of her churning feet.

She puffed out her cheeks and exhaled slowly. Every time she did that, the pain moved farther away, but every time it was pushed back, it would flow back from where it had receded, like ocean waves.

She moved as fast as she dared, hobbling on her throbbing feet. Why couldn’t she move any faster? She had forgotten her camera in the desert.


The Supernumerary


Ran sat in the well. The sky was white. The pods of newly unfurled leaves floated down, the donations of the beginning of spring. She stared up at the yellow-green waif-like plants, and then looked at the well wall in front of her, an impenetrable gray surface, down there in the gloom. In Maine, on Kaan’s property, she closed her eyes, soul moving around the darkened barrier, to a room beyond, a dim room, with red carpeting, in a château, in the south of France.

The room was ornate, set in a Baroque style. There was a grandfather clock, giving off a muffled clicking, over-wrought side tables and a resplendent golden davenport, made in Italy in the 1600s. A glass decanter of port sat on the heavy walnut desk of the study. The room opened out into a balcony. Translucent, white chiffon curtains floated upward, in the breeze of the late summer afternoon. Nealy stood just inside the doorway, with a glass of wine, in a beige three-piece suit and a red ascot, heavy golden rings on each hand.

Nealy turned as Ran slunk out of the shadows in the room, still wearing the jeans and cashmere sweater she had been wearing at the bottom of the well. The wind rustled some papers on the desk, held down only by a fountain pen.

“This needs to end,” Ran growled, “She is my girlfriend now, not yours.”

“How do you know that she ever stopped being my girlfriend?” Nealy asked. Beyond the balcony, the full, broad leaves of summer danced in the gentle gusts.

“She broke up with you years ago. We may look alike, but you’re on the other side of the world. I am the one she has now!” Ran said.

Nealy looked down, studying the glass of port, “No, you are the double, the clone. I am the true girlfriend.”

“Why, you -!” Ran choked out, and rushed forward, not knowing what she would do. But Nealy looked up, with a frozen glare. Ran felt herself transfixed, riveted with terror, under the unrelenting gaze. The pages got loose, from under the pen, and whipped around the room.

She woke up, eyes roving the ceiling, raking the room for any signs of the château, the chandelier, the bronze candlesticks.

Ran found herself back in her bedroom, in New York, Alli asleep, and unaware, reclining beside her.


Second image courtesy of Kristina Stipetic


Mendelssohn – The Hebrides, overture in B minor for orchestra (‘Fingal’s Cave’), Op. 26