Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Face in the Clouds (Fiction) by Dawn Allison

A Face in the Clouds
by Dawn Allison

Kent Alrich always took his camera with him when he went for his daily walk through the fields beside his house. He never knew what he might see back there, once he saw a white fawn, another time he saw a black bear, and countless snakes, turtles, and lizards, mostly in the days before he began to carry his camera bag with him whenever he went. His wife called it his man purse. It was important to him, though, to keep a visual record of the things he saw to commemorate his existence.

He was halfway through his walk when he looked up to see a fat-faced cloud with thick puckered lips, gray hollows for eyes, and a pointed head that reminded him of soft serve vanilla ice cream just starting to melt. He took out his camera and snapped a picture, then another just in case the first came out blurry. Sure, there wasn’t anything exceptional about the cloud, but he hadn’t seen anything else of interest on his walk and he hated to lug around his camera bag when he didn’t use it at all.

“Little man, little man,” a booming voice shook the corn stalks in the field. He looked for the source but didn’t find one on the ground. Then he turned to the sky. The marshmallow head cloud was grinning. Shift of the wind, Kent told himself.

“Little man, little man, way down on the ground. Little man, little man, why disturb a cloud?”

Kent took a step back, then another. No way. The mouth only seemed to move because there was probably a storm blowing in. And the words? What words? He hadn’t heard anything. Or so he told himself.

The corn stalks swayed in unison as though to disagree. A ridiculous thought when it was just the wind. The wind that he didn’t feel, but he explained that away by telling himself it was because the trees that lined the path were blocking the breeze. Never mind that according to the corn stalks the trees were on the wrong side of him for that.

Silly things to ponder when he felt suddenly certain he ought to be getting home. It had nothing to do with the fact that the cloud had sprouted wispy arms that stretched in his direction. Nothing at all to do with the plump gray fingers that seemed too dense for so insubstantial a thing.

“Little man, little man, where do you go? Little man, little man, I’m hungry, you know.”

The mouth opened wide revealing six rows of jagged lightning teeth. It gave him the chills to see it and he quickened his pace. However, the wind proved faster and the arm stretched and stretched. He didn’t look back, afraid he would panic and freeze in place. Which was why he didn’t see it coming when a clammy hand snaked around his ankle. He hopped and flailed to shake himself free, but he only wound up falling face first onto the trail and sucking in a mouthful of sand. The hand pulled him toward the face like a fish on a hook.

“Little man, little man, looks so tasty. Little man, little man, I’ll not waste thee.”

Kent clawed at the ground. Sand collected beneath his finger nails but it didn’t slow his progress at all. The strap of the camera bag worked itself free from around his neck.

Kent Alrich was never found. Only his camera bag was recovered. His widow found herself drawn to the very last picture he’d ever taken. She had it blown up and framed. She hung it on the living room wall. The jovial face cheered her somewhat during her most miserable days after his disappearance. It seemed to be smiling.

She picked up her late husband’s habit of carrying the camera around, deciding it wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Life was such a fragile thing and pictures were enough to say that one had been, that one had seen something worth seeing during one’s days.

One afternoon when she was out walking she noticed a cloud that she was already familiar with. It looked exactly like the face in her living room. She unzipped the camera bag, tears in her eyes because it reminded her of Kent, and she snapped a picture with the intention of comparing one to the other.

It was a week before anybody noticed she was missing. The search party didn’t find her, though, only a camera bag and a camera left neglected on the path. Lucky thing it hadn’t rained or it would have been wrecked. The last picture taken had been of a cloud that resembled a face.

The camera, the house, and everything else went to Kent’s only sister. She soon took up residence there in case either of them should ever return.

One day she went out for a walk with the camera bag slung over her shoulder. She saw a cloud that looked like a face that she knew. She soon recognized it as the picture in the living room, only, yes, it was certainly fuller and fatter than it had been even though it seemed exactly the same otherwise. She unzipped the camera bag.

Author Bio:

Dawn Allison actually possesses the picture of the face in the clouds. She did not take it herself.

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