Allusions and Mirages Fiction Will Long

“Allusions and Mirages, Chapter 1” by Will Long

Moab, 1888

The sun hung over the rounded edges of the sandstone hills, glowing in orange and red. Small patches of white sage and lavender grew in clumps near the crevices, attaching themselves an the available dirt hiding beneath the sand. The sun-facing clay wall was cast in a deep glow, reflecting the dying hues of the day. A subtle wind lapped against the water below, unstirred otherwise. Hamilton, waiting for time to pass, leaned up from laying on the sandy ground against a charcoal rock, squinting at the sunlight as it folded over the sleepy afternoon. He had been thinking of writing a letter, but the afternoon was too hot to stay inside. There’s still several weeks here, he thought, so there’s time.

Lying there by the water, before, the sun was too high to be visible, but the sunset makes new reflections. From under the cliff, he sat there, arms stretched forward and hands clasped, his head back against the ground. He wiped his forehead on the left sleeve of his woolen navy shirt. It itched and felt like sandpaper, but was dry, and the more often he wore it, the more he sweated, the smoother it became. He’d hang it in the window tonight. The pool, about 20 yards wide, looked almost flat, though it was rather deep so that a person would go over their head walking along the bottom, which was easy since it was mostly just crystalized sand and rounded pebbles, worn smooth by the swirling water over however many centuries it sat there. The shore was strewn with the same soft pebbles and bleached sand, and on the east end was a cave, completely hidden from the hills and open plateau above. In the shadows there below he could imagine such a place from above, riding by, or passing on the road. But there was hardly a reason to consider it at all from there, unless by chance wandering brought you there, and you had the balance to climb down, which seemed hazardous from above. He stood up, feeling the night wind start blowing in from the La Sal mountains to the west, their caps dipped in snow, and their bodies glowing in blue. He stood up, picking up the strap of his black rucksack, which made some sounds of metal clanging on the inside. He walked to the edge, and dipped his blue bandanna into the pool, draping the wet, twisted cloth around his neck.

Climbing the canyon wall wasn’t difficult, using just one hand to steady himself on rocks as he went up. He was tall and had large shoulders, but his body tapered to longer legs, down to his boots. He stopped near the edge, resting his thumb on his shoulder under the strap of his rucksack, and listened. Nothing seemed to move, only drops occasionally falling into the pool below from the natural well, starting somewhere in the blackness at the back of the cave.

He stepped up once more over the vertical hillside, as if it was a last long step at the top of a stairway. The sun was already falling behind the mountains, and it would be dark soon. He looked towards the mountains. The sun always seemed to set last from the view of the second-story window back home. His mother moved dishes in the kitchen, and could see his father return from working, walking down the sidewalk of Polk Street, jingling coins in his pocket. They’d wait in the elevator, and the coins would be jingling. He’d always mention it irritated him, and his father would seem hurt as if he didn’t know he’d even been doing it. He let the lace curtains down, flower patterns turning in the wind, and sat against his bed, watching the orange sunlight dissipate over the water in the distance over the water.

He looked back to the cabin, and started walking back. At the crosstie, he picked up an oil lantern, and walked onto the porch. The boards creaked, but didn’t seem unsteady. Behind him, the sun’s red glow receded, and fell over the faces of the dusty hills as the stars began to show.

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