from "Chalk Outlines" by Erin Popelka


THE FULL STORY APPEARS IN THE JANUARY 2009 ISSUE!

“You always drive too fast at night!”

“No, I don’t. I drive just fine. You’re the problem! You always grab the armrest like it could stop the car. And really, you don’t have to gasp every time the road curves. How am I supposed to drive with all that?”

“Well, I gasped with good cause tonight, didn’t I?”

Amber froze. “Beth, I’m sorry. That curve came around so fast and …” Her words dropped and then neither one uttered a sound. Beth looked hopelessly into Amber’s eyes, close enough that she saw her face reflected – the sharp line of her dark hair against her usually piercing gaze. Then she saw Amber, her lovely hazel eyes, always a different color depending on the light or the color of her shirt, and her strawberry-blonde hair, now with a few pieces hanging out of her braid. Amber’s lips usually seemed poised to speak; Beth only ever saw her truly relaxed in her sleep.

They both looked away, taking in the room around them. An overstuffed leather couch sat against one wall, facing a bizarre floating globe in the corner. Past the couch were two matching bookshelves, both filled to the ceiling. Light came from both an overhead lamp and a window that looked onto a rolling field of grass. Clouds blocked any view of the sky. Standing at this window, Beth tried to open it, but saw that there was no latch. In fact, there was no window seam at all. The glass seemed to be an extension of the wall itself. Fighting a rising sense of panic, Beth whispered, “Where are we? What just happened?”

Amber stood in front of the bookshelves, glancing through the titles. “The bookshelf might have some clues.” Tracing spines, she noticed, “Look, some of these are our books. They’ve even got our old college ‘Used’ stickers still on them.” Amber pulled a slender copy of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot off the bookshelf.

Beth was grateful for the distraction. “Oh, God, that book is from my tedious required English class.”

“Here are some of mine, too. Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Descartes – it’s been forever since I’ve looked at these.”

“Our strange friend in the corner might be able to tell us something,” Beth said, walking over to the globe.

“I don’t want to look at that yet. It’s creepy.”

“Not as creepy as the window – there’s no latch. And this globe is amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it. Look – it’s a perfect sphere, and the screen somehow bends each degree along the curve,” Beth walked closer and reached out to touch the warm, smooth surface. “It seems to be hanging alone in mid-air. That can’t be – there must be some wire here somewhere. I wish I’d had this technology for my installation at the Keppler Gallery. I could have –”

“Beth, look at this. You took notes in the margins of Godot – they’re striking.”

Beth walked to Amber, took the book from her outstretched hand, and read aloud: “‘Waiting for Godot = waiting for God = purgatory.’ You think we’re in purgatory?”

“I don’t know. Yes, maybe? No? I was driving that tiny car and the curve happened so fast. It came out of nowhere. I should have been going slower, I should have been more careful in the rain, I should have –”

“Amber, stop,” Beth touched her arm. “There’s nothing we can do about it now.” She reached around Amber and pulled her close. They held each other, Beth leaning her head into the perfect crook of Amber’s neck, until Amber slowly pulled away.

“Beth, we’re dead. What are we supposed to do?”

Beth looked down at the book still in her hand, “Keep waiting?”

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