Sunday Stories: “There is no light in the sky”

vending machine

There is no light in the sky
by Christopher James

Out the window a beautiful child was jumping at the moon, arms outstretched, like he thought he could capture it.

Idiot boy, said my girlfriend. I hadn’t known she was in the room with me and her voice broke some spell that had been quietly existing. Sometimes we could look at the same thing, at the same time, from the same place, and still see so different.

Later, though, I saw her out the window too, jumping at the moon with her own arms outstretched, the little boy aping her. She was beautiful, but in this moment she looked – forgive me for saying this – like a crazy person. I didn’t like to watch that, so I looked away. I know this makes me unlikeable, but sometimes I am unlikeable. We all are. Forgive me for saying this.

Later still, the view out the window was completely empty. No boy, no girlfriend, no moon. I suppose one of them must’ve caught it after all.

And me? I was writing a short script about a vending machine in a hospital that could talk. You’re welcome! it would say, rather sarcastically. Everyone thanks the doctors, everyone thanks the nurses, everyone thanks their god, what about me? 

In act two, a baby climbs into the vending machine somehow and the machine refuses to give it up, not until people show a little more appreciation for everything it does. Dispensing snacks and drinks at a time of need. Where would they be without snacks!!! I was happy with the set up but stuck on the ending. I wanted something that would ring true.

More children started showing up all over the place. I found a baby in the bath, licking drips from the tap, holding a machete. If you stretched the baby out as long as it would go, from head to toe the blade of the machete would be longer. I found a four-year-old in the fridge, handing me juice when I wanted a beer. Six blond boys sat on the stairs, and when I walked up they tapped my right foot and when I walked down they howled, like wolves falling off a ravine.

We need to talk, I said.

Not right now, said my girlfriend. 

If not now, then when?

Not. Right. Noww.

She was growing bigger. Seven foot tall. Eight foot tall. Nine foot tall. There wasn’t enough room in the house for both of us at the same time, I thought, but we both stayed. Meanwhile the walls were getting smaller. If one of us was going to leave, it should be me, but I couldn’t leave. I was afraid to, and afraid not to. I became convinced she’d hidden the moon somewhere. Maybe in the kitchen. I looked everywhere but couldn’t find it. I found another baby instead, this one made of wet trash from the rubbish bins and disgusting. She’s too good for you, said the trash baby. I’m not good enough for her, I replied. That’s just a bullshit excuse not to try, said the baby. The baby made literally of dirt.

And the script got picked up! In the end, the vending machine didn’t release the baby – it embraced it completely, realized it didn’t need the gratitude of others when it had this beautiful living thing in its heart. I decided not to go with a realistic ending – people wanted love and joy. They wanted me to go to America for six months while they filmed the film. Will you go? she asked.

It’s a big opportunity, I said.

She didn’t say anything, but that night I looked out the window and the moon was back.

Just a half moon, on the wane. And six blond boys on the lawn, holding hands, cutting each other’s throats with a big, curved machete blade, their blood bright red even in the dark of the night and pooling around them in shapes that looked like letters. STAY, the blood said. DON’T BE AN IDIOT. DON’T LEAVE NOW.

I pulled the curtains closed. Missed the nights there was no moon and all there was out the window was black, as far as the eye could see.


Christopher James lives, works, and writes in Jakarta, Indonesia, and has had work published online with Wigleaf, Booth, Split Lip and Tin House. He edits Jellyfish Review.

Photo: Petr Magera/Unsplash

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