Under Uncertain Skies

Contributor: Peter Baltensperger

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Black clouds hung from the night sky, forbidding tapestry traveling slowly through the darkness, obscuring a sickle moon that should have been floating somewhere. Sharp flashes of sheet lightning carved the horizon into ominous layers, electric javelins for the brooding night. The wolf man from the carnival in the fairgrounds sat at the edge of a forgotten pond in an ancient park, waiting for a rain that wouldn’t come, trying to dispel anxieties, nightmares. The clouds refused to yield.

Somewhere an empty train charged into a black tunnel, the engineer mesmerized by the meaningless presence of a minuscule light somewhere at a distant end. The wolf man cringed with his own troubled visions of incomprehensible endings, unfulfilled promises, scratching his mind for solutions, relief. He hadn’t come to the park to wait, even though he knew well enough that the waiting was a necessary part of a whole.

A silent marching band wound its way into the park from some inscrutable source, a troupe of clowns with invisible balloons in its wake. He could hear the flapping of their oversized shoes in the dry grass, wished he had a balloon of his own, an anchor for his confusion. The marching band began to weave tightening circles around the pond, hedging him into his solitude with its persistence. The clowns never let go.

He waded into the old pond to escape the inevitable noose, only to get sucked into the silty bottom of his own destiny. He flailed his arms to keep himself afloat, tore himself loose from the treacherous mire, howled his frustration at the invisible moon, yet all he could hear was the echo of his own voice. When he freed himself from the entrapment and floated on the churned surface to get his bearings, the band unwound itself from the pond and vanished into the darkness, leaving the balloons hovering on their strings.

As soon as they were gone, he walked out of the stale pond and shook his body to rid his thick fur of the water. He grabbed a handful of strings, to remember, and made his way back to the fairgrounds, the balloons following behind, his nightmares surrounding him like an irritating cloak. There was no point in waiting, not after the clowns. He had the balloons to get him through the night, keep his thoughts from floating away, remind him of what could have been. The night might have been different.

The bearded woman was the only one still awake, the light from her window drawing him into its spell. He could see her pacing back and forth in her trailer, plagued by her own shadows, monsters in dark corners. She let him in when he knocked on her door and he gave her one of the balloons, setting the others free to reclaim his space. She let the balloon float up to the ceiling and pulled him on her bed. He helped her dispel her monsters and she screamed her excitement into the room until his nightmares cracked and shattered to the floor.

It wasn’t until then that the lightning bolts tore the clouds apart and the rain began to gush down to the roar of thunder. The sharp drum solo on the metal roof of the trailer drowned out the moans of their passion as they found themselves in each other in a brief crack of light in the turbulent night. Then the unforgiving darkness engulfed them again, plunging them back into their shadows, obliterating what they had come to know.

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Peter Baltensperger is a Canadian writer of Swiss origin and the author of ten books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. He writes, and has been writing all his life, because he has to and loves to do it, and because it adds a significant dimension to his personal quest.
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