ABOVE by Michael Nardone

Then, drop by caustic drop, a perfect cry
Shall string some constant harmony,-
Relentless caper for all those who step
The legend of their youth into the noon.
-Hart Crane

A white light gleams in the passenger side mirror, dances left to right, and blinds the eye in its sway. The car groans through the parking lot, tires crackling the torn-up patches of pavement. When fingers press it, the silver door handle seers the top layer of skin. The door swings open and the white light spins upon the mirror.

The sunlight doesn't penetrate the layers of cloud. Still, it seeps into every pore. Around each object there is a shadow so thin it seems the sunbeam shower maintains itself perpendicular to the ground despite the earth's curved path.

When he hears a footstep scuffle, he turns. A woman. She was driving the car. Or she was the one reflected in the rearview. It's unclear now, but she is with him and follows him across the parking lot and through a set of swinging doors. Inside the heat is heavier. Perhaps it was once a shop of baseball cards. Or handguns. A rental store of some kind.

The walls are whitewashed and hold everything in pieces. Posters have been ripped and scattered around the room and the shelves lay broken. The floor is covered in pages torn from books. Their jackets and spines are in a pile at the center of the room. A crunch of glass beneath every step.

They stand together, each one atop a pile of rubble, and watch a projector play upon the wall. The figures flicker in stereo-toned colors. A moving picture of a woman holding a baby in a cream colored room, crowded with birthday-hatted children running in every direction. There is a table strewn with presents and paper plates of half-eaten cake. On a stage, giant mice shift an automated dance. There are shouts and songs mouthed and muted by the film reel spin.

A voice tumbles down the stairway. -What the hell is going on down there? Someone here?

There is another frame: a boy in grass up to his waist. He runs side to side chasing the blink of a firefly. Behind him walks a bearded man carrying a blanket and a shovel.

The woman is rummaging through the scraps of posters, glimpsing back and forth to catch moments of the home movie. She pulls from the debris a photo of a child sitting on a diving board beside a pool. He has sunglasses across his eyes and a toy pistol in his hands, and she says to the man watching the film, -This picture, this kid, reminds me of you. He could be you.

On the wall, a person in an overcoat walks the yellow dotted line at the center of a street. His arms are outstretched in a Y toward the five story buildings covered in tints of grey-green and blue. The trees are bare and everything is predawn still, except for a traffic light swaying on a pole.

She lifts from the floor the half-charred pages of a coloring book.

The images on the wall, they are familiar to him just as this store is familiar to him, from a memory or a dream, or from a story someone once whispered to him.

The voice comes back again. -The hell is happening? Better not be anybody down there.

And she holds the coloring book open with one hand, the shapes and lines changing with the downward flop of pages. There are two crayoned figures - one child strangling another. A woman with spotted hands held outward. Then a man in a chair with a woman's face buried in his lap, her hand upon his thigh.

The projector stops, clicks, then starts to run backward as though it were searching through some unknown archive. The characters stumble in slow-speed rewind: the body on the empty street lowers its limbs and it is night again, the man and the boy backstep deeper into the forest, the birthday cake is resurrected forkful and knife-slice at a time.

The woman flips to another crayola figure - a rotund woman exposing her leg. There is a hatchet driven deep into her hamstring. Her lips, drawn in a crimson circle, are puckered in pain.

Footsteps across the ceiling and the voice grumbles once more, -What the hell is. A deep breath and sigh, -Happening. There better not be. Thump, then the shuffle of a single stride, -Anybody down there.

The steps come closer and the two can see a set of stumped ankles at the stairway top.

The coloring book drops into the clutter, the pages falling in a single blur of primary colors. Kicking some shattered glass, she departs, and he is standing alone amidst the rubble. He knows there is a man, guard or proprietor, coming down the steps, but he can't take his eyes off the backward sprawl of images. Even as the film rewinds to scenes displayed before he entered the room, he is sure that these moments belong to him, are him or were him, and he will not leave the room until there is some location he can recall with clarity to be certain that this film is indeed made by the moments of his life.

The projector wheel spins the uncoiled reel of film. The wall goes white.

With the vision of bare legs belonging to the man above, he turns to the door. He can hear the growl and breath of the man, but the car is in sight. She is waiting, calling for him to hurry. He is running, hard as he can, but his legs refuse, as though they now belonged to some other's body. -Hurry, she mouths, hurry. The distance between his outstretched fingers and the car opens wider. When he collapses onto the graveled ground, the sun, now broken through the clouds, glares off the hatchet buried deep into his leg, blinding his eyes the moment the fat-calved man takes hold of his neck.

**An earlier version of this story originally appeared in the first issue of BLATT.