A spontaneous short short, written at midnight.
One dreams of an enormous bird of night, shaped out of a cloud, its edges illuminated, because one saw it at midnight and remembered.
A bloodstain above the horizon or a fume of ink, with surrounding moon and constellations, and the 12:40 freight to Gary, Indiana, pushing through the black landscape, its headlamp an angry earthbound star.
One dreams of the bird while sleeping on the dock of Vu-Tech Logistics—the only place it’s possible to sleep on such a hot night in Missouri—big spiders and moths up around the floods doing their dance and five more nightshift hours to dawn.
One guards nothing at Vu-Tech Logistics and gets paid for it, gets away with it, a job only a human could possibly have and only a robot could possibly do. Someday, they’ll invent a machine that can process nothing, contemplate nothing, scan through vacant warehouse space on an algorithm of emptiness, accomplishing nothing. And they’ll love it. And then the world will truly end. But until that time, nightshifts will pass hour-by-hour and fools will dream on loading docks in summer.
So why not dream? Dream anything but a horrible bird of night.
Dream the cloud of blood expanding, edges bright from a sodium-vapor sign above a dirt lot in Triton, Arizona—a landlocked town named for a sea monster, a town whose first mistake came long before its name and whose last would come long after it called its only bar, MOM’S.
The dirt lot behind the bar.
The bar, a filthy violent place.
A place you might someday forget, along with the blood.
And the blinking sign above: EAT . . . AT . . . MOM’S.
You roll on your side and watch the train pass by, as you have many times before, as you will again, listening to the crickets beneath the dock’s crumbled lip.
One day, there will be no bird of night, no bird-shaped cloud, no cloud-shaped blood. No memories of a dead drunk in the sodium light. Only passing freight to wake you up. And no more MOM’S burning in your dreams, making the wings above glow red.