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Friday, January 11, 2008

Fiction Fridays: Until the Fever Breaks (part 2)

continued from part 1

Sometimes, it seemed to Susie that the mall was tiny, one narrow store leading to the next, until it seemed she was already at the other end, two stories down. The whole experience was like a blur, punctuated by sharp memories of a red blouse on a mannequin, and a new toy that talked to her, and the sizzling smell of New York Fries. Other times, the mall seemed huge, with enormous distances between each end, and a maze of ramps and stairs and escalators between each sprawling floor. Today, following her father on his aimless search for "just the right thing for Mommy", it seemed like there was so much mall it had swallowed up the rest of the world.

Also, her father had a tendency to forge all the way to the back of every store they visited. Most stores had meager fronts, but delved back into greater depths than she imagined could fit in such a cramped space. Way at the back, the rest of the mall was forgotten, as Daddy searched through racks of bathrobes or winter coats, pulling out a dozen at each store to ask the exasperated saleslady her opinion.

"Would you wear this?" Her father's voice was infinitely deep, but on this shopping trip, it held a less firm timbre, and more uncertainty than she'd imagined a voice like his could express.

He turned and squatted, coming down to Susie's level as he brandished a shiny wrap with fluff along one side. "What do you think, Susie? Is this Mommy?"

Out of love for her father, Susie held back her rolling eyes. "It's pretty, " she mused, running her fingers along the sleek fabric, "but I don't know about Mom. I don't think it's her thing."

Hobbled by his ungainliness, Rohit struggled to regain his feet. The spinning in his head made it hard to find his center, so he dragged his knees up under him, and propped his torso up on his outstretched arms. He took two breaths, dimly aware of the frantic, high-pitched noises that shattered around him. Another breath seemed to clear his head somewhat, and the world reduced itself to a gentle turning. A brief flash of memory put him on the round-about in the park near his house, with the older kids towering and laughing as they casually spun the platform. Then he wondered how he could ever have been so small.

With a heave, he pushed himself upright, driving his feet into the ground beneath him to plant them more firmly. The stiffness that had captured his limbs served a better purpose this time, keeping his legs locked steady, his back upright and firm, even as the world around him started to rock and sway.

Rohit opened his eyes, trying to peer through the smoke and haze. Everything was still a blur, but at least now there was no pain. Slowly turning his head, wary of the swinging sensation that pulled at him, he looked around, trying to find something, some landmark he could target. To his left, he spied a pale glow, brighter than the swirling dimness around him.

He felt sudden elation, having found a point of reference on which he could latch his mind. Forgetting his other concerns, he turned sharply, stepping quickly toward the light.

At least, that's what he tried to do. His legs, still stiff, on soles jammed inches into the hard ground, did not respond as quickly as the rest of his body. Overbalanced, with the great weight of his burdened torso continuing on its own inertia, he barely got his feet beneath him, knees cracking as he stumbled along. It was all he could do to keep from toppling over, but the light beckoned. Rohit clenched his jaw, and pushed forward, not willing to lose his newfound goal.

continued in part 3


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