Issue #49

Winter 2014

The Radiant City

by Fredric Mitchem

The Radiant City. All roads lead from it. The highways of pleasure; take the coach that's soft.

My wife naked in her shoes, the night eats her belly thoughtfully. Reynaldo drives the horses. Whips the wind with equanimity.

Now, how do I tell her I must assasinate her doppelganger, the mermaid. Enter the water like a shark knife and plunge its blade into the persimmon flesh. Tell her I love her but must carry out my mission by the mayor's decree. The Radiant City will entertain no exceptions. I must kill, and I must be awake when I do. Lucid homicide is good homicide. So says the state, and there are no exceptions.

The City is a giant nebula. Its arms embrace and release. Like an octopus. And I am a sucker on a tentacle, kissing its sea, bottle-green and lazy. Supple, I can dig the knife in with sweet tenderness. Reynaldo, the coach driver, will never suspect a thing. I will be gone and back like that.

Now I have done it. Opened the mermaid, releasing its essence to the effluvium that is the water-bounded City. But one thing: Father Blainless, he of the Sad Children, does not bless my act. In the Radiant City that means sure suicide. Crucifixion by one's own hand. I am afraid to die. It's not as if I acted of my own accord...

I must, I know, go to the Mayor, or Governor, and plead my case. Things are not right. If only they would see fit to strap me up to dry in the sun. No nails for me – I won't do it! I must be a fisher of women and men, as the penny novel says.

If you look upon the sea, from the City, you will see your own reflection. And below that reflection many creatures who have chosen the knife. Gutted in boats that fish. Yet you will see no mermaid.

It has died for my sins.

Author Bio

cart with chimney

Fredric Mitchem has had two fictions published in issue forty-seven of The Café Irreal: Wanted and Dance of the Mad Flies; and in Danse Macabre: The Bureau of Phenomenology. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.