i'm from bay area, ca and enjoy playing badminton and editing videos using whatever footage my little sis has on her gopro.

Image of Long Story Short Award - 2022
Image of Short Fiction
A cylinder rests in the center of a Lake. Not big, nor small, the top just barely visible over the cool of the water. The walls are thin, and it doesn't look solid.

Sotle's out on his raft in the middle. It's a Lake, not a pond, it's deep and sunlight can't get all the way through. But he calls it a pond. Pondry.

He took the raft out yesterday for the first time. They arrived just before 9 am, and he immediately built it. Logs, vines, watch it float. Float Boat, new friend. Never mind it wasn't a boat.

Right now he's lying on his back, staring up at the broken clear sky that seems too close to the ground, the sky where maybe part of it came down with the boy, seeping through his raft. He likes to think it keeps him afloat. Likes to think the clouds are his fuel, the universe is in his favor.

And there's nothing wrong with that.


He hears a voice.


His mother. Dinnertime. He can smell it, maybe pasta sauce, the red kind with those bits of mushroom. But there's another scent too. Some smoke, some burn, some fire. Maybe she burned the noodles. Maybe they'd be crispy. He likes them that way most.

But he doesn't want to go in just yet. He's still on his raft in the middle of Lake. He can't just abandon it, not when he's a captain, in his mind he is, he's steering a big boat amidst the captivity of a small pond. He's Commander. He's Pilot. He's in control. He's doing whatever he wants, with nothing to stop him. He's having fun.

After all, they are on vacation. And on vacation, time doesn't exist. Or rather it does, but you can stop it.

Can't you?

His mother's calling him. He has to go in soon. Into the log cabin, into the house.

He paddles into shore. His mother's at the stove, making pasta with the mushroom sauce. He sees red stains all over her. And smells it burning. That's how he knows.

He walks up, tugs on her apron.

She smiles at him. "Having fun?"

He nods. Red splashes onto him. The sauce is bubbling. He got too close. It burns his arm, just a little. He steps back and watches the television. There's a lot of commotion happening, mayhem, ruckus. There're towers, two tall ones, and colors everywhere, almost like they're bursting through the screen and he can see them in real life, like some sort of weird synesthesia, but there's smog, too, and smoke, and fire.

He gets closer.

It's a plane crash. On the television, being reported. There's lighting hitting it, the coating of the plane, the silken vessel, and it looks like a rainbow, a burst of color and mysticism, as it crashes down, down, down.

He shudders and turns it off. He wonders why his parents are even watching the news, or at least his mother; he doesn't know where his father is. The news is for real life, and vacation isn't.

His mother calls him to the table. There's a bowl of pasta sitting at his place. He takes a bite. Hot but crispy, perfect; just right.

"Hey." Sotle's father came in. He changed but didn't shower, tried to mask it with some salty cologne.

Sotle's mother hugged him. I've missed you.

He swallowed. "I, um, got another call. I'm leaving tomorrow morning. New Orleans, flood. I'll be back, though, soon as I can."

"Do you like it?"

He nods.

His mother smiles. Sotle notices something different about it, she's tired, maybe. He wonders again where his father is.

He gets up.

"Where are you going? You didn't finish."


"Now? It's dark."

There's still some residual light. He can make out his raft. He pushes it off the shore and hops on as it drifts out to the middle of Lake.

The middle of Lake, where there rests a cylinder, an aluminum block.

Still there.

The top sticking out. It looks like something that might be used to help boats dock. But it's in the middle, which doesn't make sense. And there're no boats here, not even Sotle's, which isn't a boat.

He floats toward it. He doesn't have to kick anymore; he's drifting now.

He gets closer and notices something covering the opening: a tip, some sort of handle. He stands up, but the raft isn't sturdy and the water isn't solid and he falls.


"I heard there are great falls there, at least."

"In Clifton?"

He shrugged.

She was holding his shirt in her hand, looking down on him, unmoving.

Sotle's father was packing his bags. Clothes and shoes were everywhere.

He comes back to the surface, sputtering, kicking. His eye catches something. His mother, still in the kitchen, her silhouette more visible now that it's darker outside. She's watching him, making sure he's safe. He wonders why she didn't rush out and help him. It isn't like her.

But maybe she didn't feel a need. She trusts him. And there wasn't a need, anyway. He's back on the raft, safe now, isn't he?

He keeps drifting. He's really close to the block. He can see the top clearly now, the handle. And he can almost feel it, too, like if he just climbs to the edge and sticks out his arm and reaches...


The voice.

"Bedtime! Come back!"

He's still reaching, almost, almost...

"Can't we go back. Can't we go back."

"Back?" he yells. Why does she need to go back? She's already in the house, isn't she? But it isn't there. It was just there, just a minute ago. But now it's not.

He starts breathing shallow and looks around him, the circle, the island. There's only one house here. It's brown and a cabin and a bit old and a little musty and lit up bright. There's only one, and now there're none.

And no one can help him. No one.

He's frantic now, looking all around. His head starts spinning and the world starts spinning and everything goes dark as he's falling down, down, drown.

"You're drowning under all those sheets." She softly slipped them off of him. "Sotle? Honey, wake up."

He stirred. His mother's face was hovering above him. There was no light coming through the blinds. His nightstand read 4 am.

"Wake up, baby. Let's go visit your dad, surprise him." She shook him. "Are you awake? Sotle?"

He opens his eyes. He can see underwater. There's a light coming from the bottom of the cylinder, a burst of color, all the way down. He's lightheaded. Sputter, kick, get up.

He can see the shore from all sides again. He's okay. But the house is gone. And his raft is sinking.

He treads harder toward the cylinder. The walls are thin, and it doesn't look solid, but it is, at least on the outside. After all, it's made of aluminum. And it's smoking. Was it before?

He's almost there, to the block. He reaches up to the rim and grabs onto the handle. Maybe that's why it's an island. Because the cylinder's the land, and Lake is the water, or maybe an island doesn't have to be an island at all. It just has to resemble one, as long as you're alone.

He's pulling himself up onto the cylinder. But the lid is coming off and he's being sucked in, it's like a plug and he just pulled it, a plug for Lake and

all the water's being sucked in too and

Lake is drying dying maybe

it's a pond after all the sunlight

can reach the bottom

they're crashing

down down down

can't we go back can't we go back

and it's taking the boy with it

out of the dry pond

Sotle's pond


The instructions to get to Lake are simple, variant. You may arrive at any point in the day, night. You may come with or without luggage.

"We shouldn't have gotten on. Can't we go back? Can't we go back?" She could barely get the words out through her tears, but she was trying. "I'm so sorry, Sotle. So, so sorry."

And, finally, you must fly.