Archive for December 21st, 2011

21st December
written by amber


He came in from a late night jog, tired to the bone. He threw his clothes on the floor, sank onto his bed and allowed late night TV and a generous slug of whiskey anaesthetize him into sleep.

In danger of being late for work the next morning, he didn’t pick up his jogging pants until he got home at four and rushed around tidying while his dinner heated in the microwave. The pants weren’t where he remembered leaving them, in a heap outside the bathroom door. Instead, they were on a chair next to the bed, the cuffs damp and coated with white sand. That was strange, but he didn’t think too much about it as he tossed them into the hamper on his way to open the beeping microwave.

He jogged again that night, longer this time, achieving enough natural tiredness to fall asleep without assistance. And he woke before his alarm sounded, feeling more rested than usual, with a dim recollection of a dream, a tantalizing remnant of a journey, perhaps a quest. A pile of white clothing lay on the floor at the foot of the bed. It was the cotton pants and embroidered shirt he’d worn for his wedding on the beach in Mexico with Sabine. He didn’t even realize he still had them. At this point, they’d been with him twice as long as Sabine had. He hung them up again, noticing more white sand, but that could be from Mexico.

Then he heard the coins jingling in the pocket. They looked very old, with denominations like 1.5 and 4.5, images of palm trees and lions and faces too worn to make out. The only letter still intact was a ‘Z.’ He knew he hadn’t gotten coins like that in Mexico. He recalled getting the outfit cleaned – possibly someone at the dry cleaner had coins from their native country, but why put them in his pocket?

At work, he asked the guy in the next cubicle, “Where’s Zanzibar?”

“Some country in Africa, but I don’t think it exists any more.”

They googled it; they googled images of the coins of Zanzibar. None of them matched the ones he had.

When he woke the next morning after sleeping for 12 hours, he looked around the bed and found a light jacket that he couldn’t recall ever seeing before. In the pocket was a post card with a picture of an anonymous tropical beach. On the back was a hand-written message and a stamp bearing nothing but the picture of a red and yellow bird. Despite spending all day searching and risking the ire of his supervisor, he wasn’t able to find anything on the internet matching the writing or the stamp.

He left work early and went to bed the minute he got home, without changing or eating dinner. In the morning when he woke, he turned over and plunged back into sleep. He still couldn’t remember his dream, but the lingering fragments of it were more compelling than his real life.

He woke in the afternoon with a feeling of dread and the sense that he’d just been involved in a battle for his life. He staggered into the bathroom and in the mirror saw his once-familiar face now with a terrible jagged scar incised from forehead to left ear, and a dark hole where his eye once had been.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

My son, Ryan, gave me the idea for this story – he really did find a mysterious coin in his pocket.