Hell is Chrome

The Reverend looked out her window and saw two neighborhood children staring up at the Spheres like they were some sort of celestial parade set to rain candy down from the sky. One of the kids raised a hand as if to wave at them, his fingers splayed against the sunset.

The Reverend was angry. Angry at the Spheres hanging in the sky, impossibly large, more of them arriving every day. Angry at the warped funhouse mirror likeness of the world they reflected. Angry at the way the Spheres just hung there so placidly, absorbing all the missiles the nations of the earth had launched at them without so much as a crack. Angry at being stuck here, just one of a horde of people all trapped inside themselves as she was trapped inside her own flesh. Angry at Jillian for dying. But that had been years ago, and what did it matter anymore, except that it was everything as much as it was nothing.

She took another pill. They were starting to take effect now. A comfortable lethargy spread inside her, softening the edges of her rage and melting what had been sorrow into simple melancholy. Really, she just wanted to sleep. But it wasn’t sleep she was after.

Two more pills.

Her stomach betrayed her, the bitter chemical taste of the pills lurching up into her throat, but she swallowed it down and ate two more. This time she followed them with a glass of milk.

She poured the rest of the pills into her hand and walked into the yard, gazing in a way she hoped was serene up at the Spheres. She was done being mad with them, done wondering about them, done being disgusted by those who either cheered them or picketed against them, those who thought the Spheres were simply waiting until the time was right to do whatever they hoped or feared they would do.

Except they hadn’t done a goddamned thing, had they? Hadn’t stopped refugee children from stacking up at the border, hadn’t melted all the guns into plowshares, hadn’t cracked open the sky to impart the wisdom of the ages, as some expected them to do. They also hadn’t done what others expected, stamping out sin or heralding some sort of rapture, spiriting the most worthy away to whatever heaven they thought awaited. Nor had they scorched the earth with lasers, drained the oceans, or poisoned the air any more than it was already poisoned. They’d just given people something new to bicker and snark about on the internet, something to presume they understood when they didn’t know shit, which was the last thing the world needed. And still the Spheres just hovered like silver storm clouds in the sky, not even blocking out the sun, the light of which somehow refracted around them so they cast no shadows on the land. The thing about them, the Reverend thought, is that they’re not even beautiful.

The pills in her hand were starting to go gummy from being clenched in her sweaty palm. She swallowed them all and nearly threw up from the sick taste of them dissolving in her mouth. The Reverend was very tired, and she lay on the yellowing grass, the fuzz of a dandelion fluff tickling her cheek. She couldn’t help but look at the Spheres, the old ones hanging low, the new ones moving in through the wispy clouds. She figured it was just her imagination when she felt herself being drawn upwards toward them, her body impossibly heavy even as it floated like a forgotten birthday balloon into the sky, but she didn’t care.

 

***

 

Joey Poole is a writer from South Carolina, where he lives with his wife and family. His short fiction has appeared in places like Bull, Molotov Cocktail Lit Zine, Southeast Review, Scintilla Press, Cowboy Jamboree. His collection of short stories, I Have Always Been Here Before, will be published by Cowboy Jamboree Press in early 2020. He is currently working on a novel, tentatively titled The Year of the Possum.