Sunday, January 30, 2011

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Star Searching

Some flash fiction

Hyrum drove his 88 Chevy Blazer north on Highway 89 between Zion National Park and Glendale. Cassi screamed and struggled in the open compartment behind the back seat. She was bound at the wrists and ankles with nylon rope. The sun set with spectacular oranges, reds, and yellows, that are only fully complemented by the sand and red rock of Southern Utah. The night was dark, and to the east, the Rocky Mountains appeared darker. Cassi banged her head and shoulders against the faux leather covering a spare tire, but once Hyrum started speaking, she steadied herself to listen.

Hyrum was lean and clean-shaven, with veins that crisscrossed his forearms. A birthmark the color of weak strawberry milk reached across his neck. It had a thick round body, and fingers that extended from right to left. He’d never had a real job, mostly working seasonal positions as a laborer for the parks department or forestry service. All of his 26 years had been spent in Alton, a small Mormon settlement where the wind blows sand into the crevices of everything—aging it. His D and L Trucking hat, western style shirt, Lee jeans, and leather hiking boots, appeared faded, and ragged, and worn. Nothing looked new for long. Hyrum appeared older too. Crows feet stretched from the sides of his dry eyes, and when he spoke the sound was deep and gravely like sand had nestled into his voice box.

He told Cassi about The Book of Abraham. In 1835 the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith translated The Book of Abraham from an Egyptian scroll he purchased at a mummy exhibition in Kirtland, Ohio. The translation contained a vision of the universe.

“Abraham was shown the star closest to the throne of God. The angel called it Kolob.” Hyrum said. “One day near Kolob is equal to a thousand years on earth. That’s how God created everything in 6 days, and that’s how He lives for eternity. I’ve searched for Kolob. Clear weekend nights at observatories, and in fresh cut fields, scanning the sky and hoping to see a star containing the warmth of God. A warmth felt in the heart of those who are righteous and true.” Cassi heard a hollow thump as Hyrum beat his chest.

At 37, Cassi stood five-two with broad shoulders, rich brown hair, and a round nose, traits passed down by her father, a stout Englishman described as easygoing with questionable integrity. Her father named her after a constellation he once saw while hiking near their Portland home, but died of a stroke before he could show it to her. As a child, she often lay beneath the stars and assumed her father was looking down on her. The stars held some truth, or trust, or wisdom that she couldn’t define, but could feel each time she gazed upward. She assumed this comfort was compensation for having her father taken at a young age.

Despite the brutish circumstances of her kidnapping, Cassi paused for a moment to look at the stars through the windows of the Blazer, and ponder on the plausibility of God residing in some solar system. She wondered if the comfort the stars had always granted her was, in fact, from a divine source grater than her father.

From the front seat, Hyrum spoke while looking at Cassi through the rearview mirror. She lay still, breathing softly. “My dad says Kolob’s not a star, but a symbol of Christ. How His power can govern planets. But I’m sick of symbols, and rituals, and faith. I want something tangible and real, something I can point to.”

Hyrum was out to prove the existence of Kolob. He believed finding the star would grant him knowledge pertaining to the origins of the Earth, the beginnings of existences, time, gravity, and God. To him, Kolob was not some simile, or metaphor, or parable, but a reality. A place that could be seen and felt, and if found, might grant him greater knowledge and acceptance.
For the residents of Alton, Kolob is something painful. It is one more peculiarity of the Mormon faith for outsiders to jab at, same as polygamy and sanctified underwear. Hyrum’s mother always told him to keep Kolob sacred, but in reality she wanted it kept secret. Hyrum never was good with secrets. He told everyone about Kolob. If the listener was non-Mormon, they were always intrigued, while at same time, a little frightened. The residents of Alton (population 134) ostracized Hyrum from church and social activities. They called him “The Searcher” and warned outsiders to keep their distance.

With his solitude he looked harder. He peered through telescopes, and leered over star charts with a flashlight and a white marker, checking off the sections of sky he’d searched. It became his calling. The seasons changed, and so did the stars, but Hyrum never felt the warmth of God while watching the sky.

His mother said his birthmark was an angel wing. She said he lost the other when he fell to Earth. But Hyrum thought it looked like a hand, gripping his airway. Sometimes, after a long night of searching the sky, he awakened short of breath. He’d run to the bathroom mirror, and in the first flash of the bulb, before the room was fully illuminated, the birthmark looked like a hand, only not human, but something extra human. Hyrum wondered if he was fit to find Kolob. But it needed to be found. He stopped searching the sky, and started searching for someone better equipped to feel God’s warmth. Each Saturday night, Hyrum abducted a stranger from one of the many scenic overlooks near Zion National Park. He plucked strangers at dusk, when the transition from day to night grants the most shadows, and then drove north long enough to explain Kolob.

Somewhere between midnight and one, and Hatch and Cedar City, where the sky was clear and the stars were not obstructed by city lights, Hyrum parked and opened the back of the Blazer. He lifted Cassi beneath the knees and shoulders like she were a child being carried to bed. He then placed her on the small chips of red rock bordering the highway. On her side, with her hands tied behind her back, and her ankles lashed together, she appeared like a worm struggling to maneuver across hard earth. Hyrum towered above Cassi, and although he was not aware of its effect, his extra height granted her a menacing view. She thought about her life, all the clich├ęs: her husband and two boys, and the hours she wasted watching reality TV, or searching the web for affordable day spas. Then she thought about her father, and longed for the comfort of the stars.

Gripping her by the shoulders, Hyrum rolled Cassi onto her back. She squirmed as her hands were pinched between her body and the gravel. Her head was arched back, and her knees were in an A shape. She waited for a blow to come from the side, or for a calloused hand to tear at her blouse, while Hyrum stepped back, and stood, and waited, watching her as she watched the stars. He then asked if she felt anything.


Kara Garbe said...

I love it! Is this what I'm reading for Geoff's class next week? I'm sure I'll have more detailed comments then.

Clint said...

Yes, this is the one. I hope people do not get lost. I feel like I'm throwing out too much info for 1200 words.

Ty n Casey's Mom said...

Good job Clint. I liked it.