His Unmarked Path
When the man from the unknown arrived in the field, marbles of ice fell from the sky and piled like fish eggs on the ground. Lena had been leading King Arthur, her terrier, on his evening walk. He wore a small dog coat and whined to be carried. She crouched to the fallen ice and molded the dots into a mound that froze hard. King Arthur pawed at it.
Everything hardened until the sky—slate with flecks of pink—reflected on the slick ground. Lena's shadows cast blackness down, but the man from the unknown, built of darkness, defied the law of shadows. He tipped his hat to her and approached. They walked through the snow-crusted field for some time towards nothing. King Arthur followed. When Lena glanced back at their path over the snow, she saw the man had left no prints.
Many, many hours passed since they strode towards nothing yet landed on her doorstep. As she rustled the ring of keys, he stood beside her and knocked on the door until his knuckles tunneled inside. He reached through the destruction and turned the deadbolt.
Lena told him this was not his to damage.
He tapped his boots against the doormat and apologized. The s in sorry slithered off his tongue.
She led him inside anyway.
In the kitchen, he touched everything. King Arthur followed him and peed on the leg of a chair. While Lena cleaned the mess, the man pushed buttons on the microwave until music emerged. In the microwave's reflective face, that black mirror, he was invisible.
She declined his first proposal. They danced on the tiled floor instead. Her shoes clicked; his bare feet moved without sound. She untied his hair and let his braids slide free from their entwinement. His mane brushed across the ground, and an agreement was reached. She ran through it like a waterfall.
On the underside of his wall of hair, she found a satchel. It fit in the palm of her hand, but she could not lift it. He reached through and picked her and it up in one hand and pulled her back to the kitchen.
On the floor, still wet from the cleaning, he poured out the contents from his leather satchel—dirt and clay and rocks that glowed in an unearthly way—and he dipped his toe into them and drew a wheel, and words appeared in the dust between the spokes.
The man put her hand in his and guided her finger to a spoke. When she touched it, it tingled like consummation. She stilled, waiting. Then she knew. She gripped the spoke and readied.
Lena spun fate's wheel, hard and hopeful and desperate. He caught the wheel and stopped the arrow on the black bankrupt space. She wondered what the word was for being lucky enough to play but winning nothing. He put her hand on the spoke for one last chance. She spun again and listened to the clicks slowing with each rotation. King Arthur watched, tiny but growling.
Kelsey Englert's writing has appeared in The Citron Review, Bartleby Snopes and other literary magazines. She's a Pennsylvania native, and she earned her M.A. in creative writing from Ball State University and M.F.A. in creative writing from West Virginia University. She currently teaches at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.