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  • Writer's pictureJ. David Liss

Red Delicious


He dreamed the red dream of blood falling in rivers from a cliff. He stood beneath, drinking it, knowing he would never be hungry again. In the dream, there was no hint of yellow, no glimpse of sunlight. There was no dawn and never would be – just dark red and black, limned with the silver light of an invisible moon.

The smell of coming night was nowhere near his sleep, though he stirred, pushed against the wooden walls of his chamber, not ready yet to wake, not hungry yet to hunt, rich in his dream of blood. It was not yet dusk.

She was in his dream, the last one and perhaps the most beautiful he had ever taken. How she had tried to fight as he wove himself inside her eyes, into her thoughts and dreams, until she was no more able to resist him than a fruit he could pick off a tree. 

When they are young, they’re like a delicious buffet. He drank from their bodies, of course. But the young ones felt more deeply, had more fear. Fear had a bouquet that drew him like a bee to a red rose. His mouth watered from his dream of lapping her terror.

In the end, he placed her in a dream and took her, in her bed and in her sleep. She was filled with horror at her own response to his consuming her body. She screamed for her mother, for her father, because she was still young. But she was lost in his dream and her parents could not hear the screaming. She could not withdraw and could not understand why she screamed to pull away from him yet didn’t want him to stop. He shaped her into a fruit that longed to be eaten. She was delicious.

He had maintained her as long as he could, draining her slowly. Only when there was nothing left after many nights did he cast her away, the husk of a fruit consumed. 

She was sweet in his dreams. She was hanging from a tree. 

It was the First Tree; he knew that in his dream. It was in the First Garden and even he, insulated as he was by the darkness flowing in his veins, felt the awe of this place.

Naked, she dangled from a tree with red leaves and red bark. She, the fruit, glowed with a more luminescent red than the leaves around her. She was a shiny object he reached for, like a child in his hunger. She was irresistible and he longed to pluck her from the tree and eat as she glowed ever brighter, red mixing with orange mixing with gold and even yellow. 

His hunger made him realize, even in his sleep, that it must be time to rise; it must be nightfall. It was in his power to walk between the dream of sleep and the dream of night, so he reached for the glowing yellow girl-fruit, plucked her, and shoved her against the lid of his chamber to step into the night.

But the glowing girl-fruit in his hand grew, covered his hand, surrounded him and flooded the world with its deadly yellow poison. It was day, bright day he had risen into. He saw the young girl’s father step away from the coffin, the crowbar he’d used to pry open the lid now raised to strike. But it was the last thing he saw as the sunlight burned out his eyes, burned out his face, turned him to flame and then dust that choked the agony of his last scream.


 


J. David Liss writes genre fiction that asks questions found in upmarket literature. How does a feeling heart overcome the tragedy of loss? How do we know whom to trust, and can trust ever be won back once lost? He poses questions that matter in gripping stories.


Liss received an MFA from Brooklyn College. Trained in writing and inclined to politics, he became a speechwriter. Liss has worked in government, corporate, academic, and healthcare centers. He spent 10 years as faculty in the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Columbia University where he still lectures on healthcare policy and politics. Liss has published 23 short stories, including in Caustic Frolic, The MacGuffin, Lake Effect, Blood and Thunder, Inscape, and others. His first novel, The Body Electric, is currently long-listed at Alternating Current Press. His poetry has appeared in Fifth Wednesday Journal, Euphony, Poetry Quarterly, and others.


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