Hazy Days and Cloudy Nights

How It All Got Started 036: Carson
Free serial fiction from author and creator Matthew Wayne Selznick.


[post_list_box series=92]

Saturday, June 23, 1984

Carson said goodbye. He heard a click when his Uncle Mic hung up. Carson pulled the receiver away from his ear and looked at it. He stared at the tiny round holes of the earpiece.

He heard the dial tone.

Soon, he heard the impatient, repeating beep that was the phone telling him to hang up.

With strange care, Carson put the receiver on the cradle.

If the phone was hung up, the call was over. If the call was over, that meant Carson had slipped from Before the Phone Call to After The Phone Call.


And that meant Carson’s parents were dead.


It was a small plane. They used it to travel from the international airport at Liberia Canton to the small local airport closer to the conference hotel on the Pacific side of Guanacaste.

Carson didn’t know the name of the little airport. He’d want to know that. Someone would tell him. He was pretty sure. Then he’d know. He’d know, and he’d never forget it.

The plane was lost. People were looking.


Carson swayed a little. He took a couple of steps toward the couch.


Carson let his legs give out. He slid to sit on the carpet next to the couch.

His parents were dead.


His Uncle Mic was coming. It would be light by the time he arrived. Saturday.





Carson heard his own breathing, fast and short, between his slightly parted lips.

His lips were dry. He could feel the skin constricting. Pulling.




He licked his lips. His breath kept coming, fast. The saliva cooled; evaporated.

He licked his lips again. They dried. He did it again.


Nothing would change it.

He could hear himself making little noises in time with each exhalation. Little grunts. Moans, your could maybe call them.

He’d never heard himself make that noise before. He didn’t know what he was doing.


His parents were dead. It was almost Saturday. The phone call was over. Uncle Mic would be there in a couple of hours.


Was Uncle Mic supposed to take care of him now? Was that what was going to happen? He was almost eighteen. He’d be eighteen in…

He counted.

Fifteen days.

That would be two weeks and one day After The Phone Call.

He’d be an adult.

He’d have to get a job.

He’d have to support himself.

So what?

Seriously, so what?


His parents.

They were dead.


Everything was different. Everything was different. Everything was different.

Everything is different everything is different everything is different everything is different everything is different



Carson realized he’d stopped making that weird little noise. Instead, he’d been saying those three words over and over again.

He’d thought he’d only been thinking them.

His voice sounded…



His voice sounded dead.


That didn’t make sense. You couldn’t have a voice if you were dead.


He’d never hear his parents’ voices again.


His mother.


She used to… There was that book. The rat and the mole with their tea and library and comfortable hole.

“The Wind in the Willows.”

She used to read it to him.


How could any of this possibly be real? How could a phone call change the world from one where his parents were alive to one where they left on a trip and never came back ever again at all ever?


He started to make noises again. They were like hiccups, or coughs, past his lips or through his clenched teeth and then out his open mouth. His head jerked. His shoulders twitched. His stomach twisted.

He couldn’t control it. He didn’t know what it was. He wasn’t crying.

He was outside of his body, just on the other side of his skin, floating just beyond the hairs on his arms; just past his eyeballs, and the distance was narrow and cold and sharp and utterly, impossibly far.



That was the word. For the sound he was making. He was keening. He’d read it in a book. He’d never heard it before. Until now. That’s what this was.



Someone was in the living room.

It was dark, but Carson could tell. He stopped making the noise. He stopped keening. That was the word.

He looked over his shoulder at the shadowy silhouette standing at the edge of the hallway.




“Car..? What… I’m… how did..?”


It wasn’t his mother. His mother was in Costa Rica.




His mother was dead.


His mother

and father

were dead.


Lina’s shadow blurred and melted. The keening was back, along with a throbbing, pounding, hammering, pulverizing headache.

Carson bent forward on the floor and fell on his side. His arms went to the sides of his head to keep his brains from cracking through the fine fissures of his skull. His thighs pushed against his chest.

He shook, and he cried.

The cold distance between his soul and his body had been halved and halved and halved and halved and there was no more space left. All the pain was right there.

It was his.

It was him.


His parents were dead.




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