The Floating Luminosity

So, I finished a novel a few months back and it looks like it won't be sent out for publishing consideration, at least not in its present incarnation (luckily I'm polishing another new one as we speak). So, in lieu of the Big Time, I thought I'd post little snippets of it for the next week or so in preparation for my second annual trip to Seaside, Oregon in two weeks:


The first time Gordon Locke saw what would later be called by a local paper, in an inspired moment of journalistic eloquence, the Floating Luminosity, he was sitting on the fourth story deck of his condo, looking out at the ocean and trying to find out how much rum he could drink before he could no longer discern individual stars in the night sky. He did this frequently. Gordon had been wrestling with insomnia for months, ever since he’d retired from his job in Des Moines and moved west to the Oregon coast. It was hard to say why sleep had abandoned Gordon now, at this particular time. Perhaps it was the new surroundings, the smell of his freshly painted condo, or the ocean surf rolling onto the beach, ceaseless in its effort to provide as much intoxicating white noise as possible. Or maybe, at sixty-five, Gordon Locke had become as invisible to sleep as he was to the young people he encountered everyday, preening in the wash of crisp May sunlight as they strolled along the boardwalk.

Initially, Locke thought the Floating Luminosity was merely a hallucination. It appeared on the horizon like a compact storm front and turned the sky a peculiar greenish-blue that wasn’t really green or really blue, a color that might have appeared to you in a fantastic dream, or on an acid trip, but had no place in reality. On top of that, it possessed a glowing luminance that slowly pulsed, as if the light itself were alive, and Gordon could think of nothing he’d seen on earth that looked like that. The light hovered above the ocean surface, tantalizingly close to the white-tipped waves. It could have been a chemical cloud, perhaps, or a West Coast version of the aurora borealis. But Gordon didn’t think so. This light seemed too strange and too…present. Too much like a fresh and sudden apparition.

Gordon leaned on the deck’s railing, his drink forgotten on the patio table as he stared into the Luminosity. His thoughts broke into loose fragments, tiny flotsam bits of observations such as: the boardwalk is empty and cool wind and moving. Then, even these simple words lost the meanings associated with them and bled out into color, into the bluish-green, greenish-blue that glowed gently above the ocean, as if it had been there all along, patiently waiting to be noticed.


When the strange light finally disappeared, Gordon released the deck’s railing and stumbled backward. He was a tall man, six feet two inches, with narrow shoulders, tan skin, and the compact build of a rancher, or a bicyclist. His closely cropped hair was silver, his eyes a smooth gray, and he had a long day’s growth of white stubble on his cheeks. His daughter had once called him a poor man’s Paul Newman.

Gordon rubbed his eyes, wondering how long he’d been standing at the railing. His wristwatch said it was three in the morning, but he couldn’t remember what time he’d given up trying to sleep and headed out to the balcony with a fresh drink. It could have been ten, eleven, or one o’clock. What was time to a newly minted retiree? What did it matter what hour anything happened at? When he’d left central Iowa to live in the quiet seaside town of Wake, he’d flown beyond the land of meetings, deadlines, and quarterly reports. He was on his own schedule now. He could do whatever he wanted, whenever. No one here cared what he got up to.

Gordon collected his glass from the patio table and noticed the ice in his rum and Coke had melted. He pulled open the deck’s sliding glass door with a soft grunt and paused for one last inspection of the sea. He could no longer make out any lights on the water, not even a distant ship passing through. Gordon stepped inside his apartment, slid the door shut along its plastic track, and turned the lock. He rubbed his aching eyes with his palms and the bluish-green colors returned in pale, splotchy imitations of the real thing. He looked around his living room and thought about calling someone to talk about what he’d just seen. Instead, Gordon set his watery cocktail in the sink, turned off the lights, and shuffled down the hallway to bed.

The first body was discovered in town later that morning.


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