From the Files of August Strindberg: Stockholm, February, 1875
I confess that Friday was a troubled day from the moment the sun chose to hide its fiery form from us both, you remember. Perhaps too I felt the gloomy lack of sentient life beyond the two of us, the frozen tundra of these endless February days. O’ I do not know. But tell me, did I not suffer a vision, that is to say, see something dreadful at my door? A woman (a refugee from the night, wandering through my midday doldrums?), walking a terrapin on a leash. You remember, the creature’s shell wrapped in ribbons, a red belt blinking, that is to say, a reptile sheathed in fire.
I have reflected on this apparition and feel compelled to turn to you now as witness, not so much to reassure myself because such an assurance would offer no solace. Likely it would only encumber for a moment this tormenting flux within me, without fully abating it. Yet I pray, tell me plainly what you saw.
Now, if you can say that you did not see the female or the reptile. That you did not hear her speak to me of all its damnable powers. That you did not see a tall, bleakish woman with a long braid of hair, draped in the garish livery of a horsewoman, floating through the dimly lit bowels of the repository (here where you and I list every tome and title). That is to say, a woman walking (and talking) to a turtle on a leash, one end of which she clutched to her bony bosom. That you do not remember visiting me soon after the apparition departed, and saying, “What in the name of everything holy was that?”
That is to say, if you can remember none of these things. If you can tell me none of them transpired, then you must do so straightaway, while there is still time for me to navigate a course out of these depths, the nether reaches of my lurching mind.
Your most humble friend,
P.S.: Lunch next week? I’ll bring the absinthe.
About the writer:
Wayne Cresser lives on an island in Narragansett Bay with his wife and dog. His work has appeared in six print anthologies, most recently The Four Seasons (Kind of a Hurricane Press), online at Gravel, Shark Reef Literary Magazine, Jerry Jazz Musician and Story and in such print journals as The Ocean State Review and SLAB. He was co-creator and managing editor of shaking like a mountain (later Shaking) from 2007-2011 and a contributing editor at the Ocean State Review from 2014-2017.