Published by Celestial Recursion, a -30- Press Imprint

Copyright, 2022 © Kristopher J. Patten, C.J Manor , Ashley Franz Holzmann, V.R. Walker

All Rights Reserved


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The air began to sting Xochitl Bonn’s lungs; she was not used to running for so long.

“Do you think we can keep up this pace?” Lisa said.

When had Lisa joined her?

“This reminds me of the last book from our book club. You remember?” Susan said, pausing to suck in a few breaths. “The protagonist, Susan—love her name—escaped her ex-husband through the desert. Did she die in the end?”

Was Susan always there?

Yes. Of course she was.

She’s your friend.

“She definitely died in the end,” Lisa said.

Bonn looked behind them and saw that the town and dark cloud was on the horizon.

She could not see any of the shadow.

Hell was a desert wasteland, demons at the edge, only a knife for defense, in the company of a woman’s book club.

“Oh, thank the mother of sweet tea, we can rest for a bit,” Lisa said.

Bonn took a moment to take in the situation.

There was a river ahead of her. She knew that.

And friends.

Trusted friends.

Book club friends.

“Well, sis, I haven’t been this worked up since the last time the boys got into the top cupboard. Let me tell you, my heart skipped right out of my mouth,” Lisa said.

“I remember that. I bet you Bonn could say the same about the other evening. Isn’t that right?” Susan said.

“What do you mean?” Bonn asked.

“Oh, don’t be shy. What was his name? Prem? Prim? Something exotic.” Lisa said.

“Yes, very primal,” Susan said.

“You absolutely must tell us everything about him. This new relationship of yours,” Lisa said. Both Susan and her eyes fixated on Bonn.

The moment almost continued, but Bonn remembered where they were.

It was odd that she had almost been lost in the conversation.


Trusted friends.

Bonn looked around and began to start walking toward the river.

She had the medical bag with her, still, and the knife.

They passed rocks and dirt with very little brush.

The sun wanted to crest the clouds, but something stopped it from moving higher in the sky.

Her feet were burning, but she couldn’t stop.

“Oh, do you remember that one book about the hot air balloonist? What were they called?” Susan asked.

“Aeronauts,” Lisa said.

“Yes! And they stopped on that desert island with the coffee shop on it. What a surprise it would be for that to happen to us. What was that book called?” Susan asked.

“Wraith,” Lisa said.

Bonn thought briefly of the idea of a hot air balloon. Of escaping whatever was happening.

Then she tried to think of the other night.

She couldn’t remember reading the book the others were discussing.

Had there been a man in her life?

Of course there was.

What was his name?

It was fuzzy to her.


“My favorite part of the book was when she reached the river’s end,” said Susan.



Susan’s last words looped over and over in Bonn’s head.

Bonn had kept her senses about her, but somehow the shadows still got to them.

Susan was torn apart first. She screamed until her throat was ripped out.

Susan, who always stayed positive.

Susan, who—Bonn couldn’t remember much more.

How they met.

When the book club started.

How she had come to live in the town.

Bonn let the thoughts rest for a moment and bent down to be with Lisa.

The shadows had backed away from the knife—of all things—keeping Bonn intact. But the knife couldn’t save them all.

Lisa kept bleeding in Bonn’s arms.

In the past, Bonn would need someone like Yazzie to oversee her work.

But Yazzie wasn’t there.

“How did they sneak up on us?” Bonn asked as she began to treat the wounds with the contents of her medical bag.

“Oh, honey,” Lisa whispered. Her tears mixed with the bloody mess that had been her face.

Bonn thought of Susan’s last words.

Say it.

Trusted friends.

The sky briefly transitioned to night, then day again. Bonn noticed, but kept working.

The sun sat at the edge of the earth. Somehow never shifting with the passage of time.

“You know,” Lisa whispered, “Part of me hopes you make something out of all of this.”

Bonn tried to think of a way to respond.

Expressing empathy or projecting feelings had never been a strong point for her.

“I don’t understand,” Bonn finally said. She tried to keep her mind focused on stopping the bleeding.

“You can stop now, Bonn. But, before you have to keep running, can you tell me one thing?” Lisa asked.

Bonn reflexively nodded. The bleeding had stopped. If only Yazzie could see her.

But she can’t.

Lisa smiled and asked, “What was his name, Bonn? Can you tell me all about him?”

The moment felt disingenuous.




Those were the last words Susan had spoken.

Lisa saw that Bonn was not going to speak. She tilted her head toward the horizon and let out a scream.

Bonn could see the demons heading toward her this time.

“Sorry, honey,” Lisa said. “See you at book club, tomorrow. I think I’m going to also bring a stew.”

Bonn left Lisa on the ground as she began to run.



Bonn nearly tripped on the rocks as she waded out of the water.

The demons screamed at her from the other side.

Her cadet training showed her how to use normal clothing to inflate makeshift floatation devices.

She had been convinced that that section of the training was a waste of time, after all, where would she drown in space? In hindsight though, she appreciated it.

Bonn looked up and down the river, and realized the end of it was within walking distance.

She pulled her medical bag out of the water, tucked the knife in it, and began to walk.



The sun felt as if it came up out of nowhere, and then it was gone.

It had seemed like moments, whereas the morning was an eternity.

Night fell in seconds.

There were no stars.

Bonn walked through the night.

What was a mile in the day had somehow become more.

Bonn kept moving.

Until it was there.

A pool of water at the end of the river. Or the beginning. Bonn could no longer tell which way the river flowed. It seemed to shift, much like the rest of her surroundings.

The sun was somehow back up, but the sky was dark and tinted rust.

Bonn looked up and saw red lightning streak across the sky.

“Oh, that’s pretty. Do you remember when the aeronauts finally found the end?” Lisa asked.

When had Lisa joined her?

“What did you just say?” Bonn asked.

“He was at the end of the river,” Lisa said.

“I can’t—” Bonn said.

“Wasn’t that the name of your new boyfriend?” Lisa asked. “You should tell us all about him.”

Bonn looked around and realized that demons were somehow surrounding them.

Dust and smoke spiraled in front of Bonn until the demons disappeared into a form.

A man formed from the dust and spoke, “Your boyfriend. You should tell your trusted friend all about him.”

“Yes! Tell us everything you know about him, Bonn. Tell us about Prime,” Lisa said.

Yes, tell us, Bonn.

Tell your trusted friends.

Bonn stared at the man. Dust settled and she could recognize him.

“Chairman Klaidçiri?” Bonn asked.



Pink mist; purple hues; a blue sky; screams.

Rossvel Arley awoke.

A white ceiling lay above him.