Fall Leaves – Natsui Ureshenko

A beautiful fall day; the leaves were turning to fire, rust, wine and gold. A magic time of early morning jogs, sunset walks and the rich smell of chimney smoke from fireplaces around town. The birds that stay here were settling in for the winter as were the squirrels and rabbits, foxes and skunks. The streams ran icy cold and the forests still concealed; fishermen and hunters were getting their last haul before winter enveloped everything in frost.

This season was really their time. They’ve been at it for thousands of years. The turn of colors signaled the cycle of life. No one really noticed the missing rabbits or squirrels. Once in a while there was an investigation when a jogger went missing. Otherwise, it was as it always had been.

Every morning, Rachel would go out on her run. She wanted to lose those few pounds before her high school prom. None of her friends thought she needed to lose any weight. Her mother always made sure her plate was full at dinner time. They would argue about the wisdom of this nightly ritual. However, Rachel always had the last word on it even though it sounded more like a retch.

This morning, Rachel noticed more leaves had fallen from the black mulberry tree outside her bedroom window. It always lost leaves earlier than the rest. It never seemed worse for it though. She picked one up to study it on her morning jog. She decided to take the route down by the reservoir.

As she ran, she twirled the leaf between her fingers. The veins in the leaf seemed to subtly pulse with life. Rachel didn’t remember any leaves doing that before. It appeared to turn a slight rust color where she was holding it. The path by the reservoir where she regularly ran was rarely raked in the fall. Leaves from hundreds of surrounding trees collected here. She found herself plowing through piles of them to make headway down the path…

After the Iminami – Nomi Tareen Smith

Near the memorial at McPherson Square, Washington, D.C.

“I don’t know how this happened.”

“What’s that?”

“These squirrels, they’re back in force. Grey ones, black ones and, hey, is that one red?”

“That is unusual…I thought they were numerous before because they were ‘seeded’ early in the twentieth century in an effort to provide some warmth and charm to the D.C. parks and public spaces.”

“Well the ‘seeds’ germinated into a marauding hoard; how did they ever survive the Iminami?”

“Why don’t you ask one?”

“Don’t encourage them; I do not consider these things charming. My guess, they climbed the trees and buildings during the flood and ate whatever floated by.”

“I bet you’re right, they do look well fed. Isn’t that one the cutest thing?”

“No…and hunting the pesky creatures was outlawed back then too, right?”

“Yep, and so was poisoning them. But, the next time you are in the UK, you can pick one up to roast if you like. They sell’em in supermarkets. What’s gotten into you lately?”

“Ever since we got back, the office has been hectic. My immediate supervisor is okay. I mean we all spent years in rented spaces carrying out our functions, a little travel, but…”

“But now the officials want face time and day long meetings, right?”

“Well even that is tamped down after the reconstitution. I guess, I don’t know…”

“You can tell me. Haven’t we corresponded over the years even when I was in the north? The times we were together were precious…uh-oh, look at the time, we better be heading back.”

“Yes, Izzy, we have, they were and soon. Move squirrel…”

“Why are you on your knee?”

“I have to get this out…will you marry me Izzy?”

“Yes, Peter, I’d be honored to marry you.”