j. l. navarro

The Unreality of Paul Serrano

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Illustration by Victor Cayro

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For Paul Serrano there was no beginning—or end.  Everything was in flux.  Nothing fixed.  Except him.  He didn't change, not radically, not like the others—people, things, even history was not nailed down.  No one else seemed to notice, or if they did, they never said anything to him about it.


Yesterday Arlene Hedrick's hair was black.  Today it was a flaming red.  There was nothing unusual about a woman changing her hair color.  But her skin had changed as well.  Yesterday, Arlene Hedrick had been a black woman with large brown eyes.  Today she was white and her eyes were mossy green.


"Are you alright, Arlene?"  He looked at her closely to see that she wasn't wearing make-up or wig.


"I feel great, Paul.  I'm going on vacation Monday.  Two glorious weeks away from this place.  Going to the Caribbean.  Who wouldn't feel great about that?"


She smiled, turned, and walked to her cubical.  Paul followed and peeked into her office.  On her desk were a series of framed family pictures of her husband and kids. 


"I meant to tell you, Arlene, that the Overton account was updated by Brain so you can check that off your list." 


"Thanks, Paul.  One less detail."


He was looking past her, staring at the photos.  Her husband had turned into a smiling blonde man, and her three kids were blessed with thick lustrous red hair like their mother's.  Their faces were spotted with freckles.


"Something wrong, Paul?"


"No, no, not at all.  Just admiring your family.  One of these days I'm going to have to get married."


"I thought you were married."


"No, no, uh uh.  Just never worked out, I guess."


"Well, I better get to work," she said.


He continued on to his own cubicle, stopping Lynn Swartz on the way and said, "Have you seen Arlene this morning?"




"What do you think?"


"She looked okay to me."


These strange changes began two weeks ago.  At first he thought they were flashbacks from drugs he had taken as a young man.  But the anomalies gathered momentum until they became increasingly more bizarre and he realized his warped perceptions bordered on the pathological.  He was concerned he might be losing his mind.





This story is included in The Blood Cake Vendor and Other Stories.