I woke one morning with a rock under my pillow. It was a small rock, no bigger than a grape. Its circular shape pressed into the side of my skull as I tried to move it away. Failing at this, I slid my hand underneath my pillow, immediately noticing its edgeless, smooth skin. I held it up in the morning light. The rock was nothing special.
If I had seen it on the street, I might have kicked it.
“Maybe you put it there?” my wife suggested. “In your sleep?”
We were out on the deck with a breakfast of bagels, cream cheese, and lox. It was Sunday. We had nowhere particular to be like most privileged people. The birds sang and danced in the branches as if they were in church. Maybe they were.
“Could have been a mouse,” I replied.
“I’ve never heard of a rock carrying mouse, but, nowadays, anything is possible.”
I went downstairs, placed the rock in the middle of the rug, and laid on top of it.
I pressed my neck into its curves. I kneaded my taut muscles and sore cells. I rolled onto my side and kneaded the small rock with my old ribs, groaning in deep sighs. Tears came to my eyes. Images of the bottom of a body of water and beady-eyed fish came to me. I imagined crabs and their instincts.
“Where are you headed?” asked my wife.
“For a walk.”
“If you can, grab some milk.”
This was not about the likely hood of me getting the milk but what she preferred.
I took the rock to a trail with a river that snaked along its path. Our kids, when they were kids, used to catch water skeeters in its thin water. They tied a string to their fragile bodies and laughed until their faces turned blue.
With the sun on my face, telling me I was there within time, I took the rock out and tossed it into the river. After a quick sink, it rested at the bottom. The river flowed over the unmoving rock. The water surged, moving other twigs and things, but the rock from under my pillow resisted. The rock was impassive, indifferent to the stream’s efforts to effect it.
In the lines of the rivers current, I read names. I heard voices, and I smelled the clothing of every human being that ever lived. The voice’s words became clearer when I fell to my knees to listen.
“Time is unaffected by the onslaught of men. It never changes. It never will.”
“Our only option is to leave the context of this existence for the next.”
“Only then, can we evolve.”
I explained this phenomenon to our local shop keeper.
“And then the voices —” I exclaimed.
“Are you sure you want whole milk?” the shopkeeper asked.
“There were so many, and then they were gone!
“You usually get the one percent,” insisted the shopkeeper. “You sure you want it this time?”
Mitchell Duran is a writer of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. He has been published in Black Horse Review, Drunk Monkey, The Millions, BrokeAssStuart, and more. He lives in San Francisco, California. Find more work at