Excerpt from Shangri-La Does Not Exist by June Calendar

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This story appears in our January 2015 Digital Issue. Read the rest of June’s story and the entire issue.

He heard the steady drone of an airplane; he was inside. His head rested against a pillow; another head was on the same pillow. Wisps of hair brushed his cheek. His neck was stiff; he moved his head. A hand patted his forearm. “Another pill?” whispered a woman’s voice. The droning was pervasive: he saw to his right, a few feet away, the jitter of a video screen.

After a moment he said, “No.”
The hand held his forearm lightly for a moment. “No pain?”
He was slipping into sleep. “No,” he murmured.

       Strong hands moved him onto the bed. He cried out, not from pain but because he expected pain. A man’s voice said, “Sorry.” The bed rolled like a vehicle on rubber tires, smoothly, silently, through a dim tunnel or hallway. A soft whisper of wheels, he was safe.

“Passport. … Your passport.”
“Credit card, there’s a fee. Always a fee.”

       Bright lights, people flowing around him. He sat as if he were a stone in the channel of a river. People hurrying, murmuring voices, no one stopped, no one noticed. He was waiting. His eyes were nearly closed. Very sleepy.

A woman stooped besides him. “Can you sign?”

       The pen seemed to move automatically; it made the long upward flourish he always used at the end of his name.

The rolling woooosh of curtains being pulled on metal ball bearings. A woman holding his wrist. He did not have his clothes on but was covered by a blanket. Something was wrapped around his upper arm. It grew tight, not distressingly, in a familiar, caressing way, then it loosened. He knew what is was but did not know the name just then.

june calendar photoJune Calendar spent 30 years in NYC studying playwrighting and seeing her plays produced off-Broadway (sometimes as far off as Alaska). She was invited to three national playwrighting conferences where her plays were workshopped. Eight years ago she retired to Cape Cod to finish writing a book about the culture of Tibet as reported in a daily diary by Theos Bernard, the only person ever invited to the “forbidden city” as a religious scholar. She writes poetry, short stories, and travel essays. She teaches writing at the Academy of Lifelong Learning at the Cape Cod Community College.