Donald Darko by Tyler Barton

Few images more alive in my mind than the tubes of time which spring from partygoers’ chests in that film near the turn of the century. I saw it at fifteen—those glowing clear intestines towing the sad actors through space like totaled cars; saw it even then, the broken brake cables of desire, my future nothing but a two-door lemon idling in traffic. Of the Millennium I will say I saw it at ten, as the adults upstairs mocked Y2K—my father the pretend priest, swinging a bat at a computer monitor piñata, smarties spilling like his pills. Meanwhile downstairs we played hide-and-hide behind the blue water barrels our hosts had quietly stockpiled. Upstairs, downstairs, God, everyone really was seeking the same place, an actual end, some kind of undersea. So what’s in the films lost to the bottom of ponds I leapt into off a cliff if only for the fact of a waterproof camera in my hand? I was trying to capture something that wanted only to decapitate me. Few images more snaggy than the dead, caught branches dangling above me, my arms flying overhead, the one clear thing my camera saw as I fell—the limbs of trees. And every time I broke the surface in my terrified crouch, some weak part of my hand let go, red light glowing as it floated down. Few images more handheld for me than the widowermaker, failing again tonight to make another.


Tyler Barton is the author of Eternal Night at the Nature Museum (Sarabande), and The Quiet Part Loud (Split/Lip). His short fiction has twice been named “Distinguished” in Best American Short Stories, and his visual poetry has appeared in Adroit Journal, Northwest Review, december, and elsewhere. Find him at or @tylerbartonlol on Instagram.