Space (a short story)

My whole life I felt odd among my people. I didn’t fit. I didn’t agree with them. There came a time, even, when I was sure I hated them. This feeling got so intense that eventually I took my things and moved up north, where the rain was heavy and there was no one to argue with. All my life I thought turning my back on my people would be easy. And then he came: the man dressed in the cloud.

It was raining that day. I sat at the foot of a cave with my dress over my knees and listened to the raindrops – the stones – ringing off the mountains like music. As the song played, I saw something shifting nearby. Lines drawn in the shape of a body. It was a man, dressed entirely in a white and puffed up suit, like a cloud. He looked towards me and the face behind his glass orb washed with shock. Carefully, he raised a hand and moved it. Side to side.

I paused. I waved back.


He told me he was from Earth, and asked me if I had ever heard of it. I said no. He asked if it always rained like this. I said yes. He laughed and shook his head, as if he couldn’t believe it. He said that the rain on Earth wasn’t solid like this. It came down in droplets of water, not stones. With a gloved hand, he picked up a stray raindrop.

“Do you know what we call these stones back on Earth? Diamonds. They’re very valuable. People have killed each other over them.”

“Killed?” I asked, a little shocked. It seemed a bit excessive to kill each other over stones, whether they fell from the sky or not. But the man only nodded.

“Mm, they kill over just about anything on Earth. Sometimes I think I took this job just to get away from it all.”

These words would echo in my head in the days to come. The man stayed for three, throughout which he told me all about Earth and its people. He told me about green grass and blue sky. It sounded beautiful, and I thought about asking to go with him. But I didn’t. For some reason, I didn’t.

On the day that he was leaving, I watched as he readied his ship. He was putting his things away, and among them was a small, clear bag of raindrops. Of diamonds.

I hesitated.

They kill over just about anything on Earth.

Uneasy, I told him that I didn’t think it was a good idea to take the diamonds back with him. His people would no doubt come back for more, wouldn’t they? They may even bring violence, or war. He told me that they wouldn’t. I told him to promise me that they wouldn’t.

He couldn’t do it.

Still, he was refusing to leave without them. I reached over and tried to take them from him, but he shoved me to the ground. He told me he was sorry and, strangely enough, he looked it too. As he moved towards his ship to leave, I imagined otherworldly men fighting over the rain. I pictured my family – my mother and siblings in the south – getting caught in the crossfire. I pictured clouds forming over the villages. All laced with red.

These images were so frightening, that all at once I found myself with a leg at either side of the man’s body, gripping a rock in my strong hand. With all my force, I came down on him. I broke his glass head and I broke his real head, too.

As he bled, I sat beside his body and shivered. It began to rain again, and as the stones filled the valley with song once more, I thought: maybe it’s time to go home.  

Advertisements

Phantom (a short story)

When I was sitting with my legs under me in the grass, covered in a shiver with the wind at my neck, I was at first confused. How did it find me? And how could it have overcome me so quickly, and quietly? I put the heel of my palm to my head and rubbed it furiously. There was a voiceless, unbelieving sob (my own) as I asked—

How?

And then as it all gathered, I began to remember. He had been planning this for days. He had been there. I remember. I should have known.

Perhaps I did.

I remember the green glow at the edge of the window, and as I lay in the dark I felt lulled by it. It was like a lighthouse, fading, and I was meant to close my eyes before it had a chance to swing back again. I was meant to. I would have outsmarted it. I would have evaded it.

And then in the evening, when I was with the others, I tore and aligned twigs in straight rows as they spoke of their nights, nights they kept in lockets at their breasts. I pulled up my collar. I could not speak.

In the morning when I woke and went to fetch the water, I found myself led far from the path of the house. I was down a divergence on ground that has since been grown with green, and the blades of grass gave shocked, silent gasps as I broke their spines. The sky was gray like ash and I could see its glow from behind a tree. It throbbed, and I placed the water down and walked towards it—all on my own, too. It took me by the waist.

It was not pleasant and yet not unpleasant. I did not push it off, and when it lined my jaw with its green fingers I let it. It did not last, but it happened more than once so it must have taken a while. 

And then it lifted off of me, swirled high into the tree and watched me lying on the floor, with my arm over my eyes and my heels in the dirt and a scream in my throat. I took the water pail and lunged it at the tree, but it splattered back and made mud at my feet and on my hem.

I breathed heavy and hot. The sky rumbled. There would be rain.

I walked away, determined and pulling my hair back and up and tying it with a steadfast flick of my ribbon. I made my way back down the path, walking around the grasses and trying to ignore the corpses of the blades I had crushed. The clouds rolled. I went home and, in my fever of determination, fell fast asleep with my hand against my cheek.

I woke normally at first, stirring in the dark of the clouds. Still no rain. But I could smell it. I meant to sit up — really I did. I meant to sit up and retie my hair and go fetch fresh water for my face, but there was a whispering at my back, and from the corner of my eye I could see the glow behind me. It was pulling at my ribbon, my hair was falling out. I turned to face it.

Its glow was frightening and endlessly moving, like sick steam. It wrapped around my waist and I breathed it in, until it reached the end of my lungs. It was still swirling when I turned around again and bit the edge of my pillow. My chest was burning.

“Be gone, be gone—”

But it would not go unless I made it. So I swung myself out of bed and faced it.

“Come with me.”

It listened. It always listens when you want something from it. It will give you anything you want. I led it through the house, and had to keep down my cries as it moved around the furniture and shadowed the flower vase by the window. When we reached the front door, I turned to it.

“I’ve had enough.”

It was sometimes soft, and it placed a hand on my cheek. I held my breath and turned away from it. Then I waited until full darkness had returned to the house and I could hear only the pounding of my heart.

Soft twinkles started on the window pane. The flowers shivered.

I closed my eyes, slowly, and waited for the thunder. When it came the twinkling became excited, and my chest softened. I walked towards the window and pulled it open. Chilled wind and water came in. I slipped my body out, just until the waist, and lay with my face upwards. It was uncomfortable, but the water ran down my cheeks and broke on my lashes and slipped down my hair and chest. It tickled on its way down my collar and onto my stomach. I let it wash me.

Too Happy

Hush, put your heart to rest
do not lie awake and watch the window for his silhouette
do not think of him taking your hand
or the motion of his chest
that shuddering moonlit canopy:
you will not gaze up into it
or be swept by the rush of warm, summer breath
my god, I know it aches
and travels up and through your nightdress
too happy thoughts.

And do not think of that Neverland, your twinkling dream
do not think of being “mother”
not even to an ant
do not think of him as “father”
not even to that ant
not yet, not yet.

Wendy, darling, put your heart to rest
lest you frighten him
lest he leave you nothing but a shadow
and a cold, abandoned thimble.

Angel-light

I watch the blood swirl between my legs
it wasn’t my time, he did it to me
her gaze tugs at my sleeve
please, officer, don’t leave
it wasn’t her time, he tried to do it to her
I cuff him, he’s half-dead
he thought he could smuggle her into hell with him
he thought the red bouncer wouldn’t see
her angel-light burning through his overcoat
they sent her back up to me
I held her hand and took her home
“come, love, wash your face”
three full pumps of soap —
she washed her eyes first.