MRI Daydreams of a 7-year-old
Upon exploding, he hoped to leave behind a finger for her to hold in her manicured hands. But eight and a half minutes passed smoothly by, and then there was nothing left to draw but black. The whole page turned black, leaving no room for greetings or goodbyes. When he finished, he hurled his letter towards the Earth and followed its clean white speck to the ocean.
Her face was in the sponges, her hands in every coral reef. One-way radio waves sang to him as he pried open oysters, collecting fat white pearls for a necklace that would catch on her ankle in the morning.
And when he surfaced on a sled, he could see her fur-lined neck and hot-chocolate hands to his left. They kept his body from crashing, from crumpling up in a pool of pink. But still, the small white lights whispered to him. Since he wasn’t sure which one to follow, he carved her name into the ice and rested.
Later, he was afraid his skull might swallow and send his brain sliding down the back of his neck. And as he wondered about the stillness of head nods, forgetting and being forgotten, her hands moved over him, smoothing all his white linen wrinkles.
- Anna Moreau
The balloon would lurch and set back down—rise and lower just like that—until Jemi and I were finally in the air. We moved higher and higher toward the Western sun, rapidly setting on our day’s labors. Or maybe I thought of this as our life’s labors—and mine in particular. The canopy of our balloon was stitched together from canvas with heavy threading and the seams were sealed with hide glue. The result was strong, and I thought that if we could manage to get North in this craft, we would be away from Fort Union. That would be enough. In my quieter moments I had made plans for us to leave this no-man’s land for Jemi’s sake.
Last week, I caught Jemi taking the lizards out of the washtubs we’d been putting them in. I quickly picked her up off the floor and she cried, but I held her tight in my arms and continued to carry her while I filled the remaining washtubs with dirt that I had put outside along the barn. She did not stop crying by the time I finished adding dirt to the bins. I carried her to the house.
We left a year after we first arrived—my contract with the U.S. government about run out. We were beginning to be run out ourselves by the pests that seemed like they followed us from Mississippi ‘cept here they are lizards instead of little rats and squirrels, and things. We tried to contain the lizards mostly in the barn but the more I found houses for them, the more they just kept coming asking for rooms. I guess I was not surprised when we moved here that the reptiles did appear, but there were few choices available to me about how to take my leave of them.
The plans for the balloon were simple and I was able to execute the design on my own. This was the only way I could see that I knew the lizards couldn’t follow. Jemi and I plucked the remaining ones that stuck to our basket as we lifted off the ground. It’ll be some other plague or infestation when we touch down who knows where next. But for now, Jemi is giggling a little and holding tight onto the basket frame—a little scared and a little happy to be where she is.
- Barak Wright
“You can't love anybody but yourself.”
Those words haunted him as he walked through the empty apartment that night. They'd haunted him every day since the last day he'd seen her, the day he'd moved into this apartment.
“I love people.” He said to himself, passing the mirrors he'd left covered when he hung them months ago. “I love people besides myself. Mom, dad, Matty, Kelsey, Cherish. . . I love them. I love my family.”
His restless steps brought him into the kitchen, where a pot of water stood on the stove, waiting to be boiled for his regular Thursday night pasta dinner.
“Only love myself. . .” He stopped in front of the stove, but didn't change anything. “That's not true.”
But he hadn't loved Esther, even though they'd dated for three years. She'd felt his boredom, his lack of attachment, and broke off the relationship. He'd felt bad, but there was nothing he could do. She'd wanted to be serious, and he hadn't. It wasn't that he hadn't liked her – she was great, and gorgeous, and sweet – she just – she just wasn't enough. He had to admit, she'd tried, tried to like philosophy and football and Italian food and those other things he enjoyed so much he seemed to have been born to enjoy them – those things that were part of him. Those things that were him. They were him, and she couldn't appreciate that like he did.
Maybe he was just supposed to be alone.
He leaned over the pot to see how much water he'd put in, and caught himself staring at his reflection.
Why did he need anybody, anyway? He knew what he wanted out of his life, and he knew how to achieve that. He didn't need Esther, or Pietra, or Rosamund – he didn't need any of them. He didn't need anybody, just himself. He could take care of everything. Girlfriends just messed up his routine, anyway. Always wanted to be held, always wanted to watch their own stupid movies, always wanted to know how they looked, if blue or yellow looked better on them –
Just the thought of it made him cringe, and he shook his head. His reflection caught his eye again.
Maybe he was just supposed to be alone.
- Alysa Spolidoro