Tree of Shared Water and Sun—J.R. Allen

Voice crooned in low-throated groans when we buried boy in sterile dirt. And there, between broken stumps where grass won’t grow, us two stood over quenched son with paper-dry skin. Only his face still left all unsoiled, all chipper-tune and wound tight at cheeks, skin taut over young bone frame. This where he die, where he lie without father’s arms for comfort, unhinged, gone. Where we found him like limp fish with no more raging against air, open-mouthed and marble-eyed and rot. I set down sad shovel, one that did somber work of burying. I wiped sweat from brow, scratched hair on my grey face, and looked around.

Surrounding us: scattered tree bones, all grey-dead and withered. Sun hung low and amber on horizon. Pink sky above saw no carrion birds, no flesh to peck on ground save for boy and his tight-wound doll cheeks, all apple and white rose. 

I said to Voice, This place once called Forest, my eyes trained in place—turning to ground, I stooped over fresh-dug grave, rubbed dirt between thumb and fingers. Soil once fecund, barren now, I let out from gravel-throat. 

Voice said nothing.

I lifted head to find Voice’s jaw open toward sky. He’d bounded past me, wailing impertinent over shallow burial. He had youth forgotten by land, these lowland plains that haven’t seen green springs nor red autumns since before Voice was born. Lot of song since then, Voice now tall and hairy-faced. I called to him, beckoned him return, and like birds in forgotten spring, he returned.

“He go with us, Blue?” Voice moaned. I cast my eyes down, back to boy: shame. Boy just one of lost people now, boy gone. I have no song for gone boys. 

Out of my throat came a raspy cough, and I doubled over in my effort to slake my lungs. My throat cleared and I expelled something yolky and yellow, with texture of curdled milk. Voice tugged at my rough arm, eyes wide like spreading roots, and I looked up. 

“Blue, where he go now?” Voice’s face: all apple and rose wood, like boy but warm and flush with hot blood boiling beneath his cheeks. All I can do to not weep for him: here he grows where there was nothing else. And loneliness for company. I swallowed. Once a time I thought maybe there somewhere to go after. Then, world still green and bright. Now, world dead as its trees. And this only world Voice knows.

He go nowhere, I said to Voice, picked up shovel from dirt to finish its cold work. He go nowhere, Voice. 

Then I covered boy’s face, put shovel back to bag, and we went on our way.

Voice and I walked for long song, until Voice complained of aching feet. I said to voice, Keep walking, we can’t have gone far, boy, with last primal syllable that rang like heartbeat’s hum, or water in rusted bucket. 

I’d kept head down whole way, brow furrowed and stony. For first time in long song, I looked up. There had been no life to pass—without tree or person or animal to mark our route, it looked as though we hadn’t left where boy was now buried. Like world turned backwards beneath our worn-shod feet. Were we going right way? Or were we lost in this thorny havoc-ridden bramble?

I gaped up at moon to find song of night. Late, moon high in sky. And Voice, tired and shorn of his day’s ardor, and I with no breath, what else to do but wait for sun to return fresh and newborn?

Here, long after green left land, heat of this dead prairie shrank to cold like blight. Grabbing axe and telling Voice to stay where his feet stood as if rooted, I left to pick dead wood for fire and let it burn to stave off freeze. 

Here you stay, I said, and Voice turned his chin down to me. 

As I left, he followed close behind. 

Stay here, Voice, I demanded, but Voice would not listen. He who crooned low and sorrowful at boy, now swoon and unwound between ribs.

“Where to go without you, Blue?” His eyes filled like Robin’s eggs, and he went all chin-up and sullen and dropped like stone in water, moaning his guttural fears.

This where you belong right now, Voice, I said, kneeling down and squeezing both of his shoulders to comfort him. I’ll be back, you’ll see me whole time in this dead bosk. 

I gestured to rotten trunks and uproots, caved in like hollow veins. These dead trees all naked for seeing through. 

Dangerous work, cutting of limb and branch, I added with a smile, and this seemed to lull his anxieties. He rooted himself where he stood, this dumbly brave son of staggered world. And in return of my smile, I noticed small twitch of his cheeks.

Alone with these rotted giants hunched around me, I noticed many stumps of fallen wood-brothers. Men and their cruel work left their mark, and what remains is still there until men gone. During the Green, people didn’t worry about pocked face of land as it slowly turned brown, dust-covered. How we took world for granted, and shame in realizing that ground couldn’t be fixed. All left now for rot, us dwelling here until world begins again. We sons of darkest fathers who left us no world, we left to blight this land until drummed out by scorched song.

What I gleaned of skeletal forest: names of trees. Cedar, fir, pine, and hemlock. Their scarce water chanted in low tunes behind bark I could only hear because I stopped and listened. Trees, even dead, always talking, patient for us to listen. Faint smell of citrusy pine still clung to air like moss. I set my sight on what once was hearty pine, with its knots and rust-orange bark. Singing ancient intones of the fathers before me, I gripped my axe in calloused hands and took joy in slicing air until iron head hit trunk of wood.

What happened next was all hollow, all air and bark. Pine was gone, and in its place was molted skin of tree left behind. No sap or heartwood to speak of, only phloem and thin layer of bark. I sliced through like sickle through sheaf. I was felled by momentum, left laying on dry soil. 

This awoke some primal sickness inside me, my stomach turned over and lungs churning. I turned to my side and retched out bile and sickly chunks. My nose left on fire, full of rotted sweetness. How easy it would’ve been, to let myself lay there until overcome by cold, to expunge myself of all that was left inside me and flicker out like smallest of flames. But I thought of Voice, of him finding my body crusted with foul sickness, of him, helpless and lonely, in these damned lands, and staggered back to my weary feet.

After vile song, I was astounded by what little bit of tree was left. Axe left sunken groove in bark—like shod foot kicking in rotted gourd. Looking into abandoned husk of tree, core was all turned to soft humus. Returning itself in slow way of trees to earth. This tree was felled by ancient forester and had reclaimed its place in horizon without waiting for body. And same for other trees. 

I spent long song taking axe to other pines, to sparse-branched tamaracks, all left only thin-bark without heartwood. Not much to burn, but need wood to warm Voice’s rosy cheeks.

As I did work of felling bark, I remembered stories told by fathers about these false-limb trees, of elder foresters and their toothy misery whips. How they did their work, building home, table, and hearth with knotted lumber—what pride they took in this murderous labor. These woody boreal-beasts, how they toiled for centuries to grow branch and leaf, grew tall to shade sapling and understory and beasts below branches; and now, left all twig and stump, these diminutive sprigs of their proud forebears. 

Over longest of songs—several hundred years but two generations for these ancient tree-fathers—bark began to sprout without help of heartwood or phloem, these trees so desperate for their place in sky. Tangled roots beneath held one another, forests becoming single tree of shared water and sun, they all hollow and unwound at the outset, gone blue. They called these Hollow-stumps, called them Trickwood. There was time whole world was one forest, and what joyous din that lush green was. But now earth diseased and rotted, blighted by hubris.

I thought of Voice as I continued—his proud youth, now almost eighteen years, no longer sapling. Taller than me, so much song behind him, so little left ahead. He with stubble on chin, without much wood left to burn. Because of me, of men like me and our selfish ache not to die. Voice has no word for Father, no cradled croon of Mother on his tongue. He’ll grow up not knowing love of parent nor child. Too young to remember my rearing him, of his mother felled by cleaving childbirth, and with somber-soil earth we have, he with no use for parents. Only me, quiet father left to dredge same ancient green-tune for Voice, to sing him warmest song until he joined lost people with me and his mother and Boy. Trees went for rot, but we became lost, too, in branches we broke—it was ourselves we felled in each severed stump.

Wood bark tucked beneath my arms, I looked for Voice in distance. Peering through branch and trunk, tree arms too thick to see through to tree line. If I couldn’t see him, Voice would be humbled and alone, also unable to see me. I tightened my grip upon bark and headed in direction that would lead me back to Voice.

And it was then men made themselves seen. From behind half-limp branches they came, all knife-face and stone-brow, gripping shivs to pierce flesh and make red rain. I leapt with start, trying to circumvent these pain sons. One cut me off in my path and coolly raised his shiv above his head. Look of hunger in his eyes.

I dove and fell to ground. He reached for me and the other drew his sharp object. My hands searched for whatever last glimpse of life they could find on ground, came up with holy stone. And for first time in long song, I felt grateful for earth, for what was left here after all else died. I rolled and rose to weary feet. One man flashed vicious smile, this struggle fun for him. He licked his lips and took closer step.

Inside my guts were on fire, and more than anything I suddenly wanted to give up, to let these horrid men fill me with what little sunlight was left. But then what might happen to Voice?

I rushed man with malicious smile, swiping with stoned hand. As I did, he drug his shiv across my arm. Small red pearls blossomed from cut, giving way to thick threads of blood dripping to ground, covering me in that thing that gives us life. 

Man fell to ground, and I straddled over him, bringing heavy stone down on his head. Other man let his shiv bury itself in my shoulder blade as though he was clipping my wings. I shouted out in agony, hoping dearly that Voice was too far to hear my pain. Man with malicious smile lay still, his head turned pale red pumpkin. I drove stone into his concave face again, panting heavy and hard and mewling like lost cat.

Man no longer smiled.

Other man’s blade stung in my back—he twisted it. I swept at his legs, trying to bring him to ground, too. 

History is full of these men who want nothing but to take, to dominate. In these men I saw my own father, all fathers who took world and relieved it of life. 

Other man staggered over me, grabbing my shoulders and digging his teeth into my neck. He bit down hard. I pulled away and touched spot where he’d bit; soaked in blood. I turned to face him and his teeth were chewing. He looked at me with indulgent swallowing, and he licked his bloody lips. 

I let out roar, went all animal and ragged. I ran into him and we both fell to ground. And there we rolled over one another, gritting our teeth and tensing our faces, clawing and scraping at one another like pair of coyotes. He and his bloody mouth nipped at me, wanting always for more flesh and wide-eyed at the thought. But I had no song to cower, to fear other man and his cruel intention. I only had to react, to struggle against him, to get back to Voice.

He was on top of me and pinned my arms to cold ground. I fought to raise my chest and rage against him, my anger so hot as to singe his wretched skin. He came down on me and bit at my shoulder. And in this he untensed in joy, his hunger being slaked.

It was then I overpowered him; I rolled and found myself atop him. For moment blood dripped on his face and he lapped at it with his foul tongue like dog at bowl of water. Out of corner of my eye I saw stone, and in one fluid movement grabbed it and brought it down on his vicious head. He struggled; strove to upturn me and further sup from my flesh. 

This couldn’t happen.

Again my stone met his head, and again, and again, until he lay still as trees surrounding us. I wailed and breathed until all of my insides felt outside. Until I, too, was hollow as trees, as these men and their hungering eyes.

My stomach churned, and I upturned what little was left inside me—forest reeked of things meant to be inside us. Coppery blood, sour bile, atavistic fear. 

I tore cloth from other man’s shirt and wrapped my wounds, small rubies dotting the dirty bandages. And again I thought of Voice, hoping men had found me first. In way of parents, those child guardians, I had no song to wonder or worry at what may have happened. All I could do was rise.

I strode gape-jawed over to where I’d dropped bark, returned it safely to my grasp, and headed briskly toward tree line where Voice was surely waiting.

When I got back with bark under each arm, Voice still stood tall where I’d left him, singing a somber-throat song. Night made its way over land, and Voice swathed himself with his arms for warmth. 

“I-I stayed r-right here, Blue. Didn’t m-move.” His voice stuttered as he spoke, cold settling deep in his bones. I set down hard worked bark.

It was then I felt cold, realized with shiver how sun had left us to wither and freeze.

Good boy, I said, ruffling his dirty hair with my hand, small smile creeping across my face. Blood made its way through my bandages—I tried to hide my pain by covering bandages with my clothes, in not letting it fill my voice. 

Voice looked at my toothy smile all curious and wide-eyed, his own lips attempting to do same. So few reasons for my boy to smile, his muscles not made for happiness. After short song of twisting and contorting his face to mimic my own mirth, he gave up. How sorrowful this sad act made me, that Voice, my boy, couldn’t offer grin nor simper, simple twitch of cheeks.

I shook my head, busied myself with work of fire. From my bag I pulled flint and steel, and set to striking one to other. Block of steel almost gone, I knew it wouldn’t be long song until fire making became more arduous, if possible at all. While I worked, Voice toiled with dirt, using thinnest bark to draw lines, last utility of these barren lands. Eventually, I struck steel just right, and sparks latched onto wood, growing until they were flames. 

Voice, I called, Voice, come warm your bones

But Voice wouldn’t listen, content to push dirt in freeze of night. I let him play for now, my boy, and let myself tire and feel weariness of day.

I thought of where we’d go next day. Headed north, where land grows coldest. Where I was told lived others, people to take care of Voice when I finally joined lost people. Short song left for me—I reeked of death down to my marrow. My duty was done once Voice was safe, once I knew his song would be sweet and warm and full of smiles—way mine was with Voice’s mother before she was all lost and cold and limp-bodied. Death couldn’t take me until then; I still had work left undone.

Voice was nestled beneath crook of my arm when I awoke. Over course of night we’d folded and huddled together. I turned my eyes to where fire was, left all coal and ember, still hot beneath ash but dim against early rays of morning light. In greener times, boy his age wouldn’t slumber so tightly with his father, but earth so cold now—few places elsewhere to find warmth but people around you. 

Before I rustled him awake, I took in his face: crooked, gaunt, with sharp-angled hook nose like greenest hill slanting up to eyes that were shut, but that I knew were river-blue and bright as my own. He and his boyish innocence seemed out of place in world so void of life, so harsh and bleak, making vagrants and hungry nomads of all of us but Voice, last vestige of what was once pure in this world. 

Newborn sun hummed light on our faces, which stirred Voice from his dreaming back to this hellish nightmare of day that awaited him. His youth lifted him to his feet before I noticed he was awake. 

“Blue, sun is high, Blue!” He shrieked, his flute-toned voice brighter than new day, slicing air with his finger, pointing to his bright-brother sun. “New day, Blue, where we go now?” 

He bounced as he spoke.

I grimaced at light, my aged bones too heavy to force myself up. Slowly, I rose, smelling memories of moist morning air. This scent once called morning dew, once called sweet grass and lilac, now just dirt. 

Noting sun’s fixed place in sky before me, I turned left, pointed, said That way, Voice. We go north. 

Voice was impatient as he waited for me to ready myself for travel—stretching, packing my bag, putting off leaving. After short song, though, we went north, and Voice sang bright morning tune. I didn’t bother stomping out embers from fire, nothing left around to burn.

What accompanied us then but Voice’s gleeful croons, his joyful growls echoing across plains. Morning that came as unwanted friend left as welcome traveler through thicket, field, and brittle-dry bramble. Following this long and chipper song came solitary bluebird. 

Voice, without name for feather-brother, asked what she was called. 

Creature called Bird, I let. Listen for her warble, Voice. 

And after came sweetest notes from Bird, and like some ancestral stretch, Voice’s lips went corner up, thin smile like curve of axe head, just for shortest song. If only I could freeze this moment, could slow and drone until each tensile chirp was strewn across our lives, to watch forever my son’s timid smile and newfound friend-bird and see it awash with its quiet, colorful vibrance, how green that moment was, and how it held me dying in its very grasp.

But Voice, silly and mercurial, trotted up to Bird, scaring her until she fluttered away.

“Why’d Bird leave, Blue?” Grin was gone, and Voice was left all lonesome and groaning.

And how inconsolable Voice was when I told him he’d scared Bird off. 

Bird is delicate thing, I said, and how sorry that made Voice. 

He threw himself on ground, moaning his remorse to dirt. Pity of young boy learning how much he can hurt, of his unwanted dominion over smaller things.

He raised his fist like stone and struck his head in anger, in loathing. Something in me turned and I ran over to him with jolt. Men and their faces I’d stoned just one night earlier came into my head. And in that moment I felt same as those fathers who served only death, who fought and murdered and consumed what life there was to dominate. He raised his fist to hit himself again, and I grabbed it from air. 

No Voice, I said and shook my head, though he couldn’t see from his place in dirt. My own voice shook with sorrow at seeing Voice hurt himself. Soil soaked up his tears, was perhaps thirsty for nourishment.

I looked to sun for song; it hung high in sky. But Voice still unwound. 

We have to go on, I tried to say stern, but what came out was all cracked and woeful. All I wanted was to hold my boy in my arms, to weep with him over his folly, to console him. But I felt sickness in my bones, and there was no song for comfort. I lifted Voice and carried him in my arms until eventually his sorrow tired him out.

I walked for as long as I could, but Voice was larger than me and we only made it short distance before I had to stop, rest. We did this for song after song, me carrying my boy for far stretches, then laying down. For whole song Voice didn’t move, only stared ahead at cruel future that would only continue to hurt him.

Shortly after, I heard thrum of water rushing in river. It was afternoon by then, beads of sweat dripping salty onto my lips. Voice rose to calming sound of water slicking in cascades across wide rocks. I set him down and we slaked our dry throats. River was clear and clean, without filth of alewives and trout to muddy it. Far afield were does teaching their fawn to forage. We washed our faces like our ancestral fathers once did, when earth was greenest. This was first time in long song Voice and I were clean-faced. 

To the north were large hills that would prove burdensome, but for that moment, we were blithe and unsullied.

And what else but steep incline that followed—what but largest hill for walking. We toiled uphill for long song—passing rock and dirt and little else—until we reached hill’s crest. Pain in my chest that followed our ascent, like swollen apple between my ribs, thumping dull and harsh until I was left wheezy and heaving. 

I bid Voice to wait, to be patient as I stalled death’s slow stroll along shore of my body. I dropped to my knees and allowed myself to purge. And with each retching hack, I hoped to find source of my malady, that my body would reject the malcontent bile inside me and I would be done with it. Death glinted in red lights before my eyes, casting Voice’s shadow on ground against plot of blood.

But that simple release never came.

Voice—young boy too docile for words, who watched me quiet and gloomy as I clawed at dirt for life. Who wept at frightening gentle Bird, this young lad whose only friends were death, sickness, and this ill-father not long for world. Who knew neither mother nor tree, not as either was meant to be. Who seemed to shimmer in this gone world, who looked like boy buried in dirt. He who was hushed melody and whose single smile left me reeling and my chest stumbled. What would he do if I died here? 

“It’s okay, Blue,” Voice said as he placed trembling hand on my slumped shoulder, as though he were giving me permission to die and leave him cold and alone. “It’s okay.”

It almost killed me to pull myself back to my feet, but after several agitated moments, I stood with Voice at top of hill. 

You’re what’s good here, Voice, I said, here in these infertile plains, and he contorted his face back into his thin half-smile. I turned to find song of day near sung, dark crowding from west. From there, from highest point in sight, we saw these plains ready their slumber.

I was surprised to see death still flashing in red before me. This vicious color surrounded Voice, blackened him until he was all silhouette, until he became light’s blinking negative space. This light I thought was called Death blinked in steady rhythm, mechanical in its promise to return. “Where we go now, Blue?”

Finally, I shook my head, looking up from Voice and winking away fog in my head. Death was nowhere to be seen, and what stood tall to our north were metal trees, dozens, with long, smooth trunks that punctured sky high in air. In place of crown there were spinning blades, birling quiet hum as they did. And nestled at their top like birds’ nests were red lights flickering with each other, some synchronized, ocular chorus. How foreign these machinations, how sweet their sight, like Voice set against sorrowed lands from which we’d come. From where he’d been born and since seen little else. 

My boy and I stood slack-jawed for what felt like longest song, like salmon gasping after being hooked. These small beams of mercy were still furlongs away, our work not yet done. 

But in distance, longer song even still than metal trees, I noticed fence and fire and small shelters, what I once knew as Home. I formed word with my mouth, how ancestral shape felt, full of breath in its huh that bled into good holy O and soft hum of mmm. There was work of men in field following this steel thicket.

Voice looked to me, bewildered, he who hasn’t seen men other than his sorry father since song he can’t remember. And in that moment, I felt lighter in my shoulders, as though soothing balm came over me. 

“That where we go?” Voice’s head hung in disbelief. My throat felt clogged—I cleared it, red-coated mucus coming up for me to spit out. 

I nodded to Voice and let to him, Almost there, Voice, little song left to go.

J.R. Allen is a writer currently living in southwest Ohio. He is the editor-in-chief of Ox Mag, as well as the fiction editor of Great Lakes Review. He’s currently working on a collection of stories about the natural world and humanity’s place in it. His work can be found in Ample Remains, Wretched Creations, Daily Drunk Magazine, Chaotic Merge, No Contact Magazine, Dunes Review, and elsewhere.

photo by Dikaseva (via unsplash)

Two Poems—Mallory Hobson

Unraveling From the Edges

Yes, I see them from the edges—
Tall things, so close to human, long coat
Or long hair, dark in the window-glass.
I turn, and they turn to only
Curtains, coatrack, figures falling into nothing
After all. And yes, I wake with eyes wide open,
Feeling them snatch at my face, my hands,
With cold, brittle fingers. I feel
Her breath on the back of my neck.
I wake, and they wake as only
The scraps and bones of dreams. Yes,
I start at the slightest sound, every scratch
In the walls, every turn of the screw, every
Doorknob aching to slowly, painfully rotate.
I start, and they start to be only
The cat, the wind, the hum of the lights after all.
I catch my reflection, face pale in the glass,
Eyes nothing but bruises, darkened and torn,
And I think: yes, it is only my mind, only
Unsettling dreams, anxious nerves, jumping
At shadows: but is that really better than
If there were ghosts?

Untitled

I rise, once slumbering, to find
The clear sharp way of being:
No longer something blurred and dark,
Fae-child or dream-thing, only
Myself with solid, waking skin.
My dreams are older than myself—
Ancient things—
Is there anything I could dream
That hasn’t been dreamt before?
Is there anything I could write,
Love song, love poem, lament,
That hasn’t been sung before?
In daylight’s glass-sharp eyes,
I rise, no longer comfortable
Or comforted. They’re gone,
These dreams, soft-edged and wild,
That once were solely mine.

Hailing from the rainy Pacific Northwest, Mallory Hobson’s work has appeared in such venues as From the Farther TreesMookychick, Seshat Literary Magazine, and Dark Lane Anthology Volume 3. Her writing will also be appearing in The Colored Lens Fall 2021. 

photo by Mario Azzi (via unsplash)

Thread the Bones—Emma Deimling

content warning: depictions of mental illness and self-harm

My daughter finds the bones after she falls off the swing set. Jane points at them, and I nod. She points again and I nod. 

She begins to play with the bones, picking up a clavicle and smacking it against a dorsal bone next to her skinned knee. The skeleton was a small thing, the bones lean and fragile, the whiteness startling even in the cloudy midday light. 

Andrew wouldn’t have wanted her to play with the bones. I let her. It’s not like it matters to the dead thing. I wonder if the bones are mine. 

The bench splinters beneath my fingers as I pick at it, the wood pulpy from the rain the night before. Across from the swing set, Alice is ordering ice cream from the ice cream truck she had waved down just after we arrived. She’s smiling at the vendor whose face even from here is a mottled red as he blushes from her attention. I pull Alice’s jacket closer around me. The leather smells of stale mint and crushed lavender. 

I hadn’t realized how cold it was until halfway to the playground. Hadn’t realized until I felt Jane shivering in my arms, but by then it was too late to go back. Andrew probably wouldn’t let us go a second time. I gave Jane my coat even though she wouldn’t fit into it for another ten years. She didn’t mind. She liked playing with the sleeves, flopping them in front of her. 

The chill has finally settled in, and it gnashes its teeth at the little bits of stray sunlight visible through the bruised clouds.

By the time we arrived at the playground, my arms were numb, and the hairs on the back of my neck prickled. Alice took one look at me then at Jane before she shrugged off her own jacket and wrapped it around my shoulders without comment. 

I wonder if bones can get cold. If, without any skin, I would still feel cold. I wonder what it would be like if I didn’t have skin, if I was just bones raw and open to the world, stripped dry and hollowed marrow. Hollow. I always wondered what it would be like if I were hollow. But I don’t have to wonder. I already know. 

I watch as Alice makes her way over to hand an orange-colored ice cream to Jane who pauses in her effort to disentangle the rib bones from the spine. I’m pretty sure now that it had been a cat. Too small to be a raccoon, too big to be a squirrel. 

I blink and Alice is next to me, a vanilla ice cream held between us. I take it without comment. Alice slumps down onto the bench beside me, her hands empty. “Eight dollars for two ice creams. Can you believe that?” 

I try to hand the ice cream back to her, but she waves me away. “It’s fine, Ella. It’s fine,” she says again as the ice cream wavers in my grip. Gently, she pushes my hand towards me. 

Two women, one pushing a stroller, walk past Jane. Jane picks up a tail bone and shows it to them. The women stare, their eyes flicking around the playground until they land on me. Their gazes harden knowingly. I don’t look away as they whisper to each other and give Jane a wide birth as if she is contagious. As if they are afraid of the bones. I’m afraid of the bones, too.

“You shouldn’t have let her go near that,” says Alice, tugging me out of my thoughts. She nods to the pile of bones in my daughter’s lap. “It might have fleas. Ella?” she prompts as I continue to stare without blinking. 

“Do you think those women know?” I say and tilt my head in the direction of the women who have disappeared around the ice cream truck. 

Alice’s brows furrow, and I have to fight the urge to smooth the wrinkles away. “I don’t think anyone knows. Do you?” 

I shrug. 

“Ella—” 

“I wonder what they would do if they were me,” I continue as if Alice hadn’t spoken. I wonder if they would hate themselves like I do. 

Alice snorts. “They probably wouldn’t know what to do with all the free time on their hands.”

My attention lingers on the bones again, pale and fragile in my daughter’s fists. I think about how I want to put my bones in a box, so I can become any shape, anyone. Anyone but me. Without my skin, I could thread the bones together, thread and thread until they are strong, unbreakable, unable to be stolen. 

Jane drops her ice cream onto the pavement. It oozes out of the cone, and she giggles as she watches eagerly. “There goes the ice cream,” Alice says.

A handful of pigeons peck their way towards her, unaware of Jane’s sticky fingers and even stickier attention snapping to them. Arms flapping, she runs at them. The birds startle upwards and backwards, aghast, their wide red eyes rimmed with exhaustion and fright. Jane giggles again. She looks back at me and points. I nod. 

Now, Jane is standing in the melted ice cream like it is a puddle. She jumps, and the ends of my coat sully in the mess. The pigeons eye her, waddle around her, glancing at one another like the two women had done. 

“Pigeons are lucky,” I tell Alice. 

Alice raises an eyebrow. “Do I even want to know?” 

“They can’t be caught. See?” I say as Jane races towards one of the birds only to watch it hurtle into the air out of her reach. 

“But they can be shot,” argues Alice. 

“Yes.” I have not touched my own ice cream, and smears of it trickle down my wrists like iced blood clotting. Alice takes the cone from me and hurls it into the trash can next to her. She pulls out a wad of napkins from her pocket then wipes off my fingers. 

My mind drifts again, and I clutch the needle hidden in my right fist a little harder. I think about how sometimes I wish I could take the needle and thread I keep underneath the mattress for emergencies when I feel the words curdle in my throat and finally sew my mouth shut like Alice did last November. Sometimes, I clutch that needle hidden in my right fist like I am now. 

I watch Jane and think that a good mother would sew her mouth shut before she learns to speak clearly. But I know I never will. 

The freedom of not having to speak only lasts a few days anyway if the threads aren’t extracted. Only a few days before the woman would wither away. 

After I heard about what Alice had done, I visited her for the first time since Andrew and I moved to the neighborhood. I wanted to see it, see how she did what I couldn’t. What I never will do. She let me press my fingertips against her lips, let me touch the thread carved into the soft mounds of flesh. After that, Alice had the stitches taken out. The first thing she said was “fuck.” 

Alice finishes cleaning my hands but doesn’t pull hers from mine. 

“I asked Jane if she thought I was beautiful the other day,” I say, my voice crackly like I had swallowed a handful of fire poppers. 

“And what did she say to that?” asks Alice, her shoulders relaxed, her face turned up as if she were a flower luxuriating in the sunlight. 

I look up. The sky is glazed with clouds, leeched of sunlight. I wonder if Alice is doing alright. “No. She said I wasn’t beautiful.” 

Alice sighs. “Ella, she’s four. She probably doesn’t even know what the word ‘beautiful’ means.” 

“She will never know if her mother is beautiful then.” 

“Ella,” Alice says again, firmer. “It’s going to be okay. You know I’m a good lawyer. I know we can get Jane back.” 

Jane has moved on from the puddle of ice cream towards the ducks sequestered around the pond next to the playground. The ducks squawk, and Jane squawks right back. 

“Do you think I’m beautiful?” I ask. 

Alice rolls her eyes. “Of course I do,” she says without hesitation. 

I tug her jacket closer around me as the back of the bench cuts into my spine. “Maybe we’re too old to know what the word ‘beautiful’ means.” 

Alice laughs. “Maybe.” Her laughter softly dies out as she watches me watch Jane clamber closer to the edge of the pond. The ducks have quacked themselves hoarse and have decided to find another spot to preen. 

“Do you want to be alone with her?” Alice whispers. 

I clench her hand involuntarily. “No.”

Alice doesn’t push. Instead, she straightens her jacket on my shoulders with her free hand. The sun continues to sulk behind the clouds, but I don’t mind. Alice gives me a small smile. 

“Do you think she loves me?” I ask, and the needle between my fingers warms against my skin. 

Alice’s smile tightens. “You’re her mother.” 

“That’s not an answer. Yes,” I add before she can continue. “I know what you’re going to say. ‘Ella, she’s too young to know what ‘love’ is.’” 

“I wasn’t going to say that.” Alice’s smile gentles again. “Of course she knows what love is. You love her. And she will remember that for the rest of her life.” 

I force myself to smile back, a smile pockmarked with childhood scars, the only remembrance of my own mother. “Will you love me for the rest of your life?” 

“I hope I will,” says Alice. 

My smile wilts. “That’s not an answer.”

“Yes, it is. Ella, what do you want me to say to stop you from worrying? I’m here for you. I always will be.” 

I scowl. Silence slouches down around us when I don’t respond, thick enough to choke on, thick enough to smother. We both know the truth is I will never stop worrying, stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. For her to hurt me. Like everyone else has. Everyone—except for Jane. But she will soon be old enough to know how to hurt, how to puncture through skin to get to my heart without even making me bleed. Or she would, if I ever get to see her again. 

The ice cream truck rumbles past. Under my breath, I hum along with the twinkling song that blares from its speakers, the cadence reminding me of the nursery rhyme my mother used to sing to me. Thread the bones and stitch the soul, she used to murmur as she rocked me in her lap, her grip bruising my arms, Thread the bones and stitch the soul, she crooned as she held me down and began to sew my lips together, the thread weaving in and out, in and out with each rise and fall of her chest. 

My father arrived a little after dusk, a little after my mouth was sewn half shut. He had torn me from her arms, torn me as if from the womb, screaming and covered in blood. I never saw my mother again after that. 

I wonder where they put her, in a home or a cell or the bottom of a grave. But I never asked, even after my father took me to the hospital and had the stitches removed. I still have the scars though, faint ones that run like teardrops over my swollen lips. Alice likes them. I like them, too.

“Are you sure you don’t want to be alone—?” Alice begins to ask again. 

“Do you know what the first word she ever spoke was?” I ask before she can finish. 

“‘Mommy?’” Alice guesses, her eyes wary but unworried. 

“’Bitch.’ The first word she ever said was ‘bitch.’ She just kept saying it. Over and over. And when Andrew came home, he thought it was funny. He said she was bound to learn the word sooner or later. No, she won’t remember that her mother was beautiful or that she loved her. She will remember that one word. ‘Bitch.’” 

Alice squeezes my hands in hers, and her grip forces me to meet her gaze. “He won’t get away with this, Ella. We’ll get her back.” 

I let my head droop onto her shoulder. “Maybe I don’t want her back. Maybe I never want to see her again. My mother would have sewn her mouth shut for saying that.” 

Suddenly, I want to know what Alice would say to me if I told her what I am thinking right now. What I still think in the moments before dawn bleeds across the skyline; before Andrew wakes up, his alarm bleeding in my ears, his voice bleeding into my soul, and my thoughts bleeding out into the recesses of my mind.

He would get up. 

Sometimes I would, too. 

Sometimes I wouldn’t. Instead, I would let the world weep around me, let it buzz, let the sun scuttle across the sky until Jane started screaming. More often than not, I wished her screams would stop. That I would just stop moving until she did, too. But I always got up. Always went to her, fed her, changed her. Loved her. 

I think she loves me, but you can never tell at her age if she is just curious about me or needs me. I need her. And that need is like a punch to the gut, like a hand grasping inside my chest and wrenching out my heartstrings in one yank. Because I know that need will kill me. 

But I won’t have her for much longer. I have minutes now. An hour if I’m lucky before they come. And take her away. 

“There is a garden growing in my mind,” I say to Alice. “And everyone always wants to kill it. They say if I don’t cut it out of me, it will take over.”

Alice stiffens, but her smile remains. “What kind of garden? A vegetable garden? A flower garden? I always liked flower gardens.”

“I don’t know. I don’t think it’s alive.”

“It has to be alive,” Alice protests. “If it isn’t, there would be nothing to kill.”

“Do you want to kill the garden?” I ask. 

Alice rests her hand against my cheek. It’s warm. Warmer than I expected. But I’m still cold. “No,” she says, “but either way, without tending, gardens can’t live for long.”

My ribcage rises and collapses as if with every breath it loses another silent battle. Alice notices but doesn’t comment. Instead, she says, “They’re here.”

The slamming of a car door startles me. Alice’s hand tightens around mine. I don’t look back, but she does. Footsteps crack against the pavement. I flinch. 

“I’ll try to delay them as long as I can,” Alice says and disentangles her hands from mine. She stands. “You should say something to Jane.” 

I squint up at her, my head still angled sideways from where it had been resting on Alice’s shoulder. “What?” 

Alice halfheartedly throws her hands up. “I don’t know. That you’ll see her soon.” 

The needle digs into my palm, not enough to puncture but enough pressure to know it’s there, to know at the slightest of slips it will pierce my skin and, if I keep pressing, sink against bone. I am losing a battle. But I don’t know which one. 

I don’t want to lose her. 

I don’t want them to take her.

When I don’t respond, Alice shakes her head and turns to the two people making their way towards us. Shakily, I get to my feet. I fist my hands in my skirt, the needle still pressed against my skin. 

The morning weighs heavily on me, like wet grave dirt on my chest. Only hours before my thoughts had been a blur of almost-happiness as I walked the five minutes from the post office back home, my hands gratefully empty. I had done it. The papers had been sent. I fingers itched to call Alice, to run my hands through her blonde hair and tell her I was free. But then I found the front door unlocked and the sounds of voices slithering out from the kitchen. 

Andrew looked up as I walked in and fisted his hands on his hips. The man next to him straightened, the sudden motion making his glasses slip down his nose. My eyes lingered on him, on the frown lines and pale skin like oatmeal that had been left out too long. 

There were more papers on the kitchen table, Jane’s yellow and green crayons inches away from them. I glanced down under the table to find Jane there, a gleeful smile on her lips as if asking for permission. I didn’t nod, and every happy feeling I had felt shriveled in my chest like butterflies with their wings torn off. “Andrew?” I said, returning my gaze to him, “what is this?

Andrew patted the seat beside him. “Ella, sit.” 

I did not sit, but let my hands dangle at my sides, my eyes flicking between the two men who in turn were sharing a knowing look. “What’s going on?” 

“Sit,” said Andrew, a little more forcefully. 

I did not sit. 

Andrew gave the other man another pointed glare, but the man shook his head and stepped forward. “Mrs. Albers—” 

“It’s Ms. Lindell now,” I interrupted. Andrew’s face was turning a yellowy-greenish color as if Jane had smeared her crayons over his face. 

“Ms. Lindell,” the other man continued slowly, “I am Robert Johnson, your husband’s—” 

“Ex-husband’s—” 

“Ex-husband’s lawyer.” 

“And?” I prompted before the beat of silence could swallow me whole. 

Robert Johnson crinkled his nose to keep his glasses from sliding down further as he attempted to peer down at me even though I have a good three inches on him. “And he is here to pronounce that you are unfit to have shared custody over Jane. There is clear evidence that you have become an unfit parent.” 

My heart had stopped beating or it was beating too fast for me to feel it. Absently, my hand slipped into my dress pocket, but it was empty. “Evidence?” My voice cracked like dried bones left out in the sun. 

“You are mentally unfit,” Andrew said, the words thrust out of his mouth, and pleasure curled his lips. “God, Ella. You even left my child home alone without discussing it with me first.” 

His child. His child. The words were harsher than any slap. His child. Jane was still looking at me, but I couldn’t meet her gaze. My other hand slipped into my left pocket. “She’s four. And it was only to go to post the mail.” To file the divorce papers. 

Andrew shook his head, but his lips trembled from holding in a smile. Robert Johnson didn’t notice. “You have one day,” Andrew said simply. “One day to say goodbye.” 

“You can’t do this.” The words were out before I could stop them. 

Robert Johnson looked at his shoes, the leather toes scuffles and freshly polished. “It is in the child’s best interest to sever the parent-child relationship.” 

Severed. Like an umbilical cord. Thread the bones and stich the soul, my mother’s last words raked against my thoughts, against the wall I had put up around me to keep from remembering my childhood. My fingers dug deeper in my pocket, and finally I felt the calming texture of thin metal sucking the warmth from my skin. “You can’t do this. My lawyer—” 

“Don’t speak of that woman in my house,” spat Andrew and even Robert Johnson jumped at the harshness in his tone. 

I wrap my hand around the needle. “You do not get to tell me what to do.” 

Andrew’s face remained impassive but his right eyebrow said don’t I

“Jane will be placed in Mr. Albers’s care until the court hearing on April 29th,” said Robert Johnson, his breaths shallow as if the will to not run out of the house was a workout in itself. “Where you will plea your case to have your parental rights reinstated.” He extended his hand with a simple, white piece of paper with black letters that smear together as I forced back my tears. I let his hand dangle between us and instead crouched down and pulled Jane out from under the table and into my arms. 

“Where are you going?” Andrew spluttered, but I continued walking to the door. Thankfully, Jane didn’t squirm in my grip but instead clung to me as if she could tell something was wrong, clung so tightly I couldn’t tell where her skin began and mine ended. “You said I had a day,” I said without looking back. I flung open the front door, and a bit of wind hissed past me. I could hear the papers swish off the table.  

“Ella—!” 

I stepped out of the house and quietly shut the door. But he doesn’t stop me. He knew he has already won. 

Back in the park, the ground squelches underneath me as I make my way towards Jane. She is at the edge of the pond now. Mud cakes her shoes and ankles. Cautiously, I approach her and kneel in the mud beside her as if she is a wounded animal. As if I am the wounded animal falling to my knees at the feet of my slaughterer.

Alice had said it would be alright, said I could move in with her until everything got sorted. She was a good lawyer, good enough to get Jane back. 

But that means Jane has to be taken away first. 

Jane points at the water’s surface, and I forget to nod. She points more pointedly, and I nod slowly. My gaze catches on our reflection blurring up at us. Her face is so small compared to mine, so open. Mine is pinched and pale, my eyes distant, unfocused. So are Jane’s. 

They said I wasn’t mentally fit. Not mentally fit like if my mind had run more consistently it would be able to keep up with my daughter. 

A bone garden, I think now. There is a bone garden in my mind, and no matter how much I water it, it will never sprout anything but doubt.  

“I’m sorry,” I say to Jane, my voice barely above a whisper as I continue to stare at our reflections in the pond. The mud is cold against my skin, a chill that settles deep in my bones. I’m sorry I wasn’t good enough, nice enough, quiet enough.

But I don’t say that. Because deep down I know if I did, it would be a lie. “I’m sorry,” I just keep saying, the needle so warm in my hands, it’s like it’s burning. 

Jane turns to me then, her green eyes full of laughter. She points at me. I nod, and the motion makes my tears tremble down my cheeks. 

Jane tilts her head and watches them fall. Then she steps forward and wraps her arms around me. She is so small, I think. Hesitantly, I put my arms around her, and I begin to shake, shake so much I can feel my bones rattle inside me, clatter and crack, the splintered ends slicing into my heart. 

“Mrs. Albers.” 

I startle back and barely catch myself from falling into the pond. A woman stands behind us, her suit smooth and unruffled. Closer to the parking lot, Alice is talking furiously but quietly to a man also in a suit smooth and unruffled. “It’s time.” 

“Mommy?” says Jane, her voice only loud enough for me to hear. Only loud enough to keep me from wondering if she really said it. Instead of answering, I look at my hands fisted at my sides and say nothing as they take her away. Jane grasps my hand in hers, forcing the needle harder against my palm, her fingers dry and crusty like sand scraping against skin. Skin. 

I always have known my daughter is my skin, and without her, I am just bones, an open-wound. 

She is in the car now, her fingers pressed against the glass. The car engine coughs once, twice. Then she is gone. 

I let the needle puncture my skin.

Emma Deimling currently works as a writing tutor at the Ohio State University’s writing center. She has been published in numerous magazines, the most recent being in Anamorphoseis Magazine. She lives in Columbus, Ohio. You can find her on Twitter @EmmaDeimling.  

photo by

Two Poems—Stephanie Parent

Rampion

Young woman with a ravaged belly
Demanding, demanding, while the child within is
Only embryo

She climbs walls, fights brambles
Desperate for nourishment
Tears leaves from the earth
Dirt under her fingernails
Devours it all, vegetable and mineral 
Like a feral animal

Not even birthed yet, the babe in her belly
Has consumed her
She is too young, too tender,
More blossom than stalk
Such a violent burden 
Would surely destroy her 

Relief
When the garden’s owner claims 
The greatest price
For the woman’s greed
                              (Greed that never belonged to her
                              Anyway)

A babe so gluttonous
Needs a witch to lock her in a tower
Bind her hair
Deny her power

What else would this babe, now grown, have ravaged
Had she walked through the world with
Tresses loose
Hands grasping
Eyes open?

She would have taken
Much more than a prince’s sight

Better the tower, the stone
Where no soil births leaves with their
Nourishment dearer than
Diamonds

Dangerous growth, long locks, emerald vines

Chop it all down

Or so the young woman who’s lost her babe
The old witch who’s lost her youth
The maiden who’s lost her choice
Her voice

All tell themselves

Snegurochka

Strange how quickly you re-acclimate
After ten years melting in the sun
Of the West Coast
Your muscles remember the cold of the East
How to tighten and tremble and eventually
Soften
Accepting discomfort
And loss

Like the Snow Maiden, born to that lonely couple
In their lonely cottage
In a land where white flakes blanket the earth
For half the year
She grew out of the couple’s warmth, their desire
Their love
A spark that ignited her into life
But a part of her always belonged
To the cold

You too were born of a couple’s desire
For love
That red, fiery thing they’d never had enough of
Didn’t know how to offer
In a way that didn’t take and take
And leave you shivering

So you ran

So the Snow Maiden ran, with her friends
In the midsummer heat
She leapt over the bonfire
The flames stole her away
Consumed her human spark
And left only the mist that was her essence
Evanescent 

So you, too, leapt over bonfires
Till the flames burned too bright
Blistered your skin
And you had to retreat
To that house in the East
Where the desire for love had birthed you

Too much love, too much warmth
A flame trapped in a fireplace—

You couldn’t release your own fiery tongues 
Of desire
Couldn’t retreat into your own 
Bitter ice

And now, in a winter you remember
Wishing you could forget
You let the ice coat your bones
You abandon the memory of sun-warmed sand 
You know, how matter how far you’ve tried to run
How high you’ve leapt
How deeply you’ve yearned

You can never outrun your birthright
                              (Birth burden)
As someone else’s story
Someone else’s wish

You don’t want to evaporate, like the girl
Who came to life from the snow

As long as you live, a part of you
Always belongs to the cold

Stephanie Parent is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC. Her poetry has been nominated for a Rhysling Award and Best of the Net.

photo by Tiko Giorgadze (via unsplash)

In the Pockets of October—Margot Nelson

This year has felt like sucking pebbles—
Every passing day like polished stones
Rolling between my worn-down teeth just to feel
The sip of water in the middle of the night.

The emperor moth atop my tarot deck warns of signs I’ve ignored
Of roots I must bury in the loose soil
Lest I get swept away in the wave of green gold leaves falling too fast, too soon.

Remind me again what we’re doing here?

The emperor and his moth say they’re watching over me,
Remind me of things just out of sight
Remind me to grit my teeth and roll the pebbles into my cheeks
And keep them for the parched cracked earth days of a stolen summer.

When I shuffle the cards again, the fool and I fall to the ground
Hands curled in a cup that can’t hold water
Leaking between fingers pressed together as tightly as I can
And still the water flows down my wrists
And how I wished I clutched a wand or a sword
But the cups have always held me and I am glad to be so loved
Until now
When I am drowning, weighed down by spit-smooth pebbles in my pockets
Pulling me deeper into the thralls of frosted sunflower dead heads
Remembering what I must carry at all times.

The emperor himself can hardly catch his breath.

Beeswax candles, wrapped in paper.
Rough yarn and wooden needles.
Rose quartz.
Calendula seeds.
A mourning dove feather, found on my stoop.

These are the tethers, the moth whispers in my hair 
Drink the ease of a summer morning,
Plant tomorrow’s medicine, 

And don’t drop the pebbles.

Margot Nelson (she/her) is a French-American writer based in Vermont. Her work has been featured in Teen Vogue, Capsule Stories, honey & lime, Q/A Poetry, and other literary magazines. She was nominated for the 2019 Best of the Net: Fiction award and 2019 Pushcart Prize, and is currently working on a children’s book.

photo by David Clode (via unsplash)

Obit—Rebecca Harrison

Welimma Yog was the first Plutonian author and spent her years writing in the leftover light of the solar system. Not for her were the cities gliding Saturn’s rings, nor the ocean at Jupiter’s heart where the old cathedrals of England drift, salt-deep. When she finally left Pluto as a two hundred year old lady, her manuscripts in a battered suitcase with a faulty lock, little could she have anticipated the fame and acclaim – for who among us hasn’t weeped over ‘Stone Skies At Nunpa Dune’? Who didn’t fall asleep from their mother reciting the poem ‘No steps further but just one more’? Could Yog have known that she would never return home to the Plutonian dusk? Or that she would have written her last great work in a batter-craft riding Venus’s lightning? She never learned any other language, preferring the soft gutterings of Plutonian, but her works have been translated many thousands of times. For every time a new world is discovered, we send her works first, so that they will know the best of us. And in this way, Welimma Yog has never died. Some say that if you recite her poem ‘Wind drops on the spullamet’ into the last light of the year, she will appear and write a new tale for you alone. Who among us hasn’t tried?

Rebecca Harrison sneezes like Donald Duck and her best friend is a dog who can count. 

photo by NASA and Justice Dodson (via unsplash)

ruby-throat—Lora Robinson

when you are the only light 
on the highway, I hope 
you feel my spindle 

fingers twisted in 
your curls, remember 
spiders on your neck

weaving wicked tapestries, 
my voice crackling like 
our pipes in winter.

on the coldest nights
clutch your hands,
your chest- do you remember 

milk and honey, naked and
spread over crimson sheets, frayed 
nails dredging the bays of your back, 

nicotine-stained and brackish because 
I could not bear another night 
drunk. alone. 

read my poems, hung on the walls 
like epitaphs- board up the windows 
and doors, build a mausoleum

visit when you need to remember 
a jeweled hummer fluttering on 
your porch in fading sunsets, fireflies 

beating on glass and wood. 
remember the days you forgot
to feed the wilting orchids-

how you let them die.

Lora Robinson is a Minneapolis-based poet, nonfiction writer and cat-mom to Shark and Thea. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Superfroot, Sad Girls Club and Ethel Zine, among others. Her first poetry chapbook will be published in 2021 by akinoga press. Connect with her on Instagram @theblondeprive and Twitter @starsinmyteeth

photo by Anton Darius (via unsplash)

Offerings—Skye Wilson

content warning: mild gore

I’ll cook for you every Sunday from now
until I rot, feed you fresh-cut trimmings
of my nails. I will delve my love-worn
fingers into the sack of my chest,
pull out a heart, still wriggling,
still bursting, always yours.

Here’s my stomach,
with intestine
and oesophagus tied off,
a knapsack to keep in
the last meal you made me.
I’ll give you all the wishes
you could ask for, pluck out

my every eyelash one by one.
I will wobble every tooth out,
keep them in a fairy jar for you,
ask for nothing in return. Please –

take my femurs to scratch your back or
to shatter if you ever need a toothpick, ice-bath
my organs so you’ll live forever, tin my muscles
for apocalypse fodder, take my veins
and ligaments as spares, leave me
nothing but my tired hands.

Skye Wilson is a Scottish poet with an MSc in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh. She loves rugby, words, and ugly shirts. Find more of her work at skye-wilson.com

photo by Kev Bation (via unsplash)

An Occurrence at Nantasket—L. Reed Walton

Due to their publication schedule, neither the Sunrise nor the Weekly Explorer had yet printed photos of the giant, pale, unmoving woman who had washed up on Nantasket Beach. Disappointed, Red considered checking the Post

The enormous body had come ashore that morning, but police cordons had so far prevented photographers from capturing anything more than a white lump on sand. As the event—as far as Red could gauge—was true and provable, reputable news outlets would have first crack. By now, the Post’s website might even have a slideshow with aerial photos and diagrams. All lay a few tempting clicks away.

Red, however, was no fan of reputable websites or of reputable news. 

Besides, certain places on the internet viewed their visitors as surely as visitors viewed them. Nothing Nietzschean about it; this was as much a fact as the marooned giant. One had only to take the example of customized ads to see the truth of it. 

Meanwhile, Lewis Ethelred “Red” Perry had made a life’s work of avoiding the gaze of others, whether electronic or no.

His preferred media elided reality. The back-alley websites functioned as a spyglass. Being electronic, though, this left open the possibility that someone might look down the other end and see him shrunken. Red might be unassuming, but he refused to be reduced

He liked the old-fashioned printed newspapers best. These were kaleidoscopes, or perhaps the faceted compound-eye viewers that put every image on fragmented repeat. The Explorer, World Weekly, the Weekly Sunrise: they lent a fanciful skew to the dour parade of true events, simultaneously veiling the mind and intent of those who consumed them.

But in this case, somehow, the avoided world and the invited world had merged. Accounts of the phenomenon at Nantasket bled over the borders of the fantastic, drawing Red out with an irresistible call. 

Because she wore white, they called her a bride. The Bride of Brobdingnag, a moniker that stuck because some too-clever word-wrangler put it in early.

Red knew Swift from school, but he didn’t agree with the name at all. First and foremost: the thing she wore was no wedding dress. In the few vague descriptions he’d allowed himself to read, it was said her garment had short sleeves and fell somewhat below knee length. Now, Red had two sisters and a mother besides, and he’d be damned if that wasn’t a nightgown.  

Thinking of the woman as having been interrupted in her sleep was more romantic. Not in the tawdry, ripped-bodice way, but in a way that was harder to pin down—hinting at something mysterious, something gothic. Had she been a pining lover on a foreign shore, swept from her balcony at night by a rogue wave? Some sleepwalker in an undersea land of titans, who had drowned in air as surely as we drown in water?

It should have been the stuff of sensationalist rags. Red’s purview. But this time, polo-collared types would discuss it in bars—and not neon caves full of dusty old crackpots, either, but the kind with sports on the TV and tap pulls shaped like fish or sheaves of wheat. People in cardigans would whisper in the grocery’s dairy section about the monstrous wonder on the shore. 

Red did not care to eavesdrop, to hear those discussions, for fear that intrusive perspectives might sop up the overspill of fancy and uncover cracks in this singular fairy tale. Cracks through which he might be spied and judged. 

His only remaining choice was to see her, in person, with his own eyes. More, if he could. He yearned to place his hands on the impossible made fact. 

Spring’s lingering chill would keep some spectators at bay, but Red anticipated the carnival would crank into full gear soon enough. Out would come the scientists in parkas, the politicians in wool trenches. Lines around the block. Up would spring the booths and the tents. Have Your Picture Taken with the Giant Woman! Souvenir t-shirts, helicopter tours high in the salt air above the smell of popcorn and the shrieking of children. Apparently, a handful of protestors had already gathered at Nantasket, preparing to oppose a not-yet-manifested response to the giant’s placid invasion.

So Red snatched up a few folded papers and not much else, aside from his wallet, to South Station, and boarded the train to World’s End. Taking MBTA let him avoid the traffic on Nantasket Avenue that clotted within the peninsula’s slim neck. Besides, “World’s End” was a romantic-sounding waypoint for a voyage. 

From the nature reserve next to the station, he thought he might try to hitch along with a fellow-traveler, but he wasn’t averse to making the walk, either. A part of him wanted to imagine he was the only pilgrim, to pretend that the beach would be empty of all but the woman and the wind.

With his ride underway, the train clicking over the tracks, Red examined the swags of bulbous cloud hanging over the marshy landscape. Now and then, they broke—a blue eye opening to watch cars hiss along the expressway below. There were fewer people inside the car than Red expected. He would look up from his paper often, losing track of words in the shape of his reflection on the glass. How the rushes and the inlets and the whole sky moved, but his face never did more than quaver. It was as if he’d become his daydream-self, approaching the body and sheltering in the soft L-shape where her shoulder met her neck, and perhaps muttering the lines of a World Weekly story toward her ear. If she never heard a word, all the better. 

Often, he didn’t want the people he spoke with to speak back.

As the sea passed on his left, Red took again to imagining the huge woman, alive, on some unexplored continent—if there was such a thing in the world these days. On the stage of his mind, he watched her brush her hair. She might pause to extend a hand beyond the balcony rail, summoning a songbird to her fingers. Dainty in her hand, it would nonetheless crush a human of normal size. Then again, how was Red to know her size was not the normal one and his the laughably small?

Perhaps her end had been one of despair. He could imagine her as the only one of her kind—a fluke, appearing fully formed and lost in a strange place. How easy it would be for a creature like that to feel aloneness building, flooding over the walls until her imagination became glutted in that trackless, rejected state. Borne on a tide of sorrow broad enough to break her giant heart, the literal tide could easily have taken her.

The waves of sympathy inside him soon frothed and broke into indignation. What right did anyone have to claim her? Even approach her? Far better that she melt into the breakers or swirl away like sand than have a crew of toughs strap her to a tractor-trailer and haul her away, the salt at the tide line drying into a landscape on her skin. Great minds with tiny hands would prod at her remains, reducing her piece by piece until only the sea-stiffened gown remained. Words and pictures and secondhand accounts would replace her, and she would return to the stuff of stories, those in disreputable print. 

An unfamiliar feeling, being angry on someone’s behalf. Red found injustice exhausting. It was far better in the world of his weeklies, where fates were deserved by buffoons and laughter at their expense encouraged.

Debarking in the rustic-looking station at World’s End, he clutched the newsprint in a sweaty fist. Across a tongue of water, George Washington Boulevard’s northbound lanes swarmed with cars, either stopped or moving so slowly they gave off the illusion of stillness. The faint gooselike noises of car horns over the estuary became a chorus as Red meandered through forested backroads. Along the main thoroughfare to Hull, traffic stalled in a bubble of warmth and exhaust. The snarling tension of each driver seeped out in flares of anger; some of them put their windows down to shout at Red as he passed.

Their broken voices were not worth looking up for. The sky had moved lower still and had begun spitting drizzle. Ahead on the parkway, Red slowed down when he caught sight of a gray-haired policeman, holding a clipboard and shaking his head.

“You live on the island?” the cop asked. His city accent was spread thick over the words. 

It was hard to resist the urge to correct his failed geography. “I don’t.”

The cop scratched his nose, a mushroom bulb growing spotty in the Irish tradition. “Can’t let you pass, friend.” He made a fist and poked his thumb toward the empty highway at his back. “Some kind of human rights protest, or something.”

“Is she human?”

“What? Who?”

“The woman,” Red said. “The big one. Is she human?”

Raising his bushy eyebrows, the cop looked down at damp, curling paper. “No idea, pal. I’m here to stop people from killing each other. The regular-sized people. Those are the ones I care about.” He added a chuckle that sounded less than altruistic.

While the mist settled on the cop’s epaulets, Red looked over them at the empty road. 

“Scoot, pal.” The cop stared from under a fuzz of short lashes, stubby as a push-broom, and used his nose to point the way back down the avenue.

And so Red turned. Seeing someone confronted, the drivers in their cars had settled, with few watching him make his pilgrimage back, head down against the wet wind. Some averted their eyes and put up their windows. 

The disappointment of others is a contagious, sticky thing.

What anger the soft mist had calmed flared up again as Red mulled over the policeman’s apathy. No, not apathy. Rather, a lack of curiosity. As a gift, curiosity is not evenly distributed among human beings. All manner of capacity for wonder is ascribed to children, but Red—who headlong since  made the happy shift from the factual to the fanciful—could easily identify an incurious child. Little CEOs, those were. Or nitpicky management types, computer programmers. Someone had to grow up and make the software, write the code that peered through screens and reaped ad data.

Not that a boon of curiosity couldn’t be lost or squandered. Red had noticed that once someone had authority over others, however little, their curiosity drained away to an untappable reserve. 

A man had to stay at the bottom of the ladder, invisible, and keep himself from looking up, to instead be afforded a view of the richness lying around him. 

When Red reached the trailhead, the afternoon was chilly and dark, with reluctant water trapped in the sagging folds of cloud, waiting for the first molecular domino to fall. Red didn’t have the shoes for the trek, but he had no choice, so he started up along the marshy water’s edge until a margin of shore appeared around the bulb of Rocky Neck. Abandoned on an inlet surrounded by vines was a blue canoe, hauled all the way onto the dark sand. Fingers of river water reached for and failed to catch it, over and over. Both oars were still in their oarlocks, broad paddles planted in the seeping dirt and foam-rubber grips crossed, defensive. 

Only the water and the wheeling shorebirds made any sound, the season’s first leaves too small for wind to wrap around them. Red looked for the owner of the canoe, but it was a cursory search. Satisfied, he shucked his shoes and tucked the socks inside them, tossed them into the boat, rolled up the legs of his jeans until the stiff denim squeezed below his knees, and pushed off into frigid water.

Able to board in without wading too deep, the chill on his legs made him shiver to the point of tooth-knocking. For relief, he spread one of his weeklies below his wet feet and tucked another around them. Words puffed and bled ink in little trails.

It was a punishing row against the tide, but he was grateful for the heat it ginned up in his body. Sweat rose, ran, then seemed to steam away as soon as it came. His arms burned before going numb. 

So it went until a break appeared in the rows of beach cottages. They were shuttered and lightless, but bloomed by virtue of their colors with the potential of habitation. A short, intense summer left the community fat with money it probably didn’t want to lose. 

Several feet up the bank, by the dock where Red tied off, were wooden racks holding more canoes: red, yellow, green. Some even the same blue as his, or close enough. Each boat had a canvas cover; all were in various states of detachment. In damp heaps, they appeared ready to slither away from the shore toward dry refuge. Sensation returned to Red’s arms, which felt like they’d been viciously pinched.

Beyond the racks squatted tiny cabins—each with its own poured-concrete stoop. Some kind of camp, these cabins painted a dull green rather than the hopeful colors of summer. Red tried each cabin door, but found them locked. It was too dark now for him to see his hand at arm’s length, so he hauled the driest of the canvas covers to a stoop and sheltered underneath it for the night, his head propped on one shoe. Rain tapped the tough fabric on and off until daybreak. 

Red woke sore and cold, with gray light seeping in underneath his makeshift tent. The clattering it made when it fell back against concrete sent a clutch of seagulls up hollering from the pilings where they slept with pinkish lizard eyes half-closed.

Nothing human was roused by the sound.

The poor weekly rags, which Red had used again to wrap his feet, were now as good as papier-mâché, an unreadable, gray clump that left soggy fibers in the hair on his ankles. The mass was half-molded in the shape of his feet, and deflated when kicked off, an abandoned wasp’s nest.

There came with leaving them a little sadness. Red used his socks to brush off his bare, pink toes and shoved his feet back into the shoes. He could tell it was early. The streets were barren of traffic—car or foot—and no food smells floated into the air from the cafés that stayed open for the few year-rounders. 

Red would be hungry soon; his stomach already knotting. But reaching the woman in white took priority. He did wonder how the protestors had crossed under the cop’s watch, or whether they had at all. Were they residents here, affronted at the gall of a floating oddity? 

Once, outside Quincy Market, Red saw a miniature city of  tents and sling chairs. People handed out flyers and sang along with poorly played guitars while shoppers walked around them. No signs or chants, but Red heard someone say they were protesting capitalism. Or commercialism—one of the two. Red had watched them almost all day: too-thin boys wearing round sunglasses with purple-tinted lenses, a girl in baggy, printed pants who spun a ribboned hoop. Sometimes people brought police over, who mainly spoke to shoppers and not to the protesters. No one raised their voices and everything smelled like burning hay. 

The next day, all signs of the transient city were gone. 

As Red walked up the J-curve of Nantasket Avenue, he passed one or two people: a woman wrapped head to toe in a spandex suit, hunched over and biking into the wind. A man smoked a cigar while sweeping the sidewalk in front of his shop. 

At last, he swerved right on A Street into a cold, salt-scented breeze that pulled the dank tendrils of his hair away from his face. It felt right; his skin naked and free and scoured by wind. 

Police had placed movable barricades painted in reflective orange along the line where the street met the beachfront road. Only one officer stood guard. His gaze was fixed on the spread of sand and the gray-blue waves beyond. One street north was B Street; it made little sense to Red why the alphabet-named cross streets began more than halfway up the peninsula, leaving extra letters to tumble off the promontory. At least there, the barricades were unattended. 

He walked, shoes squelching, past shops and cottages painted in candy hues. It was hard to tell one kind from the other—some homes had awnings and iron-barred windows while a few shops had weathered lawn furniture.

Red had only ever lived in apartments. It might be nice, he thought, to someday be in a place surrounded by grass, where he could put statues of mermaids or dragons as sentinels between him and the street. So much of Boston was concrete, or metal and glass that bent the wind around corners and hurried it along. He thought he might prefer this wilder place in its half-dead twilight season. Here, the sea gnawed at hard edges and the wind stole voices.

Edging past the barricade, he saw the bare expanse of gray sand and—breathtakingly—the white swell of a huge form. No movement or breathing from the giant woman, nor did he see her dress fluttering. Whatever drying the fabric had done in the breeze had been undone again by the overnight rain. 

For the first time, and with a cool liquid sadness that slowed his walk and made his shoulders slump, Red understood fully that she must be dead. He sniffed the wind for a hint of rot, but could smell only seawater. Sometimes, the two scents were similar.

More orange barricades and many more police gathered by a swell of activity spilling from the shoreline road to the beach. Familiarity straightened Red’s shoulders and made him crane his neck. As in Quincy Market all those summers ago, he caught sight of a cluster of tents, either pitched over colorful rugs or on the bare sand. Could it possibly be the same group? Now they might be a little older, but could still be roving the Massachusetts Bay area searching for worthy causes. 

As he watched, men and women emerged from the tents. They were dressed more sensibly than the ones at Quincy Market, in anoraks and beanies and jeans. Instead of guitars or hoops, they held electric candles with plastic flames molded against the wind.

Staying low next to the boardwalk rail, Red crept forward. The protesters had begun lighting their candles, many of them guttering and going dark as if the clouds had reached down and put them out with misty fingers. The sharp smell of cigarette smoke wafted by.

“You live here?” A woman’s voice.

Red stopped, sand spraying from his shoes as he turned. He could hear the thump of his pulse inside his ears. 

Down an embankment that fell away from the boardwalk where it arched over a drainage pipe sat a lady, her round, pleasant face looking up at him. The embankment was covered with gravel; pebbles shifted and fell as she twisted to get a better view. She held the cigarette in one hand and a candle in the other, only one of them lit. 

“I don’t live here,” Red said. “I came here on a boat.”

“So did all of us. Unless you’re Native American, I guess.”

“I meant a canoe. I rowed over from World’s End.”

“To see the girl?” asked the woman.

“Girl?”

This woman looked away from Red. She stretched her neck and then took another drag of the cigarette, staring toward the empty street. The lit tip of the cigarette was the same red-orange as her dreadlocked hair. “The big one. Don’t tell me you missed her.” 

Even sheltered from the wind, it was hard to hear her. Red sat on the edge of the boardwalk, then scooted down the embankment on his butt. Pebbles rained on woman’s back, but she didn’t seem to care.

“No,” Red said, “I didn’t miss her. I just thought she was a woman.”

“Looks young to me,” the woman said. “Not even a teenager. Like a tween.”

“What does tween mean?”

“It means ‘in between kid and teen.’” She finally turned her head to look at him. There were fine crinkles at the corners of her eyes, but she couldn’t have been any older than Red himself. 

A girl, then. It felt sadder, much less romantic. She was no lovestruck dreamer snatched away by a cruel wave. Just a dead child, a thing to gawp at and a perch for seagulls.

Red’s heart leapt, straining toward his ribs. He had felt his heart as a distinct entity, like something grudgingly trapped inside him, since boarding the train from South Station. It reached for the giant girl, an engine turning over and over as if it could offer a spark to restart hers. As much as Red knew he didn’t have that power, nothing mattered more than reaching the girl’s side.

Had anyone cleaned her? Snapped an umbrella to shoo the seabirds away? It was hard to see the gulls as comfort; their voices were too critical and their pink-rimmed eyes too sharp. 

He started to stand up, digging his heels into the gravel.

“Do you have a car?” asked the round-faced woman.

“No. Sorry.”

“I’m tired,” she said. “I want to go home.”

“I think the trains are running now,” said Red.

She looked at him again. A thin gold ring glinted on one nostril. A gold tooth glinted just past her lips. “I’m from Indiana.”

Red had no idea what to say to that, so he got to his feet and stepped through the cloud of the woman’s cigarette smoke to the road.

A couple of the protesters were singing, their voices going in and out like a bad radio signal. Suddenly, over the sound of the wind and the sea, came a raw, scraping noise. The song came to a stop, and a few protesters gasped or shouted. Red scrambled up the embankment, clawing great handfuls of stones underlain by cold dirt. The debris pelted his filthy jeans as if urging him back—down to the red-haired woman and the solid, workaday smell of her cigarette, her mundane, knowable needs.

His fingertips skidded on concrete, pushing his head at last above the boardwalk’s plateau. 

The giant girl was moving.  

Chatter rose from the crowd by their tents, caught by a switch in the wind’s direction and blown out over the girl. As Red watched with stopped-up breath, she rolled slowly toward the northward end of the peninsula. The movement gave new shape to her all-white form, and now he could pick out a shoulder heaving up bit by bit, tracing the curve of the sunrise from the level of the gray horizon. One pale foot rotated, slow and fanlike. 

Red leapt up to the boardwalk level and down into the scrubby weeds at the verge of the sand just in time to pick out the hand that rested on the giant girl’s belly. It stayed there only for a moment before slipping. The protesters’ cries sounded more anguished than awed as the girl’s elbow splashed into the shallows, raising mist and a cloud of birds. A second afterward, her limp hand fell with a thump Red swore he could feel quivering through grains of sand to the place where he stood. It seemed the ocean groaned in sympathy, but it was just the sluice of the retreating tide. 

At that moment, Red understood that she was not stirring to wake. High tide was on the way, claiming new inches of shore with every breaker and drawing sand out from underneath her body. Seeing the girl’s huge fingers, which curled gently toward her upturned palm, he felt another hand of similar size wrap around his chest and squeeze. His heartbeat split in two, charging up behind his eyes and down into his aching feet at the same time.

Nothing physical held him back; even the wind pushed him seaward, but he couldn’t raise either throbbing foot from the ground. From behind him came the soft slap of someone else’s running steps, and he saw the red-haired girl going full tilt, her dreadlocks bouncing along her back and the cigarette forgotten, still lit.

The noise behind the barricades had risen. 

When the tide turned the giant girl’s head north, Red saw the creamy underside of her chin. Its shape against the sky broke the hold of fear. Released, with air flooding his burning lungs again, he surged forward. Each step in turn pummeled the wet sand and rattled his bones from ankle to jaw. 

Those who were shouting and pointing at the girl swiveled their arms to follow his flight.

“Hey!” one of the cops called. “Stop!” 

Red flicked a glance sideways. The man was in motion, but he was pot-bellied and slow. Another quick look showed the protesters in their own separate tide converging on the line of police from the street side. 

A shrill whistle sounded. 

At the rate he was running, and by the direction he’d taken, Red would end up tangled in the huge, white fingers. Maybe he could struggle through them and shelter in the girl’s palm. Then, when he was a few dozen yards from the monumental corpse, tendrils of gray tidewater tipped in white pushed up under the girl’s knuckles and lifted her hand. Nothing, after all, was truly heavy or strong compared to the sea. 

The girl’s arm was swept in a helpless arc away from her body, to the level of her shoulder and then past it. She gestured out toward the open water, at the same time opening her embrace to Red.

He plowed, legs pedaling, first into the dragging surf and then against wet fabric with rigid skin underneath. Red’s lungs emptied, the air punched out by impact and the chill of the water.

He heard people, closer now. The purplish face of the chubby cop showed beside the girl’s bloodless toe, his mouth dark and shouting. 

Red heard the noise but not the words.

With strength he had never summoned before, he hauled the dead weight of his own frozen legs out of the churning sea and onto the girl’s shoulder. He planted his knees in a lock of hair thicker than a fire hose, the strands coiling around his legs right away. Soon, the water would tug that lock free to bloom around her head, a greenish tentacle, taking Red with it. 

He pushed the heavy hair away, sacrificing both shoes in the process. 

Even close by, the girl smelled like nothing but sea and cold. Her dress was high-necked and plain. Down at its hem, policemen and protesters bobbed in waist-high water, still shouting. 

“Don’t hold on!” Red yelled back at them. “Let go!”

Only the girl’s heel moored her to the shore. Red nearly overbalanced as a strong undercurrent deposited almost her entire body on the bare seafloor. Then the water boiled back in and the foot came free.

Seated near the notch between the girl’s collarbones, he turned his head, but all he could see of her face was the unblemished wash of white under her chin. 

Some of the people, those who weren’t struggling back to the receding beach, waved and cheered. 

Red waved back with both arms, baring chattering teeth. 

It was fine to be noticed now that he’d become unreachable. 

After he was tired of fanning his wet, wrinkled fingers in the freezing air at the spectators, he sat back and scooted up the hard, motionless throat to rest his back against her chin. He curled in close, but tucking his feet under him against the unforgiving fabric would only do so much to keep at bay the chill that sank under his skin and made his joints stiff.

Perhaps later he would pull part of the frilly trim over his body. For now, the sky was bled dry and he was tired. 

He closed his eyes as seabirds wheeled overhead, shrieking at the huddled passenger aboard his white vessel.

L. Reed Walton (she/they) is a writer based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. They have a Bachelor of Arts degree in English – Creative Writing and Master of Arts Degree in Journalism. She is currently querying their fourth novel, a science fiction mystery. They’ve recently published other speculative short works in Hellhound Magazine and The ScienceFictionery. She lives with her lovely librarian wife-to-be and four capricious cats.

photo by Peter Thomas (via unsplash)

Excerpts from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”—Jeana Jorgensen

The little mermaid’s sisters swam up to where she sat on the dock, and they presented her with a glittering knife. “If you kill the prince,” they sang in forlorn voices, “you can return to us under the sea.”

The sky is red, the sky turns orange, the sky weeps purple with grief. The little mermaid is stunned when she is finally allowed to swim to the surface to see the sky: such a giant block of one color, so different from the undulating watery views she grew up navigating. She knows this is temporary.

“But think again,” said the witch, “for once you are human you can no longer be a mermaid: you will never return to your sisters or swim underwater; if you fail, you will become foam on the crest of the waves.”

Her sisters try to tear the unconscious man from her arms. “Traitor!” they scream at her, for rescuing this human from the depths, but though she is the youngest she is the strongest of them all, and she beat at them with her tail while propelling the human up towards the surface.

The prince asked her who she was and where she came from, but she looked at him sorrowfully for she could not speak. At long last he brought her home to his palace, where beautiful female slaves, dressed in silk and gold, sang and danced. The little mermaid clapped her hands but carried sadness in her eyes: oh, if only she could sing sweetly once more.

He was kind to her. She would always remember that.

The oldest sister’s birthday was in winter, so when she swam up to the surface for the first time, she saw large, beautiful icebergs. They glittered like diamonds and shone like pearls under the moonlight, and all the ships that came near veered away from the frightful storm that arose when the oldest mermaid hoisted herself onto an iceberg to watch the human-made objects cavort.

When the little mermaid goes ashore, there are no more icebergs.

She cast one more lingering glance at the prince, and then threw herself from the ship into the sea, and thought her body was dissolving into foam. The sun rose above the waves, and its warm rays fell on the cold form of the little mermaid, who did not feel as if she were dying. 

She takes the knife her sisters gave her and uses the legs the sea witch granted her to find the king among men, the one she saved, and she catches him in a net of charming eyes and smiles. She waits until his meetings are over, until his slaves are gone, until his compound is all locked up.

She saw the bright sun, and all around her floated hundreds of transparent beautiful beings; she could see through them the white sails of the ship, and the red clouds in the sky; their speech was melodious, but too ethereal to be heard by mortal ears, as they were also unseen by mortal eyes.

The sky is red, the sky turns orange, the sky weeps purple with grief. The knife falls from her bloody fingers, and she hopes she is not too late, that the thrumming of her human heart is exhilaration, that the burning of her skin signals the flush of victory, and not the encroaching thirst of the sun that eradicates seasons, evaporates seas, igniting and ending the world.

Jeana Jorgensen earned her PhD in folklore from Indiana University. She researches gender and sexuality in fairy tales and fairy-tale retellings, folk narrative more generally, body art, dance, sex education, and feminist/queer theory. While most of her time goes to teaching college courses at Butler University and publishing her research, she also writes fiction and poetry. Her poetry has appeared at Strange HorizonsLiminalityQuatrain.fish, and Glittership, among other publications. Her poem “The Witch’s House” was nominated for the 2018 Rhysling Award, and her short dystopian story about reproductive rights, “The book you find when you really can’t afford to get pregnant,” won the Spider Road Press Feminist Flash Fiction Award of 2018. She also teaches dance, blogs at Patheos, and is constantly on Twitter.

photo by Jana Sabeth (via unsplash)