By Holly Day
I Go Up
Since we can’t go out, I go up, bring my flashlight with me to the roof the highest point of the house, shine it up. If there is someone up there that can see me, trapped in my house, sitting on my roof flashing messages in Morse Code, binary, back and forth and up and down if there’s some curious creature hiding just beyond the clouds spying on us from somewhere beyond the stars come and get me, come on down. My husband opens the bedroom window, cranes his head up to look at me shouts at me to get off the house, come back down, come to bed I must be crazy to be sitting way up there. I tell him I’m not coming back in the house again, I’ve been trapped in the house for weeks and weeks and the only place I have left for me is up, as high as I can climb, he should come up with me maybe two flashlights will be brighter, work better. I, too, can relate to being in a spaceship hurtling through space with no outlet for exploration but the laundry chute and closets packed with old toys I will tell whatever traveler I hail from my rooftop perch that they won’t have to keep me caged or tranquilized to keep me from trying to escape into the void of space I’m already so good at just sitting in place.
Don’t touch me when I’m dreaming about space I’ll tell you when I plan to dream about escaping don’t touch me when I throw my arms out wide and dream about hurtling through the clouds the sky the thin edge of the atmosphere no I know I can’t actually fly into space but don’t touch me don’t wake me just go sleep on the couch or something Don’t stop me when I start confessing things in my sleep but don’t listen to my secrets because I know they come out don’t touch me when I start talking about running away don’t touch me when I throw my arms out and start dreaming about space don’t tell me I’m talking in my sleep again just grab a pillow and a blanket and go to sleep on the couch. You might as well get comfortable I’m going to be this way for a while.
My grandfather’s earliest memory was being held around the waist and lifted up to kiss his newborn brother’s cheek before the coffin lid was closed, he says he still remembers that little face. My husband’s grandmother lost her youngest sister at the same time. She always said that her sister was the best one of them all out of all of those kids, she should have been the one that survived. When my grandfather and my husband’s grandmother get together, all they talk about is the people they’ve lost. The lists grow longer and longer every year until it seems like they must be the most invincible people on the planet Invulnerable to all of the wars and plagues that ravaged the world all around them as they grew up and grew old, two impervious beings that will last forever as civilization crumbles to dust and bones in unsettled piles all around their feet.
My world has become so small that it can be contained inside the shadowy, leaf-covered burrow of a velvety gray shrew its tiny nose thrusting and grunting in the dark is louder than my thoughts of the future. I have decided to center myself in the breath of fireflies flickering over the warm hollow in the yard in the gasps of tiny frogs as they leap across the sidewalk in the anticipatory snorts of baby mice nuzzled against their mother’s chest. This is exactly how much space I want to take up as much of the universe I want to displace with my presence.
The Unspoken Words
Beneath my fingertips, lichen feels like Braille soft and uneven and full of stories I wish I could read. Some lichen blooms in the spring, or after a rainstorm pink flowers so tiny they look like dots of splattered paint. I wish I was small enough to see if they had a smell. Little green frogs, no bigger than my thumbnail crowd around the rocks covered with lichen chase the miniscule flies drawn to the flowers maybe the frogs know if the flowers have a scent. By summer, the lichen will have burned to orange the moss will be flat against the rock and any secret messages hidden in the brachiating fronds will have disappeared for the year. I pretend that the words written in the lichen are there just for me, that someone is trying to talk to me against this rock In the language of abrupt flowers and springy moss.
Holly Day’s writing has recently appeared in Analog SF, The Hong Kong Review, and Appalachian Journal, and her hobbies include kicking and screaming at vending machines.
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