Across the Breath of the World

Elena puts her hands into her red hair, sliding her fingers in, like reaching into hanging ivy. She gathers thick strands into her palms and makes fists, pulling back hard and causing her head to tilt back, exposing her throat to me. With the sun behind her, she is a silhouette of orange fire and smoke, elemental and molten. She is a raging summer wildfire.

Once I was Ophelia in the river, wrapped in water grass, twigs in my hair, eels nesting in the folds of my sleeves, drowned and tied to the current. One, two and then three years on, I washed up on the rocky shore of Elena, and she combed the river from my hair and made a pie from the eels, and blew life back into my lungs with her soft mouth against mine, with the strands of my black hair woven like spider’s silk around her thin white fingers.

We meet once, perhaps twice a year, whenever she is in town. She pours herself into the city like bourbon into a glass, soothing and stinging all at once. She never ages, the skin around her eyes and lips as smooth as it was eight years ago, her red hair mixed with no archipelagos of gray or white, the hollow of her throat still a shallow bowl that I can feel as a ghost against my lips as I sit across the cafe table from her.

Bez doesn’t know that I am meeting Elena today. I feel as though I am being unfaithful to her, that I have taken our love for one another and hidden it away inside a small silver box, put at the top of my closet shelf, something both treasured and a responsibility I wish to not think of just now.

Elena’s words have a gravity of history which draw me in to her, as they always do when we are together. I fall into her orbit and circle around her, a satellite threatening to heat into flame as the conversation spins on.

Are shooting stars puppets, hung from black threads tied to the fingers of destiny and inevitability?

Or do they choose when to fall, breaking loose and skimming like fiery coals across the breath of the world?



The last time I saw Juteau cry was in October. Truthfully, I didn’t see her crying, but I saw the aftereffects: the smear of mascara trailing like dirty rainwater down the side of an abandoned building, the eyes as red as a desert sunset. She didn’t want to talk about it, and I didn’t want to press her. I put her to bed with a glass of water and three peanut butter cookies, and in the morning she was fine.

The last time I saw Bez cry was three days ago. Her lipstick was a purple so dark that it was black, and her dress was backless and sheer. She didn’t need to talk about it, because I was there when it happened, and they weren’t tears of sadness, so that was alright then. I put her to bed with me and my hunger, and in the morning she was fine.

I am crying this morning. I wake from a dream that I am drowning, and that my father is trying to save me but that I am trapped beneath the water as though I am behind a sheet of glass. No matter how hard he slams his hands against the glass-water, he can’t reach me, and I sink deeper and deeper into the water, losing the light, losing the sound of his hands splashing as he tries to reach me, until I sink down into the darkness and the light completely vanishes from sight.

The sun isn’t up when I wake breathlessly from my drowning. The message light on my phone is flashing blue, and I see that while I have been sleeping, Nikola has left a text. I delete it without reading it and put my phone face-down onto the bedside table.

I don’t cry when I throw Nikola’s message into the void, and I don’t cry when I think of my father trying to rescue me from drowning for a second time in my life, and failing to do so.

What makes me cry is when Bez moans once, and then once more, and in her sleep whispers a name that I know she would never utter if she were awake. I don’t need the light to find the small scar above her right breast that is the reflection of her marriage to a moment in time that she cannot be divorced from. I want to put my hand over the scar, but I am afraid that if she is drowning in her own black water of memory, an intrusion into that sacred space might be seen as another attack, and so instead I put my arm around her waist and hold her tightly against me. She tenses for a moment, and then falls slack as a rag doll.

She will never be hurt again, if I can help it.

No one who lives in my house ever will be.

We are sisters in fragility, but there is strength in numbers.


“Everything there is was made at the beginning,” I say to her. “All the atoms, all the threads, all the pieces, came from that one moment of creation.”

I rest my head against her stomach. She touches my hair and pulls the blanket higher over my shoulder.

“A billion billion stars shine, and a billion billion planets spin. On those planets, there’s a billion billion wings and fins and feet and hands on a billion billion lives that fly and swim and walk and touch.”

I put my hand against her hip, against the warm skin there.

“And those billion billion lives are the children of a billion billion lives that have gone before, and they will be the parents to a billion billion more to come.”

I slide my hand up, and put one finger against a spot on her stomach. “Not one of them has this freckle right here.”

I move up along the length of her body and whisper something into her ear, words for her alone. “Not one of them will know my secrets.”

I kiss her lightly on the mouth, her lips soft and full. “Not one of them tastes like rainclouds in summer.”

I rest my hand against the side of her face and look into her eyes. “Not one of them is my Bez.”

Not one in a billion billion.

The rain patters against the bedroom window.

Bodies In Motion

He gives me flowers before he kisses me, blue flowers and a blue kiss. I don’t know why I let him do it. I am not interested in him in that way, not any longer, or in any way actually. Perhaps he has put something in my tea, a powder dissolved from the flowers he presents to me, some rare petals grown from dust and spiderwebs.

Later, we take BART under and through the city, riding nowhere in particular. He wants to stop and go up into the sunshine, but I want to stay below ground and in motion. I don’t like the feeling of permanence that stopping brings. I want to remain fluid.

Seeing him was Bez’s idea, and I only agreed because I do everything Bez asks of me. I don’t know why she thinks this is a good idea. Sometimes her thoughts are like a long-dead language to me, thick and heavy and inscrutable, with no translation to be found.

He no longer has a key to me, and I don’t know what the purpose is in allowing him to think that he might find a way to pick my locks and come inside me again.

The earrings he gave me have long since vanished into the darker corners of my house, out of my sight and nearly out of my mind. Perhaps the tiger has swallowed them.

“I see the line on your forehead,” Nikola asks, his Serbian accent heavy as cream. “What is it you are thinking?”

I don’t answer him.

Perhaps the tiger will swallow him as well.

A Shadowed Patience

Here now, at three in the morning, I find a whisker on the floor outside of Juteau’s room, laying parallel to her door, like a black line drawn on the old hard wood. I bend to pick it up, and I can hear a sound beneath the deep breathing of the sleeping Juteau on the other side of her door. This other sound is low and soft, like a wind passing through broken bottles and empty paper bags. It comes from a shadow within a shadow, the tiger’s den in the corner of the hallway, beneath the picture of Katya and Jarek.

“Why are you still in my house?” I ask the great white cat. “You should find somewhere else to live.” The tiger licks his chops by way of response. His red eyes glow like embers, and his fur somehow both reveals him in the shadow in which he lives, as well as hides him against the ivory paint of the walls. He has lived here in this corner for nearly a year now, neither coming nor going, and he still has yet to make the reason for his presence known.

“I can out wait you, you know,” I say. “I’m not in any hurry.” The tiger makes a whurf sound through his nose, and scrapes one black claw across the floor. It leaves no mark that I can see, but I know that if I were to get to my knees and run my finger over the wood, I would feel the path that he has carved there.

But I don’t wish to stay and try to solve the puzzle of the tiger tonight. I am tired after a long day of writing, and all I want is to slip under the blankets and feel the warmth of Bez next to me as I fade off to sleep. She has a few hours’ head start on me, and I want to catch up to her and see what she might be dreaming tonight.

The tiger regards me as I walk past him, but doesn’t move to follow. Once I’m in my bedroom, I close my door, and the tiger once again snorts at me from the other side of it. I don’t turn on a light, instead feeling my way in the dark to the bed. It’s only as I’m undressing that I realize I’m still holding the tiger’s whisker in my hand, and I set it on the bedside table between the book I am reading and the small framed picture of my father. I will do something with the whisker in the morning, but tonight I am too tired to want to give it another thought.

Bez whispers something in her sleep as I settle up against her, putting my hand on her hip, but it’s too soft for me to be able to make out.

In the hallway, the tiger sits waiting.

For what, I still have no idea.

Anna’s Garden

I have three favorite flowers in the garden. One is red, and one is blue, and one is yellow. Nanny told me all their names, but I don’t remember them. I wanted to pick them and bring them back home, but she wouldn’t let me. She said they belonged to everyone, and not just me, so I couldn’t have them. I don’t know why she said that. There’s nobody here but Nanny and me anyways. I think she was just being mean. I wish I could have a flower for my room. They’re so pretty.

Nanny let me put my feet in the pond. It was very cold and I didn’t even have a towel when I got out. She showed me pictures of fishes on the holo, but we don’t have any fishes in our pond. I think it would be much nicer if we did. I bet fishes are fun to play with.

We had sandwiches and orange drinks for snacks. I had crackers and apples too. Nanny says the apples we’ll have when the garden isn’t broken will be much nicer. She says real snacks don’t come in tubes, and that real apples grow on trees. Nanny’s very silly sometimes.

Today is Saturday. I don’t have to do my learning on Saturday, because Saturday is the day we go to visit Mommy. I used my new crayons and drew her a picture of the pond. I put some fishes in it, even though we don’t have any. I put a shark in there too, because sharks is fun to play with. Not fun for the other fishes, but I’d like to play with them anyways.

Mommy is on the other side of the garden. I’m not allowed to go there by myself, on account of Jack Scratch. He’s afraid of Nanny, so he won’t come out when she’s with me, but Nanny says he’d grab me in a flash if I was to go there by myself. I’ve never seen Jack Scratch, but sometimes I can hear him when we are on walks. He breathes loud like a dragon and sometimes I find scratches on the walls from his long fingers. That’s why his name is Jack Scratch, because he scratches things. Nanny says he’d scratch me if he could catch me. I’m afraid of him, but he won’t hurt me if Nanny is there.

Nanny isn’t supposed to go on the grass because her feets make it all smashed and messy, so we have to go around to get to the other side. Her feets are like my toy tank, but I don’t have feets like that. Nanny says Mommy doesn’t have them either, but I’ve never seen her feets before, so I don’t know. I’m glad I don’t have feets like that or I couldn’t go on the grass or put them in the pond. Fishes have fins, and not feets.

I don’t know what kinds of feets Jack Scratch has.

Nanny has to push the right buttons to open the door on the other side of the garden. I can’t even reach them. I won’t always be small. Nanny says Mommy is tall and I will be tall too when I grow up. If I am too tall for my bed, I will sleep on the grass by the pond. It’s soft like a pillow and then I can play all day there too.

I hold Nanny’s hand now, because Jack Scratch won’t grab me then. There’s dark spots in the walls that are tunnels, and they go down to where he lives. Sometimes I can hear him breathing inside them, but he won’t come out with Nanny watching. She’s got a magic finger that makes him stay away. It’s blue and can make lightning come out and if she shoots it then he has to go to sleep until she’s far away. I don’t know why she doesn’t make him go to sleep forever like Sleeping Beauty. Nobody would kiss him and wake him up.

It takes a long time to go where Mommy is. Nanny says she’ll carry me if I’m too tired, but sometimes I don’t want her to carry me because her skin is so hard and cold. My sleeves are too short today so I don’t want her skin on me.

There’s a lot of boxes with people inside, but Mommy’s is the one that’s got pictures all on it. I draw them and Nanny brings me here to give them to her. There’s one of me playing with a puppy. I know what a puppy looks like because Nanny showed me on the holo. There’s one with my dolls at the food closet. There’s one in the room that I can’t remember the name of, with the big round window where all the stars are outside. There’s one with Nanny charging her bat’ry. There’s one with me watching cartoons on the holo.

Nanny gives me a magnet off her stomach so I can stick my new picture on Mommy’s box. I have to move one of the old pictures to the box I used to be in, because Mommy’s has got so many on it. My box broke, so Nanny came out of a closet to take care of me until Mommy wakes up. She’s still asleep, but Nanny says I don’t have to be quiet, because she’s not going to wake up until we get to where we’re going. I don’t remember what she calls it, but Nanny says it has three suns so I won’t ever have to be afraid of Jack Scratch and the dark anymore.

Nanny says Mommy will be happy to see me when she wakes up.

I wish the children in the boxes would wake up too so I could play with them.

I hope we get there soon.

Maybe they’ve got enough flowers there for everybody.


Tipsylit Prompt

The Waiting

Bez stops and kneels on the path, picking up a small stone before standing again and facing the sea. The wind blows her loose hair out behind her. She is not wearing a jacket, although the chill in the air is enough to have made me put one on. She steps to the edge of the cliff overlooking the Pacific, closer to the empty air than I would have the courage to do, but Bez is fearless. It’s one of the things about her I love the most.

Earlier this morning, I traced the moles on her bare back with a blue ballpoint pen, birthing constellations on her pale skin, gifting them with names as I went: The Mortal Enemy. The Conjoined Twin. The Midnight Special. When I had finished, her back was a map of her heavens, and I read the future in her stars.

Now on the cliff, Bez takes aim at the expanse of blue-green sea and throws the stone as far as she can. It flies out and drops, and I lose sight of it as it falls down into the water below. She turns to me and says something, but her voice is lost in the wind. I come closer and put my arm through hers. I don’t ask her to repeat herself.

The Red Herring. The Velvet Frog. The Shipwrecked Lady.

There is a spiderweb drawn on my stomach, with my navel in the center. Bez drew it with the pen after I finished with her stars. It tickled when she wove it there, and although I held as still as I could, the lines of the web are sloppy and mussed from the quaking of my belly as I tried to hold in the laughter.

Bez bends again at the top of the cliff and finds a piece of blue glass, worn smooth around the edges. I don’t know how it migrated up the cliff from the shore below, because it obviously has been tempered by the sea. She holds it in the palm of her hand, and I lean my head against her shoulder while she considers it a moment, and then puts it into her pocket. She has a collection of them at home in a cigar box, kept as treasure the way a child would do.

It’s her home now too, officially. She finished moving the last of her things from her small apartment just yesterday, and it’s the first time since we became friends that she hasn’t had a place of her own to return to when the mood would strike her. She has put her bed into the garage against the wall, because we are both aware that she won’t be needing it.

My bed is big enough to hold constellations, after all.


Jumpers 2014

A new cover for an old story.

It’s available for download over at Amazon.

Happy reading!

The Reflection of Moonlight

The snow falls outside the window, thick fat flakes that drift slowly past the glass, settling on the grass and concrete five stories down. It is the last snowfall that the world will ever see. Natsumi stands at the window and looks out. She thinks that she will go onto the roof before she finishes her work, to taste the snow on her tongue one final time, before the end of all things.

The clouds hang in grey waves over the city, and the comet is hidden from view. She has not forgotten that it is there, and neither has anyone else. In the distance, across the river, the fires still rage that rose up in the financial district three days ago. She doesn’t know how they started, if it was an accident or caused in the riots. There is no television in the lab, and she hasn’t left the room since she began her final project nearly a week ago. She has been sleeping under the desk where Silas used to work, lab coats for a pillow and blanket, and living off the remaining breakfast bars and potato chips that were kept in the filing cabinet for nights of long research.

She turns from the window and returns to her workstation. There is only one box remaining to scan. The finished boxes she has stacked in front of the lab’s only door, which she has kept closed and locked since hearing a single gunshot from somewhere in one of the other labs two days ago. She didn’t go out to discover if it had been a murder of one or the suicide of another. At this late date, one end is as good as another.

It is cold in the room, a necessity because of the dozens of computers spaced around the lab, humming loudly as they continue to process the data she has been feeding them. Natsumi hardly notices the temperature any longer. She has grown accustomed to the chill, letting it fill the hollow place inside her that was born on the day that Silas died.

She taps on the keyboard at her workstation, and the eye at the end of the scanning arm powers up with a blue light, casting a cool glow over the target area on the table below it. She waits until the machine emits its ready notification beep, and then she removes the lid from the last box and reaches in to remove the items it contains.

A black iron doorknob, scratched and well-used. A plastic doll’s head, its eyes rolling open and closed as she lifts it and sets it on the tabletop. A white button from a shirt, cracked but not broken. The Q key from a manual typewriter, with a nick in the tail of the letter. A Polaroid photograph of a fog-shrouded mountain, with a lonely highway rolling out beside it.

Pieces of a memory. The last notes of a song. The final words of a love story.

Natsumi places the doorknob under the scanner, then presses her computer’s execute key. The blue light brightens until she has to squint her eyes against it. The humming of the lab’s computers grows noticeably louder, and the doorknob begins to sparkle, like moonlight on ice. Beneath the hum, a second sound begins, a soft rattle like sand falling on the skin of a drum, and slowly the doorknob begins to fade from view, becoming transparent from the outside in, as though it is turning to crystal as she watches. Then, with a hollow pop, it vanishes completely, leaving the target area empty.

She checks the readout on her computer. Hundreds of lines of code scroll by, then thousands, then millions, moving too quickly for her to read: the curves and edges of the doorknob, the color of the metal, the weight of it under a hand, the feel of cold iron in the morning. Everything that is the physical essence of the doorknob, now being analyzed by the computers, translated into a code, buried inside the electronic brain of the machines. The hum around the room grows even louder as they perform the job for which they were programmed.

When she is satisfied that the computers are processing the doorknob correctly, Natsumi places the doll’s head under the scanner and repeats the process. In a few moments, the plastic toy vanishes as well, and is catalogued in the computers.

One by one, the remaining items in the box are scanned, broken down and catalogued, until only the photograph remains. Natsumi turns to the window and sees that the snow has stopped falling. The clouds have broken in places, and the comet is easily visible through the pockets of sky seen through the clouds. It looms heavy in the air, a hangman’s axe, poised to fall. She only has a few more hours to complete her task.

Natsumi looks away from the window. She removes the photo from the box, and regards it with a mixture of happiness and sorrow. She does not know the name of the mountain or the number of the highway, but she does remember the day that she and Silas stopped there, on the way to a conference, six months after they had become lovers. She remembers how he kissed her, there at the foot of the mountain, with the mist slipping its fingers around their necks and arms and waists. She can’t forget the old abandoned house there, set back in the trees, and how welcoming its empty walls were when they stepped inside and made love on the blanket Silas took from the trunk of his car. The doorknob to the front of the house was already loose when they entered, and Silas took it with them when they left as a reminder of the afternoon.

She scans the photo in, and it disappears as quickly as had the other objects. She puts the lid back on the empty box and places it with the others in front of the door. She has scanned hundreds of items, and the empty boxes form a pyramid that is as tall as she is. She is exhausted, but her project is almost complete, and then she can rest.

She is glad Silas didn’t live to see the coming of the comet. She hadn’t thought his death merciful at the time, as his lungs filled with fluid, as his heart beat weaker and weaker. He wouldn’t have wanted to be present at the end of the world though. He liked to imagine there was a brighter future just ahead for the human race, no matter what their problems or obstacles. He would not have accepted the total annihilation that was only hours away. He would have put his faith in hope, to the last.

Hope is Natsumi’s task, her last gift to him. Hope in the form of a collection. Boxes and boxes of hope. A treasured paperback. A scribbled note on the back of a restaurant receipt. A silver ring with an inscription on the inside of the band. A lock of hair in a small wooden box. A video of a woman on a beach at sunset.

An iron doorknob from an abandoned house.

Each item was a note in a song, a single word in a book of the love of two human beings. Every earring she scanned, every house key, every pair of old eyeglasses was a piece of the story they had written together, Natsumi and Silas. Their love was etched into every piece of glass or plastic or metal that was broken down, bit by bit, into the computers filling the space inside the lab. The designs of their passion were written in the digital souls of the machines surrounding her now, a tapestry of ones and zeros.

She sits at her computer again, and begins to initialize the final program she has tasked for the system to complete. Soon, the archives will be uploaded through the uplink between her lab and the six orbiting satellites which were raised into the heavens four months ago. Once the data transmission is complete the satellites will leave orbit, and they will travel out in six separate directions into the far reaches of the universe, traveling archives of the love of two human beings, an ark for the heart of humanity. This part of her project is automated, because there won’t be anyone left to initialize it when the final scan is completed.

She takes one last look around the lab, although she knows there is nothing left that she has forgotten. Everything is as it should be, and it is also as it has to be.

Natsumi crawls up onto the table, and lays on her back with her head beneath the scanning eye. The light is bright, but not as bright as it will become. She thinks back to when she placed Silas on this same table, how light he had been in her arms after months of sickness, hollowed out by the hand of death. He was as light as air, almost as weightless as the data he became as the machine traced its brilliant blue light over his body, breaking it down, taking its measure of his cells and his scars and the pathways of his mind, uploading the very essence of the man, his soul itself, and putting it safely away into the protective vault of a computer’s hard drive.

Above her, the blue light pulses, and she shuts her eyes against it. There is no fear in her, only a peace and a calmness that is intermixed with a love for the man who has gone before her, and she holds the feeling close in her mind, as the scanner begins to write her, cell by cell, word by word, into a fairytale of love, into a narrative of what was lost and then found again, and a story of a world that has passed into the dust and dreams of an infinite universe.


Tipsylit Prompt





The sun coming in through the window in front of Bez puts a halo around her head, making her look as though she is made of light. She looks over the street outside, unaware that I am awake on the sofa and watching her. I was up far too late last night, and could not be bothered to leave the living room for the comfort of the bed. It is no hardship, sleeping on my sofa. It’s very comfortable in its own right.

Bez’s shadow stretches across the wooden floor behind her, and I reach my hand out to touch it. I trace the edges with my fingertips, feeling the temperature difference between light and dark, knowing the curves of the shadow as partners to her body’s own, a sister in darkness. The dust moves and swirls in the eddies created by my movements, ships sailing on the tides of atmosphere.

Bez leans forward and raises her hand up against the glass, and her shadow shifts in turn, caressing me with its cool darkness. I angle my head into the occultation, letting the weight of the shadow rest against my throat and my cheek, kissing it with my lips, tasting the lingering flavor of last night’s midnight mixed with silver and gold.

I breathe out the slightest whisper of contentment, and Bez turns to look at me, favoring me with her smile.

There is no light in heaven that outshines her own.