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  Table of contents Issue Twenty-three BIOSINGULARITY

by
JON CONLEY
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I



B

y all accounts of time it is Wednesday morning. On Sunday a fruit basket appeared at Sarah’s front door and she has been stepping over it ever since. It is white wicker wrapped in red cellophane tied up with twine. There is a card with someone’s name and maybe a message for Sarah but she can’t help but freeze when she thinks of reading it. Inside the basket are Gala apples and Valencias. Warm plums. Bing cherries.



As she lay in bed last night she could hear the soft sucking pulpy noise of enzymes in the apples converting cane sugar to glucose. She wasn’t sure how she knew what it was, but she did. At first she had hoped it was her imagination but as she kept listening there were other things. The fruit basket was just as loud as the hookworms whining while they passed through the plumbing, just as loud as the rabbits eating grass out front and just as loud as some boy somewhere in the building breathing evenly amongst all that. She put on some of Shannon’s music, some meditation thing that usually helped soften her brain, but she could hardly hear it. That’s why this morning, as she stands at her window, the sun muted and melting and unreliable, Sarah has barely slept. If at all.



I need to move, she thinks.



Sitting now at her small kitchen table, Sarah fingers a brochure for a new complex built just outside of town which promises a sterile and wildlife-free environment. The building on the brochure is very bright. This place, where she is now, seems decaying by contrast. The shit, the rabbits, the children in the parking lot, now the rot at the door—she can taste the film of dolor and grime that has settled over the building, holding everything in its dirty bosom.



endmark





She brushes her teeth in the shower, scrubbing far back into her mouth, on her tongue, until she throws up. Afterward Sarah bleaches the tub, the sun still low in the morning sky. She makes a note to ask Shannon if the sun is setting every night but somewhere she knows that she won’t be seeing Shannon again. Or at least knows that she’s supposed to know this. It’s her fault.



Before leaving for work Sarah calls the number on the brochure and gets the unit manager. “I’m calling...yes, a visit...today? I think I can make it this evening...okay...Sarah...yes...yes, great, thank you.”



At work she counts cells all morning and as is usual lately, Sarah stays in her lab for lunch and eats alone.



endmark





She thinks about how things would go with Shannon. He would start with something like asking her if she wondered about her existence.



“It’s not uncommon,” he would say. “Plenty of people have some point, usually in the distant past, most often years before, like when they’re very young, that they think might have been the last real moment of their lives. As if everything since then has been a dream. They think they’ve died or are in suspension. For you, it’s before you ended things so poorly.”



“I’m confused. When was that?” and Sarah would look at her hands, turning them over, checking, making sure, when Shannon would grab them.



“You’re freezing,” he would say, and suddenly she would feel static in the air, the heat from her lower lumbar. Her breathing, shallow now. Compared to the minute before she’ll feel hyperreal, the undercurrent coursing through the hairs of her fingers.



But she would pull back. “Shannon, I.”



“Oh. It’s okay. I’m sorry. I forgot. The touching.”



“They’re always cold,” she would say and Shannon would try to resume his therapeutic repose.



endmark





Sometime after lunch, Dann puts his head through the door. Dann is an assistant who gathers reports and runs samples and papers back and forth. He graduated from a mid-level college with a Bachelor's degree in Biology and a 3.3 GPA. His thesis, entitled Pseudomona Lisa Overdrive, explored the possibility of enhancing the function of certain bacteria to retract their resistance to antibiotics. Sarah knows all of this because Dann told her. His right cheekbone is caved in and he has an anarchy sign tattooed on the top side of his right wrist. Dann and Sarah had slept together once. Shannon had forgiven her.



“Hey, Sarah? Sorry to bother you but any way you could give me a ride home after work? My car dropped its transmission again.”



“I can’t. I’m going somewhere. Opposite direction,” Sarah says. She doesn’t look up from her microscope.



“What is that?” Dann says, pointing to the brochure on her desk.



“Oh just something I picked up,” Sarah says. “Nothing.” Why would she leave that there?



“Biosingularity? I’ve heard about that place.”



She can feel herself turning red. She doesn’t remember bringing the brochure to work with her. “I just wanted to read the pamphlet.”



“Right,” Dann says.



endmark





“There’s a no fuck policy.”



“Excuse me?” Sarah says.



A little slower now the unit manager speaks through his surgical mask, “There’s a no touch policy. The banisters are okay if you’re going to fall but please don’t touch the walls or anyone else’s door.”



The unit manager is balding on top. He wears thick glasses and his forehead is tall and wide. But he has a nice chest, Sarah thinks. He sprays the doorknob with an unlabeled bottle before wrapping his gloved hand around it.



“Our policies are not simply for isolating tenants in a solitary speciesism. We are interested in the separation of microorganisms as well,” he says. “Hey, isn’t that what you do for a living?”



“Not really,” Sarah says.



The unit manager laughs but Sarah isn’t sure why. “We’re filling up fast,” he says, turning the knob and pushing.



They enter the empty unit.



endmark





Back home now in her parking lot, Sarah sits in the car. It is 8:30 and she is trying to follow the sun but it knows she is watching and won’t move. It just sits there rendered red and purple. The rabbits are in the lawn.



Sarah stares up at her building. She counts up three and then in two from the left to find the window just lit. There, spreading her curtain, is Maria. She gives a soft wave. Sarah smiles into her lap.



At night Sarah tries some earplugs she found in Shannon’s toolbox. They don’t help. There are four rats scratching at the wheels of the dumpster and the apple pectin is breaking down and the sun is still a fool.



II



“I get it. You’d prefer the commitment of yellow and blue. Are you doing anything for yourself?”



“In the evening it can sometimes seem clear. I have things to do. Things that might fulfill me as a person? I want to file my nails and push the cuticles back. Paint them. Go shopping and run my hands over the produce. Cook a meal. The list is there and it’s ready. I’m ready. But then lying down I begin to hear the outside. Then it’s crawling into the building and now I’m in bed with this thing, this noise, and the night never really comes and the light never really goes. By the morning, or maybe it’s morning all along, the list is gone. Every item is fighting over where and what it should be. I can see them fighting these fights of priority. Then I’m filled with the unplaceable feeling of not knowing anything. Does any of this make sense to you?”



“Unfortunately, yes,” Shannon would say. “Mother never left the house. You’re lonely without me.”



endmark





Sarah comes to in the kitchen. She looks at the clock.



Outside, where it should be morning, real morning, the barely night purrs softly still, sulking into every corner. Sarah thinks of the nights getting shorter and the days getting longer or maybe that neither exists and both had become part of a same half-realized light running unimpeded through every hour. This existential crisis of time, she hopes, is generational or academic, hereditary or momentary, or maybe there are fumes in the building.



She eats what she thinks is breakfast, turning the brochure over. BIOSINGULARITY. Our single greatest aspect is our autonomy.



endmark





While stepping over the fruit basket on her way out, Sarah notices that the inside of the red cellophane has begun to condensate. She pushes the thought down and heads outside.



Getting to her car, Sarah hears a series of sine waves. Five quickly in a row. She shakes her head and blinks rapidly, then closes her eyes, focusing incase it happens again.



It happens again. She isn’t sure if it’s instinct or if she actually follows the sound (no, she’s sure she followed the sound) but she finds herself looking up at Maria’s window. Maria is there banging the glass. When she has Sarah’s attention she frantically holds up one finger and disappears, her curtain left swaying.



Sarah gets into the car and quickly drives away.



endmark





“When you say you hear the outside, what is it you hear?” Shannon would ask.



“It used to be insects and animals. Regular, familiar outside. But now I hear everything. Things that before made no sound. Things that I can only generally locate. Everything that is living. It terrifies me.”



“Tell me about the other affair.”



“No.”



endmark





It wasn’t that Sarah had wanted to fuck Maria. Or had even thought of having another affair. She wasn’t the longing type. It was just something that happened. She had found herself leaving her apartment one night and going to Maria’s door. A mistake. Since then, Maria is convinced that they’re in love. Their tryst a triumph. Why couldn’t she be more like Dann?



Sarah sits in her lab. There is a certain culture that is beginning to bother her and she is determined to find it.



Whatever, whichever it is, it is making a low-end click. She opens her small refrigerator and begins digging through stacks of petri dishes, holding them up one by one to focus on their sound, if they have any, until finally she finds it. She holds the petri dish to the side of her head and the thumping is almost deafening, like something heavy being dragged down stairs or like the thud of breeding. Turning the dish over, she reads the tape on the bottom. Rabbit Larvae. She opens the dish to see unfamiliar little white spores strewn across the soft pink gelatinous field. She drowns them in hydrogen peroxide and swears she can hear tiny screams. She washes her hands and is overcome with the urge to masturbate. Sarah begins to finger herself but can’t come. She washes her hands again and wears gloves for the rest of the day.



endmark





The clock in her car says it is 8:30. Sarah has been keeping her headlights on all day because this Alaskan sunset shit is getting ridiculous.



She looks and listens for the rabbits in the lawn and is surprised to see Maria heading up the walkway. Two rabbits follow behind her. Maria goes inside.



They’re supposed to be in the lawn, Sarah thinks. But instead of being in the lawn, the rabbits are at the door and look as if they’re waiting for someone to let them in. Maybe it’s the confusion with the light. Maybe it’s affecting them, too. Why didn’t they just go in when Maria opened the door? Were they waiting for her? What had she been doing for the last three hours?



Sarah honks the horn and the rabbits twitch and turn their heads. They blink or wink at her and the difference between the two is suddenly less obvious. She honks again, a couple in rapid succession, but the rabbits are content to just sniff. A few people begin yelling from their windows and somewhere, sounding just like boiling water, an eastern cottonwood releases its seed.



She’ll wait it out, she thinks, leaning back in her seat. The building looks big in the low red light.



endmark





“I think that new apartment will help,” Shannon would say and Sarah would think of all of the things she could throw away in a move. “Sarah? Won’t a new apartment help? I’ve heard of this place. That it is physically appealing and psychically stable to people with certain phobias. It might be good for you.”



“I’ve done some research.”



III



There is a banging on the passenger window and Sarah sits up quickly. Have I been asleep? A little boy stares in at her. It might be morning. I might have been sleeping.



“Let’s go,” she hears a voice say.



“Go where?” she wonders aloud. Where does this boy want to take her?



“Mom, there’s someone in here. She’s sleeping,” the boy says as he stares in at Sarah who is sitting up wide-eyed. As the boy’s small mouth puts a light fog on the window, Sarah finds something familiar in his breath.



“We’re gonna be late,” the other voice says.



The boy disappears. Sarah is soaked with sweat and she shudders as she leaves the car, heading inside to shower.



endmark





Coming back out, Sarah is so busy checking for rabbits again that she doesn’t see Maria standing there. Maria’s silhouette is dark against the sky and her elongated shadow points toward Sarah which, for a moment, shrinks the surrounding world and scares her more than anything she might say.



“Hey.”



“Hello,” Sarah says. She digs in her purse for her keys.



“They’re in your hand,” Maria says.



“Oh. Thanks.”



“How are you?”



“I’m. I’m good. Fine, I mean.”



“You wanna talk?”



“I really gotta get to work.”



“Really? Right now? Right this second?”



“So?”



“I thought I might, maybe?” Maria isn’t wearing a bra. She stands in silk shorts. Sarah remembers how strong Maria’s legs are.



“I’ve gotta go. I’ll be late.”



“What’s with the fruit basket?”



“You saw that?” They live on different floors.



“I think everyone has. I’m surprised no one threw it out. Why is it just sitting there? Who’s it from?”



“I don’t know really.”



“You don’t know.”



“No. I don’t.”



“Are you sure? Are you sure you’re okay?”



“Yeah, sorry. I just can’t be late for work.”



“No, it’s okay. Can I call you later? Stop by?”



“No. Maybe. Sometime,” Sarah says.



“Listen,” Maria says. “I know he fucked you up in the head with all that psycho babble shit. But he’s gone. For a while now, right? Sarah?”



Sarah doesn’t say anything. Neither of them do for about 3 minutes.



“Are you still thinking about moving? To that place? That cult place?” Maria says. “You know you’ll still be who you are. You’ll still have done the things you’ve done.”



Sarah twists up her face. It is none of Maria’s business and how does she know anyway. Sarah gets in her car, closes the door and leaves Maria standing there with her arms crossed, her shadow towering over. Sarah counts as she drives and is glad to find that it’s Thursday which means she’ll be alone at work.



endmark





“I come for your reports,” Dann says in an Austrian accent.



“Oh. Hello, Dann.”



“Don’t act so surprised. And how many times have I told you? Call me Dan. With one n. I know it’s got two, but a girl like you can get it done in one,” he says, winking. He’s funny if he wants to be.



“What day is it?”



“Seriously? I’m picking up reports aren’t I? It’s Friday.”



“Yeah,” she says. Is it?



“Are you ever coming back to the lunch room? They painted a mural of a bunch of mesenchymal and fetal cells or something on the wall.”



“They did? When?”



“Like last week I think? Bunch of red and muted sunset colors. Pretty cool actually,” Dann says. “I don’t know. Well, hey, I wanted to invite you tonight. Black Flagellum is playing at Truckie’s. Everyone’s coming out.”



“Your band.”



“Yeah, well. Cover band.”



“Right,” Sarah says. “I sort of have a lot going on.”



“Sarah, come on. We both know that’s not true,” Dann says, again winking. She wonders if his winking means something other than that he’s joking. Like that maybe he’s having a stroke. He touches his right cheek with two fingers and hunches his brow, looking vulnerable for a second, “Besides, you’ve never seen us play. We’re doing Damaged in its entirety.”



“I really, I can’t,” Sarah says.



“Seriously? You know everyone says you’re like...”



“What?”



“...and I try to defend you…”



“What? What is it?”



“That you’re just sort of cold. You know I don’t think so. I mean, I know you’re not. I just figured maybe it'd been long enough or whatever...”



Sarah starts looking around the room. She hears a fly, and she begins trying frantically to find it. It might land on her. It might contaminate a sample. How did it get in? The hum is growing.



“...it’d be good for you, I mean, to be seen...”



Sarah begins to get lightheaded and her breathing quickens. The fly is much closer now. She hears the hum, now a throb with each flap of the wings. She hears the frantic cricketing each time the fly lands and rubs its legs together—a furious sort of insect masturbation. She remembers the other day and blushes. When was that? Where is the fly?



“...with them or whatever but—” Dann stops suddenly and reaches for her shoulder. “Sarah? You okay?”



“I’ll do it,” Sarah says, pulling back quickly, her eyes closed. “But I have something to do first so I may be a little late.”



“Yeah? Hey, that’s cool. It might be late anyway. It will be. Sweet. I didn’t think,” Dann says. “Awesome. I’ll see you there?”



“Okay,” Sarah says. She immediately worries about her ability to judge situations and make decisions. Is everything destined to fail me? “Hey, Dann? What do you know about any larvae samples we’ve been working with?”



“Larvae? Doesn’t sound like us. That’s some entomologist shit or something,” Dann says. He takes the reports and leaves.



endmark





Later, at Truckie’s, Sarah feels surprisingly in control. Other than her car smelling like Maria on the way over and the sound of deer musk sighing warmly in her ear, things have been relatively bearable. It’s 10:30 but even the fact that it’s still light out doesn’t seem to bother her. Plus, Dann seems honestly excited that she’s there.



“Wow I really can’t believe you made it. We haven’t played yet. We’re up next,” Dann says. On stage, equipment is removed while other equipment is brought on. The house music is a dark, thrashing Reggaeton that Sarah thinks of as cannibalistic. “Come with me, and I’ll get you a drink. Everyone’s sitting over there,” Dann says and gestures, drink in hand, to a few tables pushed together near the stage where people from work sit, laughing, drinking, regular.



“Dann! Who’s this?” someone says as he pulls up next to them at the bar.



“Marty, Sarah. Sarah, Marty. We work together,” Dann says.



Marty turns to Sarah, “You work at that fucked up lab too? Dann always says he can’t tell me what’s going on there. Maybe I can get it out of you.”



“Marty’s like our unofficial roadie.”



“I’m like the glue of Black Flagellum,” Marty says. He wears a tight white dirty t-shirt and black jeans. His hair is black and his eyebrows thick, and he scratches his arms.



“Like the nexin in their microtubules?” Sarah says. Dann laughs and chokes on his drink a little.



“You didn’t tell me she was funny,” Marty says, not laughing.



“I didn’t know. I swear,” Dann says, holding his arms up as if he’s being robbed. “Good luck,” he says to Sarah. “I’ve gotta get ready.”



endmark





Black Flagellum is playing, and Sarah finds herself, against her better judgement, sitting at a booth with Marty. Other than a small nod, she won’t make it over to her coworkers, but that’s alright. She hasn’t heard anything odd all night.



“So tell me,” Marty says leaning into her. “What do you do at this secret lab?”



“It’s not much. I just count cells, really. Handle samples, record results.”



“You’re in the lab then?”



“Sort of? I’m in my own lab. Most of us have our own labs.”



“Like you’re all working on separate parts of a machine?” Marty says. He sips his drink then slips his left arm over her shoulder. “What if you’re all like, engineering a super virus and none of you know it because, like, tunnel vision?”



Sarah remembers the sample from the other day. Rabbit Larvae. The tiny screams and how sad they sounded individually but how threatening altogether. What was she doing with all of her time at the lab? Did she even know? Marty begins rubbing her shoulder.



“Hey, it’s okay. Look at me,” Marty says. He grabs her chin and turns her face to his. “You. Look.”



“I should go. I’m not really.”



“Not really what?” he says, looking all of a sudden angry.



“I’m sort of coming out of something.”



“Oh fuck,” Marty says. He laughs. “Are you that girl? You’re her, aren’t you? That girl who’s husband, like... He was your shrink? I heard he messed you up. He probably messed you up for real.”



Sarah starts squirming and as Black Flagellum tears into Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie a ticking starts in her ear. It’s in her head, she tells herself, but the ticking is steady and seems to be growing. She can’t figure it out. Why can’t I figure it out? Just then Marty leans closer and puts his right hand across her body, grabbing at her waist. He smells like sweat. That’s it, she thinks. It’s his sweat ticking, the sound of the beads forming.



“No. I’m, no,” Sarah says, trying to push back.



“Come on,” Marty says, kissing at her neck. “The bad doctor is gone now. Time to be a big girl and get over it. Your husband’s gone. You’re all alone, and Dann says you’re a great fuck.”



Marty shoves his hand down the front of her pants and crushes his mouth to hers. Just then the singer screams, nothing to do but shoot my mouth off, and everything is red. The ticking grows, gimmie gimmie gimmie, and the same mud red light of the low sun seems to be inside Truckie’s now, I need some more, it’s all over Sarah’s mouth and neck, gimmie gimmie gimmie, all over her teeth, don’t ask what for.



“The fuck,” Marty screams. “Fucking dyke.” He holds his fingers over his lips, blood flecking through.



endmark





At her door now, a weeping Sarah trips over the fruit basket and is sent to her knees in the hallway. The cellophane comes undone and tiny flies begin to emerge from the overturned basket. They make the most terrible noise. The grinding moan of the dead. She gathers it all up and heads to the dumpster while that ball of light, that goddamn sun, hangs in front of her burning up the entire sky, keeping Marty’s blood warm, down her chin and neck, on her lips. Her tears are thick as sealing wax making her eyes and lashes so heavy. She heaves the basket and all of its oversweet scents over the edge and into the mess where the world awaits it.



IV



The next morning Sarah tries to call off work but the voicemail system answers. It must be Saturday. She has messages from Dann but forget checking them. The day or night or whatever it is sits on Sarah’s chest, red and heavy and wet, and she spends her morning prone.



There is a knock at the door. Sarah trudges over and sees Maria through the peephole.



“Sarah? Is that you? I can hear you.”



Sarah slowly pulls back the door, opening it though she doesn’t want to.



“You look,” Maria says, “like shit. Is that lipstick smeared on your face? Where’d the fruit basket go?”



Suddenly Sarah remembers the night before and the basket and feels like she’s lost something.



“Maria. I want to,” Sarah starts. “You need to stop bothering me.”



“Bothering you?”



“Yeah like waiting at my car, coming to my door. What happened was a mistake.”



“I don’t get it,” Maria says. “Happened? What do you mean happened?”



“I’m fine,” Sarah says, not hearing her. “I’ll see Shannon next week and I’ll be, he’ll tell me what to do. It’s fine.”



“What are you saying? Why are you saying that?”



“Yeah he’s got me. I’ll be fine.”



“Do you hear yourself?” Maria says. “He fucked you up and now you’re talking about what? Going back to him? He left you. You’re out and we’re out and it’s better. It’s all better.”



“He left?” Sarah says. Shit, he did leave.



“What the fuck, Sarah? What’s going on with you?”



Sarah slams the door and locks it. Maria continues to pound on the door and yell for Sarah, yell about love. A few neighbors stick their heads out of their doorways to weigh in. Sarah lays down on the floor to let the day go back to sitting on her chest but instead the light outside brightens and the sun seems to rise on her apartment alone. The inside is shaking with fire, the only sound a ringing in her ears, a culmination of life and light that almost paralyzes her completely.



endmark





There is another knock on the door and a shuffle. Sarah claws her way up, looks through the peephole and sees the boy from the other day. She watches him as he stands patiently with his hands behind his back, holding something. After a second he kneels down and briefly Sarah can’t see him. She tries her best to look up and down the hallway but doesn’t see anything. She turns her back to the door and slumps down against it. Suddenly she hears the boy giggle and run off down the hall.



Sarah crawls to her bathroom to look in the mirror, thinking she won’t, hoping she doesn’t, see herself. But there she is.



endmark





Hours later and Sarah lays sweating. She can think of nothing else but the fruit basket rotting, the reds running. She keeps looking to the ceiling for the illusion of cellular movement that used to appear in the faux finish back when she was familiar with sleep but it’s so goddamn bright in here. She used to count the cells in the ceiling, separate them in her mind and continue until she found it hard to be specific, her ratios becoming too general. That’s how she would know she was dreaming. But the cells won’t come tonight. Today. Whatever hell this is. They hadn’t come in weeks it seems. Instead she is awake listening to the full hum of the burning light until she starts to hear the hushed crinkling of plastic behind her front door.



It takes all she has to get up. She blinks her glazed eyes and looks through the peephole to see a rabbit sniffing the fruit basket which is back in the same spot it had occupied all week. She starts to panic and feels sick. Where did it come from? Who let the rabbit in?



Her palm, dripping, holds the knob. There is no noise beside the light and the crinkling. She opens the front door. The rabbit is there sniffing at the fruit basket, pushing into the wet cellophane with its paws. It stops and looks to Sarah, then rears up slightly on its hind feet, pursing its lips into a gentle O. Sarah stares into the cavern wishing the hole would fix her. The noise from the rabbit’s mouth is like fluorescent overheads compressed and blown out, a sharp and dissonant tritone until, still on its haunches, the rabbit’s sound begins to descend and arrives at a gentle coo.



What do you mean? What is that?



Let’s go.



Go where?



There’s someone in here. She’s sleeping.



Who is sleeping?



You, the rabbit says. We’re gonna be late. The rabbit smiles before going back down on all fours. It looks animal again, absent, and darts away down the hall.



endmark





“I just don’t want you to stay in a position where you don’t have room for growth. Where your problems are amplified rather than diminished. If you don’t isolate yourself, well…”



“Why not just try painting the apartment? There are some wonderful blues now,” she would tell Shannon. But this would make her sad. “I don’t know if I’m real, Shannon. And I think I love you but I don’t know if that’s real either.”



“That’s why you’re here. With me. Make the phone call.”



V



Sarah makes the phone call. The clock says 2:00, but which one she can’t say.



“Yes, this is Sarah. I was there the other day.”



“Yes,” the unit manager says. “You may.”



“I’m sorry?”



“It’s ready for you. Your new apartment. Are you still carrying on?”



“No. But I’ve only—”



“Well then. Most people come at this time. Like I said, we’re filling up fast. But we’ve been waiting for you.”



She begins to pack her things and in the passage of time it all dies down. The sun like some demon cloud lowers from the finally night sky. The darkness coming on isn’t the regular darkness. No ill-lit moon, no starry sky. Only the darkness of absolute consumption. As if what was really missing was not the perception nor the source of light, but rather the faculty of the eye that allows perception. Even deeper, the faculty of the brain in its entirety. And now the soil moves deep with microbes and grubs, the worm and the bird, the light and the shade and the grass and the mice, the rats and the rabbits and the flora and the fawns and the children and the monsters which selfishly shift their bodies through the sloughing night and the things that come alive only in lies and the ever-dawning promise of biological reproduction and people populating the spinning earth, and Sarah alive amongst the complex system of everliving everything, but she doesn’t hear it. The night finally carries her inside of it. Together they huddle and weave through the finally dark in one heaving mass, inhalation and exhalation, the chest of the world rising to meet them as they begin their fall, the unit manager on arrival only saying, Here are your keys. I’ve vacuum-sealed them in non-permeable disenfranchised illuminable plastic but please don’t take them from my hand. I’ll leave them in boiling water for you. You’re going to need tongs.



endmark





And then there is peace. A period of quiet and dark that can only be described as sleep.



VI



Sarah awakens, sure that darkness is returned, that the sounds have stopped. Sure because she left it all behind. Sure because she slept. But that feeling of opening your eyes in a new place, that second where you wonder where you are, when you don’t know, that free fall of a second, won’t go away. And instead of the bright white ceiling she’s anticipating, she sees a high red dome, moist and wet. She puts her hands to her face and closes her eyes, rubbing them, but her fists move too smoothly overtop of her eyelids, smearing dark honey. She pushes herself up, her hands sinking through to her elbows in the mush below, the surface wanting to hold her down, her hair matted to her head. She catches the smell. An oversweet ripeness rank in her nose, bitter at the back of her throat. She looks around to see round beds of broken flesh, ashen with mold and the bubbling syrup of neglected sugar. Each bed a rotted fruit and amongst them all she lay, all so dark and gone now that she can’t tell plum from cherry, apple from orange. She hears the anxious biting skitter of the invisible life crawling around her hands as she holds them up in front of her face and watches them drip. Looking up she sees the flies as they circle her like buzzards, they’re humming an awful motor, everything a permanent red and it hits her. She looks out and through the crinkled and wet wall she sees the rabbit, each of its eyes the size of her body. She screams. The rabbit looks like it’s reading the card. She screams to it but it can’t hear her. Go where? Where am I going?



   
   

 

endmark



Jon Conley is a writer and musician in Cleveland where he is a professor of composition. His work can be found or is forthcoming at places like Hobart and Bending Genres. Find him online @beachstav.



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