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jellyfish review

Life, Without
Fiction
Jellyfish Review

It’s the eighth time and by now I’m used to it. The slicing, the hope, the pain. I look down, but not at my abdomen, at the gaping hole, the emptiness. I look only at him, watch his kind face as he burrows in deep, gently lifts another seed from the collection and cradles it in his palms. He stares at it for a long time before he plants it in my belly, before he covers it in dirt and sews me up.

And it begins again: the sucking down of water until I choke, the soft voice and smiles and sounds of assurance. The old wives’ tales and nutrient-enriched food. The must-move-with-care. This is always the time he loves most. This is when he can show me pictures of the perfect planter pot and talk about a house with more light than the one we’re in now. This is when we spend hours talking about the possibilities of roses and daffodils and cacti and elm trees. This is when it’s safe to laugh when something’s funny. This is when it’s safe to be happy.

But he doesn’t know what I know. He doesn’t know that nothing has sprouted, that there are no roots. He doesn’t know that inside me it’s a desert, that how much water I drink and what type of food I eat is irrelevant. None of it matters. There is no life here.

It’s something in his eyes, though, that prevents me from telling him. It’s in the corners of his mouth when he smiles and in the very tips of his fingers as he grazes them across my skin. I’ve never seen anyone want anything so bad. That’s why I keep my mouth shut and smile when he tells me daylilies are his favorite but that he knows I love peonies. That’s why I’ve let him make a mess of my body over and over again, why I’ve gotten so used to it all that I can remove my own stitches without a second thought.

My grandmother always said lilies were only for funerals.

At night, when he crawls into bed beside me and pulls the blankets up real high, I close my eyes tight and will myself to breathe in slow. And when he whispers his words of hope and tells me how beautiful I am, his fingers tracing the lines of my scars, I do my best not to let him hear me cry.

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Ghost Town
Fiction
Cheap Pop

There’s a city inside me. It sits deep down in my belly wrapped in high pink walls. The people who live there, they all moved in slowly, one-by-one, beginning with just a single person so long ago. Back then it was quiet, peaceful, but now there’s so much movement that it keeps me awake. Now there are so many people I’ve stopped counting, and they’ve built houses and buildings and skyscrapers so tall that they poke into my lungs until it hurts every time I breathe in.

The people inside me, they’ve taken over.

They swim in rivers of bottled water and build swings from spaghetti and kick blueberries around like soccer balls. And they’ve planted trees now too. I felt the roots digging into my abdomen shortly after I accidentally swallowed an apple seed.

I’ve watched them grow up inside me, each and every one of them. I’ve seen children turn into doctors and teachers, neighbors fall in love and have families of their own, little carbon copies with green eyes and curly hair. I can feel the spinning tires of dirt bikes and the vibrating hum of cars stuck in morning traffic. I feel my insides wringing out with warm welcomes and difficult goodbyes.

There’s so much life in this city they’ve built. But still, they sleep with their suitcases packed, ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

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What We’re Left With
Fiction
Popshot Magazine

When my mother tells me to do something, I do it. No questions asked, just like she says.

That’s why I was with her when the doctor told her it wasn’t just the beginning stages anymore and that it was only a matter of time before her memories would slip through her fingers like sand. That’s why I didn’t say a word to her about it the whole way home as I watched her jaw clench over and over again. That’s why, when I was about to get out of the car and she grabbed my wrist tight enough to leave a bracelet and said “You need to save them. All of them,” I said okay.

I’m standing on a plastic sheet spread over the good rug and my mother is sitting in front of me on an old wooden chair. One she didn’t mind getting dirty, she said. There’s a box at my feet, one with dividers all labelled by person and year, organized so that she’ll be able to find everything easily after this, run her fingers along the tabs and pull out whoever or whenever she wants.

She took something a little while ago, something she didn’t show me, swallowed it down with half a bottle of wine, and now she’s out cold. I soak her scalp in rubbing alcohol, lean her head back and place the edge of the scalpel against her skin, just inside her hairline like she showed me. So no one will see the scar, she said. I press just hard enough to see the first pop of blood and I pull back, hands on the back of her chair, leaning forward, breathing hard.

She told me to, I say over and over to myself. She told me to do it.

I suck in air and choke it down with the rest of the wine.

It isn’t the blood that scares me. It isn’t the separating of skin or the cracking of bone. What scares me is what I’ll find once I’m inside, what she’s kept hidden in the recesses of her mind. I’m scared of the things I’ll never be able to unsee.

I move fast, trying to keep the incision as straight as I can. She always liked everything neat. I lodge the tip into her skull and crack down on it with my palm. Once. Twice. Then I’m in, just like that, and I take a deep breath before I start extracting.

Through the soft tissue and firing synapses there’s an image of her, much younger. A Vegas wedding. Secret. Her in a denim skirt wearing a toothy smile. Him donning a tourist’s t-shirt with a camera strapped around his neck. Both of them filled with too much gin. I pull it out gently and place it in the box by my feet.

I see my brother, number 7, getting his first goal, her in the stands beneath a heater and knit blanket, 6:30am and so proud. Her voice hoarse from cheering.

A trip to the Dominican, ankle-deep in the ocean and the sun making her red hair shine.

Her laughing, her father humming, arms draped around each other, posing for the camera. Neither of them knowing it was the last time they’d dance together.

I dig each memory out one by one and file them all away. The box fills up, all sections but one quickly overfilling and spilling into the next.

I panic.

Desperation builds up inside me as I search the passageways of her brain for just one. Less gentle, more selfish. I start to wonder if any exist at all, if maybe she’s already forgotten me completely, and then I find mine, an entire corner for only me, and it’s everything I’m afraid of.

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Boo
Fiction
Corvus Review

There’s a monster in your room and you can’t fight it anymore – you know he’s there.

It will start in the closet, small noises keeping you awake at night, an uneasiness you can’t quite shake. You’ll see small flickers of him right before you turn the light on, too quick to know for sure. A shadow that suddenly disappears, one that could’ve just been the way you hung your shirt. The only evidence a scratch inside the door and the matted down carpet.

You’re always better safe than sorry. You’ll leave a chair propped up in front of the closet door, tell yourself it’s because you’re too lazy to drag it back to where it came from. But the problem is never the monster in your closet, hidden away behind your dresses and desperate to never be found out. The problem is when your monster can’t hide anymore, when it doesn’t want to. The problem is when you awake in the middle of the night, your closet door ajar and your monster growing more daring.

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Pieces Kept
Fiction
Cease, Cows!

I didn’t mean to, but I found them.

I wasn’t looking for them, didn’t even know they were there. I was just putting some of your clothes away, piling socks on top of t-shirts on top of pants in the closet, and there it was, the box. Just there behind all your hanging button-ups, a cardboard edge peeking out from beneath the hem of a sleeve as if the shirt were pointing to it.

Normally I would never have looked inside, would never have thought to. It’s tucked away but not hidden, intended to be benign enough in appearance that the eye just passes right over it, never giving it a second thought. But I swear I can hear something coming from inside it, a faint noise like the quiet, rhythmic beating of a drum.

When I reach down to drag it from the shadows, I feel it. That boom of a bass, echoing against my palms, the kind that crawls across your skin, the kind you can feel shaking your ribs. I open it—I have to—and there they are. Every single one you’d ever been given, these hearts all side-by-side, all stored away like childhood photos or clothes that no longer fit.

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Second Thoughts
Fiction
The Quotable Magazine

QuotableIt’s not until the fourth or fifth time that I finally realize something’s wrong.

I walk through our front door and am immediately greeted by green walls. “Mint,” my wife says, knowing I wouldn’t identify the correct shade on my own. The walls had been blue when I left that morning. And lilac and grey and beige before that.

“What do you think?” she asks, kissing me on the cheek and beaming as her eyes bounce from me to her new project and back again. Maybe this is it, I think. She looks happy; maybe this is the last time.

“I love it,” I say. “It’s the best one yet, for sure.” I smile wide with my teeth to hide the fact that I’d say anything at this point to get her to stop. She smiles back.

“Oh, thank God!” she says. “I was worried you’d hate it. But I think it’ll go great with those yellow chairs.”

“Definitely. And now we can finally put all our frames up.”

By now she’s shuffling me over to the table where dinner is waiting. She dishes veggies onto my plate as she tells me about her trip to the hardware store in search of the perfect color to drench our new apartment in. I laugh when it’s appropriate, smile and nod and feign shock, but my eyes keep darting toward the very impressive pyramid of paint cans taking up residence on our balcony. One, two, three, four, I count. Five. Five cans of paint. Five different colors in just a week.

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