The Occupant

The clock is ticking fast-motion superspeed and someone scratches down numbers. Seconds skateboard past my sopping feet kicking the amniotic goop swallowing my underside.

A machine sucks me up.

Open my eyes and I am small. Big pupils look down at me. There is a checkered blanket on a grass patch and we are together, but I am fire alarm frantic and the ants are marching. A hand clasps mine. I peel my fingers out of the grip. Run to the nearest patch of flowers. Lilies sprout alone, looking like weeping nonnas. They save me from withering away, and I know we all are, but I just got here.

We go to school and the whole place is crumbling to the ground. You say it’s all falling apart. I stare at rubble and bricks tumbling from the sky. Rainclouds surfing along. Bolts of electricity surge in my head.

“The tornadoes are going on a voyage,” a voice bellows from anywhere.

We rush home and the wooden fence starts toppling like domino boards. I panic that the dogs will escape. It looks like teeth out there.

Everyone burrows underground. Poodles are fluffing their top knots beside mountains of books outside. I go out to gather them—the ripped-up pages, the words, the dogs, the geography. Coffins shout out loud about swallowing something in their jaws.

Some people spit out from the sky. They don’t know what they’ve done. Scraps and ruins and headstones grow legs and run amok, even the books are sick. Two sets of twin third-graders traipse over with lollipops in their mouths, unfazed by disease flying through the air. They say nothing will harm them, that they can survive mortality.

Who told them that? Where are we supposed to go? Why won’t they tell us where to eject crash land this thing like in the sleepy pamphlets with emergency exit illustrations?

I yawn and fall over, dent my head on the teeth. Stretch out my hands and my boyfriend catches them like he always does, his face scratching against mine. It wakes up my skin.

We are all this close to jumping off a building, I tell him. I think I’m fading away. My fingers are sad. The girl sinking into the ground stares at me. I tell her to look away, but she can’t, she says, there is nowhere left to look.

Three or thirty-three thousand moons go up and down in the sky. We get in a town car. The wheel is losing air. Road missing chunks. The driver is asleep. He turns and laughs at me in the mirror, dumps us in a crack in the road.

We walk along the beach. A pelican swoops to the shore and starts smashing his head against the sand. The circuits are bleeding. Why have they all given up? Is the system crashing? Where is the captain of this ship? Have we ever had anything?

Ears ringing now. Pick myself up, strain to hear. Listen, wait, hush now, quiet! The ticks of my dead wristwatch sound like banging cymbals, then all at once fall silent.

A radiance fills the sky. Thunderous applause. My name is called. I do an about-face. Everyone is drumming on the hollowness, vanishing all gone and birthed back to nowhere.

I’m covered in blinking lights, going blank, and blanker.

BELICIA RHEA was born under a waning crescent moon in the Sonoran Desert. Her work spans genres, often leaning dark. She writes short and long form, prose and poetry, and the spaces in-between.