049. One Last Kiss of Sun. Jeff Ronan


Every day I dream of the sun.


Sometimes, I’m on a cool, endless plain suspended in air, the bloody fingernail peeking over, flooding me with heat. Other times, I’m buried within the wet earth then push-push-push, slowly sprouting towards her light. Or I’m forever falling, suspended between planet and star, spinning – whirling – faster and faster as the flames lick my bleached bones clean. Always different. Always wonderfully, deliciously final.



Whichever you blame, no one has seen her through the dead leaf sky in over a century. Most people have never seen her at all, except in pictures and videos. But I, of course, am not most people.


The first time I worked up the courage, I forced myself to wait until noon. I crept out of my cave, papery flesh stretching and snapping back with each step. A gaunt nightmare of muscle and tendon. How long did I death march through the shade before I finally realized she was gone, the sky replaced by a muddy canvas, stretched taut? How long had I stood there, translucent eyelids blinking dumbly? How long had she been gone, without me even noticing that she’d left?


I’ve drowned.

I’ve starved.

Even self-immolated, the closest I’d felt to her in ages.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve not died.


When you don’t need to breathe, you’d be amazed at the places you can hide. Twenty identical containers, nestled together like fat robins under a rain-swept awning. I didn’t worry when they cracked mine open. I knew they couldn’t see me, buried deep within the grain.


I remained frozen, even after we were loaded onto the ship. How long had I waited? Decades? Centuries? I could wait a bit longer. Ten months until we reach the colony. Ten months until I could feel her again, one last time.


The last time I saw her, walking back home to my cottage against the setting sun, I’d shielded my eyes from her glare. Soon I would welcome her like the old friend she is, inviting her embrace to devour me whole.


Everything starts shaking, and I can hear a booming voice begin the countdown. I slide within the grain as the world reverberates through me.


See you soon, old friend.


048. Below the East River. Karen Schauber

We submerge below the East River in a deep dive connecting Brooklyn with Manhattan, the subway car agitating like a front-load washer. En route, I hold my breath trying for the full three miles—a test of my endurance and prowess. My lungs ballooning a little more each trip. I imagine I’m a brilliant artist inflating a polychloroprene poodle, yesterday it was a two-headed giraffe, tomorrow is still a surprise. It helps to pass the time, eccentric, maybe, but I’d rather conjure an interior circus mêlée then confront the crazies that travel this route. It’s jam-packed when the glass doors slide open and she sashays in. I inhale sharp, my heart pounding like pistons. Squeezing my eyes narrow, I effect a chiaroscuro haze. She is awash in dreamy grey tones of a Chinese watercolour landscape, her body curving like a willow. The connective tissue between morning and afternoon, now and then, her world and mine, almost tethered. I suck in deeper, holding my pose like Polykleitos’ Doryphoros, my hand going alabaster white as it grips the centre pole. She inches nearer as the car lurches forward and sideways in its tracks. We stand close like barnacles. I can smell hints of pink iris, white peony, fluffy musk, and jacaranda wood. Her fingertips lightly brush soft fallen bangs from across her eyes. We almost touch—every little thing she does is magic— every little thing is more than I deserve. She’s traveling without her guard dogs; the boys in skinny jeans, bare ankles and burgundy loafers. It’s my moment. I wonder if she sees me—artist extraordinaire, auburn corkscrew hair, clad in biodegradable Qualatex. I start to mouth hi except my lips cave like Xylocaine from full-on dental work. I’ve tried before to tell her of my feelings, but I lose my nerve as I have right from the start; my menagerie of inflatables taking up all the precious space between us. It’s mile two, and the time in between the seconds is shrinking. My breath is on the edge of collapse, ocular veins bulging from lack of 𝑂2. Mid-town coming up fast, and my stomach screams fail as I watch her slip away —and all I do is e-x-h-a-l-e; my veneer collapsing into a dysmorphic Francis Bacon portraiture.