fiction

elastic phantasm

jellygirl

collage by Deger Bakir

Kate and I were the only ones on the beach. The rains were over but the sky was still gray and people were afraid to come out. Even the seagulls stayed high and landed in the beach grass out of sight.

I asked Kate to take off her shawl and she walked with it trailing behind her in the wind.

We had walked for over a mile when we came upon what looked like writing in the sand. The letters were too long to read and I tried to pull Kate along as if I hadn’t noticed them. Kate stopped and clapped her hands together. I kept walking but she pulled on my arm.

I was back in a dream I had the night before: I was on a beach, the sand was silver and the waves that crashed on the shore were a grown man’s height. I was staring at a jellyfish that had been dumped on the sand beside me. I had the urge to stomp on it, the way we tortured beached stingrays, fish, and sea urchins when I was a kid. But the jellyfish grew luminous at its core and a kaleidoscope of colors burst like fireworks trapped in a glass jar. This was the jellyfish’s brain, and these creatures were smarter than I was. Smarter than Kate and everyone else. The jellyfish shivered like it was cold and I could swear that it inched closer. I was afraid of what it might take from me.

I thought the dream was over, but now Kate was there, too, and it was real and there would be no waking up safe and sweating and snuggling against Kate.

I heard Kate reading aloud the words dug into the sand: “It’s happening.”

Kate looked at me and laughed. She was never afraid of anything and I knew it would be bad for her in the end. I had to protect her from my dream, from the jellyfish and everything else. I thought I might be able to carry on as if the dream wasn’t absorbing us. Then Kate said, “What’s happening, do you think?”

“What?” I asked.

She pointed to the letters. I forgot myself and looked where she pointed and read the jagged message. “Ah. Fuck,” I said. I felt the sand sinking down around us. I was there beside her. I was somewhere else. The sky was black and the clouds were gone and I dragged a stick along the sand. I was cold and I was sweating. I wrote. I was lost at sea.

Then I felt Kate’s flesh on my flesh. We were moving. She had hooked her arm around me and she was talking again. It was a gray day at the beach. We didn’t walk but we took steps and after a while we left the prophecy behind us. The seagulls flew a little lower and I felt comforted in spite of myself.

I continued to scheme in my mind. In a war like this the only thing we had was subterfuge and surprise.

A collaboration between Gordon Flanders and myself.

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