Monday, December 8, 2014

Happy Birthday Christie Rose!!!!!

The Rose Garden

There are roses everywhere and I am dizzy with their fragrance. The ground is dark, uneven, obscured by fallen petals. I constantly trip over little bumps and slip on loose rocks. Thorny branches surround me. I am trapped, bewildered, in a prison of sweetness and beauty.

After about an hour a flock of blue-winged butterflies swoops into my fragrant thorny cell. They land on the flowers, exactly one butterfly for each bloom. This is always when I realize it isn’t real. Not because of the impossible numerical perfection, that always strikes me as appropriate. It’s the butterflies themselves. In that place I don’t remember who I am, where I came from, how I got there. But somehow I remember that there are no butterflies with that brilliant indigo color where I’m from. It’s jarring, so I start to feel suspicious and wonder whether I could be dreaming. At that point it always kicks me out, I guess. Or maybe my brain rejects the program or whatever it is.

I would do anything to stay there. I don’t even know what it is, just something that started happening to me a while ago. Like I said, I can’t really remember anything when I’m there. But I feel like there’s something really important about that place, like everything that happens there matters in a way it never could anywhere else, if there is anywhere else.

I never know when it’ll happen. It just takes me, from sleep or work or the middle of a conversation. When I wake up and return to the real world no time has passed but I feel older. The scent of apricot roses and the sweet sting of my arms covered in thorn scratches linger for a few seconds. When they go and I am simply me again, the stolid unforgiving world seems to curl around me like the lead bibs dentists make you wear when they take x-rays of your teeth. A few folks have asked me in hushed voices if I’m okay. I guess I don’t look okay. I think maybe I never was, but I never really acknowledged it until I was brought to that place.

I don’t remember thinking it over or anything, but at some point I started to assume I was being brought there. I would ask myself what I’m supposed to do, what does she want me to do? I also assume whoever is taking me to that place is female. Maybe they’re aliens, testing me to see whether they should make contact, searching me out for some quality I can’t even imagine. Or maybe a ghost is following me, using my brain to re-live her most poignant memories. It’s all speculation. I wish I knew what I’m supposed to do there. But even if I did I’d forget as soon as I arrived.

Then I’m back. The sky here is smoky, a dull magenta. It looks like velvet. I’ve never noticed that before. The circle of space where I can walk is quite small, five steps across. I examine a few flowers. The apricot ones smell so strong I think I might drown if I take a deep breath of one. The reds glisten like blood when it first wells out of a cut, somehow both bright and dark. I wonder, idly, whether the red ones would stain my clothes. I know I’m wearing clothes but I don’t know what they look like. The purple flowers are my favorite. When I lean in close they have a faint tropical smell, like ripe mangoes. The petals look like they’re constructed of spider silk, layers and layers of woven glittering thread. I know just how they would feel brushing against my cheeks and over my eyelids. Their soft rasping makes me shiver so I crave extravagance, a bathtub full of purple rose petals to lie in, a river of petals to drown in, an ocean so I could fall and fall and disappear and never touch land again.

The butterflies are here. I swear they’re made of sapphires and onyx. I coax one onto my hand for a moment and its tiny feet leave pinpricks that bleed. I feel myself starting to wonder where I am, with butterflies like these. But the six tiny drops of welling blood distract me, and I remember that I am not supposed to wonder that. Instead, I fall into a purple blossom so dark it is nearly black. The butterflies go. I feel like I’ve done something important.

I notice an opening in the thorny branches, a tunnel really. I don’t really want to leave the garden but I’m curious. I start climbing through. Right away my clothes get caught on thorns. They tear away like tissue paper. The tunnel I crawl through has no end that I can see. Toothy green branches lined with bright blooms surround me, pressing in. The tunnel gets narrower and narrower. My skin falls away under the thorns like my clothes did. I have only one thought, one desire: Forward.

The perfume drowns me and the thorns cut and scratch so I am like a stone being tumbled, abraded until every shining inch of me is glass smooth and every lie and meanness and selfish act are jewels that can never be hidden. The multicolored webs and speckles of imperfection become beautiful on my burnished surface. I feel I might be close to understanding something important, but I’m not sure what.

Then I am out. I stand and start to turn, to see the garden and perhaps watch the butterflies come back, when movement catches my eye. A turtle is making its slow way somewhere. It travels away from the garden, so I follow it. I do not look back.

I walk alongside the turtle, wanting to pretend I have some control over where we are going. When I pull ahead a step, the turtle stops. Its dark green head swivels to regard me. I think it would stay there forever if I didn’t back up and let it lead. I am impatient, but I step back and it resumes its dripping-molasses pace.

The land here is grey and hilly, with spiky dark green plants growing here and there. The sky is the pale luminous grey of a clear sky in a black and white movie. Small black shapes sometimes circle high above. Occasional soft breezes pass over and through me, smelling of cinnamon and black pepper.

I have no idea how long we have walked. We reach a bridge spanning a deep ravine. The turtle stops in the middle and looks at me. I peer over the railing and see a snake of bright blue water far below. The river speaks to me, “Come to me, my love.”

I say, “I don’t deserve you. You know I don’t.” It is easy to be honest here. She answers, “Of course you don’t deserve me. No one ever deserves anyone, ever. But we do our best, don’t we? We choose the ones we’ll love. It has nothing to do with deserving.”

I want to look at the turtle. I want to finish crossing the bridge, or go back to that beautiful garden, or wake up to discover it was just a dream. But I don’t do any of those things. I jump.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Happy Birthday Eli!!!

The Secret Life of Toril the Cricket

Toril likes to ride trains.
Not inside,
they’d never let a cricket on
without a ticket.
And anyway crickets don’t have money.
Toril rides on top.
The wind, like a hungry bird, tries
to pluck Toril from the scratchy silver roof
of the dining car.
The people eating in there have no idea
of the magnificence just over their heads.
Crickets are really good at holding on,
so the wind stays hungry
and settles for licking instead of biting.
Toril sings the way boy crickets sing.
He chooses the way girl crickets choose.
Other crickets never know what to do with her.
Toril doesn’t care about boys or girls,
ze only wants movement, wind,
and scratchy silver to cling to.
Once riding through a city Toril saw cats on rooftops, dozens,
watching the sun set like silent monks.
Once riding through the country Toril saw cows lined up, marching in a sea of tall grass,
and, perched behind their leader’s ears, a hundred butterflies like a lion’s mane.


   The day the power went out
and every shallow grave yielded up its ghosts, starving and crazy from their long isolation-

   And all the trees that lined suburban streets
pulled up their roots and tore down the strip malls
and used dead cars as roller skates, to play on the empty highways-

   And all the people of Atlantis climbed out of the sea to ask why we stopped searching for them,
why we let the fish have them
why we didn't try-

   And the clouds finally landed to judge us,
now that the experiment was over-

   And everyone fell in love with everyone else
and could only say, "I'm sorry. I didn't know."-

   On that day we didn't notice any of it
because we were alone in your apartment with the t.v. on
and we were already in love.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Long Winter

The ice nearly caught us, soaked as we were from the gentle rain. We had thought to get out of the city, find some place safer, maybe a cabin in the woods upstate somewhere. Just someplace to hole up where we could cut enough firewood to stay warm until the food ran out.

The temperature had dropped suddenly the way it does nowadays, a hundred degrees or more in a couple minutes. With everything being wet it was ice everywhere. When the temperature falls that fast all the moisture doesn’t have time to turn into pretty snowflakes. The air seems to freeze and shatter. The noise is incredible. Of course you can’t see either. We ran, holding hands so we wouldn’t lose each other, clumsy in all the layers of wool and cordura and nylon and spandex. We were lucky- we found an unlocked door and tumbled in. Someone slammed the door shut behind us. There was a pretty little patch of frost on the carpet by the door. And it was warm, at least enough to strip down to two sweaters and just one pair of pants- real luxury.

Seven of us stayed in that abandoned restaurant while the cold outside got worse and worse. It seemed like this was really it. We had a generator and plenty of fuel to run the electric space heater. We huddled around it in the dark and told stories like cavemen.

Theresa, who was fifty-one and had been a children’s book illustrator, went out once to see if she could find some more food and fuel. When she came back the door had iced over and we couldn’t get it open. We could just barely hear her crying if we pressed our ears to the door. Even though the cold burned our ears we took turns listening until she stopped. It was all we could do.
A week later the fuel for the generator started to gel from the cold, even with the space heater turned up all the way. Elliot stripped down and curled his body around the last two cans of gas. Elliot  was seventeen and had wanted to go to medical school to be an oncologist ever since his cousin survived breast cancer a few years ago. We covered Elliot and the gas cans with every tablecloth in the restaurant. We all took turns giving our body heat to the gas cans. After two days they froze solid in the thirty seconds it took to switch. There was nothing we could do.

We bundled up with every bit of fabric we could find and huddled tight together, like penguins. We had all said everything we could think of to say days ago, so we lay in a pile and watched the frost creep over our clothes until there was nothing to see but white.

Monday, October 27, 2014

I Beside E

We want to create safety, you and I
out of silly string
a cocoon to keep the world at bay
armored with plastic heart-shaped confetti

We want to make music
so we turn our ribs into wind chimes
and hold our breath
and wait for a breeze

We want to be close to each other
so we swap clothes
and sniff our shirts when no one’s looking
trade glances across crowded rooms
and walk so close our elbows almost touch

We don’t know what we want
just that the wanting gives us hollow, hungry eyes
so we scurry like mice for the crumbs
of the feast we know must be happening somewhere

We burst like overfull wineskins, crying
“Stitch me up and fill me again! Those rubies on the ground are nothing. I’ll pour you a vintage that will turn your tears to diamonds and make emeralds drip out your nose!”

The only cure for our ravings is to make our fingers into needles and start stitching
No one else understands what this is like
God help them if they ever try

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Worst DMV Trip Ever

I waited in the car while Jen registered her car. The DMV always freaks me out and I end up having to run outside to calm down anyway, so why even go in? Jen didn’t need support from me or anything, she’s great at Doing Things and Being a Person. I was listening to an Iron & Wine CD. They’re kind of like Moby Dick for me, because they’re so lovely and sad but I just can’t stay awake more than a few minutes. So I guess I fell asleep. I wasn’t woken up by Jen, giving me a gentle shake and a fond, slightly patronizing smile. It was dogs barking, lots of them and really close. I’m a little bit scared of dogs, especially when they bark or move or look at me, so first thing I made sure the doors were locked and the windows were only open a little.

I looked out the passenger window and saw them, a whole big pack fighting over some dead animal or something right by the entrance to the DMV. I squeaked- I do that when I’m scared, it’s kind of embarrassing and really pretty stupid because of course the dogs all looked up and trotted over with their tongues hanging out, making those cute dog faces. As if I was gonna get out of the car to pet them, the deceptive little monsters. Now that the dogs weren’t surrounding it I could see what they’d been fighting over. It looked like a bunch of ripped fabric and bones. As the dogs reached my car I slid down in my seat so I wouldn’t be able to see them, but I could hear their claws clicking and squeaking all over the car. Just breathe, I thought. They’re only curious. They’ll leave soon. What was taking Jen so long?

Then a big one hopped up onto the hood. That was when I noticed the sky. It was this incredible luminous violet, like neon lights, except I think argon is the one that makes purple. There were no clouds. It was bright as day but I couldn’t see the sun anywhere. Really looking around now I could see that the DMV was sagging and leaning to one side. Only a few windows still had glass in them. The grocery store across the street was completely gone, the road too. But the traffic light still hung in the air with its one glowing red eye. No wires, it was just floating I guess. I said, “A-ha! I’m dreaming!” I felt so relieved. I looked up at the dog on the hood and said, “Go away! You’re not real!” The dog tilted its head sideways and blinked at me and said, “How do you know you’re not the one who isn’t real?” It sounded like it had been breathing helium. I think helium fluoresces orange.

“Are you gonna eat me?” I asked.

“Only if we catch you,” the dog answered with a goofy dog grin.

Well, I thought, if I’m trapped in a surreal nightmare I may as well look around a bit more.

“It’s not a nightmare. Not literally anyway.” The dog said. Shouldn’t a telepathic talking dog say sweet, reassuring things?

“So if its not a nightmare what’s going on? What happened? Why am I here?” I admit I sounded a bit hysterical.

“You know, hysterical is a totally misogynistic term, you really shouldn’t use it. And I don’t know the answers to any of your questions. I’m just a dog, lady. So, you gettin’ outta the car any time soon?”

I looked around at the jagged outlines of mostly destroyed buildings in the distance, the grey ash that covered the ground in drifts like snow, the unearthly violet sky, the total lack of any sign of any other human anywhere, and the pack of dogs sitting in a circle around my rusty crumbling ‘91 Toyota Crown. I said, “No, I don’t think I am.”

Thursday, September 11, 2014


We walked along the trail, when we came upon the pool of water that reflected the future. The pool had been discovered twenty-four years ago by Paolo Cruz. He had looked a while and seen himself, grey-haired and alone, surrounded with bottles of mescal. He knew it was a true vision, he said, because one of the worms wore a rosary.
Straight away he gave up drinking and got married. He had seven anxious years hoping he’d escape his fate, to die alone and pickled. Then his wife Maria and her aunt and uncle died together when a small meteorite crashed through the windshield of Maria’s uncle’s car, sending it off a narrow cliffside road. They had been on their way to visit the distillery that Uncle Silvio had just bought, which passed to his only next of kin, Paolo. Paolo became quite wealthy but never remarried.
There were other, less famous stories, following a similar pattern. People came to learn their fate. Even when it seemed pleasant they tried to change it. Human nature, I suppose.
So we had come on a lark, foolish the way only young lovers can be, to see whether we’d be happy and still together in five or ten or twenty years. Standing at the edge, careful not to look yet, we were suddenly shy with each other. It felt a bit like a marriage proposal.
I said, “You go first.”
“No,” she said. “Together.”
So we looked while I wondered whether we saw the same future. We didn’t, of course. No two people ever do. Which doesn’t stop them from trying.
It’s been eleven years. The ending she saw came nine years ago. The reconciliation I saw hasn’t yet, but I’m hopeful. There are hundreds of us in town, drifting through the days all hollow-eyed, every moment centered on what we know will happen any moment now.
Two years ago a priest from the city came with a bulldozer and filled in the pond. He brought four men with guns but no one tried to stop him. Truly we were glad to see it go, yet yesterday my little sister said she saw our grandmother in the bathtub water where she should have seen herself.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

An Ill-Considered Journey, part 1

“Cross a bridge when you come to it.” People have always said that to me ‘cause I get so overwhelmed with everything, like bills and appointments and work and stuff like that. But every time I cross a bridge all I think about is jumping. I especially like highway overpasses, like to imagine a driver’s expression as my body slams into their windshield. The fantasy comforts me. I tell myself, “Not today. Probably tomorrow, but not today.” So mostly I avoid bridges as much as I can. Don’t care who’s grass is greener, you know? Unless it’s the kind you can smoke.
So how I ended up here is a total mystery.
The smoke and lightning monster with all the eyes and everything told me, “Walk fast, but not too fast. Don’t stomp your feet. Don’t look over the edge, and do not, no matter what you see or hear or feel, do not let go of the railing. If you do, you’ll fall, and it’s a very long way down.”
And I thought, “Really? Seven billion people in the world and you choose me to cross the highest scariest easiest-to-jump-off bridge in the world?” Or I guess between the worlds.
Anyway, it told me time was running out. Gotta have that ticking clock to drive the narrative and prevent my reconsidering or I’d never walk through that swirling fiery arch. Not only are they asking- really begging- me to walk across a bridge for them (and you know I have actually jumped a few times, into water not traffic, and obviously without success. It gets easier every time) but I have to do so in the midst of some lazily written cliche!
Anyway, the electric smoke monster was looking pretty desperate I think, so I went ahead and walked fast but not too fast through the arch and found myself on the bridge.
It was damp mossy stone under my feet, slippery as anything. The handrail was tarnished brass. “You’ve gotta be kidding me,” I muttered. I mean, they can’t even keep the railings polished on the trans-dimensional bridge between the worlds? Seems like kind of an important thing to keep up with… At least the sky didn’t disappoint. It was sheets of fire done in shifting colors, with I’m not even kidding glitter drifting down like snow. Some fell on my hands and clothes and stuff and I looked real close- it was definitely, positively glitter. It was mostly silver but a little of all the other colors too, even black. Then of course the weirdness started.
I came up on a great big wall made of interlocking wooden rocking horses. Their beady little eyes kept moving, looking me up and down. When I got close, maybe ten steps away, all these spidery things crawled out from somewhere and filled in all the spaces in the rocking horse wall. I think they had a lot more than eight legs though.
Anyway I didn’t slow down. It’s easy to not believe in something like that, and sure enough I passed right through it. It was just a hologram or something. After that one there was a cyborg T-rex with one glowing red eye (that one was my favorite), a huge fire-breathing octopus creature (purple of course), zombies, zombie elephants, and a dragon made entirely of rats. The rat dragon was pretty awesome too.
It was great to have all those distraction ‘cause it took my mind off wanting to jump off that bridge and find out what the heck I was crossing over.
After the rat dragon things were quiet for a few minutes. I tried to count glitter flakes and come up with all those color names that only artists and interior designers ever use, like ‘puce’ and ‘carmine’, to describe the fire sheets in the sky. Just trying to focus on something, anything, besides how easy it would be to just hop over the railing and be on my way out of all the bullshit and misery. It really was a losing battle, whenever I’m alone and run out of distractions I just get sucked into all that suicide stuff and this was no exception. But then I realized the fire sheets were getting a little thin and it was getting really cold. A few minutes later I was shivering and I could see my breath and the sky was clear and full of stars, huge stars like pinwheels. You could see them slowly spinning, millions of them, when one off to the left exploded. It looked just like those fireworks that make all the little burning bits that slowly fall down so it looks like a willow tree. I was watching them in the distance, they were just so pretty, kind of a coral color, when a car-sized chunk of flaming pinwheel drifted down right next to the bridge. It was just crazy hot, burned the hair off my left hand (the one holding the handrail) and the hair on my head was smoking on that side too! I used to burn the hair off my hands and arms all the time, for fun I guess, so I kept holding on and it was no big deal really. But it was definitely pretty cool.
Once the fireball had passed it got really, really, really cold. You know how when it’s so so cold and it hurts so much to have to touch anything metal? Yeah, that was a bitch. I just kept trying to pretend I was doing it on purpose. After a couple minutes of that I don’t think I could have opened my hand to let go even if I’d wanted to. And truthfully by then I did want to, very much. I’d’ve pried my hand off that bar except it was so damn cold I couldn’t hardly think at all.
I was distracting myself wondering what crazy psychedelic shit would happen next when the bridge started to twist like a corkscrew. It made me all dizzy of course but the bridge seemed to still be down so what the hell, right? It’s all relative anyway.
And then there was the other arch, unsurprisingly guarded by a jumbo size lion with faceted insect eyes and a shit ton of huge long squirming centipedes for a mane. Seriously, that seems like a bit of a design flaw, you know? I guess it was just supposed to look cool or something.
I asked it why a trans-dimensional universe-spanning bridge should look like it was dreamed up by a thirteen-year-old goth kid on ‘shrooms. I was just messing around of course, I thought it was just another hologram or whatever. Oh well, wrong again. So it says, in an Australian accent, no less, “There’s nothing here but what you bring, mate.” Touche, I thought. “Now why’ve you come?”
So I told it about the lightning monster thing and the quest to find the stolen magic jewel that holds the world together and return it to my home universe.
“Let me get this straight,” said the lion, with it’s centipedes all a-wriggle. “A lightning monster climbs out of a space-time rift and gives you some horseshit quest to another universe to find a jewel, one jewel, in an entire universe, and you just pop right off to that other universe. Do you know how big universes are? Did you even have a piss before you rushed off?”
Now, I know I’ve always been stupidly impulsive, so I guess I was ready to hear that fucked-up lion. I thought for a bit about jumping again. I mean, you really couldn’t pick a more picturesque and unique place to die, and no one nice would have to deal with my corpse. But I was committed to trying to stay alive, and if I was gonna have to go around being alive, what the hell else did I have to do with all that being alive time? At least this was interesting. Might as well have some fun while I’m still breathing. So I told that weird-ass lion to move aside.
You can probably guess what happened next. It stood up on its hind legs and put up its dukes like a Victorian gentleman. I have done a lot of stupid things in my life and made plenty of poor decisions, but even I am not dumb enough to box with a giant centipede lion. So I kicked that kitty in the nuts and ducked past it while it howled on the mossy stone and walked fast, not too fast, through the arch.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Suicide Note

What is there to say when all I feel is hopeless, hurting- helpless
before a nameless doom that overwhelms
no matter how hard I try, how fierce I feel, how rarely I am alone.
Loves, friends, passions, plans-
all poems I read in a book I loved long ago
and lost along the way.
If I have been selfish, unselfconscious-
I don’t mean it
it’s just-
the world collapsed into a point three inches below my breaking heart.
And if I hurt you
know, I only didn’t see you.
Eyes closed, knives in hand,
I swing at every sound-
a catastrophe
waiting to stop happening-

“You said it buddy!”

The sandpaper on glass voice had come from just beneath where he was sitting. This was unexpected, because he was sitting on the edge of a rather tall bridge. It being night time, he had managed to get there without being noticed, so no police cars or bullhorns were there to interfere. Indeed, he was so startled as to nearly fall from his perch. The irony in his desperate grab to stay aloft was not lost on him. Irony was one of the few things he was really good at. That and angsty poetry, both of which had unfortunately stopped impressing people around the time he hit twenty-four.
So this thirty-two-year-old single unemployed ex-file clerk sat far above the river he’d lived next to his whole life. He was wearing tight stretchy exercise clothes, having read extensively about what happens to dead human bodies that spend a long time in water. He thought it likely that someone would be called upon to identify his body and thought himself considerate enough to make reasonably sure that his body would still be clothed and not too horrifyingly swollen when some unfortunate friend or relative would come to see it on the slab. He had written his suicide poem on the back of the diploma conferring his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy degree, which he’d planned to weight down with a chunk of macadam or some other similarly weighty object he might find at his departure point. He’d been reading it aloud one last time as a sort of goodbye ritual when the surprising voice interrupted him.
Panic more or less subsided, he leaned forward a bit and peered down between his knees. “Hello?” This time the answer came from behind him.

“Hello yourself. Sorry to interrupt, I really thought you must be done. Read the rest?”

This time he was quite sure he was really going to fall. Even as his hands scrabbled for a hold and his heart prepared to burst out of his chest, some detached part of his mind was wondering why he didn’t just let go, let himself fall, and be done with it. As if it would be more pure or conscious or authentic if he jumped; as if being startled off the bridge could make his death even more trite and ignoble than it was already destined to be.
Secure again, he slid himself back from the edge so only his feet dangled over the precipice. Inspired, he kicked off his shoes and watched them tumble down, down, down- it really was such a long way- until the two tiny specks became invisible against the grey and black shadowy depths. “Now I am really committed”, he thought to himself.

“Now you’re really committed, eh?,” the voice asked.

Elated at his own courage, he turned around to view the speaker. For a moment he saw nothing but empty space, until his brain figured out how to adequately convey to itself the sight that met his wondering eyes. His eyes seemed unable to focus on the whole thing all at once. It seemed to be shades of metallic silver and bronze and grey and black and very dark red, sort of swirling. In fact, the whole thing seemed to be made of turbulent smoke and lightning. The shape, indistinct as it was, suggested a winged person or a burning building. It was a little taller and wider than an adult. Bright yellow eyes in groups appeared and opened, then closed and vanished, their locations constantly shifting all over the thing’s body. Whenever it spoke the region that seemed to correspond to where a head ought to go would go all jagged and buzzy and even harder to see, like a vibrator or an electric toothbrush.

“I’m not being patronizing, I’d really like to hear the rest. Please?”

His mouth moved without dislodging any words for a bit while his thoughts didn’t race, but just slogged around in muddy circles. “I’m going to die. It’s a monster or something and I’m going to die. It’s going to kill me. But I want to die. Maybe it only eats people who want to die. But I want to fall an awful long way into water, not be eaten by a tornado monster. And it talks, and that’s not fair, and I’m going to die,” and so on.

“Look, I know I can be a bit off-putting at first, so let me reassure you. I am not going to eat you, steal your soul, push you off the bridge, or trick you into making some kind of Faustian bargain. Truth be told, I’m here for the same reason as you. Can’t stand it anymore. I’m nine-hundred and three today and haven’t done a damn thing worth doing. Got loads of friends- not one of them really knows me, and if they did I don’t think they’d much like me. You know how it is. So you got nothing to fear, only one I’m planning to kill tonight is me.”

“You’re nine-hundred and three today?”

Some demented neurological process had hijacked control of his mouth and was now operating it independent of any conscious thought.

“Happy birthday!”

His cheeks flushed scarlet upon hearing this inanity cross his lips. An alien demon monster thing was pouring out its miserable heart to him, and all he could say was, “Happy birthday!” Truly, he deserved to die.

“Thank you! You know, no one’s remembered my birthday in hundreds of years. So, what should I call you in these, our last moments of life?”

“My name’s Byron. Byron Claudius Bloom.”

Every time he introduced himself, Byron felt the same combination  of fierce pride at having such a cool name and crushing shame at having done nothing whatsoever that was worthy of it.

“My, that is a wonderful name. Think of it, ‘The body of Byron Claudius Bloom was found washed up on Kingston Point Beach today. Authorities are awaiting autopsy results but have said that the cause of death was almost certainly suicide, the world being so obviously unworthy of anyone with such an awesome name. A suicide note in the form of a poem was found on the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge. The poem has already become a viral hit on the web.’ And then, ‘Just two weeks after the suicide of noted poet Byron Claudius Bloom the toll of young hipsters committing ‘copycat’ suicides inspired by Bloom’s famous suicide poem has reach eighty-seven.’ I think you’ll be famous yet, Byron.”

Byron laughed a little uneasily. “What’s your name, then?”

“Pentarlathostrialiania Fzethd Keldegerr. You can call me Alia. So come on then, let me hear the rest of the soon-to-be-famous suicide poem. And then maybe we can jump together, if you don’t mind a little company.”

Byron cleared his throat and read.

“Eyes closed, knives in hand,
I swing at every sound-
a catastrophe
waiting to stop happening-
a fell tornado of sharp-edged mediocrity-
a silent fart,
a violent heart,
Brave enough only
to die.

That’s it. What do you think?”

“Perfect! The absurdity, the over-the-top language- they don’t fall flat at all, they really convey the absurdity of life, of the games we play to pass the time and convince ourselves we’re happy, or that we at least can become happy. But of course in the end all it amounts to is a puff of warm air and a smell of rot. Genius. I’m so pleased you have the courage to die, Byron Claudius Bloom. You’ve made my suicide ever so much more fun. Now, shall we?”

Byron quickly located a suitable paperweight. It was a broken headlight, apparently from a bad accident where there had been enough car pieces that a missing headlight was never noticed. His greatest poem secured, he stepped back to the edge, this time next to Alia. They locked eyes and joined hands. Alia’s touch sent electric tingling sensations up his arm. His palm felt like it was burning. Close up he could smell brimstone and ozone and roses. Byron thought he could fall into Alia’s eyes and the fall would be much, much further than the one to the cleansing river that awaited them both far below. They stood like that, united in their bravery, as car after car after car whooshed by ten feet away, as the stars turned, as the moon rose. Byron took a long, deep breath while Alia pulsed with silvery light. Without a word, they turned to face the empty sky, and hand in hand, they jumped as if to fly. As the water rushed to meet them they recognized together that neither had ever been so happy in all their life.