By: C.M. Stunich



Ten Minutes Before …

They say the passage of time heals all wounds.

But not mine. Never mine. My wounds are the type that fester, that ooze, that grow necrotic. I have tried to forget, tried to let time heal me with callous fingers. It hasn't worked. Not one bit. That little part of me, that infected, pulsing, aching wound has now burst, showering my soul with despair and I think I've lost it. I think I've lost my heart.

I press my fingers to the cold earth as rain crashes down around me, like bullets peppering the soil with divots.

“I have to get it back,” I say to cold marble, to stone that can't reply. Not like she could if she were here. The absence of her warmth has left this wound inside of me, but I know I can heal it if I try. I brought her heart back before, turned white fingers pink and glassy eyes full. I did it before and I can do it again.

I close my eyes and I search for that wounded part, grab hold of it and wrap it around me. I take my fervor and my love and my desperation and I push that down into the earth until I feel the echo of a response. I take shallow breaths. I have never tried anything quite so big as this. When has there ever been the chance? They locked me away before I could ever try, when I was just a girl, a sad, lonely miserable girl and they took the one thing away from me that meant everything.

“Everything,” I whisper as I hear footsteps pounding towards me. My captors have found me, chased me down like a dog with nets and shots full of chemicals that cloud my brain and block my gift. “She means everything.”

Earth explodes, the dead rise, and the living scream.



Ten Hours Before …

I'm lying on my bed with my headphones on, wishing my mother would send her book club friends away. They always pull at my hair, kiss my cheeks, and run their fucking nails over my forearms. They also haven't read a book in years.

“Galen!” My mother's voice cuts through my music, and I pull out an earbud. She wants me to come downstairs and visit, eat cupcakes that the women bake to get me to hang around. But their eyes rove too much, cut too deep into me. Their husbands never touch them anymore, so I can understand in a way, but it still disturbs me. I ignore her and pull out my phone to call Holly. Holly. I smile and in my head I can see her swollen lips and the way her mussy hair sticks to them when the wind blows.

“I'm watching that video you made for class,” she says by way of answer. Holly's strange like that. “It's so fucking incredible, Galen. I can't stop watching it.” She pauses and I hear an intake of breath.

“Galen!” My mother's voice is buzzing closer, like a swarm of bees.

“Can I come over?” I ask suddenly, wanting to see her. I can hear her nodding, face brushing against the speaker on her ancient phone. Then she hangs up. I smile wider and sit up, stretching. I fetch my shirt from where I've thrown it over my desk chair, sniff it and decide it's clean enough. I also pack a pair of jeans, a sweatshirt, some deodorant. I'll be spending the night, always do. Holly's mom likes me better than wine. I wish I could say that was true for the woman knocking on my door.

“Galen!” I ignore her and open my desk drawer. I don't want Holly to think I'm expecting something from her, but I want to be prepared, just in case. I take a handful of condoms and stuff them in my backpack. I grab my baseball bat in case we go to the park and face off against Holly's rivals, the girls who think they'll beat her out for any potential scholarships. Holly wants to go pro and she knows the competition is tough. “Galen!”

I open my window and climb out so that I'm standing on the roof, facing the highway and the flow of traffic. I inch my way over to the balcony that comes off of the guest room and hop over the railing. There's a set of wooden stairs here that leads down to the backyard. I take them two at a time and pull my bike from the mess of blackberry bushes that have taken over the better part of my father's flower beds. When he died, my mother let them have the yard, claiming she'd never set foot in it again. She was telling the truth.

We don't have a shed or a garage, so I spend fifteen minutes cleaning spiders and thorny branches from the spokes. By the time I set off, the sun is dipping into the horizon and I'm already yawning.

The ride to Holly's is a long one. I have to cross three bridges and two highways. It takes me an hour, but when I finally arrive, dinner is on the table and Holly's father has a new comic book to show me. He collects them, whether they're worth something or not.

“Look at this,” he says to me as soon as I walk in the front door. I left my bike on the porch and just went in. I never knock. “Batman, number 150. Came out in 1962. The guy at the yard sale wanted a quarter for it.” I'm nodding, but all I can see is Holly coming down the stairs in a purple dress that swishes around her ankles when she moves. Seeing Holly in a dress is like winning the lottery – it could happen, but it isn't likely. I smile and take her in, absorb that image, sure that it's one of the rarest sights I'll ever see.

“Dad,” she admonishes in that tone that's both loving and scolding. He either ignores her or doesn't hear her and keeps talking.

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