She was sick, I think, all the way to her insides. Pale and shivering, under an afghan, clammy, curled up. A fever, maybe, or the stomach flu, it seemed like, but it wasn't. It was bigger than that. Like a possession, except she was the demon.
I held her hand, but nothing happened. I curled up beside her in the same position. Knees to chest, staring straight forward. I didn't have any ideas.
She had an enormous white sofa and tall windows with long, papery blinds. No matter where we sat there was always too much room. Between us. Around us. A cup of tea would make a piercing clink! on the glass table.
Her worst stories fell out of nowhere, got held up like prizes.
Did I ever tell you the one about the miscarriage? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
And I tucked my feet between the cushions.
Her skin was wet and cold to the touch. I put my finger on her lips, I don't know why. I put my lips on her lips. I whispered to her.
I think I can help you.
We never called her boyfriend by his first name. We called him The Dentist, because he was a dentist. We gave her cat too much catnip and rolled on our backs laughing. She showed off the dresses she stole and I made commentary from the end of the runway.
A stunning fall statement in blood red.
There was a large basket by the hearth. It was filled with wood, for the fireplace she never used. I emptied it and lined it with a sheet and wrapped her like a papoose with the afghan and put her inside. Tuck, tuck. She fell asleep right away, a baby, almost five foot ten. I heaved the basket up against my hip and carried it out onto the balcony.
In this city, it gets still at night, and the darkness above the street lights is dense and soft, like you could walk right onto it. I balanced the basket on the railing, then boosted myself up onto it: situate the feet, stand steady. We were high up in the sky, the bird's view from a penthouse in a dazzling city and I could see all the way out to where the earth started to curve. I took a breath.
She was still sleeping, the deepest dream.
I leaned down to her ear and shielded my words from the wind with my free hand.
This is it, I whispered. Are you ready?
Bucket Siler is a writer, zine enthusiast, and the founder of Santa Fe Zine Fest. She has been a Vermont Studio Center Fellow and the recipient of a Fulcrum Fund Award. Her work has appeared in The Nervous Breakdown, and in Storm Cellar, winning second prize in their 2017 Force Majeure Flash Contest. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she has lived in New Mexico since 2006.