Here comes a woman, her legs like lamp-posts and her teeth bared. We feel bad for whatever we’ve done, we’re in trouble now. She’s got the look of a killer, she’s not stopping for fireflies.
We don’t move because we’ve been spotted. The woman has a shirt like my mother. Here are her knees now, she’s gotten that close. She stands in front of us, her torso huge as a cabinet, a building, a volcano in a terrycloth top erupting. We’ll die this way if she can’t burst or calm down, so I say, “what? what’s wrong?”
The woman’s lava burns. She screams that we shouldn’t have gone out, for so long, to this place, without phones.
We pat down our empty pockets— how limp our pants feel, how liberated. We had left our houses feeling naked, that was our plan. To make it so no one could call us. Then peel back our eyes on real darkness, maybe stars, where no one else could get our attention. We wanted nothing but us.
She keeps going. She goes on, about this forest preserve! she cries. It’s between two airports! she gasps. Plagued by floods!
She looks all around, her lungs pumping, sparks spewing, then adds that it’s all ticks and murders in here and what in god’s name about the phones were you thinking!
The woman, her muscles topographical now, the cords in her neck pulling up her fists, continues on like this for some time.
They say of wombs that they’re shaped like pears. I once was the size of a pea in her pear. Now each one of her teeth is a flickering blade, her flash-light gleams as her arm gesticulates, full speed. One firefly hovers nearby, seduced.
We feel bad. I can feel it. The bad is radiating under our untraceable backpacks, our unreachable bodies. I feel one of my friends losing it, crying, probably because when my mom said ‘murder’, he started thinking it. He does that, gives bad things all the details. I’ll bet he hasn’t thought of any word since, and right now he’s giving it dirt being shoveled on our open eyes, a sawed-off limb.
The woman, my own mother, lands her speech on “why?”
She’s mine, so I answer.
“We’ve never been somewhere without our phones,” I say. “And we’ve never seen night without any lights. Or had no connection. An experiment, maybe? We thought we’d go do something and not have any record of it, no pictures. We just wanted to be out here, I don’t know. Totally un-findable. Just living out this one night without any record of it except in our heads. No? Why is that stupid?”
She’s unimpressed. Her legs like cylinders, her eyes like a priest, her words include ‘ridiculous,’ ‘risk,’ and ‘get up.’ Think about it, she says, quivering. Just think!
I think about night like fiction now, like fantasy.
It’s made up. All that distance, all that being-on-the-planet like we were safe and woods were good and we could go where there were no lamps. And then turn around on silver dark grass, arms spread, and not even see our hands. And being unavailable, that tempting silence— I think of it like a dare, like sin.
Flash Fiction by Molly Sturdevant
My poetry, fiction, and prose appears or is forthcoming in Orion, Flyway, Newfound, X-R-A-Y Lit Mag, Tiny Molecules, The Great Lakes Review, The Westchester Review, and elsewhere. I was a finalist for the Montana Prize in Fiction 2019, a Pushcart nominee in 2020, and I live in the Midwest.