Buckets of Rainwater

 

Proudly, he awakens his three youngest at dawn,
they’ll share eggs, herring and tea. Zeb,
his oldest won’t visit from his conscription
in Sanai for another 3 to 4 months while an opaque
gray of sadness clings to the walls
and his wife Sedja’s ashes sit above the makeshift
mantle, her lungs first, then her uterus
Metastasizing the entire family and her parents
now no longer allowed to travel
with the pedestrian crossing closed.

He remembers their weekly visits for groceries
and toilet paper, the store owner Elon, sat
with judgement like Ezra the Scribe
when he held her hand in the tight aisles
waiting in line for her medications,
no hair left under her khimar
yet he would smirk and mumble under his breath,
“see, they are weak, they even kill each other.”

His business was forcibly closed by decree,
he could no longer buy or sale supplies
to the Westbank with increased restrictions
on coastal fishing and the expanding tributary of walls
have assured him, it is forever. He’s still confused
that he no longer sees the love for humanity
his parents instilled in him from crib to classroom,
home to Sabbath, Mediterranean to Dead Sea.

He looks forward to his children’s sleepy eyes
and shuttering the windows for the night,
he will sip a small glass of Arak,
after their feet have lifted and are tucked
away quietly in the far bedroom. An array
of dog’s barking and movement of armored
vehicles can be heard in the distance.

He holds onto his resentments like springtime
buckets of rainwater near the Gaza Strip,
as the tattered Star of David flies solemnly
above and dangles tarnishing in 14k
around his neck. Everything that falls
from the sky like droplets of hate
are owned by the Promise
but his feelings are all his own.

He says, so long as they persist in hatred
of the other and the insistence on maintaining
the seclusion, they are helping to create
a group of people that do not belong
to either one of the two nations
and love is forbidden alike.

Buckets of Rainwater by Vincent Calvarese

Vincent Calvarese is a writer and visual artist born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. In his latest work, Buckets of Rainwater, he gives voice to those in the Middle East battling the multiplying walls of hate.  After 32 years in San Francisco, he recently relocated to the Coachella Valley.

Abstract, waterlike painting
Neptune by Michelle Engledinger

Neptune (acrylic on canvas) by Michelle Engledinger, published previously in Spring 2019.

 

 

 

Dialectic

 

The absence of

Desire is sometimes

Called peace.

 

See flowers.

Smell them.

See birds.

Hear them.

 

Imagine their absence.

 

Who can deny life’s desire for more life?

The absence of desire is sometimes called peace,

 

But perhaps only by those too weary

To witness spring.

 

Dialectic by Jason Syzdlik

Jason Szydlik studied poetry at City College. 

Our Backyard After You Left

 

The stairs to the backyard are dusty with un-swept dog hair. They cling to my footsteps as I run by; the need to follow still hiding in their genes. The chickens peck holes into the sweet nasturtium caging them in. An unlucky worm is found between stalks and chicken wire. The path to the shed shows signs of neglect: unattended plants causing havoc, a meandering line of clovers that peek through cracks in the bricks we placed last spring. I shove the swollen door, the rain has been thick. Inside your old shed: fallen coins from your pockets forgotten on the floor, a lucky bamboo shoot, its small green leaf not yet wilted. I linger in the doorway. The chicken scrapes her heels into the ground.

The strawberries grow
wild in the dirt next to me.
Their sweetness untamed.

 

Our Backyard After You Left by Valeri Alemania

Valeri Alemania is a Bay Area writer living in San Francisco. She has a B.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. She was previously awarded first place in the Short Story section of the Diablo Valley College Creative Writing Contest.

White dog with stick
Tundra Dog by Isabella Antenucci

Isabella Antenucci is an artist, writer and blue collar worker that lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

For My Iranians

Rest in power to the 176 beautiful human beings that were taken from Mother Earthtoo quickly, on January 8, 2020, shortly after taking off from Tehran International Airport for Ukraine. Thinking of all of you, your family, and your loved ones.

People in Iran will literally give you the clothes off their back. No exaggeration.
“Ghabel nadareh.” [It’s no big deal.]
“Biya, tokhmeh bokhor.” [Come here, eat some nuts.]
“Gherdoo barat shekastam, biya azizeh delam.” [I’ve broken some walnuts for you to eat, come here my darling.]
You are a guest in Iran, always.
Iranians compete for who pays the bill. Fights ensue. Names called. From the outside, it looks like a misunderstanding, a fight, even. For us, it’s a deep show of care. We call it “Taarof”.
When Iranians walk in front of you, they will always, all ways, apologize.
“Goal poshtooroo nadareh.” [A flower has no front or back.]
The hospitality, the poetic warmth, the generosity; engrained into the very fabric of the culture. Neighbors know one another here. They talk all the time. A guest stops by my grandfather’s house, just to say hello—brings flowers, sweets, dinner—salam, chetori? hello, how are you? I heard your grand-daughter was in town. Bebakhsheed keh zoodtar nayamadam. My apologies for not stopping by sooner. I wish you health, happiness and joy.
“Hameen.” [That’s all.]
For me, it’s everything.
I remember my Haji Baba crying
As I picked up my suitcase and headed for the door
Tehran airport the final destination
He tells me
Bebaksheed ageh keh vaghteh khoobi nadaashtee.
I’m sorry if you didn’t have a good time.
Tears pool quickly fall from his eyes
Hot raindrops
I kneel down, one knee, embrace him
Feel the hot mass
Azizam, cherah meegee bebasheed? Kheili kosh gozasht eenja.
My dear, why are you apologizing? I had a wonderful time here.
He tells me “Azizeh delam, areh, areh, areh.” [My darling, yes, yes, yes.]

For My Iranians by Ladi Khoddam-Khorasani

Ladan (Ladi) Khoddam-Khorasani, known by her friends and loved ones as Ladi, is an Iranian American womxn poet, story-teller, advocate, and life-long student. Ladi’s writing is mostly fueled by mint and cardamom coffee, dark chocolate, and spontaneous dance parties in her kitchen. Her writing focuses on the power of the human spirit; kindness as a necessary ingredient for intentional living; and the resiliency of community. She currently works as a public health advocate for youth experiencing homelessness in San Francisco, and is always looking for ways to connect community to the healing power of the arts.  You can find her at IG: ladifuggindadi and/or Twitter: lkhoddam.

“my new friend”

“my new friend”

don’t follow me like that
with your sleazy saunter
and those toned (bone-d) twigs
wobbling wedges
dollbaby dress
hippie handbag
and impossibly long locks
the color of crows (screaming murder!)
the color of cats, those black island cats, following me all over
staring me down with eyes the color of citrine

don’t look at me like that
holding your ground as i back toward my car
posing against the cemeterial scene
thousands of stones
millions of bones
dressed in summer green with floral accents
languidly tossing, up and down, up and down, a white ball
daring me to hold my ground
staring me down through eyes the color of that ball
(eyes with no color at all)

don’t haunt me like that
the other patron in the red water bar
the passenger in the back seat of my car
the visitor at my bedroom door that’s ajar
silent, insistent
that we go back to play at the alae*

*alae – a cemetery outside hilo, a city on hawaii’s big island

“my new friend” by Sarah Elliott

Sarah Elliott is a poet, classical pianist, and opera coach, who in her spare time practices law in San Francisco.

Graffiti style painting
Chuldren Forever Dream by Victor Bhatti

Children Forever Dream by Victor Bhatti

I was born in Karachi, Pakistan. I started practicing graffiti art on paper, notebooks etc. around 1984 at the age of 8, after seeing the pieces on the walls around my neighborhood. Just the seriousness of the art attracts me. Being street art, it really means a lot to the community of other street artists. I started painting & drawing everyday in elementary school and haven’t stopped yet. I work in a number of mediums, including spray paint, airbrush, acrylics, oils, pastels, and color pencil. I paint many different subjects and try not to limit myself. Graffiti art, being one element of HIP-HOP culture, also influences my music and fashion in my life. Children Forever Dream is also an artist collective or group that I started to get artists from the community together and as the name says, to also influence the younger generation.

Advice for Modern Americans

Don’t let your children study abroad,
Don’t let them go overseas.
The things that they learn in the rest of the world
Are things that can’t be unseen.
Don’t let them work in a foreign concern,
Discourage that class in Chinese.
They’ll never get work at the Credit Union,
They might also bring back ideas.
Why should we send our youth outward,
When we have everything you could want here?
Healthcare and cars, jobs and backyards,
But don’t you dare scratch the veneer.

Advice for Modern Americans by Stephanie Johnson

Stephanie Johnson has recently completed an AA degree in English Literature at CCSF. She has been working overseas for the last two decades and is enjoying the challenge of trying to re-integrate into a society that has changed dramatically. She hopes to capture her feelings about this in her writing.

Portrait of Dorothea Lange and one of her subjects
Dorothea Lange (screenprint)

Dorothea Lange by Ana Lazaro

Ana Lazaro is a San Francisco based artist. She considers herself a world citizen and has, since childhood, had a passion for capturing moods and emotions through her portraiture. Ana’s current work is inspired by her desire to celebrate empowered women making a difference across the globe.

 

This Morning

 

I went for taro,
custard, and red bean

buns. Shrieks above
from an argument

broke my somnolence;
a gull defended the cross

it perched on from
a circling raven’s

assault. The vanquished
raven landed and

sulked. Do I call it
augury, score a win

for yang, or remember
Jeffers, who wrote, “it is bitter earnestness

that makes beauty; the mind
knows grown adult”?

 

This Morning by Jason Szydlik

Jason Szydlik studied poetry at City College.

Honey Chicken Sandwiches

Honey chicken sandwiches and ramen make me think of you. Instant ramen, the ones you told me about as we were in a convenience store, that when you were younger you would get in cups and is usually a dollar but at the Indian market on the corner it’s $1.50, as you hand over crumbled dollar bills you were clenching in your fist on the walk over.

Sometimes in the summer when the weather was lazy and your dad was in a good mood he’d go with you, walking beside you the four blocks to the store where the clerk would recognize you and then smile when your father allowed you a bag of chips or a candy or
a small tin of Altoids (I don’t know, maybe you liked keeping trinkets in the metal tin).

That was on a good day. On bad days he’d walk faster than you on purpose, in a huff, annoyed that he had to keep watch over you because you weren’t old enough to stay home alone and all your older siblings were away at school. When you lingered, passing by the tennis courts in the park he’d flick your ear and tell you those are activities for rich folk, not like you, whose father could only afford the cheapest cup ramen and sometimes a sandwich from the deli in the back. The sandwich was mostly bread but at least there were some meat and veggies. As a child you probably didn’t care for that and I know you also hate chicken, but the taste of the honey in it wasn’t bad. When you shared it with your father he would sometimes leave you just the bread and lettuce, after
he fingered out the meat first.

Your dad didn’t want you to play tennis but instead he told you that wrestling would be more useful. When you were trying to finish your library book before the 3-week due date he’d come up from behind you and try to flip you over on the scratchy carpet in your one-story house that you were renting at a good deal from some 2nd uncle. He’d tell you reading was for girls and you needed to get out and into some scuffles.

You still read anyway, escaping the blue house through the garage door and hopping the fence your dad put up, walking the three blocks to the tennis courts in the park. You would sit on the grass outside the chainlink fence, with your book, watch kids hit balls with their shiny tennis racquets, the “rich” kids. You want to finish your book today. And that’s how you became a fast reader.

You tell me this as we’re at the corner store buying sandwiches for lunch. When the deli man hands you your toasted sandwich you shift the book you’re holding to the other hand. You can buy books now but you still read at the library and finish a book every week. I say you should write a story about this, but you say no it’s too personal. When I come back to the store without you I’ll write it in my mind as I wonder what other books you’re reading and collecting, the same way I’m collecting the stories you tell me.

Written by: Connie Chen

Art title: Breaktime

Artist: Eunbin Lee

 

Sunday Sunday Sunday

Dad is too drunk to drive, so I take his keys and lay him into the back seat with a plastic water bottle. The sun’s beating down on the Sonoma hills and the roar of hot rods exploding down the track is loud. We will have to find out who won from the Sonoma Raceway Radio on our way home, but it does not really matter that much. Not to me.

“Drink Dad,” I tell him. “Finish the bottle.”

He sits up — too quick — and snarls at the back of my head. He seems about to speak. Instead he flips off the plastic cap and chugs the water bottle dry, tossing it out the window into the dirt parking lot. I consider going after it, but it’s best to get the hell out before the race ends. I do not want to sit in the heat and traffic all the way home.

His hand grasps my seat as he tries to catapult himself into the front. I pull the car back, reversing out of the parking space fast, and dislodge his grip, then lurch forward as I pull away, dropping him into the back seat.

“Shit, let me drive,” he grumbles. But we are already on our way and he lets it go.

I drive through the exit gates, passing an empty cop car and some bored looking traffic attendants. I turn the car onto the highway. Back to Sacramento.

 *  *  *

The day had been mostly good. We woke early on Sundays, almost as early as a regular day because most Sundays Dad wanted to get church finished and over with early so he could spend the rest of the day doing what he pleased. Sometimes it was brunch. Sometimes it was the lake. Today it had been the race. It was always drinking. Sunday was the only day he would drink before noon.

“Come on kiddo,” he had said that morning, finishing his cup of sweet, black coffee. “Let’s go see the hot rods.”

Mom stepped quickly into the room wearing a knee-length pastel dress, ready for early service. She looked Dad up and down and asked him why he was not dressed.

“No church today,” Dad said. “Today me and the kid are going to Sears Point. It’s a rite of passage now that he’s got his license.”

We had seen hot rods at Sonoma before, but this would be the first time since I started driving and he kept telling me that until you drive you can’t really understand racing. But I always understood racing. It was all about spending time with my dad.

*  *  *

Dad knew someone at the track who always got us pit passes that gave us access to the drivers before the race. We would hang out at the staging area where hot-rods, funny cars, and motorcycles had to wait their turn to run the track. We could stay with the drivers until they were called up. From here we could watch them fire up their engines and shoot away toward the finish as we were left in a haze of nitro-fueled smoke. For the rest of my life the smell of nitro-fuel, or even just gasoline, will always remind me of Sunday with my dad. The smell was powerful and after a dozen or so races standing downwind, we had to make our way up to the concession stands just to keep from passing out. That’s when Dad would begin the day’s drinking.

“Shot and a beer,” Dad had said to the bartender behind the portable bar in the large red and white tent. “And a coke,” he added, looking at me. I was his buddy, his “wingman.”

“A wingman has your back,” he said.

“I’ve got yours and you’ve got mine,” I answered. We clinked our drinks together in a toast. It always started off so well. The first two or three drinks lifted his spirits and gave him an edgy, sarcastic wit that people found amusing. He would flirt with young girls and say he was just trying to find a bride for his kid. All for laughs.

“That’s what being a wingman is all about,” he told me.

It was usually around the fifth or sixth drink that his slightly sarcastic wit turned very sarcastic, and lost its wit. I could sometimes draw him away from the bar by saying I had to pee, which of course he would too. But if he were on a roll, as he was today, he would just point in the general direction of the restrooms and tell me he’d wait right here. By the time I returned he was drunk and really just an asshole. The girls had left and there were two Latino bikers sitting next to him looking just a bit annoyed as he went on about the smell of nitro-fuel.

“Sometimes I’ll bring trash bags down to the track to capture a big whiff,” He yelled. “Next week I’ll pop that vintage right open and get a snoot-full. Sometimes it still got a real kick that’ll knock me on my ass.”

The Latino bikers were doing their best to ignore him which was getting him even more riled up. I knew we needed to get back to the car, so I pulled him around to face me.

“Come on, Dad,” I said. “Let’s hit it.”

He looked at me blankly. I waited for my request to settle in. The bartender placed two plastic bottles of water on the bar next to us.

“The last race is done,” I said. “Let’s get out before everyone else.”

“Sure,” Dad said slowly. He opened one of the water bottles and drank it down. I took a bottle in one hand and his arm in the other to guide him out the open flap of the tent.

“No point hanging around here anymore,” he said.

*  *  *

Dad is sprawled out in the back with his eyes closed. I keep the radio low so it does not disturb him.

In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream…

An old Bruce Springsteen song comes on the radio. I can just hear him singing along in the back.

We gotta get out while we’re young. ‘Cause tramps like
us, baby we were born to run…

I look at his face and see him mouthing the words so I turn the volume way up.

Written by: Sean Carlin

Born in California, raised in Israel, served in the military, educated in film and television, documented environmental and social justice work, produced and directed commercials, Sean Karlin is a filmmaker and creative director who lives in San Francisco with his wife Orli. 

Bible on the dashboard of a '65 Buick
Photograph

Art title: Sixtyfive

Art by: Adrian Ordenana

Another Eye

The cold overhead lights flickered as if to mock the situation’s ambiguity. Even if it hadn’t gone awry, the procedure was unprecedented, and its outcome could not be predicted with certainty even by the most adept surgeons. For that matter,
as it ultimately proved, the outcome would remain unexplainable—or perhaps simply unexplained—by anyone.

At least its objective was clear. Implantation of the Metavidere bionic device, if successful, would enhance cognition such as memory storage and reaction time—and, in Trey’s case, quell his chronic anxiety. There was even talk of developing a sixth sense, but this was a jest more than anything. The procedure was near completion when things went south, and so the surgeons opted to leave the Metavidere implant in place rather than risk further damage by removing it just yet. Not much could be done after wrapping up the operation in its current phase. He resided in the ICU.

Two people stood by Trey’s bed. One was Dr. Andreas Maury, the mastermind behind the experiment whose cold professionalism was met with confidence by some and suspicion by others. He believed more than anyone that Trey’s current affliction was the result of factors unaccounted for, and he regarded it more with fascination than concern.

The other person was Trey’s twin brother, Ray, who had arrived before the surgery for moral support and in whose company Trey tended to find solace. Ray had been supportive of the choice, although he balked immediately at Trey’s proposal that they both undergo the surgery to provide a means of remote twin communication. Their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Hyde, were dubious from the start. Trey was already suffering from an anxiety disorder and they feared he would be driven mad if the implant failed; after this latest “impediment” (as Maury optimistically put it), their suspicions would be put to the test.

When Ray made his entrance, those among the hospital staff ignorant of his relation to Trey were taken aback. The twins were indistinguishable but for a faint scar on Ray’s forehead. Each prided himself on being the paragon of a physically healthy male in his 30s. Where they really differed was in temperament. Although not readily apparent without years of acquaintance with both, Ray proved to be the more level-headed of the two while Trey yielded readily to reckless urges—present episode included.

“Only he would be crazy enough to volunteer for something like this,” muttered Ray as he stood vigil by the bed.

“I would thank you not to use such terminology here,” said Dr. Maury. He squinted at his clipboard. “Anyway, I’m afraid that little diagnosis doesn’t begin to describe your brother’s current state. Given the readings and his pattern of response, we fear he might be experiencing full immersion in an altered state of consciousness.”

Ray stared at his feet and gave only a slight nod of acknowledgment. “We’re used to hallucinations manifesting in the visual or auditory senses,” Maury continued, “but an advanced condition can also create illusory perceptions in the tactile, olfactory, or gustatory senses simultaneously.” He then went into the technical side of things—rattling on about a disruption in the left temporoparietal junction and an excess of DMT in the pineal gland—at such a pace that Ray, both uninitiated and under duress, could scarcely keep up.

“Completely out of touch with reality,” reasoned Ray in a somber tone. Verbally addressing the worst case scenario was often how he kept his composure, for he believed embracing pain was the best way to cope with it.

“Now, I wouldn’t say that. If it helps, he could have some awareness of the outside world but is merely unable to communicate accordingly at present.”

It didn’t help.

* * *

What Trey experienced in that moment didn’t involve hospitals or experiments or grave complications. He was once again at his high school graduation party in a flurry of youthful energy. It was after a period of this revelry that he emerged onto a suburban sidewalk. He stood and took in a breath of cold air with a hoppy taste lingering on his tongue. The refreshing scent of low fog graced his nostrils. He looked up at the clouds. Aside from the unusually bright full moon, he could have sworn he caught glimpses of what appeared to be people rushing around and cursed himself for getting so buzzed. Heaven forbid his parents found out. He was only eighteen, after all.

“Isn’t this fun?” said a nearby voice. “Follow me. I’ll take you back.”

The voice was all too familiar, and yet, given the circumstances, Trey took it for a complete stranger at first. Returning his gaze to the street, Trey soon found the source of the voice: a figure standing just beyond the halo of a nearby streetlight whom he recognized as Ray.

* * *

Trey periodically writhed in his bed. Although conscious, he gave no meaningful response to external stimuli, and the only utterance anyone could discern, aside from laughter, was something about another eye—one that sees inside.

“Do you think he’s talking about that Hindu eye thing?” asked Ray.

“Perhaps, but that would be ironic,” explained Dr. Maury with an albeit grim chuckle. “What you’re referring to is associated with enlightenment; whereas Trey is experiencing the opposite.”

“As far as we know,” Ray added.

“As far as we know.”

* * *

Trey was now in an empty field at the age of nine, playing Frisbee with his memory of a nine-year-old Ray and their mutual buddies. The expanse of dried grass and weeds spat up clouds of sun-blasted dirt as they romped about. A breeze through the enclosing foliage created a rustling that sounded vaguely like a distant conversation. The clouds seemed to move around autonomously like great titans in the sky, but Trey kept his attention on the game.

“Look out, Ray!” he announced as he tossed the Frisbee. The recipient of the flying disc caught it with such preternatural ease that it seemed to waft right into his hand. He smiled. “Ray? I’m shocked: you don’t even notice the difference.” Indeed, Trey was surprised he hadn’t noticed before, but, after closer scrutiny, he saw the figure’s appear- ance differed from that of Ray in one aspect: the absence of a scar on the forehead.

“Come,” said the figure who was not Ray. “I’ll take you
back further still.”

* * *

Trey’s body was so agitated that Maury resolved to administer a sedative. Beyond that, attempts at communication yielded no response. Maury stepped out into the hall where he had sent Ray to wait. Ray was hunched over in a collapsible metal chair, looking like someone who had wandered in from the street with his baggy eyes and stubble. He had just started dozing off when the good doctor approached him. “I, uh, read in his psychological profile that he suffers from acute anxieties,” began Maury after deciding how best to broach the topic. “Considering you’ve known him his whole life, do you have any idea what he might be visualizing right now? It could help us treat him.”

“I don’t know. He’s always had an identity crisis in some form or another.”

“What sort of things, if you don’t mind?”

“Well,” began Ray through a sigh, “when we were kids, he used to have nightmares—stuff like sinking or imploding in on himself or his doppelgänger trying to replace him. Once he even attacked me when I woke him up because he couldn’t tell me apart from the doppelgänger in his dreams. This got so bad he would even avoid mirrors for a lot of his childhood. The nightmares went away as he got older, but he still has occasional episodes.”

“The doppelgänger is interesting. Why might that be?”

“We—” Ray hesitated. “We were originally going to be triplets, but Trey absorbed the third embryo in the womb. He’s had trouble coping with the fact. A lot of his fantastic descriptions and theories coincide with it.”

“I don’t blame him. I imagine that would be a disturbing fact to grow up with. Do you think that’s what caused his mania?”

“The thing is—well—this has been going on since before he found out.” At this, their conversation stopped dead in its tracks, allowing the ambiance of the hospital corridor to rush over like an indifferent ocean wave that obliterated the sand castle they had been constructing. Ray collected a futile handful of its remnants which merely oozed between his fingers. I was hoping this procedure would cure his mania.”

Maury nodded and scribbled some notes. “I’m sorry. For what it’s worth, his readings do look a bit better now. I just administered a sedative so maybe he’ll sleep it off and awake more lucid. Pardon the cliché, but all we can really do now is wait and hope for the best.”

* * *

Several hours had passed before Trey finally awoke. He saw his hospital room for the first time since the accident and realized he was alone. After removing the nasal cannula from his face and the intravenous from his arm, he slid his legs off the bed and onto the floor, gingerly shifting his full weight until he was standing. But it didn’t feel quite like standing. He was almost floating across the room like some enlightened being in a state of immaculate peace. Perhaps the Metavidere had proved auspicious after all? Regardless, this oblivious euphoria was one he had not experienced since before he could remember. He thought a splash of water to the face would clear it up so he made his way to the bathroom.

Upon entering, he flicked on the light, and, in doing so, finally registered something: everything was numb. His fingers lacked all but the most rudimentary sensation. He lifted his arm, noticing that it felt surprisingly light, and looked at his hand. He studied the waxy, featureless appendage in front of him, unable to register that it was his own. Now, he thought, I simply must face the bathroom mirror; and as his movement was hindered by something attached to his navel, he pulled and twisted until the mirror was in his line of vision. Then he saw himself. He could do nothing but stare. He stared into the milky, bulbous eyes and at the network of veins and tissue that made up his partially translucent face, illuminated by the overhead light.

He screamed. Those who waited at attention outside heard it echo through the hall—the scream of a physically healthy man in his early 30s—and came running. What Trey heard, however, was the shrill squeal of an underdeveloped throat distorted by amniotic fluid.

* * *

Trey Hyde entered a coma at 3:52 am. The nurses found him on the bathroom floor, curled up in the fetal position with his eyes open and no sound escaping his lips. They carted him back to the bed and hooked him up. By then he could no longer move: he was overcome with a terrible sensation of being smothered, even flattened. The last thing he saw before blacking out—not that he could comprehend it then—was the image of an embryo staring back at him from the overhead mirror. Ray returned the following afternoon upon hearing the news. Needless to say, he remained at his brother’s side well into the evening, silently praying. He looked out the window. A new moon was out. Many somber thoughts pervaded his mind in succession, such as how to break the news to his parents. The misfortune left Ray’s imagination vulnerable to whatever greater misfortune might happen next.

However, something else happened instead. Trey quite suddenly propped himself up on his elbows, held the position for a moment, slowly turned his head in Ray’s direction, and opened his mouth.

“You’re still here,” he declared weakly. Sleep-deprived as he was, Ray first took this vision for the onset of madness. When the shock wore off, though, he embraced his brother, much to the protest of the
staff. Trey returned the gesture.

“They said you were a vegetable,” Ray explained.

“Did they use that exact term?” Trey laughed. “You’d think these highfalutin doctors would know a sentient being from a vegetable. I’m surprised their implant works.”

Dr. Maury showed a rare sign of emotional response. “’Works,’ you say? It’s a miracle you’re even conscious right now. We’re still going to have to run a few tests, you know, to gauge your awareness and other faculties.”

“Oh, it works. I’m sure of it.”

“Please go on!” Maury thought it not at all presumptuous: Metavidere’s success or failure was, after all, the end that had brought them together.

“It’s better than I ever anticipated. Turns out the thing is like another eye—one that lets you see inside—illuminates courses previously hidden—gives flat things new dimension—magnifies the big picture into pictures bigger still—focuses the present by dilating the past—you know, like that. In that sense it works just fine.”

The others stared in disbelief, and yet, at the same time, there was a certain sincerity in Trey’s demeanor they couldn’t deny. Still, beyond his understandably sedate behavior, there was a subtle change in the cadence of his speech that only Ray, his twin, could detect.

“The doc is right,” added Ray. “You’ve been through a lot.”

“Don’t worry, my brother. Just give me some time to adjust, and I promise,” said Trey with a smile, “you won’t even notice the difference.”

Written by: Devin Morse

 Devin Morse is a writer, visual artist, filmmaker, composer, composter, and cultivator of carnivorous plants. He really likes sloths.

 

 

City College of San Francisco's Literary Magazine