Claire Wahmanholm





After the catastrophe, we gathered on the beach to watch the meteoroids plink into the sea. The purple sky was clear. D prodded a jellyfish with a stick. We could all see the sand through its crystal cap. Its indigo bell bent the sand beneath it at an angle. Was a thick pulp tremor. The purple sky was clear. Let sand be an alphabet, said D, engraving her initials into the beach with her stick. We all agreed that we had to start over somewhere. In the same way let us call the universe a set of steps, of ships, said B. Or let us in fact call the universe a running aground, said C. And we agreed. We could see inside the jellyfish body. We could see the brick dust and the oil and the teeth lodged in the mesoglea alongside the gonads and the gut and the mouth. We gingerly bagged the jellyfish as evidence. (It is clear that care must be taken, we said to each other, lest there still be poison in the stingers.)In fact we could see the poison pulsing through its glass noodle tentacles. We covered our eyes with our hands until the sunlight pulsed through them like stained glass.   




Plate tectonics had accelerated. Deep lakes appeared overnight, acres and acres of water pasture. It started in the Great Rift Valley and spread like a prairie fire. We called it the Misery Rift, and in its generous speed, the land unpinched itself so quickly that our loved ones’ waving hands faded like sails. We thought that if we stood perfectly still for some time, we would someday feel their warm backs meet ours in a new Pangaea of skin. So we stood, our raised arms hardening into stone, our handkerchiefs slowly shredding in the wind. Crows harvested beard lichen from our mouths and replaced it with their husky calls. Songbirds laid eggs in the dips of our clavicles and in the pits of our upturned hands. We had thought the Earth was finite, that it was only a matter of time before everything returned to its origin. But the lost ones never reappeared at our backs. We couldn’t stand forever. Land was ebbing even faster than anyone thought it would. Every morning there was a new, farther stretch of blue.