Escape hatches open.
Pods fill, seal shut, detach.
One by one they go, wink out, goodbye.
You know there is no sound in space‚ only the big, silent dark.
But clamped inside this pod, your breathing raws louder than any ocean storm.
Which is why you whisper the story your mother used to sing before sleep, glow-in-the-dark stars like phosphorescence across the ceiling as you half-dreamed the story about an almost forgotten ancestor, shipwrecked at sea.
The fisherfolk who helped her ashore with her silver-cold skin and salt-knotted hair believed in intelligent life hidden below the waves, in creatures who shed outer skins to walk up onto land, so they took in stride her strange words and ways, how she wept when they would laugh, and laughed when they would weep.
Those folk accepted her wanderings along the strand, the language she hurled into wind and foam that none of them could untangle, the bundle kept wrapped at the foot of her bed that wafted faint scents of fish gut and tidal wrack and something they never could quite place: a sweetness, a wanting, an elsewhere.
Soon now, it will be time for you to slow the pounding surf of your lungs, to sink into a frozen, dream-washed sleep that could last ten, or twenty, or a few thousand years.
Never knowing if anyone will find you, and who, and if they will know what it is to laugh, to weep.
Which is why you picture her just before the frigid shock of water.
How she stilled herself to make the dive.
Forgetting unfathomable darkness, distance, cold.
Becoming pure promise.
Erin Calabria grew up on the edge of a field in rural Western Massachusetts and has since lived in Magdeburg, Germany and New York City. She is a co-founding editor at Empty House Press, which publishes writing about home, place, and memory. You can read more of her work in Necessary Fiction, Reckon Review, CHEAP POP, Longleaf Review, and other places.
Other stars in the Fishtail asterism:
Where the light, think of it, covers everything
Melanin No. 1
Melanin No. 6
A Guide to Burning Bridges
Structural design: Made of two-by-fours and broken promises, it was built on shifting ground. The burning: After staying silent for so long, you finally find your voice, and your words are enough to set the fire.