That Dog Won’t Hunt

“I go where you go,” Solon tells Quiana, before she tips him over the side and watches him disappear into the flume running underneath Deception Pass. One hundred and seventy seven feet down to the water, and a fierce undertow sucking him out to sea; if they find him, it’ll be as a lone foot in a sneaker washed up on a rocky beach somewhere. It’s a grey day, dark as they all are in November, and raining if you can call it that. She’s soaked through by the time she gets back to the car where he’s waiting for her, a blank space in the fogged glass, ironic eyes full of sky, trees, sea.

She drives home hounded. They never find him — there are enough bodies sunk in the Sound already — but it doesn’t matter. She’s never free of him. He’s a heavy weight at her throat, a stone in her stomach, insubstantial hands dragging at her shoulders when she beats the sun out of bed. His voice, heavy as cream, clotted in her ears: white noise. She is full of rage, at him, at herself, at the world that gives her no traction to push back. “The worst is already happened,” he tells her, rain drumming on the roof, “the fall is still happening, the water is still coming.”

“Damn you,” she says, and suffers through an eternity of meaningless days, eating little, drinking much, waiting for the short summer to return and break his grip, just for a while, just long enough.

A View From Below

Discovered at last they are ruined, or think they are: a suicide pact. Falling from the thin ribbon of the Cascade highway, Solon strains instinctively to beat wings no longer there; Quiana just falls, laughing.

Death is a city under heavy guard. Soldiers at the gate are half-painted, half-flesh, and do not speak. The gates are open, spanning a river purple as wine; their fellow dead rush in, whickering like the tide. They are pulled apart. The last he sees of her is the shadowed mouth of an alley and one elegant wrist reaching out. He strains his eyes for some landmark, but the city has him. He falls down the throat of the crowd.

Weeks later, maybe, and he washes ashore: his heels worn smooth by the endless hurry-hurry click down on the pavement. The newly dead wash over him. Their currents have left him lighter by a name, a history, a life. He knows the city from gutter to skyline, a map traced on the pads on his hands. With no idea else he sets out searching where flotsam is sold: the middle third of a word, 12% of a Tuesday afternoon, noise and scents. He takes what he can, trades what he can, waiting for something to fit his hand, one grain of sand on a submarine beach.

One stall over, Quiana is searching. They pass into and through each other, still looking, still needing.

A View From The Top

Solon is thirty and Quiana sixteen. He is newly married and they are having an affair.

How they met
At a gas station. She was pumping gas on number 2 and he was pumping gas on number 4. He had honestly forgotten about her by that point, or thought maybe that he would never see her again.

What he thinks when he sees her
He dreams sometimes of flying, of being cold, of being hungry, of big voices and hands. Of strawberries. Of hemlock and anise and parsley.

What she thinks when she seem him
She has not forgotten him. His clean lines, his casual grace, his black and beady eyes. The first fuzz of beard. Her cheek itches in sympathy.

They drive an hour and a half in separate cars until they come to a road cut into a cliff face. They crush each other back against the wall, back into the netting holding the rocks together. It is less a kiss and more the first intimation of avalanche.

Run Down

Death grounds her in her body; Quiana has never been so intimately aware of the shadowed collection of pipes, valves and hollows that gurgles away inside her. It’s a revelation, one she could have done without.

Solon says: “So many things are deadly. So many common things. Not the obvious—no mugs full of Drano, no bleach stirred into your milk—but others. Rhododendrons. House plants. Everyday items, harmless only because undisturbed.”

He scratches his cheek where the beard is growing in. Her face burns in sympathy, but her arms are too heavy to lift.

“I don’t think anyone will realize that this was anything more than an accident. It’s so easy to be stupid. You don’t even need to be careless—lots of people have killed themselves very deliberately just because they didn’t know.”

There’s no pain. She isn’t sure whether that’s for the best or not. Solon leans in close, brushes her forehead with dry lips. “Goodnight. See you in the next life.” He’s framed against the lit doorframe, then she’s alone in the dark, death sitting on her chest.

Make the Merry-Go-Round Go Faster

for Marissa, who wanted more continuity

Pushing through the amniotic sack was the hardest part. After that everything worked with him.

When he got his head free, shiny still with blood and mucus, he took a deep breath — his first! — and squinted around at the room. Everything was white and hard-edged. Unpleasant.

“He’s not crying,” a deep voice said above him.

“Hit him, then! I’m busy!” said another, deeper, that allowed him to say ‘female’ to the first voice, and ‘male’ to the second. He was pulled into the air and swatted fiercely on the backside. He snarled at the blur that had struck him.

“Thank god!” said the female voice.

He stopped snarling while they were cleaning him. He couldn’t see very well yet, but there was nothing wrong with his hearing.

“He’s such a quiet baby. It’s not normal.” This was the first voice.

“They come in all types. Some of them are just quiet.” This was a third voice. Female? He wasn’t sure. “How’s the mother?”

“Ma’am? How are you feeling?”

Someone groaned. He knew that voice. Quiana!

“She’s still under. How much did you pump into her? Seems okay, though. Pulse is good.”

“What’d she name the baby?”

He knew.

“Solon.”