Christopher DeWan



            It’s your third time to the hospital though it won’t be your last. The doctors crowd around the operating table, wearing masks like bandits. You hear as they pronounce you dead. “Calling it: 12:18am.”

            Wait, you think. 12:18 is when I was born. This must be a mistake. But you can’t speak, so you can’t argue. So now you’re dead.


            When you were young, you grew up next to a nuclear power plant. On foggy nights, the lights on the cooling towers glowed ominous orange. You gave school presentations on radiation poisoning. The stream water looked clean but no one knew for sure.

            Once you moved away, it was less obvious where to put your fear, so you put it everywhere.


            “We love you,” your parents say, but you’re not sure if they’re talking to you or to the TV.


            Your girlfriend is hosting an underwater party and you’re invited. “It’s for pescatarians,” she explains, so you know that even if there’s no one you’ll want to talk to, at least you can talk to the fishes.


            Behind the house, there are trees for miles, “far as the eye can see,” they say, though the eye can’t see into them because they’re that thick. In the quiet, the forest is full of noise, and most of it is hungry.


            You’re writing computer code on a deadline, white text on a black screen. It’s a new language, written in hieroglyphics: it’s an old language. You thought it made sense but now it’s just gibberish, life broken out into a series of subroutines, and when you type “execute,” everything should fall into place. But the code won’t compile. There’s meaning in there you can’t understand. You can’t codify life.


            They said they’d never hurt you, so you had to do it yourself, cuts so sharp you won’t feel them until later. Blood is beautiful in the water, visitation from red angels.


            I was born too soon. I was shriveled and shrimpy and strange, and they put me in a tank to finish me. I started life in my very own aquarium, under radiant lights that were a substitute for love. Doctors conferred with their encyclopediae and peered through their masks and pronounced, “He’s going to be alright.”

            Over their shoulder, I saw the monster.