by Tantra Bensko
Red veined leaves, curled up on the ground, larger than I am, take me in. I fit inside them roundly, and decide to make them my parents. Mine went to Disney Land. My mother’s stomach has grown around another little girl embedded inside it. An invisible girl, growing.
The leaves will be good to sleep on, rubbery, a flat surface so I can see bugs creeping toward me and blow them away. How long does a broken leg take to heal? My parents will be back from Disney Land in two weeks. They’ll walk in the house and wonder where I am. “I’m here,” I’ll say, but they won’t hear me. Because the door will be shut. They’ll look around and call, but never ride a bike with bad brakes down the driveway and approaching the cliff, backpedal into infinity, into nothingness and nauseating speed, arc high into the air, crash against a tree and say, “hey, there you are! You’re smaller than you were when we left. Do you think we can crawl up this cliff together with broken legs?”
My head where it hit the tree is growing, like one of those growths on trunks, pushing itself into the bark. My leg where the bike hit me is growing too, and soon the skin might fold around the bike, encasing it with bruise and lymph. I might finally have a bird land on me. The bird might sit and fluff itself on my tummy; as my flesh grows concave with hunger, it might envelope the bird.
I think I will crawl up the ragged cliff. It takes a long time, with a broken leg embedded in a bike, a bird in my tummy, and a tree attached to my head. I feel bad ripping up the tree roots, and dragging the bird away from its home. I don’t like the nests falling out of the tree, baby birds jumping out, mottled blue eggs flipping onto the mealy ground. I don’t like my tummy singing to them wistfully. The handlebars jab into the ground, snagging me. I lurch, crawling in jags, grunting. The bike lets go, and I fall forward, the tree landing in the ground. It takes root, and I don’t blame it. I just don’t like being upside down.
No more tests, and no more honking horn in the dark mornings, as the school bus pulls away before I can run to it. No more ice cream. No more short-sheeting my parents’ bed. Instead, embedded upsidedownness until I turn to sawdust. I hear my parents calling through the mist from years ago. I hear them in the termites, and the worms. I am soft, like pudding. I am not their only child.
Tantra Bensko is the author of Lucid Membrane (Night Publishing), The Cabinet of What You Don’t See (ISMS Press), Watching the Windows Sleep (Naissance Press) and others, with more to come by presses such as Make-Do. Her latest book is Collapsible Horizon, a collection of interwoven short stories. She obtained her MA from FSU and an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop. She teaches fiction writing and experimental fiction writing through UCLA Extension Writers Program and her own academy online. She promotes Experimental Fiction authors through various venues.