#ThursThreads, week 543


“Thank you for volunteering, Mr. Bear,” Annalisa intoned as she tightened the straps on her old highchair-cum-time machine. “You will go to places and times undreamt-of by stuffies everywhere.”

She picked up her parents’ iPad and swiped to the Kids Corner folder. Building an app that controlled a time machine and hiding it from Mom and Dad was almost more difficult than building the time machine in the first place, given that they had to authorize all installs, but her partners in Africa built a workaround. 

After firing up “Count With Me, 1-2-3,” Annalisa waited for the smiling ducks to stop singing and then selected Settings>Read EUA. Nobody ever read those. 

The EUA appeared, stayed on the screen for ten seconds, and then vanished. Its replacement was a simple control panel. Not the one Annalisa wanted, but she had the fingers of a four-year-old human. It didn’t matter that she could think in eight dimensions if her body couldn’t perform the necessary movements. 

It was a shame that she had to use Mr. Bear for this assignment, because he was the cuddliest of all her stuffies, but he was also the only one large enough to contain the messages she was sending home. They were encoded on polyfill, but there were so very many she had no other options. 

The tears started as she thought of never seeing his smile and big dark eyes again, and Annalisa wrapped her arms around him for one final hug. 

It was go-time.


#ThursThreads, week 542


It’s not that simple.

I mean, it always is from your perspective.

Can’t you just, you ask, or maybe wouldn’t it be easier if you didn’t do that?

I appreciate that, I could say, I’ve never thought of that before.

No. No. No! Shut up, for Christ’s sake.

Do you even hear yourself? This isn’t about you. Not this.

Not everything is fucking about you.


So no. It’s not that simple. I’m fucking miserable like this.

Don’t you think if I could choose to not be like this, I would? If there was a switch or a choice or a way that didn’t involve medication and years of pain?

The only simple things are the moments.

The moment I wake up even though I’d rather not.

The moment I smile on the Zoom call.

The moment I do the dishes. The laundry.

The moment I take a shower.

The moments I breathe.

The moments I try so very hard to believe that I’m the person other people see, worthy of keeping around, and not the one I see.

That’s the choice. That’s what’s simple.

What, you expected an epiphany? A resolution?

I’m choosing to breathe this moment. That’s going to have to be good enough.

206 words


#ThursThreads, week 540


In my dream, I’m on my way to work at a place that echoes only sadness from my past. The hallways are too narrow, the lighting dim. I shouldn’t be there – I’ve moved on, they’ve moved on – but as is so often true in dream logic, we’ve been drawn back together by some dark animating force.

I talk to people who I once would have called friends, but no longer. Their words are cordial, but the look in their eyes echoes the drumbeat in my mind. “You left us, remember. You’re lucky we’re taking you back at all.

“And you’ll never be one of us again. If you ever truly were.”

Even in my dreams, I don’t belong.

And then I’m outside, walking across the space that should be green, but instead of a place of life, sorrow is engraved in every blade of grass. This isn’t the brown of winter, it’s the rot of decay.

Tears come, but I can’t shed them. They take root in my stomach and bloom tendrils of agony throughout my body. I feel like my chest has been filled by some cruel ichor that stops my breathing, stops my thinking, stops my motion.

I awaken slowly, as if clawing my way out of the depths, my ascent hampered by the weight in my chest. The mask that helps me breathe overnight becomes a shackle, and I pull it from my face with disgust. 

Even when I’m awake, I don’t belong.


#ThursThreads, week 539


I made it easier for you to cut me out of your life. I stopped using TikTok. I don’t go to that bar anymore, the one we used to go to every Friday night, the one where you first told me that you love me. 

I don’t go there anymore. 

I found this place across town. It’s nicer and almost no one pukes in the toilets around closing time. They don’t know me here as half of something. To them, I’m just Paul, the kinda sad guy at the bar who they’d ask to be on their trivia team if I’d ever look up from my phone. 

I don’t go to the Whole Foods on 10th street, or the delicatessen on 8th – you know, the one that puts pickles on the table to snack on and where I decided I’d ask you to marry me. 

I’m guessing you don’t go there anymore either, not after that fight we had that led to the waitress dropping a tray of food on the owner. But just in case you do, I don’t. 

I mapped out the city, indicating the likelihood of you going to various parks or restaurants or stores and when you might go. I removed all of my social media accounts and told our mutual friends to never mention my name again. 

You’d have been better off if you’d never met me. If I hadn’t hurt you so badly. If I hadn’t existed. 

What’s past is prologue, they say. 



#ThursThreads, week 538


Sally thumbed off her phone, cutting off the rant on her voicemail mid-word. There used to be love in those voicemails. Love and thoughtfulness and a profound level of insight into matters mundane and esoteric. But now all of it was gone.

When she’d met Tommy her junior year, he was triple majoring in chemistry, philosophy, and art, somehow fitting 33 credit hours into each semester. She’d been at the top of her class everywhere she’d gone, but Tommy was in a world all his own. And when he’d seen her on the quad that September day, he’d created a place for her in it that fit her like a comfy sweatshirt.

No matter what he was doing, he always found time for her. He’d sketch while they were talking or trace chemical formulas on her skin when they were making love. He wove worlds of wonder around her that dared to expose the secrets of the universe, of the human condition, and of why burritos at 2 am were the food of the gods all at the same time, all while making her feel like the center of all things.

She’d had forty years with that version of Tommy, and they were beyond her dreams. But whatever magic had allowed his brain to soar into the heart of the sun and come out better for it had started to run out.

Now there was only chaos and anger. Sally wanted it to mean something. 

But it didn’t. Not anymore.


#SwiftFicFriday, week 144


Prematuria Morte


You want to get to the end, but you have to wait. It’s not time yet.


Ooooh – one step closer to the end. I know you’re in a hurry, and your body is oh-so-ready.


Time to take it slow. Draw it out. That’s it. Feather-light touches. Up. Down. Up. And. Down.


Stop! Stop entirely. I know you can feel how slick it’s getting. How close your body is to release. But think about how good it’s going to feel if we can draw it out just a little longer. You do trust that I know what I’m doing, don’t you?


Okay! Super-fast! Go! You can do this! Faster than that! You’re almost there. Almost there. You can feel your body ready to cross over. Almost.


But not yet. Slow down. I know you are screaming with need. The walls echo with it. 


Stopping again. Still touching, but not moving. Try to breathe evenly. It will help you last longer. I’m not ready for you to be done yet, so you can’t be done. Not yet.


Building up slowly. Light touches again. Oh my god, you’re so ready, aren’t you? So. Very. Close.


Faster! As fast as possible! Go! But we’re not at zero yet! No, you can’t! 



What did I do wrong? Why couldn’t I get him to the end on my timing? 

I did what? I used the big knife and not the…

Dammit. I always mix them up. I thought his skin was coming off too quickly, but it’s hard to see with all that blood.

I know the final is on Monday. I’ll be ready. I’ll focus on using the right knives all weekend. I swear.

Oh, you have people I can practice on? Thank you!


#ThursThreads, week 535


“But you said that when you were done with work we could go!”

“I said I’ll think about it. And I’m not done with work!”

“But dad…”

“I said I’ll think about it! If you ask again, the answer will be no. Now you’ve got to let me work.”

She slunk away, not for the first time that day. She wanted me to go to the park with her. To play video games. To buy something – whatever it was. I mean, fuck. What does she think I am?

This project has turned into a major pain in my ass. The client waited until a week before delivery to change, like, everything.


As if I don’t have enough on my plate. Now I have to gut a 63-slide deck and reframe the entire presentation because some rich prick wandered in and decided that he didn’t think what we’d done would sell.

Done with work? I’d never be done with work.

I suppose I might have heard the garage door opener. It’s possible I could have noticed that she hadn’t asked for anything in hours, but frankly I was glad I could focus on one damned thing.

I didn’t even hear my phone buzz five different times.

The knock on the door was insistent, though. 

“Goddamn politicians! I’ll vote against anyone who’s knocking right now!”

But it wasn’t some candidate for dog catcher at the door with some useless pamphlets.

He did have a body in his arms, though.


#ThursThreads, week 534


Lucy pried the lid from her coffee and blew on the hot liquid underneath. The rising steam swirled, vanishing as it cooled. She watched the steam for a moment and then turned her reddened eyes to me.

“You’re going to back out now?”

I couldn’t hold her gaze, choosing instead to focus on my hands wrapped around my own cup. “I’m not backing out. Not exactly.”

“Not exactly.” Since we were in public, Lucy modulated her anger, but to anyone who knew her well, there was surgical steel in her voice. “What exactly would you call it?”

“I don’t have a choice.”

“Of course you have a goddamned choice!” Heads turned toward her now, toward me. I pretended I didn’t notice.

But I did. I noticed everything. I had to. It was why I was here.

“You know I don’t. Not really.”

“I don’t care.” Her voice dopped to a whisper. “I want you here.”

I reached for her hand, and thankfully she took it. I craved every one of the last seconds I’d get of her touch. “I know.”

Lucy closed her eyes and took a ragged breath. When she opened them again, there was a different look than I’d expected. “Then I’m coming with you.”

“You-you can’t!”

“I can. You’re going because they need you. Tell me they couldn’t use me, too.”

“I…but Lucy, you’d never be here again. Never see your family. Never…anything.”

“They’re the past now. You – and where we’re going – is the future. Our future.”


#ThursThreads, week 533


“They aren’t real, the monsters.” But Nana whispered when she said that. I knew that if I asked her why she was being quiet, she’d tell me that she was trying to keep me calm.

She’d intended to comfort me until I fell asleep, but she drifted off before I did, and good thing she did. I’d no sooner heard her first soft snores than I caught their scent.

I gently extricated myself from her embrace and padded outside. The moon was merely a crescent, but I wasn’t going to find the monsters with my eyes. Even if they weren’t diaphanous, they moved so quickly that most of the time you’d swear you’d seen was a waving branch or, if you were unlucky enough to have them in your home, the passing of a shadow.

Their nest was up the road and into the pines. The straw cushioned my steps, and I entered the sacred circle without being accosted.

The night air was damp here under the trees, and I breathed deep, letting it fill me. This was a place of power.

My power.

I fingered the necklace I wore, purple amethyst in the shape of a star, then unclasped it. As it fell to the ground, my body went with it, and I joined my family for their nightly hunt.

By morning, I was back in Nana’s arms, and when she stirred, we shared a smile.

I hoped her turn wouldn’t come for a long, long time.


#ThursThreads week 531


She snuggled up to me, the glowing rectangle in her hand the only light on this overcast and moonless night. It still made her eyes sparkle as if there were a million stars beaming down upon us. I put an arm around her and held her close. Not only was it dark, but the October chill had come, and her warmth protected me from it, at least on one side.

She kept poking at the thing I’d originally thought of as a phone, and numbers and symbols danced before my eyes. I understood very little of it, but whatever it said, it was making her happy, and that was all I needed.

“There,” she said, and with one last tap the screen flashed and a countdown started. Five minutes. I didn’t know if that was a long time or a short time for this kind of thing.

“How does it work again?” I’d asked once before, and she’d just kissed me until I forgot why I’d ever been curious.

She kissed me again, but this time I pushed her away. “Please?”

“I would tell you if I could. I really would. But I promised I would be the only one on Earth who understood this thing.” She kissed me again, but quickly. “And does it really matter how? You and I will be together. Isn’t that enough?”

This time, I kissed her. The timer was somehow down to thirty seconds. She was right. It was enough.