by Quinn Crook

It was a wide-open space, and that was what made me feel claustrophobic. It was that same sweetly empty morning light that filtered through the school hallways in the first few hours of the new school year, back when those stone and mortar monoliths stood as pillars of education. The hallway was covered in cracks and grass, with the strange little jellyfish that bobbled along like venom-filled balloons. “Join us,” they sang, their voices in unison like a church choir, “join us and sing, brother.”

I wanted to walk past them; my stomach lurched in the twist-turn and upside-down. I wanted to let out a whisper or maybe a scream, but nothing came out of my dry throat. “Join us, join us and sing, brother.” The day light was now high noon, and the once sloped roof lifted up and off, allowing the jellyfish to float up, up, up, and into the outer sky. The sky was the color of cola, and the grass was the same shade of burnt orange of the first jack-o-lantern of Halloween.

My legs slipped out from under me. I cannot remember if I tried to run, or it was just a moment that I got caught up in some kind of psychic slipstream where my body was moving of its own accord, but I felt my body melt like an ice cube into the floor. My arms became heavy as my cells became entangled with the polished wood; my legs bound together with the radiator. The scene floated away. It floated away like a lost password, like a forgotten assignment, and like venom-filled balloons.

My body wasn’t melting. I was a plasma, a gas in the great expanse of the milky way and beyond. I was gold, helium, iron, magnesium. I was gas, metal, solid, liquid. For a moment, I was truly everywhere and nowhere. There was the expansion, and my muscles pulled and strained as the galaxy, sector, universe moved out into the whole of nothing. “Join us, join us and sing, brother.”

Quinn Crook is a Nonbinary, Autistic author. They have had work published in Idle Ink, Amphora, Nailpolish Stories, and many other wonderful publications. They can often be found haunting local coffee shops in the quest for the world’s best latte.

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