This is not a Horror Story

Ashley Moore

At first, they’ll stick to my lip gloss: clouds and clouds of them. Bike paths will become impossible. Jogging, too. I’ll talk to a colleague for twenty full minutes with two tiny flies attached to my lips and I will not know that they are there or that they are dead. Some version of this will happen again and again until, one day, I start to feel them, living through the lanolin oil, legs swimming through propylparaben and fragrance #5 to find the second fly, the third, so that they’re mating on my lips. This is when I will stop wearing lip gloss. Clothes, too.

The air will become some impossible mix of honey and dish soap that will give me pimple after unrelenting pimple. I’ll become a map of bulges that people will attempt to navigate with cotton compasses, meant to make me smooth again. Their intentions will be good, but it will be too late. We will all grow bulbs; our pores will dilate and fill. We will scrub and scrub, but the coagulated air will greet us at the door, will eventually rust the ventilation systems, will enter our homes and cover our sheets with a film that never quite washes out.

The sky will confound meteorologists when it alters the speed of tsunamis, water battling air. We will stand on the shore and watch the wave walls approach us in slow motion and we will have to admit that it is beautiful. A famous composer will set it to music. Some of us will want it to be the last thing we see before we die: that storm claiming us back into the sea. Others will run inland and feel safe until fingers start dipping from the sky, twirling like tightly wound music box ballerinas. The electricity in the air will seem almost romantic. Some of us will fall in love and run head-first into the twisters, believing they will deliver us to Oz. The rest of us will hide in basements as instructed. We will spend more and more time underground.

When we emerge, we will first notice the thick oxygen, the creeping coasts. As we haul tree limbs from the ice storms and then the tornadoes and replant our shrinking yards after the sometimes summer floods, we will take notice. There, in our makeshift gardens, a lizard and a tarantula will be fighting, the tarantula jabbing at the lizard with its hairy legs, the lizard lashing back with its whip tongue. It will seem like déjà vu to our grandparents, but we will be too young to remember. We will learn to tell the signs of a coming storm, when to seek high ground, when to go under, and the next year we will notice that the lizard has grown larger. The tarantula, too. At some point we’ll see the horny toads whose shield-shaped backs have sprouted spikes in place of nubby horns, wasps swelling and turning a brilliant shade of blue seen only in Peru.

Our grandparents will say aha! and show us the films. We will laugh nervously at the special effects to hide our anxiety. We will go to our gardens and name them Godzilla and Kumonga. The tarantulas will grow, first to our shins, then to our knees. We will try to domesticate the horny toads and the lizards, giving them new names –Fire, Ice, Fire the Second. Whole generations will spring to life in our backyards, rising to our waists and shoulders. Our own babies will seem subtle in comparison, so small and ordinary. We will hesitate to let them play outside, wish for them to be born with gills, signs of blue, armored skin.

The droughts will come and stay. Fire the Fourth and her fifteen offspring will start scratching at the walls. The shores will inch slowly forward as we huddle together and attempt to grow vegetables on windowsills. We’ll feel the warmth on our skin. We will sweat and sweat. There will be nothing quick about it.


Ashley Moore is a writer, editor and educator based in Germany. She teaches English and American culture at the University of Bayreuth and is the Assistant Fiction Editor at SAND literary journal in Berlin. Her creative writing has appeared in or is forthcoming in Word Riot and The Rumpus. The Story Travels, a bibliotravel project, will be online soon.

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