In the interest of full disclosure, there is a woman buried in the woods. I removed a long strand of her hair and planted it in the forest floor, and she followed. Now the woods have taken her, or she has taken the woods. Sometimes through the trees she teases me, the tail end of a chimney disappearing in a flicker, the dark smell of her fading, just the scritch-scratch of talons eating through the air. I tell myself the house is not empty, but honest—I cannot know. I’ve lost the house too many times, the chipped paint on the exterior windows and the sheen of the doorknob under my hand. Or I never touched it. All right—I never touched it. It runs away on bony legs, tucks itself white through the trees. I look in the mirror sometimes and find myself a plaster copy. Somehow it is all shrinking, shuddering under, the trees darker than a closed mouth. All right—I say this to the sand. I say this to my empty hands. These days, I feel a half shell. Sometimes I bury the woman in the woods and she pours out of my mouth. Sometimes she stinks of my salt. I find myself sniffing along the sidewalk, but I’m only following my own bright tail. I bury my feet in the sand, and the salt water takes them, and takes them again, and takes them again. I turn away from the woods, but cannot stop myself from turning, betraying my ends, and the salt knows it, and I turn again.
LAURA KOCHMAN, originally from New Jersey, is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bat City Review, StorySouth, Word For / Word, and Copper Nickel.