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Issue number seven




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Aerial by Rebecca Beliak

His fragile wings beat against my ribs and stroked my arms. How did I find him, long birdlike fingers and hollow bones? Mine. Not mine. He had been there always as far as I knew, but I left each morning knowing that when I returned he would be gone, flown back to whatever place he belonged, not my small lightless apartment. Why should he stay? If I could fly away, I would. If I could. He wasn't weak, it seemed, but pliable. He sat on my bed, legs crossed, his prehensile feet gripping the sheets. Naked pale skin, nearly hairless body, vulnerable in face and demeanor. His small head often tilted to the side when he looked at me, each blink nearly imperceptible. He was light, not so much composed of water as I, but papery, out of the imagination of someone else. Not anything I had dreamed of. My dreams were always dark and unsettling, not beautiful. But, he held me and touched my eyelashes and sometimes seemed to glow from within.

For some time it went on this way, but each day tore me more than the last. He couldn't stay. Would not release his solitary and weightless life. It was for me to release him. He would fly away and then what of me? When I tried to follow him, I would surely touch the ground, though not as lightly. At night we would lie in bed together, quiet and still, not asleep, not awake. One night, he put his slender hands on my hips and pressed himself into me, filling me finally. His bony sternum against mine was a reminder that he was a different sort, but I still couldn't help the diluvial pleasure. Even now, from so far away, my body remembers.

When he finally left, I didn't cry. In fact, I even tried to live. I went to work, although it seemed that there wasn't enough air to breathe. When I bathed, I endured the sickening feel of the water, so much like the touch of a wing. Occasionally, I managed to swallow a dusty bite of food. I wanted to understand. I made the trip to the roof more than once, and it wasn't fear that kept me from leaping, but the hope that he would return. My eyes involuntarily scanned the horizon. Weeks passed, and I began to feel less connected to the earth. By now I was thin, almost transparent, and I couldn't even feel the ground beneath my feet.

When I jumped, wind and relief washed away the pain, and I understood. My hollow bones, when struck, rang like tiny bells. I flew.

Rebecca Beliak lives in Derry, Pennsylvania. Her current projects include devising a method to eliminate the need for sleep and quieting the voices in her head. She is frequently unemployed.

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