by Girija Tropp
e were packed like sardines. Someone yawned and it felt like he did it for all of us, a sound like a sad protracted yum. The face of the woman at my elbow had turned the dusty orange of a sweet potato. In the corner, my mother was another species altogether, always asleep. I was going for a job on the moon and so was everyone else.
A salmon swam past our carriage and I said to myself that we must be underwater and tried to think back on when this had happened. Could it be possible that I was asleep? Of course, I was now awake and this was why I noticed the fish. I tried to work out if it had scales because none of the salmon I'd ever seen had scales, mostly they were fillets. "Have we sunk?" I asked the woman.
She smiled a sweet and sleepy smile. "You and me baby," she said.
There was something comforting about being a community. I would not have to worry about my mother because she could stay the way she was and be held in place. Her generation could name an object and be confident. An insect began to crawl up my leg, so slowly. After a while, it seemed like it was somebody else’s leg. “Excuse me,” I said to the woman. “Can you feel anything?”
She thought about it for a while and said, "No, but can you try harder."
Men in police uniforms walked past the carriage. They were carrying guns. I no longer thought I was underwater. "We are in trouble," I whispered to the woman and she turned her head and told the next person who told the person next to him. The insect burrowed inside.
Girija Tropp's work has appeared in Agni 61, Boston Review, a Visible Ink anthology, and online at Opium, Word Riot, elimae, Zoetrope All-Story Extra, Temenos and Margin; forthcoming in print: Best Australian Stories 2005, The Sleepers Almanac 2006; online: Smokelong Quarterly, Pindeldyboz and Mad Hatters Review.
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story copyright by author 2005 all rights reserved