Contest #84 winner 🏆

99 comments

Fiction

The light that fills the room feels cold and blue, tinted by the shades across the window. This window faces south, so the light trickles in slowly and at first I can ignore it, but eventually I must open my eyes to this underwater light and take a deep breath in. 

I used to get up so early. Some days I would go outside and watch the sunrise, warming my hands with a mug of herbal tea. The world was quiet, but not still. I admired the people moving about the streets, getting an early start. We had something in common, they and I. We all knew the feeling of the first light of day rising over the mountains and hitting our faces. We carried that feeling with us throughout the day, like a token. But I haven’t seen them, those people of the sun, for months now. I peel back the sheets and stare at the ceiling fan, motionless and stagnant. The air is heavy and empty all at once. Perhaps, I think, it is the emptiness that has weight. I pull the sheets back up to my chin, shivering as they glide over my body. I cannot decide if I am warm or cold, in limbo. I consider shutting my eyes again, but I know that the morning light will find me and penetrate my eyelids the way it penetrates the shades, taking on a different tone as it shines through my skin. Red, urgent. And so I keep my eyes open, swimming in the blue. 

When I was a child I believed that in winter, as water froze, the fishes froze with it. I looked at the icy lakes and streams with curiosity, wondering how the fish survived. I mentioned this once to my mother, who smiled and told me that it is only the surface that freezes and not the fish. The ice forms a windowpane against the world, she told me. I could never decide which seemed worse, to be frozen or isolated. Now I feel that I am both, and it has been a long winter. I am unable to move. 

Continuing to stare, I try to appreciate the stillness, the silence, and the light. I know that I must get up and start the day. I will walk to the kitchen, I tell myself, and brew the coffee I switched out for my herbal teas. I will stand in my kitchen and … what then? Once the coffee is poured, what have I to do? I could change the sheets, or prepare dinner, or open the mail, but I don’t have the energy to do them all. These voyages, these escapades. I used to do those things and more in a single day, I suppose, though that seems so long ago. That was then, and this is now, and before I can get to those chores I must first get out of bed. 

I kick away the sheets, back where I began. Slowly I stretch out my legs and arms, as far as they can go, and then pull them back to my body. I am on my back. I try to lift myself up, starting with my shoulders, my vertebrae leaving my mattress one by one. I make it halfway up before sinking back down. Sinking into the bed as it cocoons me. Again I try, this time using my arms to support me. Slowly I bend at the waist, knees rising to meet my chest, reaching towards the ceiling. My muscles climb each other until only my feet and rear touch the mattress. I’ve nearly done it! I’m crouched! I’m sitting!

It’s uncomfortable. I lie back down. 

Is that enough? I wonder. Can I go back to sleep now? It takes so much, making the pieces of me come together. It wasn’t like that before the pandemic, before it left me treading water. I have changed, metamorphosed, but hasn’t everyone? Surely I cannot be the only one awake in bed, struggling to change my lifestyle, to even change my position. I unfocus, away from my body and back into the comfort of my mind. Fish swim through my thoughts, my movements. It’s strange, I think, that you never see the fish moving underneath the ice. Maybe they are frozen, just in a different way.

I lie there a bit longer, waiting for nothing. Time drifts aimlessly, perfectly willing to leave me behind. It should be peaceful, but I feel chained down rather than supported. Try again, I whisper, for real this time. I lift my head from my pillow and slide my elbows underneath my rising body. My arms become two perfect triangles, the strongest shape, holding me up. My legs, two more triangles, lifting and bent. I rise upwards. Knees, shoulders, equal. Hands, feet, level. Hips, bed. Feet, floor.  

I’m standing. A jumbled mess of body parts, but standing. 

I know that if I try to make the bed I’ll inevitably fall back into it, so I do not. Instead I make my way to the bathroom, noticing the cold touch of the tile against the pads of my feet. I ignore my appearance in the bathroom mirror, directing my attention elsewhere. I crane my neck under the faucet, spilling myself into the sink. I turn the handle, and the cold water hits me in the face. From somewhere in the garage my water heater rumbles to life. I keep my face under the water until it warms. Until it warms me. 

I bring my face up from the sink, shut off the water, and pat myself with a towel. Some of my hair has gotten wet, and it cups my face with its dark little curls, clinging to my tragus and forehead. Water trickles down my temple and outlines my jaw. The beads of liquid move slowly at first, growing in size until they form perfect drops that fall from my face. I trace my fingertip down from my hairline, following the curved path left by water. Flowing, serene.  

Turning towards the doorway, I focus on my feet. One after the other I make my way to the kitchen, my fingertips tingling slightly as I trail them across the walls. Once in the kitchen, I prepare the coffee slowly, methodically, and savor the sound of it pouring into my favorite mug. As I take a deep breath in, the steam curls upwards into my nostrils, comforting.

I’ll do something different today, I decide, taking my first sip. It’s warm, filling my mouth and sliding easily down my throat. I walk, the movement fluid, the fish swimming freely. A sense of togetherness. I walk through the backdoor and outside, into the sun, swimming upstream. 

March 11, 2021 23:33

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99 comments

Zilla Babbitt
20:56 Mar 19, 2021

I guess the task is just living. Existing. Man do I relate. This was beautiful and simple. Deserved win!

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Michael Boquet
15:18 Mar 19, 2021

I like how you invoked colors at the beginning and would have liked to see that theme play through the rest of the story. Strong use of metaphor and allegory and I love your style of prose. Congrats on the win.

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Evelyn Kill
17:41 Mar 19, 2021

Thank you! If I were to write it again, I would definitely bring the colors back in at the end. I suppose I got caught up with the fish.

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Steven Taylor
17:58 Mar 19, 2021

Fantastic - very well written! “ I crane my neck under the faucet, spilling myself into the sink.” Your words held my complete attention throughout, and I’m happy to have read this! Thank you for your creation.

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Don Hunter
17:24 Mar 19, 2021

What jumped out for me was the smoothness of the prose along with the attention to moment by moment sensations - the sheets gliding over the narrator’s body for example. Glide is a great word choice in this context. I will also remember the comparison of the ice over the water to a windowpane for a long time.

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Amarah Friedman
17:18 Mar 19, 2021

Beautiful. I think you've spoken to the struggles a lot of us feel. I also really appreciate your fish analogy-- even though the water freezes and separates them from the world above, the fish have their own microcosm with each other, trapped beneath the surface. We find our own microcosmic communities through social media, friends, family, ect. It can be very personal and very difficult. Lovely story-- a well deserved win!

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Fawn Marshall
15:55 Mar 19, 2021

This is gorgeous - you write such beautiful prose without it being flowery. I can relate so much to your narrator. I love the idea of us being like the fish under the ice during the lockdowns - and the ending line of "swimming upstream" is a wonderful way end your story with hope for the future. My favorite lines were these for the relatability and the rhythm: "My arms become two perfect triangles, the strongest shape, holding me up. My legs, two more triangles, lifting and bent. I rise upwards. Knees, shoulders, equal. Hands, feet, level...

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Janey Finch
15:47 Mar 19, 2021

I love the imagery throughout this. The story is beautiful and I love how you contemplate on the fish- something I think everyone's done which makes the story really relatable. " Maybe they are frozen, just in a different way." That was so deep! Congrats! :)

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20:49 Mar 20, 2021

That was incredibly emotional and touching, I loved it! It was relatable and I loved the imagery, thank you for sharing, parts made me want to cry because I feel that frustration so hard. Your story was beautiful <3

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Niveeidha Palani
11:01 Mar 20, 2021

Great read Evelyn, you had us all appalled. Nailed the ending.

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Elizabeth Yee
16:42 Mar 19, 2021

Exploding a moment at its best - quietly. Thank you!

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Rachel Smith
16:03 Mar 19, 2021

Congratulations! I found this so beautiful in its simplicity. Great fish metaphor, very true. I enjoyed your writing style and tone. I hope you post more stories 👍🙂

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Holly Fister
15:39 Mar 19, 2021

“Waiting for nothing”... I’ve been there! The way she tries to get up several times using different positions is almost comical, but that’s from someone looking from the outside in. When you’re in that moment, it’s overwhelming. I loved your fish analogy 🐟 especially the ending, swimming upstream. Congrats on the win!! Also, you taught me a new word- tragus!

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Scout Tahoe
14:17 Mar 19, 2021

This is lovely and I can relate to it so much. Thank you for sharing. The fish metaphor was incredible. Congrats!

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Keefe Sencen
03:54 Mar 20, 2021

This is a great story and a deserved win!!! And hold up- it's your first one???

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Evelyn Kill
05:31 Mar 20, 2021

Thank you! And yes, it is. Trust me, I was very surprised.

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Sankara Luna
02:51 Mar 20, 2021

Thank you for writing this beautiful and evocative piece. Waking up has been a problem for me this past year. Kudos to everyone who manage to stay afloat, to stay alive.

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Sharon Marcus
20:17 Mar 19, 2021

I enjoyed this story. To consider waking up as ordinary task is ingenious. The imagery kept me engrossed. Congratulations!

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Leah Redwood
17:53 Mar 19, 2021

Evelyn...what a delightfully funny story that describes me to a tee during this pandemic. I feel like a bear who has been hibernating through four seasons. Making my bed and washing the previous night's dishes gives me the illusion I've completed a task as daunting as writing my Masters thesis....ugh! A candid shot of quarantine living.

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Irene Medina
17:41 Mar 19, 2021

Congratulations! I loved this, it is beautifully written. The atmosphere of the story really captures what we lived a year ago, and it has the power to unravel a kind of nostalgic feeling in the reader

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17:18 Mar 19, 2021

Beautiful, delightfully written story. Relatable for all of us! Congratulations on the win!

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D. Owen
16:49 Mar 19, 2021

Congratulations

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