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Sad Contemporary Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

(TW for miscarriage and child death.)



Maybe we should play a game. That’s immersive enough, right?


A game?


Monopoly. Scrabble? Something—I don’t know!


Yeah, let’s introduce him to social constructs. He’ll surely understand that.


Do you have any better ideas?


Well…


Oh wow, I love that game!


Shut up.


Oh! I got it!


What—ow! Stop slapping me!


What about a guessing game?


That could work. Like twenty questions?


Right! I’ll go first. Okay, I’m thinking of a person.


Um… are they alive?


Of course!


Are they older than me?


I don’t think an age older than you has been recorded yet, but—ow, okay, okay, no!


Serves you right. So, they’re alive, but younger than me. Are they famous? Or unknown?


That’s two questions, cheater. No, and what kind of question is that? They’re not famous, but unknown? Everybody is known by somebody, don’t you think?


Don’t get philosophical, dear. Are they a girl? A boy?


Depends.


Depends? On what?


It just depends. That was also two questions, by the way. You suck at this game.


I hate you.


No, you don’t.


Yeah, yeah. So, gender depends, and they’re not unknown—wait. Do we know them, at least?


Not yet.


That’s it! I give up.


Why?


Because I call bull! You’re telling me we don’t know them… yet? What are you, a time traveler?


You give up? Do you hear that down there, love? He’s giving up.


What—hey, hey, wait a minute! Is it Lucas?


Do you mean Maggie? If so, then yes.


Elijah.


April?


Charles. Charlie for short.


What are these old man names? Sofia, and that’s final.


We’ll work on it.


We will.


Do you think it’s helping?


The voices? I think so. She must hear us, right? Maybe she doesn't understand, but she listens.


But he’s still not kicking as much as he should be…


Hey. Remember the rule? No "Daddy Downer" talk.


But—


Come, sit. You’re stressing me and my lovely little girl out.


We could just ask the doctors, you know.


It’s a girl. I have a sixth sense for these things.


Sure you do. Hey, have you ever thought that maybe you stress me out, too?


And yet you love me anyways.


That I do, dear. That I do.


***


        I am sound. I am in every whoosh, each thump, thump, thump, always moving. I am muffled by a dense, impenetrable wall of something unspoken, but never soundless. I will always be heard, because I am loud, even when quiet.


        What am I?


***


You are lovely, do you know that? You have this little heart that won’t stop beating. And your eyes—God, your eyes. So pretty.


Pretty and brown.


Pretty and blue.


Brown.


Blue!


Brown is the most dominant—


—allele, yes, I know. Can’t a girl dream?


Whatever happened to dreaming “reasonably?”


Don’t listen to that old man, love. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.


Ha-ha, yeah, laugh it up. But when he’s—


—she’s—


—got big brown eyes, then we’ll see who’s laughing.


Big brown eyes, hm? Like melted sidewalk crayons.


What? Is this one of those weird cravings again? I meant something like the earth. Grounded eyes, you know?


Or roasted chestnuts.


How about we just say "eyes like Daddy's?"


Exactly like Daddy's.


***


        I have brown eyes like the earth or roasted chestnuts or melted crayons. They can turn blue in the blink of an eye; sometimes they are both, like a bruise. They might just be every color at once—an entire crayon box spilled onto the sidewalk, sun-softened and bleeding rainbows.


        I have eyes like Daddy's: pretty and brown and maybe even blue.


        What am I?


***


        Daddy’s gone until tonight. What should we do? Eat a whole cake? Take over the world? Kick once for cake, twice for world domination.








        Or nothing. Nothing's good, too.


        I still wish you would kick, love. It scares Daddy when you ignore him. I don't blame you, though.











        Well, enough feeling sad or scared. That’s his job. My job is to eat everything in the fridge, and then complain about how my feet are swelling.



        How about leftover pizza instead? I want leftover pizza. If you change your mind, you can always kick me into obeying your every whim…













        Okay, pizza it is! Let’s eat it cold, too. Straight out of the fridge. Daddy would be so annoyed.  






        On second thought, I’m not that hungry. I’m just bored. And tired.


        … and swollen.





        Hey, how about a story! It’s almost bedtime—right, Maggie? Kick once for a story.







        Is it the name? I always thought April suited you better. Or maybe Sofia. Everyone loves a Sofia.










        Wait, do you like Daddy’s old man names better? You want to be a Charlie? An Arthur?










        No. You just don’t like talking all that much. That’s okay. I don’t either. Well—that’s a lie. I shouldn’t teach you to lie, Sofia-April-Maggie-Charlie-Arthur.




        Sof-lie? Mar-thur?



        So-ril-ma-charth! That’s one for the baby books.





        Okay, we have “Hey Diddle Diddle,” or “Little Miss Muffet.” Or maybe you’d like an original piece? Not by Mother Goose, but the one, the only—your mother!



        I think you appreciate craftsmanship, So-ril-ma-charth. Not just because your name sounds like a creature in a video game, but because you are your mother’s daughter.


        Or son! But don’t tell Daddy I said that.












        Okay, so… don’t tell Daddy this, either, but I’ve been writing some poems. Nothing special! I’m still rusty.


        I just have to get them out of—here? No, here—and voila! Poems, on the coffee-stained napkins we stole from the diner. Artsy, right? I feel like I’m in college again.




        Drumroll, please?
















        Seriously, no kicks? Fine. This poem is going to knock your metaphorical socks off. And after you get your kicks, I will teach you what metaphors are in the first place.



     Ha! Wordplay, anybody?



        Yeesh. Tough crowd. Okay, remember how you, Daddy, and I all played that guessing game? Well, I got inspired because of you both, so I decided to write this. It’s called “You Are.” I want you to guess who it’s about.









        You are lovely.


(I am lovely.)


        You are mine.


(I am yours.)


        Come time, my vessel is yours.


        Brown eyes, breach your ground.


(Brown eyes. Like Daddy's.)


        Love, break light and sound.


(I am sound.)


        Melt, lovely creature of mine.


(I am lovely.)


        You can mold your own.


        Set sail, blue eyes.


(My eyes are blue, too. A bruise.)


        You are Love.


(What am I?)












        Did you like it? Kick if you liked it, Love.
























































(I can’t.)


***


You’re gripping my hand too tight.


Sorry. I’m just—sorry. 


It’s okay.


Is it?


No, but we can’t both be scared, because who else will tell you that you’re gripping my hand too tight?


Sorry.


No. None of that. Just hold my hand.


Right.


See? You’re all clammy and weak—just like normal.


Very funny.


I am. Thank you for noticing.


Can we talk about it?


About what?


Guess not, then. Fine.


What do you want me to say?


Nothing? Something? I don’t know‚ anything!


Hey. You’re scaring her.


Please. Just talk to me.


I finally found the name.


Honey—


I’m serious! I did. It was right under our noses the whole time.


Fine. Fine, okay, what is it?


You have to guess! Otherwise, it’s no fun.


Seriously? You’re fucking joking around? Now, of all times?


I’m scared. Is that what you want?


That's—


Of course I’m scared—I’ve been scared shitless for days, in case you haven't noticed! And you know what? You haven't. Because when you get scared, you get to shut down. But I can’t shut down. I won’t. So, sorry. Sorry that I can’t react the way you want me to.


No, that’s not what I meant.


Sorry—I’m just—


Sorry?


Yeah. I’m sorry.


It’s okay. We’re okay.


I know we are.


I’m sorry I’ve been spacey. You don’t deserve that.


You don’t deserve jokes, either. Not when you’re like this. I should’ve known better.


We’re okay?


We’re okay.


Do you want to talk about it?


No. Is that okay?


Of course.


Can I tell you the name instead?


Sure, go ahead.


Love.


Love?


Her name is Love.


***


        There is a rumble, a soundless sound that echoes deep. I am somewhere bottomless, far below the surface; I am muffled, and so is the world. I can’t understand anything. There is a wall between us. Where you go, I can’t follow.


        (What am I?)


I did everything right. I don’t understand.


I know.


I did what I was supposed to.


I know.


What did I do wrong?


        (Don’t cry.)


Nothing.


Why can’t she kick?


        (I just can’t.)


I don’t know.


I can’t feel her anymore. I—I can’t—feel her. She’s just gone.


        (I’m sorry.)


***


        There is no sound, no whoosh, no thump, thump, thump. Nothing moves. I am swallowed by an unspoken wall, forever soundless. I will never be heard again, even if I try to be loud.


        What was I?


        (I was Love.)

April 22, 2022 02:06

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5 comments

Kate Kilbee
16:59 Jul 04, 2022

I had a miscarriage years ago and you never get over it. Your story reduced me to tears. Don't apologise please. I cry about the miscarriage often anyway. It is a beautiful story, cleverly written about a very sad subject and will stay with me for a while.

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Kelsey H
00:42 Apr 28, 2022

I really love how you wrote this, at first it looked a bit confusing but within a few lines I realized what it was meant to be and got into the flow of it. I love the conversation between the parents as they talk to each other and the baby, and how you create the sense of them and their relationship even though they are just these disembodied voices. It is really bittersweet too when their anticipation is mixed with their worry about lack of movement, them realizing somethings is wrong. I loved this line although it was so sad; No, but we ...

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Oliver Bisky
23:05 Jun 22, 2022

Hi Kelsey, Thank you so much for reading! I wanted to experiment with a different format this submission; I thought about what it would be like to be in the womb, where the world was dark and all you could discern were voices you didn't know. In hindsight, the lack of prose and dialogue probably made things a little too confusing, though. (Lesson learned, haha!) Thank you so much for your thoughts on my writing--other writers' comments are always so insightful, yours included! I really appreciate it. :))

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Shea West
01:34 Apr 27, 2022

Damn. Just, damn. This was just unlike anything I've read in a long time. My profession is in birth work, and the loss of it all is incredibly difficult. I think you captured the essence of what is truly lost for people when their baby dies and it's love. I am sort of speechless really... Your story was just so beautiful Oliver. Well done!

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Oliver Bisky
23:09 Jun 22, 2022

Hi Shea, Oh wow. Hearing that my words rang even slightly true for you or others is... well, I have no words. A bit ironic for an aspiring writer, but it's the truth. It's all I can ever hope for with my stories. Thank you so much for reading, and I appreciate your kind words!

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