It’s cold underground. My breath fans out in front of me and wisps past me as I rush through the street. The road feels gummy, bouncing and rippling outward with every step, making a thick thwock sound as I put one foot in front of the other. It nauseates me, the feeling like a shaken cocktail in the pit of my stomach but I’ve learned to keep my balance as I walk down the empty ashen road. It is dim. There is a vignette of darkness encroaching my vision and only a florescent yellow line leads me forward. I need to get to the house at the end of the street. It’s my mother’s. I have to meet my mother. Her house is cut into, like a birthday cake, open and exposed. I can see her in the kitchen, sitting, with a leg crossed over the other, scrolling mindlessly on her phone as she waits for me with two cups freshly poured coffee in intricate glass teacups in a sparkling shade of violet and crystal blue. Black, semi-transparent glasshouses lined neatly in two rows surround the road I walk on. I can faintly see the neighbors inside. They wear their black cloaks, blending with the color of their houses. Each glide silently around their houses as they do their menial chores. They ignore me for now. Tiny blips of light help to illuminate my path. I stick my hand out and let one gently float onto my hand. It is a candlestick with iridescent wings and a burning wick. Its flame pulses like a heartbeat in my hand, warm and soft, until its hot wax drips down its side and burns my hand. I hiss in pain and snuff the candle out, wiping my hand on my pants. There is buzzing now, angry buzzing. The candle flies buzz loudly and swarm me. Their flaming tops sizzle against my skin as they weave back and forth, sizzle, retreat, sizzle, retreat. Their light grows brighter and hotter. I cry out in pain. Through the gaps in the swarm, I can see the neighbors in the glasshouse watching, glaring at me. So much commotion, too much light. I swat as many as I can, but the swarm pushes me with a force. I fall backward. Instead of gummy asphalt, I am met with the deep waters of a pond. The pond is deep and dark, stringy black seaweed wraps and knots me up. I hold my breath. The water is hot. It warms my skin from the cold. The water begins to move as creatures from the bottom rise one by one. The water is hot. The light from the candle flies reveals the creatures form to me. They are solid gold bars with scaly fins and wide eyes, each the size of torpedoes. Goldfish. I feel like I am burning. They swirl around me and open their mouths, razor sharp teeth protruding from them. The water burns my skin the longer I stay. Their jaws extend past their fins. They rush toward me. They bite at the seaweed trapping me, swallowing it whole. Their brilliant gold bodies gleam in the light, blinding me as the reflection bounces off each other. The heat feels as though its melting my skin. I feel the seaweed loosen and soon I am free. I swim upward as fast as I could. The goldfish continue to gnaw at the seaweed. The light above me becomes brighter and brighter. As I break the surface of the pond, taking a deep breath of air, I am no longer on the street I once walked on. Tall blue walls surround the pond I swim in. Steam rises from the surface. I look up to see my mother’s face, blank as she scrolls on her phone. I am in her coffee. I splash her with the drink, droplets landing on her nose. She hisses and wipes the coffee of her nose before looking into her drink. She smiles when she sees me. “What took you so long? I’ve been waiting.”
About the Author/Artist Yasmine Soria is a writer and aspiring editor born, raised, and based in Chicago. She is set to graduate in Fall 2023 at Columbia College Chicago with a major in creative writing and a minor in photography. She is a first-generation Mexican-Honduran-American woman working to pave her way in the world while also giving worlds for her readers to belong. She writes contemporary fiction, short stories, and flash fiction, dabbling in prose poetry every so often. She also loves to photograph her world in her spare time. Her realm of photo work lies within identity expression and perception, working largely in digital and partly in film, in both still life and self-portraits. Follow her on Instagram for more of her writing @yasmine_essence.
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