Their Days Are Numbered is a new year-long project authored by the collective Entropy community. It is a collaborative online novel written by the Entropy community on a weekly basis. A different author will write the next “chapter” each week, to be posted every Tuesday, following the previous post from the previous week, and following a very limited set of guidelines (that each author has one week to write the next piece after the previous week’s installment goes up, that installments should range between 150-1500 words, and that pieces should somehow incorporate a real-life occurrence, current event, news item, or other happening from that week).
Follow the entire “novel” here: Their Days Are Numbered.
The fifty-first installment is presented this week by Sam Cohen.
The winds have picked up so fast they’ve lifted me. It’s not a tornado, I don’t think, because there’s no swirl. It’s more like a waterless tsunami. I’m carried swiftly by the air which is white and dry. I’m like wheeeeeeeee. When I land it’s abrupt and soft. I’m in a three-walled car dealership, surrounded by the red and gold husks of unsold Mercedes Benzes. The fourth wall is gone—there’s very blue sky with cirrus clouds or rocket trails, I don’t know, and buildings, messily chopped and releasing smoke.. Sitting on the floor among the husks, fingering a hood ornament is my ex-lover, slack-jawed and transfixed, like always.
“Hi,” my ex-lover says.
“Hi,” I say. I sit down. My ex-lover reaches out a hand and I push my cheek into it.
My ex-lover smiles a little. “I kind of want to put this hood ornament inside you.”
“Okay,” I say.
“Here, lay on this,” she says.
My ex-lover rubs her hand across a smooth burgundy half-cylinder and I drape myself over it. She rubs her hand across me then, from shoulder to hip. Something happens in me that is like purring. My ex-lover pulls down the elastic waistband of my leggings, kisses the cold skin there. I feel warm and safe and like I will never have to move again and it is good. There is stroking, fingers on skin, warming, and then, boom, as soon as I feel the very loving push of the hood ornament’s cool metal, I am back in the other reality.
I used to think of these encounters with my ex as dreams, but now they are the interactions I live for and so I think of them as something else. What I mean is, in this reality, I continue to try to feed myself because I want more of these encounters. Dreams, maybe. But also I’ve heard the new theories, the conspiracy-kid rumors, and perhaps it is just a click, a glitch, perhaps where I am now is equally digitally-manufactured, if more consistent. It doesn’t really matter to me either way. What matters is OK OK OK OK OK Genevieve is gone and here I am, on the cracking riverbed surrounded by blown-out dandelions.
Genevieve is female and I am female, which means I am a lesbian. Or I was a lesbian. Or in the other reality I am a lesbian. OK OK. There was a time when I didn’t think this mattered but now I think this matters.
I take out my notebook, which is the other thing that feels worth feeding myself for, even though I know it’s stupid, even though I know I am creating a Rosetta Stone for cockroaches, out of very biodegradable materials. But I have something to write so I write. What I write is: If the rectum is a grave, the pussy is still a womb. I am running out of paper so I only write short aphorismy things like this.
I understand suddenly why José Muñoz was always surrounded by dykes. Then I remember that my ex-lover identified as a fag. She understood herself as having a rectum-grave rather than a pussy-womb. She was not into creative rebirthing and she was not even employed. She wanted boys, wanted to be fucking all the very prissiest fags. These desires of hers made me cry, sometimes, and these tears of mine made her recoil. I think she thought my belief in pussy potential was beautiful, she liked having it around, but she wanted me to respect her womblessness and I couldn’t and this is why we broke up. I understand now why this pussy-womb feminism ended after the 70s, understand that it was because of the obvious too-lateness, because the planet was already flatlining. My ex-lover knew all along what was coming, and she never had any tolerance for delusion. Well OK, OK OK OK now I understand that we’re dying and I’m ready to give up my belief in the pussy/womb. This is why my ex-lover and I are able to be together in the apocalypse, if only in the other-reality. OK strong winds—carry me to Genevieve.
In case these prayers work, in case my fate is controlled by a person with a button who is kind, I preserve myself as best I can. I chew on dry grasses and sometimes puke, like a cat. (I am a kitten, I used to tell Genevieve. I would mimic purring as I pushed my furred crown against her skin.)
I have thrown seeds into the parched earth. I use phrases like “parched earth” now because they sound romantic. I lick a crack in the ground. I look down then and see a little blade of hipbone. My hipbone. I always wanted to be skinny! I think this thought and it makes me laugh such a hard rattling laugh. OK? Why are people always alone in the apocalypse? Yesterday I saw a towheaded boy of five or six running through the woods and felt so scared I crawled into a hole for what felt like hours.
Anyway I have thrown seeds into the parched earth. When they started selling packets of seeds at the local bookstore—melon, calendula, rainbow chard near the dystopic fiction section—I knew things had gotten real. I started stocking up. I have hollowed out a long-defunct electronic mouse. He used to be my friend, but now he is my drinking cup when there’s enough water to scoop. When there isn’t, I lap at the yellow runoff that pools in the cracks. I collect mouthfuls of polluted creekwater and carry them to my seeds and spit maternally. Like I said, sometimes I puke.
OK. Look, I realize I’m not likely to survive this way. Or maybe i’m just saying that. I want you to think I’m a realist. I want Genevieve to think I’m a realist. But the truth is, it’s only in the other reality that I’m adaptable. OK? In this reality, if I’m going to die, I want it to be here, ingesting the poisoned earth, slowly becoming it.
Sam Cohen’s writing is in Delirious Hem, Sidebrow, Pank, Black Clock, Joyland, Gaga Stigmata, RECAPS, and elsewhere. Her chapbook Gossip was published by Birds of Lace Press in 2013. She has an MFA from CalArts and lives in Los Angeles.