the other world inside a star

by Grace Tian
Art by Peyton Chiang
Issue: Paracosm (Winter 2017)

she smelled like a wish, bursting with lavender and hints of raw smoke hidden inside her chest. i hid shamelessly inside her shadow, safe under the recklessness and vanity she projected to the world. resting her head against my shoulder, she closed her blue eyes to the world.

unwilling to succumb to perfection, i left home, making my way to my brother and his gorgeous fairy tale dream of white roses and tablecloths. the candle in his attic let off a faint bluish glow amid the dust, the light scattering among the vastness of the cherry wood floor.

on Friday nights, the stomping of the crowd shook even the most stoic of fireflies. the scent of aspiration lingered in my mind as the play began—second quarter, third down. the ball spiraled in a wide arc above me, too far out of reach. i glanced at her, dressed in a tight-fitting uniform, and her eyes, wide with inexpressible emotion, met my own. fourth down. the whistle sounded, and i began to run.

with the autumn wind came the rain that froze in sheets on top of our hearts. escaping into the backs of pickup trucks and the endless fields of corn, we faded in and out of clarity. on weekends, her guitar sang songs that reached into my heart, twisting it with passionate intensity. i lost hold on my bottle of Corona as my vision blurred, and it fell to the floor in dissonance. blindly, i reached for her, seeking warmth and the touch of bare skin. she met me eagerly, her own desire enveloping mine.

all through summer, the sparks spilled like fireworks onto the ground and the shouts of others became but a single voice lost in the wind. the white tank top i wore became smeared with dust and the remnants of forgotten buildings. as the days and months wore by, the blueprint of my life rose from imagination into the skyscraper we poured our blood into. my uncle called out to us from the bulldozer, and the site began to empty, in ones and twos and then in droves. left behind, i ran my hands through my brown hair and wished for the blue feel of winter.

the day before graduation, she took me to the old park bench overlooking the city, where college boys gathered to smoke weed and six-year-old girls held picnics with their dolls. alone in the enormity of life, her lips touched mine with a tragic tenderness. as the sun set, others joined us, each with more darkness than the last. it spread through the air as liquid ecstasy shot through their veins and ashes from smoked cigarettes continued to glow underfoot, their eyes flashing with perspective and timeless thrill.

Through the window, I stare at the redwoods and the old park bench that fades quickly out of sight. The ink I had breathed life into throughout my first and last seventeen years are now carved into my skin, words layered on words layered on words. They are my memories, visions of a life I have never had a chance to have; a collection, filled with fragments of incomplete ideas and flashes of kenopsia. Poisoned immobile between hospital sheets and drunk on dreams for months at a time, they came to life inside the abyss of my mind. As I drift off now, I see an unfamiliar yet beautiful dream – my final vision. The pen tumbles out of my open palm.

under that violet sky, we lifted our burning spirits to the brilliant blue moon, satisfied with our own incessant grip on life. we drank to our dreams, reaching desperately outwards for the fleeting feel of a brush of a fingertip against our far-reaching fantasies. and, perhaps most importantly, we drank to ourselves, basking in all our arrogance and defiance of the Earth, safe and sound in the belief that our dreams were within reach.

A detailed, singular eye, with cracks emanating from the black iris and propagating throughout the sclera.