Grace Huang | Art by Amanda Zhu
“Please.” A hand extended out. Another one, from the person sitting on the right, reached over and pressed a stick of chewing gum into the upturned palm. “Thanks.”
“No problem. I know you like bubblegum.” A snap, of a gum bubble popping. “I’m sure that’s a reason.”
“You say that like you don’t like bubblegum for the same reason either.”
It was something both of them had loved since they were children. Whether it was simply because their fathers had both worked at the same manufacturing factory and had passed the time seeing who could blow the biggest bubblegum bubbles, or whether it was simply a coincidence, only the world would know.
All they did know was that they had always been the two kids who would fight to the death to get bubblegum candy from their elementary school teachers.
“So.” From the right, a stone was tossed down the hill. They both watched as it rolled down the grassy knoll, and then heard it clattering against the rocks, until they could neither see nor hear it.
“So.” From the left, another stone was tossed down the hill. This time, it came to a stop and hid amongst the verdant blades of grass.
“…You’ve been dead this whole time.”
A hum in agreement.
“Ever since we were kids.”
“It wasn’t your fault.”
“Ever since I was a kid. You… never had a chance to be a kid.”
“It wasn’t your fault.”
“…Technically it was. I mean, I…”
“You had nothing to do with it. I promise. You’re four years younger than me. You had nothing to do with it.”
“But… you were my friend.”
Strange, how the past tense came out so easily.
“You were my best friend. And all those years ago, you…”
“It wasn’t your fault that our mother had a miscarriage four years before you were born.”
Another rock was thrown down the hill. This rock rolled down the hill, left behind the overgrown forest they were sitting in front of and rolled down the hill until it fell among the undisturbed sand of the empty beach beneath. The sound of grass snapping, being plucked from its roots, and loud chewing noises filled the air.
“…I’m sorry I wasn’t here for you all this time. If I had known that I was going to disappear, I… I would’ve said something.”
A shake of the head. “You couldn’t—you still can’t—control it. I don’t blame you. I just… wish you weren’t…” Dead, gone, without the chance at life, with the souls of those who had gone rather than having a life that could’ve been as much of a life as—
“How long do you think you’ll… be here for?”
“I don’t know. I might… I might be gone tomorrow.”
“…But you’ll be back soon?”
“Yeah. I will be. So… don’t worry about me too much.”
The sound of grass being plucked stopped. One head turned towards the other. “Even if I’m not here, and I’m off somewhere else?”
“Of course. I’m your sibling. I’ll find you eventually. And, if it helps, I’ll bring you a pack of bubblegum.”
And with a soft little laugh they sat there together in their own little world with empty beaches and overgrown forests and crystal clear lakes, with sunsets of burgundy and yellow and orange and purple and pink and red.