As the clock struck midnight, ushering in my fiftieth birthday, the friends I’d been playing D&D with since middle school learned I was no longer the same person.
To be fair, one of them wasn’t surprised. I absorbed him first, while the others thought we were still playing a game.
“I’m going to be an entomologist,” Isabelle says. Her dress doesn’t have a pocket, or she’d have brought one of her pets. Her hands feel empty.
“Sounds great, sweetheart,” her mother says, arranging her hair on her shoulders and ushering her toward the stage. “This time, smile for the judges.”
For a year or so we lived in Boulder. One day by chance we drove by Jonbenet Ramsey’s house. It still haunts me.
We were pressed against the back wall behind a tangle of dresses and hangers, the Boone’s Farm in our stomachs rising against the reek of moth balls. Blue and red flashing lights stabbed under the bifold doors, licking my guilty socks.
She took my hand, and suddenly nothing else mattered.
Chip Houser’s short fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, New Myths, Every Day Fiction, and elsewhere. He’s a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, has an MFA in Creative Writing from UMSL, and thinks cedar is the better option for closets.
Alone on a sidewalk, a young girl dances slowly through the silent snowfall. She raises her arms, arcing them together, fingertips touching like beaks kissing. Warm grey flakes settle on her hands. She finishes with a pirouette, waiting for applause, but the world is silent.
Soon, she will start coughing.
Chip Houser’s short fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, New Myths, Every Day Fiction, and elsewhere in print and online. He is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.