you stop by the side of the road to buy fruit at a stand, watermelon and peaches. “watermelon’s in season,” the old woman says, smiles with far too many teeth. watermelon is always in season. you take a bite of a peach, and the juice stains your mouth red.
the kudzu climbs over the trees, the old cars in your neighbor’s front yard, towards your driveway. it crawls over the statues in your garden and up your brick walls. it crawls over your windows until you can no longer see outside, but you’re not even sure you want to.
you visit saint simons. the sand is almost as white as the residents’ faces when you ask about fishing. “don’t go onto the beach at night,” a lifeguard whispers to you, glancing around to make sure nothing is near. you notice there are no crabs, no birds, only the noise of the waves against the shore.
your grandmother keeps putting food out for the neighborhood’s stray cats. you don’t want to tell her the cats haven’t shown up in a long time. the things eating the food are not cats.
it’s football season. you must choose a side. your street is lined with red and black flags, bulldog statues. you start to notice dark shapes roaming the sidewalks when they think you can’t see them. your mother takes down the black and yellow banner, but it’s too late. there are dogs on the street. too many dogs. you chose wrong.
turn left onto peachtree avenue in half a mile, your gps says. you have passed four peachtrees in the past seven minutes. they all look the same. you are on peachtree. turn left onto peachtree avenue in half a mile.
there is a church just over the hill from your house. they are spaced exactly in one and a half mile increments. you have never dared to ask why.
“bless your heart,” an old woman says to your friend as you leave the restaurant. your friend pales, and you immediately move away from her and say goodbye. you know you will not see her again.
in a diner, a tourist asks for unsweet tea. the waitress screams and backs away. the others join in. you turn away, not wanting to see what happens next. not again.
it is thanksgiving, and the men over 25 in your family are going out to the woods to hunt. they cover themselves in camouflage and take their largest guns, and will not answer when you ask what they are hunting.
it’s spring. the pollen starts to appear. it covers the buildings, the cars, the roads. it has been three days since you could last leave your house. outside, the screaming starts. you do not know if the pollen traps you inside or protects you from the thing out there. you do not want to find out.
you’re on the porch alone, a glass of iced tea next to you. the air is still and heavy, and the mosquitos and gnats buzz. at least, that’s what you tell yourself is making that noise. the wind whispers through the trees. you are not alone. you are never alone.