-You live thirty minutes away from anything interesting. The only things within walking distance are a gas station and a Bojangles.
-You love looking at pictures of snowy winter scenes. In the winter you wish for snow, but everything remains brown and dead. When you go outside it seems like the world is holding its breath.
-A neighbor puts up a large wooden cross in their yard. No one asks why. No one says anything. You wonder if you’re imagining it.
-You hear distant gunshots coming from the woods at night. You hear a distant scream coming from the woods at night. You hear music coming from the woods at night. You are tempted to follow it.
-The deer are growing bolder by the day. Driving home late at night you see an entire herd on the side of the road. Watching you pass by. Conspiratorial.
-A bat gets in the house. It flutters around desperately before crashing to the floor in defeat. You are afraid to touch it, so afraid, though it is smaller than your fist. There’s been talk of another outbreak of rabies in the area. You eventually scoop it onto a broom and place it on the back porch and wash your hands until your skin is raw.
-You wave and smile at your neighbors when you see them. They wave and smile in return. You never speak to them. You do not know their names. They have lived next door to you for ten years. You hate them. Their smiles look hasty, their eyes glassy. You continue to smile and wave.
-Summer is worse than winter by far. It’s not the heat. It’s not the oppressive humidity. It’s the way insects find their way into your home, no matter what you do. You spray for roaches every summer. Every summer they return. Moths fly in when the door opens, great huge lunar moths beat themselves against the window. Spiders make their homes in the high corners of your bedroom, centipedes skitter up your walls. You wake in a panic one morning; a roach has fallen from the ceiling onto your chest. You have nightmares of roaches crawling into your mouth, crawling under your skin, bursting from your eyes. You find the glue traps full of glossy brown insects almost daily.
“How far is Orlando?,” your cousins from out of state ask. “It’s about three hours away,” you tell them. Three hours pass. You are surrounded by a capitalist hellscape, and a mouse greets you “hello.” You don’t know how you got here. You miss your home.
It’s winter; an iguana falls out of a tree. It’s summer; the same iguana falls into the tree.
You work in a restaurant by the beach. A tourist tells you you must be so lucky to live in paradise. They’re right. You are lucky. You are very lucky. The tourist pays their bill and leaves. In the tip section are strange letters you have never seen before. Soon your luck will run out.
The sound of your trash can tipping over echoes outside. You assume it was a possum. A knock on your door. You assume it was a possum. Deep, incessant rumbling engulfs your home. You assume it was a possum.
Was that a gunshot or a firework? You play with the question amongst your friends. Was that a gunshot or a firework? It was too loud to be a gunshot. It was too loud to be a firework. It was very loud, and you are very afraid. Your ears are ringing, but no one else heard the noise.
They say US 1 ends in Key West, but you can’t be sure. You are afraid of where the road may lead. Your fear is not misplaced.
The local news informs you that a hurricane is coming. You board your windows, except for one. Have you always had that window? You look through it; where your living room should be lies a vast landscape riddled with carrion and the bones of animals you do not recognize. You hastily board the window.
Your friends are all playing Pokemon Go. They seem insistent that you join them. After you decline, strangers start staring at you in the street. Each time you make eye contact, you hear voices talking about ‘candy’ and 'stardust’ and naming things in an alien tongue. You stop making eye contact.
Finally, you are privileged enough to download the game. You feel a bit of your soul slip away. You don’t know where it went. You get the feeling that you shouldn’t try to find out.
There is a rare Pokemon nearby. As you walk towards it, it rises to the top of the nearby list. It has been there for hours.
You walk by the side of a busy road. You don’t recognize the street names, but you’re sure you’ll find something familiar eventually. You keep walking.
Pokemon Go has taught you the importance of looking both ways when you cross the street. You look both ways even when you’re not crossing the street. You are constantly alert. Sometimes you see dark figures out of the corner of your eye. You tell yourself they’re not real. After the sixth one, you start to think you have it backwards. Maybe you’re the one who’s not real.
The shadow of a Lapras appears on your radar. There is no water until the ocean, hundreds of miles away. You look at the shadow again. It is definitely a Lapras. You walk towards the ocean.
Your feet are covered in blisters. Your knee sometimes bends the wrong way. Every labored footstep is agony. You bite your lip and keep walking. Each day, you get up and do it again.
Your battery is at 6%. It has always been at 6%. You do not remember a time when it was not at 6%.
You are playing Pokemon Go at night. You walk down a dark alley to reach a Pokestop and see four muscular thugs guarding a rusty metal door. You have to stand by the door to get the pokestop. They do not stop you. They fear you. They are right to fear you.
the mangrove roots rise out of the damp earth, boiling up like they’re trying to escape. they catch at your feet and you trip and you land in the mud. the curtains of spanish moss ripple and you hear laughter on the wind
it is summer. it is always summer. the sun is always shining, the heat like sticky fingers plucking at your skin, the asphalt dragging at the soles of your shoes, even at night you feel its burning eye upon your sweat-slick neck
you wake to the sound of rain. you fall asleep to rain. you wake up to rain. the streets run like rivers, water bubbling up from storm drains. it drags up things from underground, branches, bones, waterlogged photos of your sixth birthday, and your eyes slide past them until the current returns them to the earth.
you are on the beach at sunset. long shadows reach out from the waves, across the sand, licking at your toes. you think they’re shadows. you don’t look too hard at the water
the house next door is owned by a pair of snowbirds. they return every winter with a smile and a wave and greet you by name. every year they have different faces. you return the smile and try not to meet their eyes
every day, there is an orange on your counter. you used to ignore them, until you started to find them in your bathtub and your shoes and tucked into your pillows. you don’t even like oranges, but every day, you eat one. you know better than to throw them out
two old women chat ahead of you in line at the supermarket, switching between english and spanish and a halting, guttural language that is both familiar and indecipherable. you wish you hadn’t taken french in high school
the streets at disney world are broad and bright and empty and go on forever. you hear children shrieking in joy, but you can’t see them. the mascots are still, swaying slightly in the breeze, their oversized heads tilted back to
gape at the sky. no matter where you go, you feel the castle’s gaze upon you and know you are not alone
the hurricane blows through after days of gray-green sky and calm weather forecasts. you’ve carved the appropriate sigils into the plywood over your windows. the wind howls. something you hope is a tree branch throws itself against the house. you put your headphones in and pray the battery lasts until it’s over
- They say you can see for miles if you get up on top of the biggest hill in town. They’re right, and you immediately regret testing it. You have nightmares for weeks afterwards. You should have listened when they told you to stay away from the hill.
- A train whistle wakes you up every night at 2 am. It must be right outside your window - you can feel the bed shaking as it thunders past. But the only tracks nearby haven’t been used in over 50 years.
- There’s a small patch of mold on the ceiling above your desk. Above all your desks - school, work, even at home. You scraped off the one at home one night, and found that it had tripled in size everywhere else the next day.
- There is fog covering the low valleys in the early mornings of summer and fall. It’s so thick, you can never see the ground below, and looks almost sturdy enough to walk on. You never mention that time you saw the neighbor boy actually doing it.
- “Knee high by the Fourth of July!” They tell tourists and out-of-state-ers that it refers to corn growing. You do, too. You know that if you tell them the truth, they would leave and never return, and the crops would not be as plentiful.
- The Cuyahoga River caught fire once, back in the day. Only once, but you swear sometimes that you can smell the thick smoke and see flames dancing on water as you cross over the bridge into Kent.
- The man who works at the butcher shop claims to be from Ohio, but the accent is all wrong. Your mother says darkly that he is from Cincinnati and that you are never to turn you back on him. The meat you buy there looks less like it was cut and more like it was ripped out of the cow.
- There is a buckeye tree growing in your yard. It is in the way for the swing set you want to put up. You decide that the swings aren’t that important after all. You dare not touch the buckeye tree. Your best friend was never the same after they tried to climb the one in their yard.
- There are four Ohio State University shirts in your closet. You don’t know how they got there. You don’t know where the OSU Christmas tree ornaments came from either. All of your clothes are scarlet and gray during football season. You don’t question it.
- It is snowing. It is always snowing. You can’t remember what the sun looks like, or the grass. All there is are cloudy gray skies and snowdrifts. The ones in the parking lot at Target are bigger than your house, and every day they seem closer to the store entrance.
- A stray cat wanders the neighborhood. You were warned to never go near it as a child. They call it the Sewer Kitty. You saw what it becomes down in the sewers one time. You were scared to use the bathroom for months afterwards.
- They tell you that your graduating class is the biggest in years. You frown, thinking back to when you were younger and were told your class was one of the smallest. When you try to ask your friend about it, she shakes her head silently and refuses to look in the shadows.
- The local pizza shop is dirty and smells funny, the sauce is so much more red than any of the other places, and kids regularly go missing from the nearby local elementary school, but you can’t stop ordering from them.
- The apple orchards are lovely in the fall, all bright colors and sweet smells. You can never find them at any other time than a few weeks in October. Your mother just wakes you up one morning and announces you’re going to get apples. You pick a few on your own and tell yourself that the dark red liquid that drips down your hand from the fruit is just sap.