your out-of-state friends laugh when you tell them you live in misery. you laugh too. you have to laugh. it’s a joke. only a joke. you wish you could make them stay away. they laugh it off.
“you haven’t been to the city museum?” you ask a friend. “you have to have been to the city museum!” have you been to the city museum? you can’t remember. maybe you went there on a class trip. you must have been. everyone has been to the city museum. everyone. you suddenly remember that your friend is still waiting for you inside the whale.
the tv screen goes white. oh no. oh no. black text begins to scroll across the screen. you feel sick. “accept jesus into your heart”, the man says. his voice is familiar. you’ve heard it so many times. who is he? who is he? he runs the church not far from here. but who is he? you’ve seen his face, but you can’t picture it. the black text is running on a loop now, you’re sure of it. “accept jesus. accept god. jesus loves you. jesus loves you. we love you.”
everyone has a ghost story. but everyone swears that ghosts don’t exist. which is it? missouri is a ghost story. all our houses are haunted. by the dead, and by those on their way.
you just want chick-fil-a. everyone wants chick-fil-a. but it’s sunday. wasn’t it sunday yesterday? you swear it was. but isn’t tomorrow sunday? chick-fil-a is closed on sundays. it’s always closed.
you’ve passed 9 churches now. or was it 10? you can’t remember. you don’t want to. everyone is at church. dead eyes stare at you from the windows.
the past week has been nothing but thunderstorms. thunderstorms and tornados. it’s okay. no one you knew was in the path of the tornado. no one ever knows anyone in the path of the tornado. and you love thunderstorms. you love them. you say this through a tight-lipped smile.
you will never leave this place. you want to. but no one ever leaves. do they?
there are coyotes everywhere. you know this. that’s what they say. those strange howls at night. the missing pets. it’s the coyotes. it has to be.
you receive a letter. its address reads “st. louis”. no, that can’t be right. you don’t live in st. louis. you look closer. your zip code is there. but you don’t live in st. louis. you’ve never lived in st. louis. you feel afraid.
there are hawks. on every fence post, on every telephone pole, every road sign. they mean nothing, you tell yourself. they’re only hawks.
you love going to st. louis bread company. it confuses your out-of-state friends. “do you mean panera?” they ask. no. you don’t. you mean st. louis bread company. they’re different. they have to be.
a tornado is coming. you could be in its path. no one would know you. you go to the store. it’s fully stocked- except for bread, milk, and eggs. there is no more bread. there are no more eggs. there is no more milk. why? why is that all we take? what do we subconsciously know is in those three foods that will save us?
“what high school did you go to?” that’s the question they always ask. why? you try to remember. you can’t. did you go to high school with them? yes. yes, you must have. didn’t you? you can’t even remember being a teenager.
billboards seem to be everywhere. you don’t even recognize what they’re selling anymore. they blend together.
you’ve only been to the arch once. so has everyone you know. you go there once, and then never again. you don’t remember how you got to the top. you hate elevators. you always have.
you look up at the shadow in the sky. your stomach drops. that’s not a shadow. it’s a massive cloud of black birds. they seem to be swarming directly above you. you can’t stop staring. every part of you goes numb. you think you hear someone screaming. is it you?