Size / / /

- Where were you when it happened?

I was at a White Castle
   in a subway tunnel. Mice dropped from the ceiling.
I was running. Porcelain urns stuffed with
disposable chopsticks, a sticky packet of hot sauce in my pocket, and
my grief in a crushed delivery box. A 1988 penny cocked its head and said,
Don’t you know?
   The moon is falling.
So I became a train. A bullet in the dark. I taught the cicadas
   how to die at will.

- What kind of man was he?

Red suit and manatee cheeks. A purple bell
looped around his neck. A telephone booth type
   boyish stutter.
Hands of a skittish gambler. He was crying
in front of a pond of brown ducks
   his ribcage filled with tiny boats.

He collected cicada husks, sang songs
into their empty cavities. I can’t tell you
   how he came apart. How they tore open his scarlet seams
and plucked out his name, his old
language from his heaving chest like
sharp feathers. How he couldn’t stop
   crying,
      unable to put himself back together.

- Where was the girl?

She was building a love story (a tragedy)
from a dropdown menu of dreams (of grievances),
   one on top of one on top of the other
inside a pillar of aerosol blue light.

The man was there too
   crow-shaped with pinhole eyes, dragging a train
of bridal cans in his mouth, his chest a cavern of hollow sound.

He wanted her to love him
and what is love but the promise
of salvation
   Pinned to a stranger.

The cicadas scratched their names into the heat.
B<3C B<3C B<3C

The girl let the rain break off her face
   This part’s true
how the birds fell from the sky
   and burst into apple trees.

- Now where were you when it ended?

The taxi wouldn’t drop me off at Fulton.
The elevator wouldn’t take me to the tenth floor
until I came up with the girl’s salty lips
   and midnight whereabouts.
Cicadas swarmed the windows.
A phone was ringing
   and vultures were circling the emergency exits.
      The man was crying in the shaft with a monster
Who was the monster?
Do they ever tell you who the monster is?

I swear to you,
   the cicadas wouldn’t quit.



Angela Liu is a Chinese-American writer from NYC. She researched mixed reality at Keio University in Japan and now works in IT consulting and translation. Her stories and poetry are published/forthcoming in ClarkesworldThe DarkUncannyDark Matter MagazineCast of Wonderskhōréō, among others. Her debut short story collection, Beautiful Ways We Break Each Other Open, will be released in September 2024 with Dark Matter INK. Check out more of her work at liu-angela.com or find her on Twitter/Instagram @liu_angela.
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