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My back drags along the riverbed,
catching on rocks.
Limbs flail with the currents that
sweep me over and under
somersaulting in continuous turns
like the acrobat I dreamt of
as a young child,
under the spell of dazzling kaleidoscopic lights,
smell of popcorn and buzz of circus music pumped through ancient speakers.
The light teases me each trip ’round,
rippling through the barrage of bubbles and cutting through clear water
like glass.
The rays whisper with a giddiness, “There’s air up here. Waiting.
Waiting for you.”
I wrench back my head, contort my neck, stretch inhumanly long,
willing my form to change and let me
take one last sip
but the current pummels me back down, drags me over the sharpened stones.
Spinning in circles
so disorientating that I lose track
of up and down,
only light and the shards of broken granite,
broken bottles,
and scraps of aluminum
discarded only to be collected by the small dam in its
churning eternal cycle.
Trees gave their branches to add to the
dizzying chaos.
The light darkens,
outside in,
until the black has nearly consumed me.
I tumble in a void.
When my lungs burst, the breath they’ve held finally released,
mouth gaping, gasping, gagging on the foamy currents,
breathing in the water that will never let me escape its perpetual

Emma E. Murray explores the dark side of humanity in her fiction. Her debut novel, Crushing Snails, comes out August 2024, and her second novel, Shoot Me in the Face on a Beautiful Day, will be out in 2025. Her novelette, When the Devil, will be out May 2024. To find out more, visit her website
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15 Jul 2024

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