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My Mother in Permacapsule

By Alissa Nutting


Published:

 

It has been a long day of intergalactic delivery, and I’m feeling a little boxed-in. Though I like the homey atmosphere of my ship’s small confines, after the first week on a mission the air starts to smell like recycled sock.

When my Message Station Board lights up pink, I know it’s Brady WordCalling. I’ve never met him, but he says he’s forty-three, and early on in our talks he sent a very promising five-second video conference of himself flexing his back muscles. Like me, Brady is an independent outer-space cargo transporter.

Yet there’s something even deeper that I’ve sensed between us. The very first time he messaged me on SingleMingle (initially, it was a bit of a debate whether or not to look past his screen name of FluidTransfer69 and try to get to know the man within), I felt that Brady had to be a Sagittarius. That’s how well we clicked. And lo and behold, when I told him my suspicion, he admitted that while his birth month technically made him a Scorpio (my astrological enemy), he was born premature. His true sign is indeed the keeper of my star-charted soul.

Tonight we wax intellectual for a bit before getting flirty.

FluidTransfer69:             Do u think that when we die, we will be together

forever, in a type of paradise? How old do u think ur

dead eternal body will look? Probably younger than u

actually are, right? A hot thirty? Supple 27?

As always, I open myself to him completely.

CargoBabe:                          Brady, I’ve thought about this a lot.

CargoBabe:                         I think, and honestly believe this, Brady, that in the

afterlife, everyone is so extremely beautiful, perhaps

even more beautiful than it is possible to be on earth.

FluidTransfer69:             If u were here right now, what would u suck first?

Clearly turned on by the parallel between our love and eternity, we talk until our conversation culminates physically, at which point Brady writes,

FluidTransfer69:             Got 2 kleen keys, bye!

We’ve been chatting back and forth for several weeks now, although it seems like years because the cultivation of Our Love has been so rapid. He tells me that his face is badly scarred from a fuselage accident, and that because of this he fears my disappointment and is reluctant to meet me in person. I constantly assure him his appearance doesn’t matter, but he hasn’t yet been able to summon up the courage. Brady’s back and buttocks, however, are a source of self-pride. He promises additional photo stills are on their way to my inbox.

*

It’s always hard to wake from a dream where, say, the universe has instated a monarchy consisting of I as Queen and Brady as King. In my dream Brady closely resembled a cut, muscular Jesus.

I roll out of bed to find that the frozen-waste extraction has broken and the waste has melted. I begin my day by mopping the thaw. Additionally, my mop sponge is fiercely rectangular. I cannot get around the tighter edges of the file cabinet with it and must reserve that job for Q-tips.

Yet it is a brighter afternoon when I sit down to find that amongst various junk e-mail pyramid schemes there is also a message from Brady. I open it and see a forwarded news release.

Hey Babe,

            You reading this in a towel? Check out

            the second story. Apes can do everything.

            Ha-ha!

                        Luv you. B

The story, indeed impressive, involves an ape both calling for help and pumping his owner’s stomach with charcoal after watching her attempt suicide for the third time. He is a helper-ape, assigned by the government in the absence of family funds for a more human in-home caretaker. The woman is ninety-four and deathly afraid of primates.

Yet what truly catches my eye is the story just below it. Justice Freeze, a cryogenic contractor largely employed by the government’s penal system, is going belly-up and is holding a large auction. Several criminals whose permacapsules are programmed to not unlock for centuries are up on the auction block.

I am interested in one in particular. Below the notorious big-font names that will no doubt go into the home foyers of heavy-rock musicians, there is a smaller one, barely visible, ending a long string of nobodies.

My mother, Debbie “The Destroyer” Harlow.

Mother led a life of crime. Her real screw-up, the one that landed her 450 years, involved a large Guatemalan daycare facility and a hidden boon of cocaine. Her instinct or information was off, and, thinking that the children were purposeful assistants in a ruse to hide the drugs from her, she stepped the inquisition up a notch to try to make them cooperate. The footage was replayed over and over again on universal broadcast the October of my ninth year of life: Mother, emptying a machine gun clip into a row of cribs. In court she claimed the cribs were empty, but the Guatemalan government said otherwise, and this was yet another strike in a long string of screw-ups.

She also killed my father. He was a good man, but too talkative.

As I stare at the monitor, an antsy feeling begins to overtake me. Finally, against my better judgment, I sigh and program my ship toward the auction city’s coordinates.

                    *

Upon arrival I’m given a numeric paddle. I find it eerie the way the prisoners’ capsules are intermixed with used and defunct science equipment. Each capsule has a large number with a minimum bid written across the icy window in grease pen.

Lucky for me, Mother’s starting bid is quite low. Freelance outer-space cargo running is a hit-or-miss trade, and this year in particular has been quite hard. In September I contracted an antibiotic-resistant strain of trichomoniasis from a toilet seat in Goron, a dome community dealing mainly in refurbished filtration equipment. A few months later my fuel gauge malfunctioned and I was stalled out in the middle of nowhere for several weeks until another ship happened by. The subsequent weight-loss that occurred during this time of hardship followed by my celebratory feasting upon rescue resulted in a bad case of the gout. Luckily, this final blow was tempered with meeting Brady. My empty glass became half-full.

I’m no delicate rose, but looking at all the frozen criminals, I start to wonder if this is such a good idea. The capsules are especially frightening. They’re dimly lit and humming like vending machines.

All the high-end infamous criminals were frozen wearing really menacing expressions. I wonder if they were intentional, like a funny face for a driver’s license photo. It seems like when people are frozen alive, it becomes clear what they’re made of. Most of the white-collar criminals have pained expressions, anywhere from discomfort to agony. A few look almost peaceful; one woman in particular has an extreme glow about her. I check the paperwork and see she’s been frozen for multiple homicides.

When I finally reach Mother, I’m a little taken aback. The frozen years have not been so good to her. Technically, one doesn’t age while frozen, but she has clearly been through a lot. Her expression is a concentrated wince, as if they’d paused her while she was taking an ardent dump. She also has what appear to be freezer-burn patches decorating her cheeks and forehead. These are especially prominent along her scalp, and look as though an irritating home-perm solution was left on far too long. Her hair is mashed up to one side resembling a matted pompadour. Does hair freeze? Overall it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere, but now and then I see a wisp quiver beneath the gust of the capsule’s internal fan.

The auction begins with the most expensive items, and I realize I’m in for a long day. I decide to check the mobile WordCall terminals to see if Brady is logged into the system. I’m quite nervous so I eat a few double-fudge scones and pray that he’s on so I’ll have enough strength not to finish an additional twelve-pack of Galaxy Bars.

As I see his screen name I sigh with relief, so hard that I fog up the screen and have to use my sweaty palm to remove condensation with more condensation. I marvel again at how quickly we were able to fall in love. It’s true—when I found “The One,” I just knew it.

FluidTransfer69:             Hey, where u at? Missed our AM freak session.

Don’t get me wrong: Brady and I have discussed many profound topics, including capital punishment (he’s against), global warming, and slavery. But when it comes to the finer details of our personal lives, we just haven’t gotten there yet. Ours is an intense and steamy courtship with little room for conversation that doesn’t make at least minimal strides toward climax.

I lie.

CargoBabe:                         Sorry, I was feeling ill. Better now though. Now that

you’re here.

Yet I underestimate Brady’s working knowledge of my psyche, his Sagittarius command of honesty that detects when something is amiss, especially with one he truly holds dear.

FluidTransfer69:            Is there someone else? L

The pupils of his frown emoticon are like painful daggers to my heart. Here I am, deceiving the one I love, only to cause him agony. I decide I must come clean.

CargoBabe:                         Brady, I’m not an orphan as my profile states.

FluidTransfer69:             R u married? L

CargoBabe:                          No, Brady. My secret is unrelated to our love.

FluidTransfer69:             R U A MAN??

Clearly, further delay of any information is not possible. Brady needs the truth and only the truth, and as my job motto states, I Shall Deliver.

CargoBabe:                         Today I’m at an auction to buy my frozen convict

mother.

As I press “Enter,” I imagine this information beaming through light-years of distance to reach Brady. It’s a short but hard wait before I know relief.

FluidTransfer69:             Oh. Want 2 get dirty b4 bed?

By the time Mother is put on the block, the more upright bidding citizens have long left the building. The man to my left smells vaguely of urine and keeps lifting his wig and scratching his scalp with the end of his paddle.

I am the first to call Mother’s bid at its minimum, and am challenged only once by a bored but well-dressed teenager who has been making the second bid on everything, accumulating an impressive frozen army. As I raise him, anxiety floods me. In my head I’ve already accepted a projected scenario where he bids my mother up to an unaffordable price and I leave defeated, only to be arrested five years later for breaking into his pool house in an attempt, likely drunken, to reclaim her. Then his shiny cell phone goes off and he leaves.

I get my mother for minimal mark-up, about the cost of three days of work. That is, when there’s cargo work to be had, and when misfortune does not follow my delivery mission like a love-drunk puppy.

I decide I cannot just dive in and yell to Mother’s capsule Everything I’ve Been Wanting to Say. The comfort level has to rise; familiarity must be reestablished and achieved. As evening sets in, I boil an insta-broth and sip it in front of her.

Although it wasn’t easy to fit her capsule, 15 x 6 feet, into the 30 x 20 interior of my ship, I believe that ultimately it will prove to be a healing experience. I think, sometimes, that my whole life, this wandering around the universe, is really just an attempt to try and outrun her and my past. But now, here she is—consuming a large amount of electricity, frozen solid just inches away from my being wherever I am to roam about the cabin.

The heat from my insta-broth melts the frost away from her digital lock, informing me that she has over 414 years left on her sentence. When (or if) she does finally wake, I will be so dead, and she will most likely have no idea that the majority of my adult life was spent in cohabitation with her physical being. Perhaps I’m fooling myself thinking that this is any kind of personal breakthrough. To say that she is emotionally unavailable is a bit of an understatement. But really, it’s my life I should concern myself with. Our relationship doesn’t have to be a two-way street.

When it’s time to meet Brady online, I throw a blanket over Mother’s capsule as though she were a parakeet. My personal life should remain private. It’s been a long day, and I’m ready to lose myself to the gaping void of lust. At times I worry our relationship is too heavily dependent on the sexual, but tonight I’m grateful for its numbing opiate. I’m about to sign off when Brady brings up Mother.

FluidTransfer69:             So what did she do, anyway?

I fear disclosing this information may cause him to worry about a genetic bias towards psychosis on my end, but then I remember our previous bonding experience that day.

CargoBabe:                          A lot of things. She has a strong thirst for

money and blood.

FluidTransfer69:             O? Sounds like a feisty one.

CargoBabe:                        She is fierce.

FluidTransfer69:             So have u unthawed her yet?

Naïve as this question is, I can’t help but wonder if this is his way of telling me that he soon wants to meet not only myself but also the family, to take our relationship to the next level.

CargoBabe:                        That won’t happen in my lifetime. She has

over four more centuries on her sentence.

I pause, pondering how much I should express to him. It’s healthy, I decide, to just say what I feel.

CargoBabe:                        It’s kind of a shame that I’ll only get to make

amends on my end. There’s so much I wish I

could say and have her hear.

FluidTransfer69:             Huh.

And suddenly, I see that it’s OK. That it will all be OK because I’m not in this alone. My feelings for Brady swell and I decide to express them in a humorous pun.

CargoBabe:                        Thank you for listening. I feel like our love is

now light-years past what it was this AM.

FluidTransfer69:             Pierre is happy 2 hear that! Babe?

Pierre is Brady’s name for his penis.

CargoBabe:                        Yes?

FluidTransfer69:            Is ur mom’s capsule a Digilock? Cause it’s all

over the Internet how to open those.

And with that, Brady demonstrates his technical prowess by cutting and pasting a series of step-by-step instructions that could have Mother room-temperature by morning.

I strap into my Sleepsak with a heavy dilemma. I, and perhaps I alone, am in a unique position to understand that Mother is, on many levels, a monster of unthinkable proportions.

Yet, I’m also her daughter. Her daughter and her only child. If I were frozen, wouldn’t I want her to unthaw me if I were so capable? And what of second chances? What of personal growth and change? What of her realizing that it’s me, her little daughter, but arson, drug trafficking, homicide, sexual battery, and a variety of other mistakes caused her to miss my childhood and adolescence?

I leave the blanket on her capsule all through the night. The next morning, I meet Brady online, but I’m not interested in the hot-n-heavy. I have hard-hitting questions that need answers.

CargoBabe:                        Brady, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m thinking of

dethawing my mother.

FluidTransfer69:            Isn’t that why you got her?

CargoBabe:                        I didn’t think it was . . .

FluidTransfer69:            Then what’s the point?

Was Brady right? Was I subconsciously hoping I could bring her to life all along?

CargoBabe:                        She’s done some very bad things.

FluidTransfer69:            Well, nobody’s perfect.

I’m inclined to agree with him, although I’m not sure that using her command of martial arts to force a wooden spoon handle into my father’s jugular could rightly be labeled an imperfection.

CargoBabe:                        I’ve got to go, Brady. You many not hear

from me tonight.

FluidTransfer69:            I’ll B thinking of U!

We give each other kissing icons; I impulsively touch the screen when his name disappears.

                    *

I remember, kind of, the movie Frankenstein. Or maybe I’m making this up. But

I think that when the creature comes to life, there are lots of subhuman moans and groans. Perhaps some running around and crashing into things.

There is no technical support hotline I can call for assistance with illegally opening my mother’s prison capsule, and we’re a few hours away from any medi-port. My greatest fear is that she’ll wake up startled and instinctually lash out at the first organic thing she senses, which will be me.

Simply opening the capsule is easy. When the door lifts up, it’s quite theatrical due to the frozen smoke. I wonder if I should be recording this. It seems like something my mother, the new mellowed-out one that will take to bridge and cardigans, might want to watch alone on nights when Brady and I have gone somewhere romantic and timeless, and get a bit misty-eyed: here is where my daughter pulled me from the fog of purgatory. Here is where I achieved room temperature.

Mother’s expression and skin texture looked unseemly even through the frosted glass, but without any kind of cloudy filter, she is very, very grizzled. The veins in her face are prominent and green, with a slight purple tinge I can only describe as zombie-ish.

Suddenly a vague memory hits me of a time she made me siphon gasoline as a child and then dismissed my resultant oral sores, saying if I really wanted to feel some pain, I’d close an eleven-inch knife wound up with gunpowder and a cigarette (she had done this in Tijuana, though I can’t remember the surrounding conditions). Waking her up might be quite a mistake. My panic deepens as my eyes move toward her sharpened teeth. At least, I’ve always assumed she had them sharpened. Nature doesn’t seem to be fond of mixing 45-degree enamel inclines and mammary glands. As the ship’s control panel lights glimmer and flick across the shiny arrowheads of her incisors, it’s hard not to feel like everything about her emanates a strong Do Not Touch vibe.

The reanimation directions are far more involved than just popping the door open, which I’m sure often had to be done for routine maintenance. Though I don’t know how much routine maintenance was given to my mother, seeing as her T-Zone appears to be blistered yellow with a thick layer of permafrost. A wave of pity overtakes me, and I know what I must do. This time, things will be different: I’m an adult, I have a wonderful boyfriend, and Mother will have to be grateful I saved her from her sentence.

I proceed with caution, first tying her body up with a series of athletic tube socks, which I have an abundance of. Though I’m no slave to the workout (in fact I don’t think I’ve ever, really, engaged in any type of cardiovascular activity beyond scrubbing), I love elastic. Perhaps due to the fact that I was not hugged or encased in warmth nearly enough as a child. Perhaps due to the fact that my non-sociopath parent was murdered by the non-non.

Eventually, the fluids start kicking. I do mean this literally. Restraining her was a good idea.

The legs are the first to return, followed by the upper torso. There are lots of bubbles. The gases that came out of her have a smell somewhere between Clorox and broccoli. It looks sort of like she’s dancing, hippie-style in reckless abandon, too drugged out to allow for symmetry of movement and timing. These seizures begin to pick up pace with the chest undulations. There’s a small window of time when I become afraid she will short-circuit and leave me with only the smell of burnt hair and some additional emotional baggage.

She vomits several liters of a gelatinous maroon substance before speaking.

“You double-crossing prick,” she belches. “Give me back my magazine.”

By magazine, I know she is not referring to any sort of home-interior journal.

“Mother,” I say, “it’s me. You’re safe. You don’t need any bullets. The year is 2045.”

Her eyes, perhaps, still have some ice crystals passing over the retina. Maybe all she can see is blurry light. She might even think that this is the afterlife, and I an angel.

Suddenly I feel her gaze lock upon me like the scope of a long rifle.

“It’s you? Jesus, you turned out homely. Let me see your rack.”

“Mother—”

With that she reaches out to physically explore my bosom. Realizing she’s restrained, she quickly bites through her cotton fetters with a rodentlike flair.

“This place is a shithole.”

I can feel the age-old resentment beginning to boil as I watch her rooting around my tiny cabin, no doubt searching for instruments to fashion crude weapons from. When she opens my utensil drawer, she lets out a judgmental “tsk.”

“Maybe, Mom, I would live in a nicer place if I hadn’t gone to a government work-orphanage at the age of nine when you were incarcerated. Not just incarcerated, frozen. Beyond writing letters, even. Did you know that they didn’t even tell me you’d been frozen? For the longest time, I left mail for you on my nightstand, thinking the supervisors picked it up during our morning chemical showers. I’d get long letters back and it wasn’t until you started coming on to me in them and asking me to meet you in the boiler room that I realized Robby the Janitor had been stealing my outgoing mail and taking on your share of the correspondence.”

Mother has found my only pair of pantyhose (admittedly, I don’t dress to the nines much) and placed padlocks into each foot. She begins spiraling these around like nun chucks.

“Mother, no weapons. I mean it. I didn’t have to bring you back to life.”

This gets her attention. She comes over and places her fingers along my throat in a way that brings instant and absolute pain, along with the inability to move. “You’re getting too big for your britches.”

She then opens the refrigerator and begins eating for three hours straight. Around hour two I decide to go to bed. I don’t say a word about how the distracting light, the wasted power, and the flatulent sounds of plastic condiment containers spurting their last drops are keeping me from pleasant dreams. What I do say in my head—a telepathic whisper of sorts that I hope she will hear, considering the possibility that maybe being not dead but frozen for several years opened some window of her mind to the supernatural—is this: My britches are indeed so big, Mother. I’m a forty-three year old woman with a weakness for reconstituted fudge.

                    *

I wake to Mother (nude) holding a loofah scrub (mine) looking not so happy. She was frozen before the hydrogen ration card mandate and does not understand why the shower will not operate. Since I cannot ask for additional ration cards to support a prematurely thawed felon, I’m forced to dip into my meager stash of them. She asks how long they’re for.

“Three minutes,” I warn. “Don’t get caught in the dry with a head full of bubbles.”

She hoists up an arm that appears to be covered with sawdust. “I’ve got more dead skin than you’ve got ugly. Give me another one of those things. Three minutes isn’t even long enough to sand my forehead.

I tell her “Just this once,” then once I hear the water start put all my remaining ration cards into a front-zip stomach purse designed to prohibit pick pocketing. I bought the purse for travel, specifically for when Brady and I will honeymoon in Rome.

While Mother’s in the shower, I sign on to let Brady know that I’ve unfrozen Mother.

FluidTransfer69:      U guys catching up?

I’m a sucker for simplicity and would rather not explain that since waking, all Mother has really done is fully deplete my apartment and put me in a chokehold.

CargoBabe:                         Yes.

That night I decide that if things are going to move forward emotionally with Mother, the healing process will need to be instigated by me. I watch on as she uses my fold-down dinette table to practice punching through wood. She needs no practice.

“Mother, when you killed Father, that really hurt me. Especially the having to watch it.”

“I didn’t tie you up and glue your eyes open.”

This is true. Mother has a way of making everyone else seem in the wrong.

“Did you miss me? All those years you were frozen?”

Mother’s left cheek is somewhat illuminated by the moon, which is visible across the windshield. She’s sweaty and her cheeks are pink with exertion. I watch as her expression remains unchanged while her fist sails through four solid inches of oak.

It occurs to me that we’re now the same age. In fact, she might be a little younger. Despite her discolorations from freezing, I have to admit that her features are beautiful. It’s not something she passed on.

“Mother? Because I missed you. Sometimes I was so mad at you that I told myself I didn’t miss you. I even swore that I hated you, but inside I knew that was never true, no matter how much I wanted it to be.”

“I was frozen, nitwit. You can’t miss people while you’re frozen.”

In my bunk I pull the covers up over my head and wonder if my relationship with Brady is strong enough to accelerate—to the point of me seeing his face, but also to us meeting and perhaps cohabitating.

Mother could maybe not come with me.

                    *

The next morning I pop the question to Brady.

Cargobabe:            I know this is sudden, but I’ve been through a

lot in the past four days and it has really made

me realize what’s important in life. And that’s

loving and being loved. I love you, Brady. I

want to marry you and be with you forever. I

want us to live             together and end each day in

your arms. Please say you will?

FluidTransfer69:            Get married in person?

Cargobabe:                        I know you’re ashamed of your scars, but

there’s no shame with me Brady. I don’t care

if your face looks like it’s been melted by acid.

Just as long as you’re nice to me, like you have

been. What we have together is something

I’ve never known before.

FluidTransfer69:            Will ur mom come too? I think I have

room.

I quickly peer over my shoulder to make sure that Mother is still finishing her home tattoo. She’s deep in concentration over an electric toothbrush motor and a Bic pen.

Cargobabe:                        Mother will not be attending the ceremony.

We discuss logistics. Although I wanted to leave this afternoon, Brady has a biohazard run he needs to finish and only one radioactive suit. We decide on Friday.

The truth is, good things do happen to good people; sometimes it just takes awhile. And bad people do get punished. Mother already got hers, sort of. She should’ve gotten it for longer but I wanted to give her a second chance.

The rest of the week was quite a struggle. I only managed to get through it knowing it would all be over soon, in Brady’s protective embrace.

On Tuesday, incredulous that I wasn’t holding any hard drugs, Mother burnt my vinyl curtains to create a tar-like mixture she could huff. Once high, she insisted we have a series of home-Olympic strength competitions that included arm wrestling, leg locking, and kickboxing. These were followed by a medal ceremony in which Mother awarded herself the two remaining tin cans of food on board. I went to bed hungry. This was probably for the best because my stomach was already so full of swallowed blood.

Bored on Wednesday, Mother dislodged a ceiling panel and went up into the cabin’s airshaft. She emerged adorned with several pieces of apocalyptic jewelry she had fashioned from living rats.

Thursday was a delight of secret packing. Although most of my sparse possessions had been transformed by Mother into some type of weapon, I had been able to hold onto one pair of decent underwear, elastic still relatively sturdy, for my first meeting with Brady. That night I decided to set things as right with Mother as I could.

“Mother, I want you to know that despite all that’s happened, you’ll always be my mother, and I love you.”

She seemed to possibly absorb this. Her fingers fidgeted with her rat-tail necklace. “I can’t believe they did away with television ten years ago,” she said. “I really didn’t see that coming at all.”

                    *

I get up in the very early hours of the morning, dress, and start towards the exit pod. Suddenly the shadow of the doorway takes form and I feel a grave disruption in my breathing that gives way to unmistakable pain. Mother, wearing an eye patch donned for purely aesthetic reasons, is holding a homemade knife. As she pulls the blade from my chest, I see that it has been fashioned from a tin pork-n-beans can. Its label is still partially on.

Knowing I have just minutes, perhaps seconds to live, I don’t dabble in the muck of blame or anger. Circle of life, I decide. Mother giveth, Mother taketh away. But I can’t live with Brady thinking that perhaps I’d gotten cold feet, or worse, never loved him at all. I use my last remaining strength to scrape towards the WordCall console.

To my surprise, it is already lit up. There is a message between us, except the words are not mine.

Fluidtransfer69:             You better hurry up and do it. Good ‘ol Tons-

of-Fun is ready to bolt.

Cargobabe:                        Consider it done. I love you, “Brady.”

Fluidtransfer69:              I love you, Sicko.

“Sorry to burst your bubble.” Mother hoists me over her shoulder and begins walking. “He’s a steady I met back in the pen, pre-freeze. Been in wait ever since for an opportunity to spring me. He knew that as a former felon he wouldn’t be allowed to buy my permacapusle. So, when he found out I’d be going up for auction he decided to get to me through you.”

The room is starting to turn a dark shade of magenta, waving at the edges like a flag of silk. Mother hoists me down and then latches something around my wrists and neck. I realize I’m in the prison capsule.

Before closing the lid, she unzips the purse on my waist and removes all my shower ration cards. From the inside of the capsule, her voice sounds echoey and godlike.

“Don’t worry, I’m freezing you, not leaving you to die. It’s just a flesh wound. Albeit a deep one. I’m going to have to dump you somewhere that no one will find you for fifty years or so, long enough for me and Skinner, or Brady, or whatever you called him, to have a nice life together without you showing up to blow the whistle.”

With that, the cold smoke starts. It burns in a surprising way. The fact that this should not be happening to me, that Mother and my Pretend Boyfriend Formerly Known as Brady are bad people and I am not, doesn’t provide quite as much insulation from the pain as I might like. In fact, I am very cold, so cold that no one thing can be any different from another. My favorite color and my left arm are equal-sized chunks of ice. The small window of the capsule begins to frost over and I know this is my chance: this where I get to make the face that I will have until I wake. I decide to stick my tongue out like this painful freeze is just a snowflake I can catch and eat, like my mother is just a bad medicine I can swallow.

 

This story first appeared in MAKE #7, “Property Lines.”

Alissa Nutting is an assistant professor of creative writing at John Carroll University. She is the author of the award-winning collection of stories Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls (Starcherone Books, 2011) and the novel Tampa (Harper Collins, 2013). Her work has appeared in the New York TimesO, The Oprah MagazineTin HouseFence; and Bomb, among other venues.

Jen Korff is an analogue photographer and doodler living in Chicago.

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