instead, let’s talk about burial. about the reverse french manicure of dirt under your nails and the fading-bruise shade of a worm’s body as it is unshucked into the shell of the earth. i stood at what i thought was a grave and when i looked down i saw my younger selves blinking back up, blinking the sun out of their eyes, the time out of the years. we’re digging a moat for our sandcastle, says one, twirling twin pigtails around plump fingers. the seven-year-old, perhaps, pursed mouth sporting the missing incisors that yawned dark as a well in the centre of that year’s school photo.
aren’t you going to help bring water? asked another. a bit older, this one; nine or ten, sharper tongue and sharper nails. i broke the habit of biting them around that time, but then —
the twelve-year-old smiles a touch too shy to call it a smirk, but just a touch. come join us? shredded nailtips tap absently at the wooden edge of the sandpit. a mere inch away, the dirt wall around them loosens a trickle of dark grains into the sand but none of them seem to notice.
the child i used to be at nine huffs. bold like the sunlight, that one. like the trees that stretch their limbs over all the ground they can see, gaze skipping over the shrubs and grasses that shrivel below. there is no need to be afraid of anything when you are certain that it will bow before you. get water. come ON.
okay, i say. okay. but let’s be honest: i don’t have the stomach to drown them. i don’t want to, but then again, i don’t know how to tell them that either. don’t know how to tell them that the place they are sitting was designed to hold skeletons just their size. that if some part of them makes it out one day, that part will sit by the edge of the dirt, and wait for the rain, and watch it fill the grave.
i sit by the edge of the dirt. it’ll rain soon, i tell my younger selves, and i wait.
Quinn Lui is a Chinese-Canadian student who wrote this instead of sleeping at what would be considered a reasonable hour. Their work has been published in L’Éphémère Review, Synaesthesia Magazine, and Occulum among others. You can often find them loitering in bookstores, getting overly invested in D&D characters they will never play, or spending too much money on milk tea instead of actually studying.