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Copse, by Ana Gabrielle Perez

My shirt hung idly on the corner of the dresser, shrugging indifference at being discarded in this foreign environment.

I had owned the shirt for at least five years. In this time, it had become well-versed in my cycle of neglect, nervous attachment and finally, reluctant disinterest.

The foreign environment, a man’s apartment, was quiet. It held its breath as if it was waiting for me to leave. The night before, not even two, four-finger pours of good bourbon could hide the stale cigarette smell, or the insidious odor that spilled out of the refrigerator when he had gone to bring me a cold glass of water.

Death permeated the place.

When the man returned with my water, I hid my face in the pillows, counting down to the moment when his hand would curve across my back. Existing, for a moment, only as anticipation.

The gentle sound of morning rain on the opaque windows tried in vain to soften its low, constant growl with a delicate pitter-patter, drawing up images of fledgling plants and nascent, oceanic creatures of some ancient order, at once immortal and ephemeral.

“So NASA is going to 3D print buildings on Mars. I mean, we’ll probably live on the moon first, but Mars is the next frontier. I read about it on this pop science website, there are so many cool articles there, have you heard of it?”

At least, giant, paleolithic whales and flooding on a biblical scale crossed my mind. I couldn’t guess what the man was thinking, or if it was at all related to the article about Mars habitations he was excitedly recounting.

At the core of escaping death is a simple truth: you have to forget your one, singular and wild life.

There are far more artistic means of achieving this, like merging consciousness with a group of hippies and hedge fund managers in the Amazon with the help of a shaman and a very spiritual plant, but here we were. Performing the old ritual of teeth and skin. It isn’t my preference. I’m partial to bouts of laughter, music, dancing in the street and books. But it’s an acquired taste.

He’s still talking about Mars like it’s the long-awaited heaven all of these paradise lost zealots have been fiending for. I’m far too absorbed in wondering if I have pica and burying my feet in the sand to even consider Mars as something other than the scene of Bradbury’s sci fi shorts.

“Roll me a cigarette?”

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Illustration by  Dennis Moran

Illustration by Dennis Moran