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My Ribs a Cage

Marissa Harwood has been reading speculative fiction for most of her life. She's been making up stories for even longer. She currently teaches English Language Arts to high school students in Colorado.

For thirty solid seconds, I stood frozen. I did not breathe--I wouldn't be surprised if my heart neglected to beat. I felt the comforting presence of the other realities pressing at the back of my mind, but I pushed them away. A strange sensation filled me: cold, flicking down from my brain into my extremities like raindrops sliding down a windowpane.
Then gasping. Great swallows of air. A sunburst in my chest. No. A supernova in my chest. My ribs a cage that couldn't hold the pieces together.
Like a pebble into a rapid, a thought dropped into my mind: This is what my heart feels like when it's truly breaking.
His blood covered the kitchen floor. It stole across the linoleum and into my shoes. My toes were sticky with it.
I calmed my breathing and pulled together the last three minutes of my life. We'd argued--about what I could no longer remember--and then his hand had darted into the drawer, the one in the far corner of the kitchen that didn't open all the way, and when it emerged it held a gun, his intruder gun, his "just-in-case" gun, and that alien hand pressed the muzzle against his temple and in my righteous anger I scoffed and said "You wouldn't dare."
And then he'd proved me wrong.
The heater kicked on. I stared at a fleck of his skull stuck to the greasy wall. Yes, I thought. This is what my heart feels like when it's truly breaking. I stood there for a moment and let the pain seep into every cell.
Then I closed my eyes and forced my consciousness out of my body. I flipped through the layers of realities until I found the fabric of time, stretched out over the bloody kitchen like a grid. It flowed steadily away from me.
It only took a quick tug, a brief interlocking of my will with the threads that held together the universe, to drag the grid toward me. Thirty seconds. One minute. Ninety seconds. Two minutes.
I heaved a sigh and dropped back into myself. When I opened my eyes again, he stood in the corner of the kitchen, muzzle to his temple, chest rising and falling in angry desperation.
I held up my hands. Took a step forward.
"No, baby," I said, my voice soft in the charged space between us. "No. Don't."
He stared at me a moment. I watched a grief creep into his eyes--a grief so palpable it was no wonder they watered.
He lowered the gun.
"I knew you'd stop me," he said, voice rasping through his teeth. "I knew it."
My heart slammed against its cage. Darkness coiled around the edges of my vision.
"Of course--" I stopped. Swallowed. Started again. "Of course I did."
The End
This story was first published on Monday, July 17th, 2017
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