Cicadas don’t scream like they used to.
Evan clings to this thought as he walks, numb with rot, down to the bone. He’s nothing but the
texture of the rope slipping against clumsy fingers, the burning against his palm. The cicadas
are quiet, even as the sun swells in the sky, a concentrated fist of wobbling heat. Evan hears
himself breathing. Hears Ruby breathing, short, quick, desperate breaths, like she’s drowning,
even as she continues to walk. She stumbles. Evan doesn’t catch her – his arms are full, after
Don’t look down. Don’t look down. Don’t look down.
Something soft rubs against Evan’s calves, and for a moment he pretends that it’s nothing but
lamplight-eyes Mew slinking around his legs, or the tendrils of his newest fern tipped sideways,
spilling soil. The cicadas are so very quiet. Why are they so quiet?
When Evan reaches the tree, it rings like a victory, and that thought curdles in his gut like sour
milk. His chest heaves for air. His teeth clatter against each other like marimbas. Ruby’s
stomach growls, and the sound feels almost sacrilegious. There’s something patently wrong
about the human nature of the bodies they inhabit – Evan’s never felt less like a real boy. It’s
easier if they’re two mindlessly shuffling dolls with painted lips and glass eyes. It’s so much easier.
There is an open bottle of wine on the kitchen table.
There is an open bottle of wine on the kitchen table, and it is cherry red and steaming violet,
crushed grapes fermenting, carmine and rose, and Evan clings to it like a lifeline. He closes his
eyes and imagines it in the scrunched-up, bled-dry corner of his mind. The individual dust
motes, suspended in the air, like snippets of dry skin cut out of a ghost. Filtered spindles of light.
The heady, heavy scent of berries. Evan turns it over and over in his brain, a rotating wheel, and
the sour smell of it, creeping under his nails and nostrils, is almost real. Almost.
In his addled state, his head spirited away, Evan trips.
He hits the grass softly, like a whisper, mud nuzzling up against the incline of his cheek. Rosie
Ruby shrieks as Rosie falls, an entirely involuntary sound, and Evan winces at the way it leaves
his ears echoing with thinly-spread pain. Her body thuds awkwardly against the earth, and
something cracks – ribs, maybe, or the already-fragile line of her collar. Evan scrambles to his
feet, leaves and undergrowth flaking under him as he moves. There’s no mistaking the motion of
the action, of the way Ruby stops herself from sobbing, cuts herself off in the deep part of her
throat, desperate and ragged, down to the root. Smooth, black hair spreads out across the
undergrowth like spilled ink, a dark patch, and Evan is not thinking about the open bottle of wine
at his house or the dark, plum-colored half-moons beneath his eyes, like someone had taken a
scraper to his bare cheeks. There is only the body. There is only ever the body.
Somehow, Evan stands up.
They will bury this body even if it kills them.
Lyra Kois is a junior at Yorktown High School, in Arlington, Virginia. She enjoys writing, music, and art, and is deeply passionate about social issues. She mainly works with Signature Theater, especially SigWorks in the schools. She hopes to one day own a dog.