I have MS, Hashimoto's, and a black belt in taekwondo. I'm also an ocular melanoma survivor. This explains why my writing might be kind of obsessed with apocalypse--societal, religious, and personal.
The mirror showed a reflection that wasn't my own. Missing hair, missing teeth, gums bleeding, chiaroscuro eyes. Red flakes of scalp peeling up from the radiation. Clothes getting grayer from the punishing washes. Soon I’d be forced to take off these clothes and put on the special robe, the one that never covered enough of me...the one that left me only shame and humiliation to stay warm by.
- Runner-Up in New Worlds Challenge
Chop Wood, Carry Water
The Buddha says, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” I was ill before I became a patient. I was a mother before I had a baby to care for. I was a wife before I had a husband. Every part of me is in a time loop, living callbacks and flash-forwards, wondering which parts of me will be called on in the next loop, coming to a fruition I neither seeded nor will harvest.
Map of My World
It’s the nausea that grips me. The blood on the floor when I’m not supposed to be bleeding. The glistening pomegranate seed that’s supposed to be “tissue” and instead is recognizably an arm, the fingers not yet more than a paddle. I wasn’t even trying to get pregnant, but I am undone by the loss. There’s a word in Welsh, hiraeth, that means a yearning for a place to which you cannot return, or perhaps never was.
The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. I didn’t want to get closer. I was just checking on the place because Mom asked. She can’t make the drive up to the lake the way she used to. But I was getting on in years myself—heart attack five years ago, knee replacement last year—and that drive wasn’t getting any shorter. I told her to sell the place and be done. It’s not like we had great memories there as a family. I’d rather let happy folks do something better with it. But she’s been committed to the idea of letting the place fall to ruin as a last spite for the husband that she outlived...the man who broke both her eye orbits, her jaw, and one of her ribs over the years. She always forgets that that man was also my father, and that maybe his legacy wasn’t as complicated as hers. After all, she’s the one who decided, over and over again, to keep us there with him.
The Old Man of the Celestial Court
There weren't always dragons in the Valley. But little Susie needed a new toy, so, as it was written in the opening words of one of the many holy books the humans had come up with in order to explain the batshit place they lived in, “It had to happen.” There weren’t always unicorns, either; it had to happen. There weren’t always manticores, jellyfish, dogs, rats, lions, cows, scorpions, whales, snails, or anything else in the Valley, really. All of it had come from the insistence of little Susie. Humanity itself had at one time been the answer to one of Susie’s demands to her father, the god of creation: “I want a creature that looks like a god but thinks like a baby all the days of its life.”
How to Be a MMOMA
Take a look at this photo. From left to right, these women are Master Esther Kraft, Grand Master Barbara Robinson, the author (Kathryn Carson), and Master Annette Mau Deane of Gentle East Martial Arts of Virginia. Between us, we've lost count of the classes we've taught (together and separately), the competitions we've medaled in, and the boards and bones we've broken. Grand Master Robinson has no idea of the number of black belts she's conferred over the course of her long, amazing career. It numbers in the thousands. She conferred all three of the other belts in this photo, too.
I’m already tired—bone-tired. No sleep from the night before. My husband will have to both drive and entertain our kid in the back seat while I doze. I am unsteady just getting in the van, and yet I’m supposed to compete today. I’d like to say that this is unusual for me, and it is, at least in part; I’m not usually competing in a tournament. But the sleeplessness before life’s milestones, both major and minor, has been a facet of my life since I was very young. Anxiety runs like a hot, poisoned river through my family’s genes, and I know I will be spending all of today managing it.
The dark-haired cop’s name plate read “Haley.” The other cop, Blondie, was one of those that wouldn’t let a big man get close enough to read his name. Haley crowded past me toward the kitchen table and picked up the photo I’d been looking at. He couldn’t have missed it in the thin winter sunlight leaking through the windows: Marie, sitting on the beach as the sun set behind the broken clouds, closing like Smaug’s eye above the breakwater. The light in that photo, nearly two thousand miles south and ten years on, still hurt the eyes.
Professor Holly Denby put her head in her hand and leaned hard on the desk. Paperwork had been the bane of her life before the Shift. It was fast becoming the same after, for different reasons. Before, she’d had useless paperwork and the easiest possible circumstances under which to finish it. Now, she had paperwork that meant literal life and death for a town of more than two hundred people, bad ink, bad pens, bad paper, a desk that had come from the landfill, a terrible old chair that made her back ache, and only a couple hours of daylight in which to complete the odious task once her rounds were done.
I painted your nursery bright dusty yellow—a cheerful non-color, like the light on a country dirt road in summer, neither a “boy” color nor “girl,” a safe and open space for any child to grow. I answered the same way when people asked—and they always asked—are you hoping for a boy or a girl? I answered the same—always the same—I just want all ten fingers and all ten toes. It shamed them into remembering that health is not a given, that we can’t choose bodies for our children as if they were some bright chrome product on a shelf in a store.