3rd Place – January 2020



Tiffany Seitz

The pain of loss was little more than a recent memory. One moment she’d been free and light, her life-force dancing throughout the being. Happy. Dreaming of a future beyond the greasy counters of a fast food restaurant, where customers only cared that their cheeseburger came without mustard. She didn’t want to smell like grilled onions for the rest of her life. She had goals and needs—like replacing the bald tires on the ancient, hand-me-down Civic, or getting out of her lying, cheating ex-boyfriend’s dumpy apartment. She deserved more. She mattered.
Until then she had to scrape by—dreaming of better—one measly paycheck at a time.
Thu-dump. Thu-dump.
The smell of rain, mixed with oil and exhaust, tainted the air. Her chest tightened protectively against the fumes. She fought to remain calm…it would be okay. Thu-dump, th’dum, t’dum. It would be….
Skidding tires morphed into screeching metals. T’dum, t’dum, t’dum.
Screaming. Wailing sirens. Blinding flashes of colored light gave way to intense brightness.
T’dum, t’dump, th’dump. Thu-dump.
Intense pain. Blessedly brief, but long enough to be acknowledged. What’s that smell? Thick, sweet…repugnant. The light extinguished; black confusion reigned. Chaos faded.
Cold. So cold.
Thu-du-mp. Thu-d….
Then—oblivion. No movement, no sound, no flow. Nothing—not even the cold.
She woke to a chill. In place of the dark nothingness, there was bright illumination. Her bed rigid, sterile, icy. She was lifted into the cool air and her body received a gentle massage before coming to rest. The new bed was soft. Moist. What was that smell? Metallic. Bitter. Not decay, but not robust. Foreign—but familiar.
Prickling pain pierced the edges of her limbs. Pokes and prods, squeezes and pats moved her stiff tissues around, encouraging them to move. Afraid, she lay curled within the new place. The walls of the cavity were snug but welcoming. What happened to the previous occupant? She had taken great care of her old home, yet this one had been left behind.
Whispers came from deep within. “He did his best.”, “He was too weak.”, “He did his best.”
He was mourned, but she felt the invitation to make the space her own. Intrigued, she tested the framework. While tight, it permitted movement and felt sound. Liquid warmth surrounded her, then spread throughout her being.
Hidden beings waited in the depths to see if she would accept the new abode and make it whole. To help them be whole. To heal.
Her decision was made.
Slowly, she absorbed the sounds and smells of her new home as she throbbed with new life. She embraced the light and the space. Her life-force moved, remembering its dance once more.
Th—u—du—m—p. Thu—du—mp. Thu-dump.
The tense walls relaxed with her pulsing rhythm. The shadowed beings sighed with renewal as her beat resumed a normal pace. The rot was rinsed away, leaving behind new scents. Fresh. Clean. Healthy.
She was free. Free to dream and make a difference in the world. She mattered.
All was as it should be.

Writers' workshop and writing group