Concise Prose. Enough Said.
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The Ocean Floor

By Veronica Thorn

I left my heart at the bottom, through the wind chopped surface, past the shark death aquamarine, from teal to true blue to indigo and on through the black uberdepths with their glowing eels and translucent fish. Way down below all of that is the briar grotto love shack where the Beatles wanted to be, where water pressure keeps bodies firm into old age and the bends are a trip in a rocket ship. That was where I left it, the throbbing muscle, slowly devoured by calcium deposits. When I finally returned, it was too late for a transplant.

I'd languished, always looking for the octopus. But girls like me never get what they're looking for. Instead I found a shark, not a great white or a tiger shark, just a hammerhead, clumsily skimming below the surface, always staring left and right, never straight. I let him swim on my back. Festering in brine, vacations in the hollows of marshes, my flesh, my softness, the underwater ripple and sway of my breasts a steadily recurring dream. But I always kept watch for the octopus, for my train ride home. With his teeth wrapped around my kidney I'd spread my poison, fill him with the longing, not necrophilia, not nihilism, but something in between, hovering just beyond where the bent rays of light converge and dilute.

I reached my hand down his pants for the first time on a Thursday night. He first squeezed himself between my legs on a Sunday though. Sanctimonious expression of goodwill, death do us part, saltwater ejaculation. I squeezed down onto his pistil and never let go. It wasn't malevolence. A mechanism of the subtler will. Self-preservation? The death love that has seized our race? When he pulled out of me, panting and sweating, he did not look down. He didn't see himself chained to my birth canal, the two of us melting into the hopeless recurrence of mid-ocean waves.

He'd led the harder life, a dumb hammerhead, sucking poisons like a fungus, cigarettes and tequila—an obedient working-class dandy. But apparently I had the monopoly on contagion in his body. The crab infested me instead, my larynx devoured from within, removed with knives from without. Without my voice, I turned into iron with only noise, no sound. My poisons became subtler, more insidious, more subconscious, the octopus floating steadily nearer, a violent parachute in a cloak of bubbles, promises of blissful immobilization.

My cheeks caved gradually in, but it didn't make me look like a model, just broken and speechless. When I looked in the mirror, I wanted the translucent tentacles pressing against my rust-red eyelids. Foolishly, he would embrace me from behind, his hammerhead eyes unable to look straight, his hammerhead mind unable to think straight, the noise between us an acetylene flame. Opiates like plastic bottles, briefly useful, eternally lingering, resilient to decay, grafting themselves into the landscape.

When I turned to iron, we sank, I dragged him down, a shark pistilchained to an anchor, plummeting back to the beginning. I never unsqueezed. My darker pleasures are a suction embrace, just like the octopus. My new molecular structure had its side effects, as well. The rust crept over my face, crackled my breasts, my belly. When the oxidized shards began to crumble and cut him, he wanted out, but I never unsqueezed. How could I? He stayed inside me, sadly thrusting, a dull explosion once a night, his semen filling me, spreading into my sinking body, bursting my seams until the density evened out, equal parts iron and semen. Then we hung there, suspended above the ocean floor, chain coiled up inside my uterus, a rustchained couple, desperately waiting for the octopus.

The shack where I'd left my heart was near but unapproachable. The ocean filled me with salt through the hole in my throat and I burned and he burned. I destroyed without consciousness, blissfully immobilized—stasis with or without my heart is sleep. The octopus comes during sleep. My belly filled with rust. Pieces of nipple and uterine lining and toe crumbled and absorbed into the coral around us. Finally the morning came when I awoke to darkness, suction cups pressing against my eyes, fingerprint fireworks on the black backdrop of my rusting flesh. I imagined once more the heart I'd left with my youth, the ocean floor from which I'd risen and to which I'd sunken. Encapsulated by ignominy and the relief of futility, I drowned in ink.

Veronica Thorn's life was smashed after 35 years of stasis. In the aftermath, she is trying to rebuild the foundation with words. If you run into her ex-husband, tell him to cut himself somewhere important. All he left her was a sexy last name.

Photo "Scanner 3" courtesy of Zoe Talkin, Newton, MA.

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