Artemis Drifting

Just because she tippietoes, doesn't mean she's a creepin'.

Stray Cat Strut.

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She buried her face in the crook of her elbow. Eyelashes sticky with tears and gummy from mascara fluttered like the wings of a dying bird against her skin.

She did not close her eyes.

The back drop fell away, crashing to the ground thunderously. The vibration shot painfully up her shins and stayed behind her kneecaps like troublesome nettles.

It did not matter where she went, for moments after arriving, everything around her would leave her behind.

Seconds before she had been surrounded by trendy, cheaply made clothing that hung from sari-wrapped walls. Hermit crabs twitched nervously in painted shells, shying from the tender fingertips of inquisitive children.

The music overhead was an eccentric blend of East Asia and techno. Only the continuous, hard and insistent beat of the drum soothed her. It was the only thing that felt human in this place. Everything else was coated in a thin shell of plastic, hardened chemicals from fast industry lines. Insides were bits and pieces of children that never got to play with hermit crabs. Children that would grow up with legs bowed and spines hardened like an arthritic fist.

Grief tore at her, but could not possess her. It reached, but could not grip, the stickers that announced discounted prices muffled its screams.

Inside everything was a story, but they were all stories she could not tell. They were butterflies she could not catch. Some of them would stay with her long enough that she could memorize the rainbow sprawl of their wings. Others the half second flash of a fishtail during dusk. Either way, eventually, always, they left her.

So like the stray cat, she wandered in and out of scenery. She tried to hurry before the walls fell. She tried to run before the sound of their papery wings alerted her to the next departure. She was second look, second best, the chalky line from where anxious runners began.

Carefully, she stepped over the broken habitat of the crabs, waded waist deep through poorly translated buddhist wall scrolls and onto the next scene.

No one stapled her blurry visage to light-posts.

Her first name was After, her last name was Thought.

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