Thirty deep black strands of hair from the bedroom carpet.
I am collecting what remains of my beautiful Zhao-shi, just days ago murdered by her defective heart.
Before her passing, Zhao-shi was capable of flight. Toured the world as part of the Dynasty Circus—The Suspended Woman. 747’s her daily commute. Paris, Tokyo, London. Seldom earthbound, whether borne by flying metal behemoths or her own luxuriant hair.
Acrobats, contortionists, fire eaters—none matched her radiance.
Fifty hairs entangled in her brushes (I’d combed her hair for an hour before calling the paramedics; held my face to it, swallowed its cherry scent).
She was the girl with feather bones, floating before red backdrops, her arm-length purple-black hair tied tight to a silken blue rope, arms and legs fanned, swimming against gravity, winning. I would watch for the drift of butterfly dust crossing the stage-lights’ beams.
Could I sleep, I would pray this image into my dreams.
Twenty-seven hairs from the shower drain, gently washed until they squeak.
I’ve been offered dope and therapy. Her friend Bai, equally confused by Zhao-shi’s early death, even offered me sex as sympathy.
All are empty solace.
Seventy-two hairs on her clothes.
Zhao-shi’s been dead three hundred fourteen hours as of…now.
Time will slide past like nothing, then constrict; every second is suddenly stark, cold. And lonely like I’d never imagined.
It’s all quicksand. Just a matter of how long I can drift.
Ninety-four strands are hiding, entwined with silvery party tinsel, coiled around the motorized carpet-scrubber in our vacuum.
The tensile strength of a single hair fiber is equal to copper wire.
There’s not enough left of her for a hangman’s knot, but any knot will do.
The chair topples beneath me. I hover for a moment before gravity asserts itself.
Although I can’t breathe, I taste the scent of cherries.
Zhao-shi holds me again.
We float home.
Jeremy Robert Johnson is the Wonderland Award Winning author of WE LIVE INSIDE YOU, the cult hit ANGEL DUST APOCALYPSE, the Stoker Nominated novel SIREN PROMISED (w/Alan M. Clark), and the end-of-the-world freak-out EXTINCTION JOURNALS. His fiction has been acclaimed by authors like Chuck Palahniuk and Jack Ketchum and has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. In 2008 he worked with The Mars Volta to tell the story behind their Grammy Winning album The Bedlam in Goliath. He also runs indie publishing house Swallowdown Press and is at work on a host of new books. For more information you can access his techno-web presence at the cleverly-named www.jeremyrobertjohnson.com.
This story previously appeared in Cemetery Dance and the collection We Live Inside You.
Copyright Jeremy Robert Johnson