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Floatation Therapy in the Subjunctive Mood

By Keely O'Shaughnessy

What if I could hold my breath long enough to dive the depths of a murky ocean, could submerge myself and marvel at the softness of my skin under the water, the way my limbs feel larger yet somehow ethereal and light, before sinking deeper, traveling through each layer, past the midnight zone, leaving angler fish blinking in the dark, where I could refuse to be crushed by pressure mounting in my body, or what if my diaphragm didn’t need to inflate, what if I didn’t need to concentrate on my ragged breath, the sound of it caught in my chest while I have sex with my best friend’s guy (the one that works at The Sub Shop, dolling out warm, moist, sliced meats that look as appetizing as a blob fish,) what if I didn’t have to suck air into weak lungs and pant and, rasp like a deflating balloon animal before he came, what if I were alone in my flat, save the one scorched and wilting cheese plant, what if when the guy leaves, after wiping himself on my hand towel, the one with the appliqué, silk starfish, the one mum bought as a housewarming gift, our family’s only tradition, everything could be calm and still, what if, once he was gone, I didn’t have to feel my body expand as I buried my face in the pillows letting out big, heaving sobs, what if instead of diving, running the risk of decompression sickness, of gas bubbles forming in the circulatory system, I could remain on the surface, face up, floating and weightless.

Keely O’Shaughnessy is a fiction writer who has been twice shortlisted in Retreat West contests, she has writing forthcoming in the 2021 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology and has been published with Ghost Orchid Press and Ellipsis Zine among others.

Art by Andy Gardiner.


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