Using Nonlinear Orthography, the Heptapods from Arrival Tell Me You Will Die

By Amber Nuyens

I watch Arrival and wonder if I’d like to have known that you were going to die, with The Before, During, and After imprinted into my memory entirely non-sequentially, like it had always been there and my only duty was to experience it and I wonder, would the heptapods be so kind as to let me down gently, or would they rip the proverbial band-aid off like Facebook did anyways, but then I don’t think the delivery would matter because it would still make me want to die, but after the initial wanting to die, I wonder if I would have felt more okay when it actually happened—after you died, I spent weeks wondering if it happened or if I had a breakdown and made it up, like when you have a really fucked up dream and have to check and make sure it didn’t happen when you wake up, but if I knew you were going to die, I would have been subjected to the classic “break time and save them or let the future happen as it’s supposed to” moral dilemma that Louise and Ian experienced in the movie where they couldn’t do anything for their dying child besides watch her, but I could have called you and I could have woken up extra early and said something like “just don’t go out today” or “wait until the snow plows are running” and maybe the universe would have imploded and the heptapods would have gotten mad at me but then you wouldn’t have died, or everyone would have died which is fine because then none of us would have been sad and I wouldn’t have cried in public which you know I hate doing, and maybe before this I would ask the heptapods if I could stop you, and I assume they would write “absolutely not” in Heptapod B and then not enough Februarys ago I would have to wake up and know that it was you on the news and maybe that would be too much and I would die of guilt and if there’s an afterlife I would join you but I would probably be so angry that the heptapods were right that I would have to sit by myself in the afterlife for a while to collect myself, and then I would probably find you and let you hug me, not the other way around, because I was never a hugger.



Amber Nuyens (she/her) is a creative writing student living on Syilx land with her elderly lizard and her work has previously appeared in Perhappened, Second Chance Lit, Glitchwords, and elsewhere; find her on twitter @amberuhh.


Art by Jay Baker, an artist from Colorado living in Oregon, by way of New Mexico; he records music as Tom Foe.