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.

By Amy Barnes

a tornado flattens all the corners of the Casual Corner I manage after we help dress the local news anchor in a news anchor flat accent suit, flat white like a Starbucks drink, flat against her chest because she isn’t a weather girl, flat because my assistant manager who I didn’t know was stealing the store bit by bit in her wood-paneled station wagon helped to steam the off-white suit on the flat woman with flat jewelry for television and a paper doll flat shirt for underneath the suit, all the while the weather girl should have paid more attention to the weather and not her skin-tight, not-flat outfit which meant no one knew the tornado was coming until there were flattened mannequins left in the flattened mall and only a stack of weather girl sweaters on weather girl mannequins in the assistant manager's trunk, all jumbled and bumpy and busty.

Amy Cipolla Barnes lives in the South with dogs and kids and words and at @amygcb on Twitter.

Art by K Worthington.

By William Woolfitt

In Oklahoma, Albert Brumley was picking bolls in the cotton patch, singing to himself while he picked, rearranging parts of "The Prisoner’s Song," changing it around, squinting when he sneaked a look at the mean red sun, too bright and hot for mid-morning, his face sweaty, his overalls damp, his body damp, his hands sore, could he have another life, could dreams take him there, could blue clouds, could a whirlwind, his father a sharecropper, neighbors bringing him down to size, neighbors saying try your hand at coal, get you a job in the strip pits at Rock Island, but he was listening to the notes in his head, to the new sounds, to the ragged wind, he straightened up and called out, when the shadows grow, a bit of new song, unformed and crude.

William Woolfitt is the author of three poetry collections: Beauty Strip (Texas Review Press, 2014), Charles of the Desert (Paraclete Press, 2016), and Spring Up Everlasting (Mercer University Press, 2020).

Photo by Julie Dixon.