Mustard Sky by Brenda Birenbaum

You stumble into the room (insert time of day, description). Daylight intrudes through a window the length of the back wall, hazy mustard sky and odor of sulfur are barging in. You step back, or pause, or something to do with halted movement (insert place). You’re in the doorway, peering in (reverse angle). Could be a hospital room, a jail cell, a tomb—beds, cribs, caskets, things to lie in. A fuzzy figure is fluffing up pillows or spreading her legs or wielding a gun (insert job title, social status, probably not IQ). You drag yourself forward, you’re looking for the phone book (seriously?) where your voice is buried. You know it’s blank, lines in the sand, lapping waves, all gone. The far wall, the one with the yellow window, collapses onto the parking lot several stories below, taking the floors with it, breaking up the asphalt, rushing like a mudslide down the hillside, sweeping on the way cars and coffins and door frames and— (insert new time, place).

You’re in the ocean (the ocean doesn’t need description), flailing limbs (phew, you still have four), eyes sting, salt in your lungs. Acid-spitting flying machines swoosh overhead, cutting up the thick air into uneven portions. You can’t tell if you got dropped into the roiling waves, shot over the bluff with the mud, or drifted in gently, like an unwitting visitor from outer space. You’re swallowing water, cement shoes pulling you down. Glimpses of mustard clouds come and go, shrieks (seagulls, probably) bob in and out of liquid hum, a jumbo jet (seriously?) crashes nearby, blowing a huge foamy mushroom into the murky atmosphere. It’s quiet underwater, shafts of soft light are doing a dozy dance, air bubbles float up, pooh-poohing the whole absurd notion of gravity. No need to lie down or go into that room—(insert old time, place).

Okay. Just step back, save the damp footprints for the boulders and the sand. You’ve got your mobility, your ambulatory facility—kept those throughout the whole sordid affair, haven’t you? You’re in the broken entrance, gazing past the shifting floor, the gaping wall (reverse angle). Could be a tripwire, barbwire, a runway cluttered with stop signs flapping and rattling and groaning in the ferocious wind. Flying isn’t allowed, never even mind the sulfur sky (insert new time, stretch old time). Start over (in alphabetical order). Breathe in. Close your eyes. Drown. Glide. Laugh? Time is up and there’s no place to insert. You—

Brenda Birenbaum writes things (always with something in parenthesis). She’s fuzzy about what comes next in her bio or the bigger scheme of things. Find her @brbirenbaum