Stars over snow, with the moon heavy and broken. Silence fills his ears, pressing against the canals and the drums and the temples. The black of the night swells something soft and velvety and under his tongue. There are no windows here, no light tinged yellow with beer and wine and teeth clenched in a smile. Winter breathes ice onto his skin, freezes his fingers through and through, but he doesn’t mind. It's warmer than inside.

A big house with fancy chandeliers and pretty glass windows that used to streak rainbows on the floor, years ago. They don't anymore. Around the house a deep ravine, now skeletal and blanketed in snow, but in the dirt, lives all the worms and stomping playful boots and fuzzy memories. All sleeping, now. He wiggles his toes in his shoes, tight and binding, like the rest of his holiday ensemble, but necessary for the gentle coos and pinching fingers of all the drunken, wretched wraiths.

Inside, a big house with a big tree and big tile floors and big vaulted ceilings -- inside is poisonous. All of the slurs of speech and slurs spit out over dinner, the teasing eyes and unleashed anger, passive aggression behind every inquiry about school and every fake laugh and every vague compliment. Seeing his blood there, choking on the pitiful dredges of their happiness and dreams and washing it down with the hair of the dog that bit them. It makes his chest feel tight and his gut hollow itself out. He hopes he's never like that. Perhaps knowing its wrong shatters the chain, but then again, they all must know their sins. They must. How could they not? How could they not see the pain and unease in him, how could they not smell the booze on their breath before the sun is halfway through its track? He relishes in the moonlight and dreads the thought of going back inside, even just to say goodbye.

He wonders what it would be like to love his family. To enjoy holidays instead of stepping round the glass they shattered in bare feet. To take what they say as it is, not dig for their real meaning hidden amongst fluffy words and kind touches. To not flinch away from warmth knowing that he's just gotten so cold that he's gone all the way back around. One of the last stages in hypothermia. He rubs his red and tender hands together. Shrieks from inside make him flinch. Only a wall between him and them. He waits patiently. Eighteen, the magic number, when no one will be able to tell him what to do. When he can put miles between them instead of just feet. He aches for that year like a drowning man aches for a life preserver. He looks up at the stars. They watch, and they know. That makes him feel a little better.

Time to head back inside.

2018 MARCH  - SHORTS.jpg



Jeremy Vachon is an aspiring writer in high school. He enjoys caring for his dog, snake, and cats; and collecting and cleaning animal bones for display, collected humanely. He lives with his mother and her girlfriend, and hopes to attend Kenyon College in the fall of 2019.

Editor: L. Naisula
Graphic Design: Shompole, N.L.
Original Image: Nathan Anderson