by Quinn Luthy
the other day i was missing you while i was sitting at the beach. my friends were off getting food
when i noticed in the distance some dark thunderclouds coming closer and closer and i thought about swimming just above a fallen tree and occupying the space around it and - sometimes i feel
like a fallen tree and that you are swimming. i cannot feel you, just the absence of you or the impression of your body in the current of you treading water. the storm comes closer and i pray
to you to protect my loved ones and wrap them in a golden bubble of protection so they never die
so i can drop them off at the airport and so that when i see them again they still love me.
i overhear a person walking along the beach talking to strangers saying ‘there’s a storm coming
and it’s a big one you better come with me to my cottage you can be safe there’ and my friends
are gone and i am alone and the storm is here now, lashing and pushing against me and i run to
the stranger and group of people and into their cottage.
there is the stranger, and two other people from the beach. we sit along the stranger’s bench in
silence while they make us tea. they are happy that we are sheltering with them, they sit down
and place a little bowl with gold paint in the middle of the table. they tell us that we each must
dip our fingers into the bowl of gold paint and that they will ask us a question, one of the people
from the beach dips his finger into the bowl of gold paint and the stranger asks ‘do you know
who i am?’ and the person from the beach says ‘no’ and the stranger says ‘lick the paint off of
your finger’ and so the person from the beach does. and then he begins to collapse and i watch
him die. i can see the convulsions in the sheer pain of being eaten away and i bolt out the door -
but suddenly we aren’t in a little cottage at the beach we are on the top of a tall cliff and it melts
away and i am falling and falling and i wake up.
i bolt out of bed and brush my teeth and go to school and go to work and go to sleep and the
stranger, and the two people from the beach are there again. we are sitting around the little table
in the stranger’s cottage and there is a little bowl of gold paint in the middle of the table and then
the stranger turns to me and tells me to dip my finger into the paint and then the stranger asks me ‘what does this dream mean’ and i say ‘i don’t want anybody else to die’ and i lick the paint off
of my finger and i begin to die and then i do die and then i wake up, brush my teeth, go to school
and i feel my own death like a second skin. and i go to sleep and i am at the cottage again and the stranger is there and the two people from the beach are there except this time the stranger looks different like they are wearing a different face and they step out of the room to refill the little cup
of gold paint and the people from the beach across from me look at me and without saying
anything we scramble around for a phone and dial 911 and the operator asks us if we are safe and
we say no and that we are stranded on a beach somewhere but we don’t know where the beach is
or if we are even in our country and the operator cuts us off and tells us that they are sending the
cia with helicopters with guns mounted to the sides of them and me and the two people from the beach run outside and we can hear them and we feel that we are going to be safe and then the stranger returns from refilling the little cup with gold paint but instead of putting it on the table
the stranger tosses the paint all over us and as the helicopters are landing and the stranger throws
the paint on them and we all die and i wake up.
when i wake up i am not sure if i am awake or if this is a dream or if i can even tell because the
day goes by so quickly and i don’t even want to sleep. i remember that i miss you again, and that
we never actually got to go to a beach together before you died.
when i fall asleep, the stranger is there, and they look different, and the two people from the
beach are there and then the stranger asks the last one to dip her finger into the little bowl of gold paint and the stranger asks her a question ‘which one of you should take his place?’ and the
person from the beach looks confused and says ‘me?’ and then she licks the paint off of her
finger and dies. and i run outside the cottage again, but this time, there is no beach and there isn’t
even a cliff, we are floating high above the clouds. the remaining person from the beach falls out
of the door and into the sky below and i wake up and i fall back asleep and the stranger is there
again, but they look different, and the people from the beach stare at me. at once they take the stranger and strangle them, the stranger passes out and the little bowl of paint sits still in the
middle of the little table and the two people at the beach look at me and ask me ‘how do we
know each other?’ and i say ‘we don’t’ and they ask me my name and i tell them and they look at
each other again and one of them pulls out a smartphone and says ‘our good friend sawyer talks about you all the time! he always talks about you coming to visit us in school’ and i am taken
aback. i look at them, suddenly unsure, suddenly not trusting them, and i say ‘saywer is dead. he
shot himself two weeks after we kissed. it was my first kiss.’
and they look at me, suddenly unsure, suddenly not trusting me and they show me videos on
their smartphones of you.
i miss you. why are you alive for them but not for me?
i see videos of you, you look older, older than you were when you died and suddenly i don’t
want to wake up
i want to go back to wherever the two people from the beach are from so i can see you again and
the stranger wakes up and i dip my finger into the little cup of gold paint and i say ‘sawyer is
dead’ and i die. and i wake up.
About the Author
Quinn Luthy (they/he) is a writer usually based in Brooklyn, New York, land which was stolen from Lenape People. Most of Quinn's work creates queer ecologies and is centered around queer responses to the climate crisis.