thalassophobia

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.