Poetry & Prose

Proof that Nothing is Real and the World is a Giant Fish

Art by Zed van der Linden

I can’t stop dreaming about him. I don’t dream a lot—mostly because I don’t sleep a lot—but when I do, and when I can remember that I do, it’s always him.

In one, we were getting married.
I was sitting in a strange hotel room with my dad, desperately trying to delay the inevitable. He had me dressed in an ornate, poofy silk dress with scenes of famous lovers painted in thread across my skirts, weeping on my knee and dancing a debutante ball around my ankles, clawing into the fabrics to climb up my calf, chasing one another up my thigh. I clamped my death grips around my drooping bouquet of weeping white hydrangeas as I walked a waltz down the aisle where he was waiting for me, dressed like he didn’t even care.
I faced him and felt my dress turn saccharine, sanguine, slowly, helplessly watching myself get swallowed by a horrific white cupcake. My vision clouded with frosting, my lungs filled with buttercream, my ears and eyes and nose stuffed full of dense, sweet cake. My mother had a dream like this—a white dress pulling me down into the water, swirling around me like foaming water; a necklace of pears breaking like a noose and falling like tears down my neck. She told me to go to the lake, and now I hold her flowers.

With my last breath, I yelled out to my father. 

I begged him to cut me out of my wedding dress.

In another, he pushed me down a flight of stairs into his lake.

I hit the frozen surface hard and felt my bones shatter along with the ice beneath me. Paralyzed and rigid, I could only move my eyes, flicking them quickly across his face, which stared at me dying in the water. I reached out. He turned away. I let my eyes roll back into my skull.

I woke up in his arms, and he told me he’d saved me from drowning.

He brought me to the things I loved and made me watch as I couldn’t do them. He held my hands up to my face to show me all the things I could no longer hold or have. He reminded me my body was no longer my own.

I couldn’t speak or move.

Every inch of me belonged to him.

The last one started as a memory.

We were on my couch. My parents were gone. He chose the movie. We were holding hands. Mine got so sweaty; the accumulated sweat melted and started flooding the room like a great big broken pipe.

The water tickled my ankles but I was glued to the screen, entranced by the enticing allure of not having to look at him until I had to, until I woke up. Until he woke me, craning his head back and arching his spine until it cracked like a sick joke as he howled at the lurid moon, looming over me like a voyeur.

I pulled my feet from the water. He grabbed my jaw. He made me watch. I watched him grow, swelling until the couch capsized under his weight. I watched and watched as his eyes bugged out of his face, and his nose shrunk down. I watched as his neck split open into gills and his arms flattened down into translucent fins. I watched as his body inflamed and burst out of itself, a long tail spilling out of his stomach. He continued to grow until he took up the entire room. I kept watching as his giant, fishy lips kissed my whole face and swallowed my whole head.

I watched until I knew him. Until he held me and soothed me with a crooning song that echoed like a lullaby on a sticky night by the shore. He told me everything was going to be okay as he swallowed me into the darkness of his stomach; a darkness that looked like the inside of my room late at night. I watched the sunrise and the days pass, and I watched myself have more dreams at night.

I can’t stop dreaming about him.

I think I’m living in a giant fish stomach.