Two Pieces – Kellene O’Hara
The Lost Body
My body is missing. I woke up one morning and I was there, but my body wasn’t. There was no body. My body had disappeared. Have you seen it? My body? It’s missing. My body is missing so I want to ask the strangers on the street if they have seen it. My body. “Have you seen my body?” I want to ask.
I want to post a missing persons sign. I want to put my face on milk cartons. I want a search party of volunteers, canvasing the woods and the lakes and the neighborhoods. I want people calling my name across the land. I want my body to come when called.
I want to remember what it was like to have a body. My body held the keys to my existence. The muscles knew the memories. The bones knew the structure of my stories. Without them, I am drowning in words that are thicker than blood.
I need to report it. But, without a body, I cannot file a report. Without vocal cords, without hands, without eyes, without shakes and shimmies, I cannot communicate. I cannot report my body as missing. I need a body to find my body.
There should be a special detective unit for cases like this one. A unit for the lost bodies. They should send out bloodhounds to follow the trail. Hunt me down. But there’s no such unit. It’s not a crime to lose a body.
It won’t be possible to find my body that way. I can’t go through official channels.
In the emptiness, I think my thoughts and I send them through time and space, signals waiting for a receptive satellite, waiting for another conscious lifeform. I am Arecibo, emitting electric noise and receiving the silence of the universe.
I can think, but I have no brain. Therefore, I have no body.
I want to believe that it is out there, somewhere.
I want to believe that it is just temporary. We all lose our bodies sometimes. But my body is still missing. Have you seen it? My body?
Call out into the night. Call my name.
See if my body comes, around a corner, down the street, across the alley. See if my body climbs the fire escape and crawls through the open window into my bedroom. See if my body rests the head on the pillow and let me merge into myself. Watch as I become me.
Then go away. You’ve seen too much.
One day, there was a volcano in the center of town.
There wasn’t a volcano there yesterday or even the day before yesterday. By all accounts, it rose with the morning sun. It emerged from the earth. Then, it belched and bellowed. We saw smoke and fumes coming from the crest. This was how we knew it was a volcano and not a mountain. Because of the smoke.
And, where there’s smoke, there is a volcano.
Before today, there were no volcanos in this flat town. We, the townspeople, were fairly certain. But, before today, we were also fairly certain that volcanos are not spontaneous events. Yet, here we were. Looking at a volcano.
The sheriff came to investigate the volcano. He stood at the base and then he said that the law does not handle mysteriously appearing volcanos.
“Just isn’t our jurisdiction,” the sheriff said.
We asked the mayor, but the mayor said, “There isn’t a city ordinance for volcanos. It isn’t the city’s problem.”
We asked the councilman, but the councilman said, “I sympathize and I hear you. This is a difficult situation. We will look into it.” He reached into his pocket and procured patriotic stickers, saying, “Also, the election is in three weeks and I would remind everyone here to vote.”
But we said, “We have to get rid of it. Something must be done.”
“There isn’t anything to be done,” we were told. “Nothing to be done. Nothing to be done.”
We decided that this strange phenomenon warranted an expert. But no one in our town was a volcanologist. The government sent a volcanologist who looked at the volcano and then at the crowd. “Are you sure this volcano hasn’t always been here?” he asked.
“Of course, of course,” we said.
“I can confirm this is a volcano,” he said.
“We know, but how do you get rid of it?”
“You can’t get rid of a volcano,” he said. He drove away.
So, we all came and we watched the volcano. With nothing to be done, we accepted the volcano into our town. It was something new. That’s exciting, isn’t it? A new volcano? Our new volcano? Yes, it was our volcano. We were all there. We brought lawn chairs and blankets. We had picnics by the volcano. We had barbeques and drank beer. We played loud music. We lit fires and danced around. It was such a celebration.
Then, the media came. “We’ll get the story out,” they promised.
Our story got out. It spread like fire to the neighboring towns, to the rest of the country. To the globe and beyond. The signal was sent.
The tourists came.
Thank the volcano for the tourists! They wanted food. Send them to the diner! They wanted rest. Send them to the motel! They wanted. Give them more. We created t-shirts with volcanos. We created souvenir cups and keychains and hats. A volcano for you, for you, for you. Personalization? Of course. The perfect gift for your niece, your nephew, your…
We were rich. Thank the volcano! There was so much opportunity, the opportunity of a spontaneous volcano. Thank the volcano!
But, soon, the volcano burped and we coughed the noxious air. The smoke got into the food carts. The bad air filled the skies, blocking the sun. It pursued the tourists, right to the town line. It filled every space of our town. We couldn’t escape.
We couldn’t breathe. We couldn’t breathe.
The air will choke us, we thought, it will smother us in our sleep. In our sleep!
Volcanos…we began to think…might be trouble. Volcanos are eruptions. Volcanos are destruction.
“I wouldn’t have bought my house if I had known it would be in the path of a volcano,” someone said at a town hall.
Then, companies began to sell us volcano insurance for our homes. For our cars. Magma damage was, of course, extra.
“We have to do something!” we cried.
The media reported that an eruption was imminent. Any day now, they reported. Any day.
But that was days ago. The media moved on to other more interesting stories.
So, we waited. We lived in the shadow of the volcano. We lived in fear. We lived in the what-ifs and the maybes. One day…we would say.
In the morning, we would pray…Please…not today.
At night, we would say…Thank the volcano it wasn’t today.
Again and again.
Until, one day, the ground shook. When the earth moved, we thought it was the end. We hid in our houses. This is it. This is it. This is it.
Today’s the day!
We waited to be encased, to be preserved. We thought the volcano would rain ash. We thought we would be showered in molten rock and eternally entombed. We thought the streets would become rivers of lava.
We thought we would die.
Today’s the day!
Instead, the ground shook and the volcano disappeared downward. We were left with a small crater in the earth, only a few feet wide and only a few inches deep, in between the Five and Dime and the gas station.
We breathed a sigh of relief. That was close! We all said. Then, we all laughed. What did we have to fear? The volcano was yesterday. Today is today. We forgot the volcano. We went to work. We went home. Day in and day out. We continued to live.
We don’t talk about the volcano.
Now, sometimes, when it rains, the indentation in the earth will fill with water. Children, in their raingear, will stomp in the puddle of our once imminent destruction. They don’t know. They don’t know how close we came to the end. They don’t know they are dancing in a volcano.
Sometimes, the crater hisses and bubbles.
Sometimes, we think it will rise again.
Kellene O’Hara is currently pursuing her MFA in Fiction at The New School. Her writing has been published in The Fourth River, Sheepshead Review, The Roadrunner Review, and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter @KelleneOHara and online at kelleneohara.com.