Norah

United States of America

17 | she/they | hypothetical astronaut | ekphrastic poet | haunted house

Message to Readers

I’ve been working on this one for forever, and I’m really proud of it. Please leave feedback or a comment!

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December 1, 2019

PROMPT: Now to Then

9
i.
Eva walked, blinking, into her own world. Maggie was behind her, letting the door fall shut. 

“I never thought,” Maggie said, like the whole world was Eva, like she couldn’t believe they were both here, had both made it to the other side. “I’m so glad,” she said eventually. “I’m just so glad.” 

Eva kissed her then, in the sun and scent of early morning, in a world no longer foreign. Maggie laughed into her mouth, and wrapped her arms around Eva’s neck. 

There, Eva thought, like finishing a painting, there we are. Finally. 

The sun rose higher in the sky, and they separated, still holding each other. Maggie held out her hand to the sky, and showed Eva the drop of water with a grin. 

It had started to rain. The world bloomed around them. 


ii.
When they woke up there was soft light coming from Eva’s window. 

It opened onto their home, Eva could taste it in the air. They ran down the two flights of stairs to the lobby, holding hands and laughing.


iii.
“I don’t remember everything,” Eva said, like it was any defense against Maggie’s eyes. 

“That’s okay,” Maggie said, then gently, cautiously, “do you remember this?” Her hands were on Eva’s skin, in the dark. Eva let her head fall back, said: “Yes.” 


iv. 
They slept curled into each other on Eva’s bed, eyes closed to the nothingness outside. Eva was still dizzy from remembering, still angry enough to throttle the empty woman who slept in the apartment above her, unblinking. Maggie could feel it, she rubbed her back, tipped her face up to look her in the eye. 

“We could try,” she paused. “Before. We made life. We made things grow. We could try…”


v. 
“I shouldn’t have read it,” Eva said later, when Maggie had stopped apologizing, when she had stopped crying. When she could look briefly at the void outside her window without wanting to throw up.

Maggie shook her head into Eva’s shoulder. “Not your fault. Hers. Mine.” 

Eva tried to tell her it wasn't her fault, but Maggie put a very tired hand on her cheek, and said, “Just come to bed.” 

And how could Eva say no to that?


vi.
They stumbled blindly back to Eva’s apartment. Maggie was carrying Eva, murmuring apologies into her hair, tripping down the stairs, crying. 

“What does she want,” Eva said again, and again, and again.

“She’s empty,” Maggie said, “she’s so empty. And we were so full, sweetheart.” 


vii.
“There,” the old woman said, satisfied, when Eva looked up from the book at Maggie, stricken. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?” 

“Eva,” Maggie said, her voice hardly anything in the thick silence of the room. 

“You made a deal. My world or yours, you simply had to wait.” 

“She didn’t know!” Maggie said, “You pushed her! You made her forget! You’re a fucking extortionist!” 

“I am whatever you want me to be,” the woman said calmly, “at the end of the day, I am simply hungry.” 

Maggie was looking wildly around the room, and Eva did too. Beyond the window, there was nothing. A cataclysm of emptiness. 


viii. 
Eva sat at the end of the bed, in the apartment above her own, and felt very alone, like the last survivor of some terrible accident. The woman in the bed said, saccharine: “Don’t worry, honey, it’s going to be alright.” 

Maggie was still frozen by the door, looking wildly at her: “Eva. Look at me. We need to leave.” Eva could not move. She was looking at the light, how it was muffled by the slatted blinds. And she was hypnotized by the silence, as if the city had disappeared in the hollow of this room. The woman, her face dappled with light, had thrown her a book. And she was reading it. 


xi.
“There’s no waiting,” the woman said, briskly, “you’ve already broken the deal. She knew and she didn’t tell you, but I will.” 

Eva sat heavily on the bed. It was a trap. She knew it was a trap. 

“Were you ever going to tell her?” the woman said to Maggie, almost gleeful, “were you ever going to let her know that it was her rain, were you ever going to tell her where she was from, who you were to her?” 

Eva heard these words as if from far away.


x.
Eva opened the book. She felt the rain in her apartment stop, abruptly, as if afraid. 

“Eva, you don’t know what she’s done.” 

Eva looked at Maggie, she could feel her own heart, violent, and unrelenting. “What,” she said, even though she thought she knew. 

“We’re not from here,” Maggie said, begging, “she pushed you here, I made a deal, please, Eva, we just have to wait a little longer, don’t read it.” 


xi.
“No!” That was Maggie, Eva realized, “you can’t! You promised.”

“Can’t do what, dear?” the woman said, then, with startling speed, she picked up a book from her bedside table and tossed it at Eva, “Catch!” 


xii. 
The light was syrupy, with motes of dust caught like flies, unmoving, within individual beams of orange evening glow. 

“What,” Eva heard herself say, slowly, as if hearing herself through a long, dark tunnel. 

There was a woman lying in bed, her face ancient. “Welcome,” she said. 


xiii.
“The door’s unlocked,” said a voice from inside the apartment, “come on in.” Eva looked at Maggie, who shrugged. 

“Why not?” 

They opened the door. Time slowed. Maggie’s eyes widened with something Eva did not recognize—would not recognize until much later—as realization and fear. 


xiv.
They went back, of course, after a few nights of Eva’s restless tossing on Maggie’s futon, to her building, and climbed the not-up-to-code staircase to the apartment above her own. 

“In case it’s because of leaking,” Eva said, and Maggie nodded with false sincerity. 


xv.
It wouldn’t stop raining in Eva’s apartment, rain spitting across the rooms in torrents, pooling in the corners of her bedroom and draining out the crack in the apartment door. She called Maggie instead of her landlord, and they sat on the kitchen counter together, Eva’s glasses fogging up. 

“You know you can’t explain this with science, right?” Maggie said, gently, as if coaxing a small creature out from under the bed. 

Eva turned to look at her, turned to say something mean, maybe, but Maggie was just sitting there, soaking wet, her afro pressed down into her eyes, looking at her with the same terrifying tenderness. So instead she blurted: “Can I stay at your place?” 


xvi.
Eva looked into the face of a stranger and said, “Come in, you’re soaking wet.”

The stranger looked like she was about to cry. 

“What’s your name?”

“Maggie.”

“Okay, Maggie, I’m going to get you some tea.”


xvii.
“Do you ever wonder if we’re alone,” Eva said to Maggie, once, when they were lying on their backs on top of a building.

“Do you mean that there would be people out there other than just you and me?” 

“Yeah.”

“I don’t know. Lots of stars out there.”

“No, I mean here, in this world, don’t you think it’s strange, just us, living alone.”

Eva turned to look at her, worrying her lip. Maggie clearly had more to say. 

“I mean,” Maggie tried again, rather quickly, “you make the weather and I make the world, grow, I guess I’m wondering if we could do more, if we could make more.” 

Eva smiled slow and sweet, “are you propositioning me, my Maggie?” 

Maggie blushed, “Maybe I am.”

Eva breathed out. “Let’s try.”

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7 Comments
  • luluwrites111

    okay, wow. this is marvelous. magnificent. ambrosial. i love the vocabulary, (saccharine), the descriptions of the light, (syrupy, with motes of dust caught like flies, unmoving, within individual beams of orange evening glow), and literally everything else about this.


    4 months ago
  • star_grrrl

    Ahh I adore this! It’s beautifully written, well done!


    4 months ago
  • loveletterstosappho

    i didn't know what the prompt was before i read this and was confused about the structure for a bit but it works really well! gorgeous


    4 months ago
  • rainandsonder

    wow, fantastic work! i have to admit that i had to read this piece backward to fully get it, but i think that’s part of its appeal, is that it’s a sort of puzzle, and a highly intriguing one at that!


    4 months ago
  • aditi

    This is one of my favorite stories! It’s so sweet and passionate


    4 months ago
  • Norah

    thank you @weirdo, i'm being weird about this piece b/c i think i imprinted on it, but anyway, thanks for the feedback, it means a lot!


    4 months ago
  • weirdo

    well this is absolutely amazing. i love it so much! yes, it is confusing, but beautifully so.


    4 months ago