Due to unforeseen events beyond both publisher and staff, Duckbill has been forced to close. All submitted stories should be considered rejected, with Duckbills publisher’s sincerest apologies. Staff no longer have access to the Duckbill email account–any inquiries will remain unread. Once again, our sincerest apologies.
When Ana was born, she weighed 8 pounds, 11 ounces and had beautiful monarch butterflies with brilliant orange hues where her hands should have been. How does this happen? we wondered. Nothing like this had ever occurred in our town before. No one knew who her father was except her mother, and she wasn’t telling. What will happen to her? we asked. How will she write, hold things, read?
Her butterflies grew with her body and thrived at the ends of her arms. She used their wings to pick things up, wrapped their legs around her pencils. There were, of course, some things she never did. She never played the piano, never played basketball. But still, she was happy.
Even as her classmates gawked, their stares and jeers never seemed to affect her. When Ana and her mother ran errands and we whispered, it was like she didn’t hear us. Her mother would glare, but Ana just kept smiling, kept laughing. And as she grew, the whispers ceased. Her joy was infectious. We found ourselves coveting her butterflies, her uniqueness. They really are beautiful, we’d say wistfully to each other over coffee.
She was eighteen, just graduated from high school, when we began to wonder about her plans for the future. Some children her age were going to college, while others were readying themselves for new jobs or internships. We didn’t know what Ana’s plans were, and whenever we saw her mother around and asked, her mother just shook her head. “Ana will do what Ana will do,” she said with a smile.
She did end up leaving, all right – just not the way any of us expected her to.
It was a Sunday morning when she kissed her mother goodbye, lifted her arms, and rose into the air. “We’re off to see the world,” she called, laughing as she flew. Her butterflies flapped their wings, pulling her behind them. As she shrank into the distance, we stood and waved, sure she had a bright future ahead of her.
She came back a year later, bloated, pregnant, landing in the town square as her mother ran to meet her and we crowded around the edges, eager to catch a glimpse.
“He loves me, butterflies and all,” she said.
Her mother cried, but we couldn’t tell if it was out of joy or out of sadness. “What if it’s like you?” her mother said, and we could see the horror on her face when she realized what she’d said.
“What’s so wrong with being like me?” Ana said, and we wept with her as she said it.
It was no surprise when she again took to the skies, leaving her mother below. We waited for her to come back, but we never saw her again. Every so often, though, we’d see a beautiful monarch butterfly with a color pattern just like Ana’s and we‘d smile, knowing that a part of her was still here with us.
Chelsea is a mythical creature who suffers from time dilation due to constant faster-than-light travel. She lives in a houseplant in Jamaica and dances on water. Her work has previously appeared in Freeze Frame Fiction, Everyday Fiction, and others besides.
Dark hallways leading toward sketchy bathrooms always terrified me. This corridor had Assault Me shoved in the curves of angled graffiti vying for space between confessions wrapped in heart-shaped promises. The farther along, the faster my pulse raced. Ears cocked and sweaty palms, listening for footsteps. Like someone was gunning for me, coming for me. Halfway down, and in the middle of a slam-dancing beat taking up the space inside my head, the only light, covered with a smoke-stained shield, flickered and died. Fuck the footsteps. I couldn’t hear them anyway.
Instinct propelled me through the door of the men’s room, away from the dark and into the arms of my last one-night stand.
“Hello, Roger.” Disentangling myself was tricky. He wasn’t pissing but he had his dick in his hands like he was about to.
“Uh, Faith. Trolling for men?”
“The light in the hallway went out.”
“You’re scared of the dark?” A yellow stream arched into the trough below. He pushed his hips forward and scratched his ass.
“Screw you. It’s a thing—I have a hallway thing.”
“I remember. You spent the night because you didn’t want to leave until the sun came up.” He stuffed himself into his oversized shorts.
The smell of the sticky, urine-coated walls made my eyes water. Men were only good at aiming when you wanted them to miss. Silence passed between us. I grabbed the bathroom door with a sweater-covered hand and peeked my head out. Still dark.
“Fancy a fuck?” Always the charmer.
“No, but I have to take a whiz. Can you keep an eye out for me?”
“Whatever. Why the hell aren’t you using the ladies?”
“Because I didn’t make it that far. I was outside the men’s when the light went out.”
My bladder tipped past full, causing a Kegel to kick in. The practice was paying off. “It’ll only take a second.”
Roger shrugged, a lackadaisical move of nonchalance like the one that had attracted me to him in the first place. He held the crooked stall door closed, the lock probably busted by some peeper with a penchant for willies.
“Can you hum? I’ve got stage fright.”
“Christ. Seriously, Faith? After all we’ve been through.”
One night, two quarters of Russian vodka and three joints of Californian kush. That’s what we’d been through. Roger started humming, some ska-funk song. It clashed with the bass beatboxing through the floor.
My baggy shirt slunk off my shoulder while washing up. Roger pulled it up, his hand grazing my chest.
“Get your hand off my tit.”
He scowled. “It’s not on your tit. What’s up with you? I have half a mind to stick you back in the hallway with the boogieman if you can’t play nice.”
Always the hallway. “I’m pregnant.”
Roger choked on his tongue. The one with the piercing that flicked and furled.
“It’s not yours, you asshole.”
He leaned into the space that was meant to be mine — an imaginary hula hoop with a diameter of ten feet and a radius of fuck you.
“Then whose is it?”
Jennifer is a dinosaur, with feet made of spiders. Her seagull is called Charlie and she eats chocolate made of sock bunnies. You can find more information on Jennifer and her sock bunnies (not actually) here, or follow her on Twitter.
in a blue pot,
he grows kisses
on my lips
makes wild wine
measure and whisper
with the naked caress
of perfumed tongues
the fathoms and nauts
Chaitali Gawade lives in Pune and is a freelance writer. Her writerly musings are fueled by tea and coffee. Her work has been published by Twenty20 Journal Daily Love, Postcard Shots and Vagabondage Press.