by JOEANN HART
Our broad backs are to the sun, men and women alike, our bellies to the rubber boats as we scoop water samples into vials, scrape slime from lifeless coral, and take the reef’s temperature as we would a dear child’s.
by CAROLINE MISNER
The wildflowers were in full bloom that time of the summer. The hills were draped in vivid yellows and purples and oranges. Normally, a breeze would ripple the grasses and the delicate flower heads, but this afternoon was strangely still, almost as though the day was holding its breath.
by JULIA MARÍA SCHIAVONE CAMACHO
Rosa inhaled the smells of damp earth and wood as she climbed the steps to the train platform. A sea of saguaros, ocotillos, and mesquites in myriad shades of green stretched before her. The sky was a hazy pale peach. She turned and spotted Esperanza and Clemente, gazing at each other as they stood among the refugees down the platform, the immigration inspectors and guards nearby. A bird trilled.
by MATTHEW GIGG
Most supermarket tomatoes are picked green and then gassed with ethylene during transport so they can ripen just as they arrive. Leonard shook his head at this. The system is too convoluted if we have to gas our food. That’s how they keep control. Make the system so big and complex that no one has the time or energy to question it.
by BRYAN BOODHOO
It starts to rain. The force of the falling pellets tears a few leaves from their branches. A smirk crosses my face as I realize autumnal beauty is inextricably linked to fragility.
by MELISSA JEAN
You are my dodder; your long orange stems choke me and steal my nutrients, your white flowers grasp and cling. Now we must grow together, for I am the plant you’ve parasitized. If I die, you will cross to another plant, for your survival lies in your dependence. And even if I survive, here I am, rooted, stuck; there is nowhere for me to go.
by NICHOLAS FINCH
The sun had barely cracked yellow on the horizon when we left the trailer park. I made a joke to Lansky. I don’t remember what I said exactly, but he laughed so hard he damn near fell out of the truck. What I do remember is how white his teeth were when he smiled, and how thin the bones in his arm felt when I grabbed his wrist to keep him from falling, and how my hand wrapped around in full—from thumb to pinky.
by KRISTEN M. PLOETZ
Two days before the winter solstice, an epiphany pierced Bettina’s parietal lobe and angled straight down into her thumping heart. When it happened, she had been clomping around in her backyard wearing a moss-colored dress and canary yellow boots, inhaling the view of her hardscrabble lot.
by HEATHER E. GOODMAN
In the flooded cornfield, water splashed at Sam’s knees, and carp thumped against his legs. Their muscled bodies felt the way he envisioned ghosts: thick, heavy, just out of reach.
by HANNAH RICHTER
A half-open bag of potato chips had never plagued anyone so much as it plagued Porter Wesley. It wasn't so much the bag or its contents (Porter indulged in most snack foods), but rather it was the newfound inhabitants of the bag that Porter swore would give him an aneurism. Yes, November had blessed his beaten-down 1988 hatchback with a colony of ants.
by BENJAMIN GOODRIDGE
Art by JENNY KENDLER
When I fell through the ice, time stopped. The light faded, water enveloped my body like a slick, sharp cocoon, and that fleeting mystery of life, always one step ahead as we barrel headlong into the future, was suddenly thrust in front of me.
by JEFFREY FLANNERY
Art by ALYSSA IRIZARRY
She followed the blooms and flows of the common jellies, brainless clumps of gelatin unchanged for millions of years. These beautiful soul blobs have survived ice ages, tepid seas, meteor strikes, mass extinctions, and now, man.
by BEN GOLDFARB
Art by KERRY R. THOMPSON
The deathwatch lingered into a drear Arctic Tuesday—feckless seagulls milling against a heavy sky, surf hissing on the rocks, and the world’s last walrus quivering pink at the high-tide line like gristle spit out by the sea.