I want to be gone. I want to be utterly gone. I was once gone, but now I am here, but now I am tired of being here and want to be gone. I have been here for so long and have been not gone for so long and I want to be gone like no one has been gone ever before.
I used to be a sky-watcher when I was gone. I used to be a sky-watcher and know all the shapes in the sky. I used to know everything about the night sky, and the night sky knew everything about me when I was gone. Now I am here and there is no night sky. There is no darkness here. Here has no darkness but dark times. I had no dark times when I was gone, just the night sky and the stars and the moon and the goneness.
Here I sit in a room with many others. We sit in this room and we plot numbers on graphs and we sit together but we are not together. We are alone together in this room all day, it’s all day always. There is no darkness. We sit in the room plotting numbers and not speaking and I think about the goneness and nights. I miss the nights.
They tell us our work is important. They tell us we are the most important people. They tell us that we keep everything going, that without us there is nothing, but there is already nothing. There is nothing and no nights and only days and the days are so tiring and I miss the dark of the night and the hope of the stars and I miss it. I miss being gone. I hate being here.
The boss tells me I’m not doing well. I’m not doing well. I haven’t been doing well for a while now. I spend my lunch breaks outside. No one else spends any time outside. The smokestacks make it difficult to breathe, difficult to spend any time outside. I sit outside and think about the night sky, I think about the stars, I think about what it was like to be gone. I’m not doing well. There’s still too much gone in me. There is too much gone in me and too much here in everyone else. The boss tells me I’m not doing well and I tell him I’m not doing well, no one is doing well.
I sit on the line fourteen hours a day. No one here sleeps because there is no dark. We get breaks to eat. We are encouraged to converse within the guidelines. I can never remember the guidelines. I don’t talk. No one wants to talk about gone. I can’t talk about here. I can’t talk about here because I have nothing to say. I have nothing to say and it makes me tired. Fourteen hours on the line and I’m always tired. I’m so tired.
The velvet clouds are calling to me. They call to me, unlike the smoke from the smokestacks. The clouds are calling to me and for once I can’t not listen. I am listening.
I don’t remember how I leave but I do. I leave and I’m not here but I’m not gone yet. My nails are torn out. I must have dug. I am not here. I keep going. I am not here. I can smell the darkness. I can smell the darkness and I can feel the darkness in my bones, my tendons and I can feel it so I keep going.
A soft patch. I lie on my back and look up. There is the night sky. There are all the stars and the constellations and the cool quiet. I am looking up at the night sky. I look at the constellations I will name with my last breaths and I am gone.
My name is Kathryn Grace Harper, and I am a writer, shop steward, and purveyor of books in Brooklyn, New York. I enjoy reading fiction of all kinds, and usurping the love of my roommates’ pets, and showering attention upon any cat I come across. My favorite flowers are sunflowers.