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Orion

—Andrea Li

Orion

          Metal bites my calloused heels as I balance on the tooth-edged railroad track. The wind swallows my dress as I walk and twirl and walk and twirl; fabric beats against my body while I watch the dark forest blur into the river into the ground into the sky. Again and again, the dizzy stars above. Orion squats, caught off-balance with his shield braced against a force I cannot see, but one that I know he will defeat — it is his duty.

 

          How beautiful the sky is, stars spinning stark against the dark maw of night and it is probably not because the sky is lightheaded past seven like me but because of my bare feet scuffing the dirt as I twist. Carrying one foot over the other in a self-consuming spiral. Mother said come home at seven and don’t be late, don’t forget what you must do, but mother, there are no clocks near this railroad — only one to the west, and I cannot go there now.

 

          Or perhaps the sky is spinning because the stars have names: this one above me is called Orion the Hunter. Hunter. Nobody could reject his name and especially not himself, no matter how dizzy it made him. He could only open his eyes and then his hands. With the soft fingers of a boy, he shook as his knuckles closed over the shaft of a tooth-edged arrow: a shapeless future warped into a black hole like a sink that night, draining his life dry of himself. The endless sky became a straightjacket. 

 

          But if even Orion cannot bear his name without losing his balance, how can I go back to the station to the west: how can I swap a nameless horizon for a ticket, solid and punched at the ends with dates and stations that all point arrow-straight to a future I can never come back from? Mother, I will stay here and forget instead. Forget and spin and walk east along the track and wait for the whistling train to pass by at ten. 

About

ANDREA LI is a writer from California. Her work has been published in various magazines.

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