After Poe


Shriveled up leaves hang from the topmost branches of skeletal trees. Black smudges against a ghostly winter sky—like sleeping bat babies, or the memory of cocoons.

fall fall fall

But they don’t. Dangle, shiver, when a wind blows, but otherwise still as dead. I lose interest in things that won’t be willed by my will.

My lights are now out. Shadows everywhere, and I tear apart the room looking for her. She might be one of them.


When I was a girl I wished that instead of crying I could bleat. Instead of shouting I could howl. I wanted so badly not to be human. Animals are pure not because they don’t kill—don’t you know that?—but because they are guiltless. They are the embodiment of Eden. They are what nature was intended to be—cruel and perfect. It is us, with our conscience and consciousness, we are the fatal error coded by the creator, who never intended us to know ourselves or why. They are who we could have been if we had been satisfied to stay. I would have been satisfied to stay.


I hear purrs in my sleep and think of her—my Cora—croissant-curled under a drafty window separating us from snow. I will her to breathe and she does. I comb through her downy fur looking for silver, white, gray, anything other than this Rorschach black. She must have been dipped in ink.

Cora—my shadow, my symbiote—named for her darkness and majesty. The way she would see into my soul and will me.

Cora came to me on a wet December night. I was walking to the train past midnight, red-wine-drunk, squinting up at twinkling lights and singing Vesuvius under my breath.

I heard her before I saw her. Howling to the moon, to me, in a black puddle. I met her round eyes, orange rinds, all I could see. I reached out for her, my finger a soft hook, my knuckle an offering to her wet nose. Where did her body begin and end? I would have taken all of her.


I am awakened by a thrusting pain, something in my skull wants to get out. The world is awash and I am drowning before dawn. This was my normal—poor mornings after rich nights—full of something else if it couldn’t be what filled me last night.

I’m filled with more than a need, or desire, or longing. It’s a state of being, like being filled with helium. It’s just who I am—filled with the deliriously full feeling of me—tight at all my edges and prone to pop.

My state of being is needing to be filled. It’s why I missed you when you were out there. You said I don’t want you shadowing me so I sat on the rug with Cora, watched your back hunch over the railing, saw your ribs expand and depress, watched your smoke rise to the occasion of night. I wished I was the thing you cared enough to kiss in starry silence.


I killed my cat—did I tell you that? I was just tired of being empty and unable to will. I sucked out her life because I needed to be filled. I kept stepping on her slinking like spilled ink round my feet. I was fucked up and angry but I was not sorry. I needed to rid Eden of something perfect.

I think I will stay here awhile, where she visits me in shadows. Where I don’t need to fill or empty myself with serpent fruit. I can be animal here. Just piss and shit and stay alive. I howl all night. I whinny and writhe. I will the world. I am the wild.


Photo by Cassidy Kelley on Unsplash

CategoriesFlash Fiction
Zea Archer

Zea Archer is a writer and librarian living in Northern New Jersey. Her poems, plays, and reviews have been read and performed in queer spaces, including Skin to Skin, Your Name Here, and The Lesbrary. Her nonfiction work on queer motherhood appears in Hot Metal Bridge, Santa Fe Writers Project Quarterly, and Musepaper, and will be published as part of an anthology released by Read650.