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Tuesday Thomas is surreal. She believes that life is a continual amber liquid. We are all suspended in this liquid, floating by, watching idly as our vague emotions shift its color from light shades of sparkly gold to thick molasses browns. But she is different. She drinks it all in. She fills her belly with the rich, happy fluid and dances from the inside out. And when it swirls around her, impending tsunamis of fear and sorrow, she chews on shadows. Either way, she is perpetually cast as the role of morning. Tuesday wakes up licking new sunlight off her fingertips, every moment of the day. It looks warm and rich, like butter. But to her, it just tastes like life.
When Tuesday was little, she had a favorite place. It was a meadow, all surrounded by trees. It was magical. It could hold the seasons in its hands. Whenever we were there, the year would crack open, and summer would spill out. We’d lie on the grass together and she’d teach me how to lap up the sun. But she doesn’t go there anymore. She doesn’t like the taste of shadows.
Tuesday had a sister. Her name was August. She was younger than Tuesday, but wisdom glowed; daisies shimmering in her hair. So Tuesday taught her how to slurp life like lemonade. On long, satiny ribbons of afternoons, August wore a white sundress. It had a skirt that flowed, and was riddled in sweet purple flowers with ripe yellow centers. They would live a lucid dream in the meadow, their youth as elegant and everlasting as the low tolling of a bell. And later, when the sunset rolled across the sky, watercolors dripping into the horizon, the sisters would hold each moment in their mouths, savoring them until they dissolved. They would sink into the grass, sleepy as the sun, August’s beloved sundress pooled around her thighs. She always fell asleep before evening lit the sky a brilliant scarlet.
I often watch Tuesday; as she walks to school, glides through the halls, scrubs out wrong answers with red erasers. She looks for me. Every time she turns a corner, my presence is heavy on her shoulders. But I am invisible. I am forever lost in the tremulous sea of students, their mindless feet marching mechanically to meaningless destinations. They can’t even feel the liquid on their faces; they don’t even know it exists. Sometimes it makes me sad to think that Tuesday is the only one that can taste it, even when it fills her with oozing black regret.
Today, Tuesday is sitting in English class. I am at the desk behind her, watching each hair rise on the back of her neck, one by one. It reminds me of how long it’s been since I last drank the liquid with Tuesday. I am forgetting. I am losing sight of who I am. A silken lock of words trickles into my consciousness, spitting desperate advice. My fingertips twitch, brushing the soft cotton of my dress. But the voice is straining through crystalline waters. It screams, yet is nothing more than a throbbing whisper. Tuesday turns in her seat, looks back at me with endless blue eyes. They are oceans of truth. I want to step inside them and fall so deep I drown in undeniable fact. But they are just tiny holes in the universe. A soul would have to rip to shreds before it could possibly fit.
The bell squeals its monotonous command, and Tuesday jerks away, wordless as she shoves notebooks into her backpack and hurries out of her seat. I ride on rippling residual sound waves as I trail her out of the classroom. Students are pouring out of the building, crawling into giant yellow salamanders, suckling at the ground. Tuesday strides past them, pushing through a swirling potion of voices and bodies. She cuts across a main road that is gargling colorful salamanders and slips into a quiet side street. An overwhelming emptiness wraps its soft palm around us, enclosing us in thick, strong fingers. Emotions howl in Tuesday, and she crosses her arms tightly over her chest so it won’t burst open. I am sick of the silence. I want to let it all spew out of me, a beautiful cerulean vomit. I want to make her talk to me. I cut in front of her, sniffing the truth in her eyes.
They are wild; frightened. She marvels at my blatant existence, quivering beneath the fat, reddened oaks. “Why won’t you talk to me?” I ask. “Please,” I beg her. “Please, see me. I need you.” My voice falls in her ear without ever hitting the air around us. It burns, malevolent and roaring, at the pit of her stomach. She lowers herself onto the rough, angry pavement, cradling her forehead between her knees.
“August,” she murmurs into her thighs. “August, I’m sorry.”
I shake my head, confused. “This isn’t about August.”
Her head snaps up, slicing through a sticky web of confusion and fatigue. The fire crawls up her throat and she is spitting flames. “It’s over now.” Her voice is hard and heavy, pressing me into the ground. I am losing inches. “Why are you still here? What am I supposed to do?” She is demanding answers that I suddenly do not possess. A ruby spool of thread in my skull is beginning to unravel.
But she is sorry. Her voice drips in a melancholy honey. “Do you even know where you’re supposed to go?”
Opaque thoughts are instantaneously transparent; a jarring revelation that leaves me reeling on the asphalt. Wet, blue drops of truth are falling from the sky, soaking me in startling reality. I am shrinking; days, weeks, months falling away. The thread is a tangled mass, rasping raging honesty at the base of my neck. The raindrops shimmer and morph, flaking into hot, white ash. Tuesday is disintegrating, her gorgeous skin and bones crumbling into furious black embers. The fire is still burning in the heart of them; her heart. It leaps toward the sky, curling around the tender red leaves and coloring them a sickeningly charred chartreuse. Thick, hot grass punches through the ground, immediately catching fire. We are in a burning meadow, all surrounded by trees. I look down frantically, anxiously trying to find myself in this mottled mess of colors and time. I am wearing a white sundress. It has a skirt that flows and is riddled in sweet purple flowers with ripe yellow centers. My world is dim and hazy, everything veiled in smoke, shock, and disbelief. Flames lick the scarlet sunset with a supple insanity.
Tuesday is standing over me, her face contorted with raw fear and desperation. Her warm, summer-tanned arms wrap around me and pull me into her chest. She runs with me, heaving and sobbing through the trees, fire mocking her from the spindly, black branches. We break into open air, a quiet side street lined with proud, old oaks. Her voice comes in short, terrified breaths. “August! August-” She is left empty, her chest hollow, her ribs flexible and bending with grief. I don’t try to fight the inevitable end. Instead, I leave her with the only gift with which I can grace her forever. I grip her neck with my tiny child’s fist, gulping the viscous amber liquid, and pulling her close. She listens as the words melt into the sunset.
“Only the enlightened are free.”