Physics

  “So, I don’t know why we’re here, and I’m guessing you’re not going to tell me, but—“
   I pause to cough and to huff while I look around.
  “You give up too soon,” she says.
  “The fuck I do,” I say. “And anyway, I give up? Look at you. Ah well shit, no, don’t look at you. You’re, like, cheating death. Right? I just meant the way you look at me.”
   She doesn’t look at me.
  “No, you have that—I can see it—that way of looking.” I sigh. “Fuck me,” I say, holding my chest. “I’m getting a headache.”
  “I said it already,” she says.
  “What?”
  “I said it already.”
   I’m tired, I can’t breathe, I watch her like a tired vulture—stooped and leering—but only because I’m about to fall over anyway.
  “Wait…” I step backward. I curse. “No.”
  “No,” she says.
  “No?”
  “No. It is not me sapping you of strength.”
  “No? This isn’t some vampire show of yours? I just want to go to sleep right now and intellectually, that’s about the last thing to do, don’t you think? Look around, right?” I sweep my arm around at the stilled men—accidentally bumping one guy, like running the back of my forearm into a tree—and I curse again. Not from the accident, but from how I seem to be failing. All around me is beauty, and I am falling to pieces.
  “Wait…” I put my hands on my hips. “The air, the water, these men… but not you, and not me—that doesn’t work, you can’t stop all those parts and not stop us too. The physics is wrong. I can’t breathe, I can’t get air, but I can move?”
  Sweeping the air is like moving through water.
  “I should stop too. My blood like water, my body like theirs… my brain. For fuck’s sake, my mouth too. Why doesn’t it?”
   She watches past my shoulder. Were I to type up her pose, I’d call her standing on the edge of looking to her wrist for a watch that isn’t there but she knows too that I am. That’s where her eyes lay, not over my shoulder, but suspended somewhere halfway between this one annoyance, me, and some other annoyance, whatever is right now late for her.

Zombie

   And catch up too quick. Enough so I can see them stilled and walk among them, one man mid-sneeze, another fumbling his drum, all of them with a foot in the air, Zhou included. She rests on his back, and, being dead, is the only one who looks alive.
   I heave an asthmatic sigh, suck on enough air to speak, need to work out more maybe. “You’re moving,” I say.
  “Nope,” she says.
  “You are. There’s tension in your arms.”
   She opens her eyes. “Fine,” she says. “You got me.” Her slide down off Zhou’s back is an awkward stop-start affair. She sways when she stands. Zhou remains crouching above his one foot. As a man he should fall over. They all should. But they remain planted like statues.
  “You’re looking better,” I say.
   She raises a hand, puts two fingers lightly to her jawline. Much of the swelling has gone down. Her skin remains discoloured but she, peering out beyond my shoulder, could pass for someone down with a cold.
   She glances across at me. “You’re not scared,” she says.
  “Maybe,” I says. “Let me check a minute.”
   Watching her, I do an inventory. It’s a curious kind of self-check. I can see everything in front of me, the girl, the frozen breath of each man, the nearly glowing greys and yellows of the riverside earth, the rubbery, jello-like water left in the lake, and without moving I walk back from all that, see it still but the consciousness is little more than a gateguard now, searching inside the factory instead: worn body, aches in my side, tension in my emptied gut, ramming heart, and a thoughtless immediacy that I suppose I can call wonderment.
   So “No,” I tells her. “Not yet.”
   But that’s a lie.