Was I Asleep?

Mark A. McCutcheon


Niver’s driving as you leave downtown, headed for the sprawling wrecked suburbs. Abandoned agoras of burnt-out big box shops and crumbling business parks. The orange highway bisects the horizon, bordered by dark hulking factories whose thin chimneys plume needles of flame. Niver pulls off at a gas station; she gets out to pump. The only other car there is a rocket car, designed for breaking land speed records. Follow Niver into the gas station store. Remember that long ago bus ride into ancient Athens? You had sat together at the back of the bus, sharing food and headphones; you peeked at her décolletage, mesmerized by the fine down between her breasts. The bus barreled through diesel-choked streets, past pedestrians missing pieces of their faces, past the fallen Acropolis. As dusk bruised the sky, she started and said Was I asleep? I just had the feeling that we’re all going to die. The gas station store has one narrow aisle, its shelves stacked floor to ceiling with dusty junk and junk food. At the back sits a crow-haired woman. Niver pays the woman for the gas and they start chatting in Armenian. Out by the pump you meet the rocket car driver, a big guy who reeks of rye. In the rocket car cockpit reclines his little boy, who has a fever and can’t speak. The guy reaches down, turns his son over to show his sweaty back on which three carved initials are scabbing over: B.E.A. Niver exits the store, comes over to you. Where do we go from here? The factories all still set fire to the soot-streaked sky.



Mark A. McCutcheon lives in Edmonton and teaches English literature at Athabasca University. His poems and stories are forthcoming or published in journals like On Spec, EVENT, Kaleidotrope, Carousel, and sub-Terrain; “Heaven help the roses” placed as Runner-Up in Into the Void’s 2017 poetry contest. Mark is the author of The Medium Is the Monster (Athabasca UP, 2018), a study of Canadian Frankenstein adaptations; his literary criticism also appears in The Explicator, Topia, and other scholarly periodicals.