Not If We Don’t Want To by Al Kratz

I feel like I’m dying lately and some days this motivates me to do everything I can before my time runs out and other days it motivates me to do absolutely nothing at all. But I won’t regret the outcome of either day. I won’t regret a thing.

My back hurts like hell. I’ve got wings popping out of my spine. It drops me to my knees and pulls me to the sky. Down there I see Kayla picking seeds up off the ground. At first, she uses her hands, but when she sees me up there, she says fuck it and uses her beak. Peck, peck, peck. Her hips hurt like hell. It pulls her to the ground. I get down there with her and help her up.

I typed this out yesterday and then I just lost it. I couldn’t save a thing. I told myself I’d try again and if the words didn’t come back to me, then they were meant to be gone.

I hallucinate at night. I wake up and the wall is a movie screen. The floor is an escalator. The door is a portal and one of these days I’m going to fly right into it.

I tell Kayla the hallucinations are bothering me. “What if you just enjoy them. That’s what I do,” she says. She’s holding a snowball in her palm, all ice, ready to throw at me even if it’s still summer, it’s still winter.

Kayla goes to get more seed for the feeders, and I get up from my desk after typing things out and I get dizzy. I start walking to the door to stop her from going but don’t think I’ll make it. I sit down and write, got dizzy at 1:50, just so she’ll know what happened.

Kayla says she’s dying too but doesn’t seem to mind. There’s less of her to bother these days. I know I’m supposed to fight, I think I’m supposed to fight, but I don’t fight.

I wake to something touching my shoulder and, off the bookshelf by the bed, I see the cat we don’t have jumping down. I fly out of bed and the cat gives me his best shot but when I turn on the light nothing is there. Later, I read a short story about cats stealing souls and delivering them to the devil, which would be amusing if it weren’t for the recurring dreams of the devil growling in my ear, which would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that I’m not breathing, that I’m dying when I should be sleeping.

Kayla and I sit around at night mired by the end of the world where people don’t like art anymore and don’t have time for anything but their phones and they argue and disbelieve each other, and when we really need to feel the pain we admit that we don’t like art as much as we used to and we don’t have time for anything but our phones and sometimes we argue and disbelieve each other, and when we finally don’t want to feel like this anymore we’ll get in a car and drive the country dark where we don’t have to see anything at all, not if we don’t want to, we’ll turn off the lights and we won’t feel a thing.


Al Kratz lives in Indianola, Iowa with his wife Kristy and their cat Tom Petty. He is a fiction editor for NFFR and co-founder of the Flash Monsters!!! blog.