backhand stories the creative writing blog

She slept like a comma under the comforter; he slept like a corpse on top. She was open like sunflowers; he retreated like a shrinking one. They were both still young. She believed in language; he believed in numbers. Five years ago, language and numbers merged and became a unifying bridge.

When he was away on business, she still slept on her side. She couldn’t move into the space that was his even when it was empty. One night, she woke up on his side of the bed. Her dream had been all mixed up that night. She dreamt of a field of headless stems, and a lone sunflower with her husband’s face in the center, smiling.

When he returned home, she wanted to experiment. So they switched sides.

In the morning, she saw him sleeping like a corpse.

He opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling.

“How’d you sleep?” she asked.

“The same.”

“Did it feel different on my side?”

“No. Everything is the same.”

“Why don’t you try a different position?”

“I’ve been sleeping like this my whole life,” he said. “ Habits don’t change over night.”

“Is it comfortable to sleep flat on your back like a dead man?”

“My body likes to breathe and it’s not good for the spine to sleep in a curved position,” he replied.

She had nothing to say. All she could think was that she’d risk a curved spine any night over the sharp air that outlines a corpse.

Brittany Michelson’s short prose is published in Flashquake, Sleet Magazine, Every Day Fiction, Glossolalia, and other online journals. She lives in Los Angeles.