Rent costs $4,200 for a thousand-square-foot fraction of us shared between a roommate whose boyfriend stays half the week, another whose cat routinely barfs in the bathtub, and a third who never washes dishes. They separately fantasize about life in sprinter vans to reconnect with our greater whole. But a lease is always renewed. We accept all asphalt, glass, concrete, plastic Starbucks cups, latex condoms, student debt, and nihilistic nights for safekeeping.
We are a neighborhood far from the coveted city center bearing a townhouse passed through four generations. This hallowed shelter upon skewed foundations is blighted by the slightest repair, the erasure of a legacy. This is our shortest dynasty. A brisk epoch. We accept all masonry stone, heartwood timber, asbestos, cookouts, porch sweet tea, cousin sleepovers, heart attacks, infidelity, and a brush with Chapter 7 for safekeeping.
Before rooftops broke the horizon, we fatten tame crops with pampered roots, a feast made possible by the eons and more ambitious flora. Babes in a nursery. A manicured kingdom. We exhaust from commercial expectations; our universe spills beyond the borders of perverse straight lines. We accept all undesired weeds, invasive beetles, deer scat, pesticides, sweat, hail-shredded stalks, and perfected pedigrees of grains for safekeeping.
We meet ravenous industry. Our own tempered steel shaves away our epidermis, clawing for our vitals in all the wrong places. Waterways divert. Pickaxes gouge for promised riches. We reveal our wares of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur—a realm of prospects unbound by market price. He who hoped to absolve his gambling transgressions moves on with a shotgun over his shoulder, determining we all have nothing of value. We accept all displaced topsoil, sinkholes, methane pockets, addiction, futile labor, and false hope for safekeeping.
A stream slips across us. Deciduous trees supply leafy loam along the banks. A lineage of swallows nest for a dozen lifetimes. A bloodied Confederate deserter in stolen farmhand clothing nears for a drink—he prays over a single gold nugget glimmering through ripples, more than enough to send him home to the father who begged him not to enlist. All happenstance is inevitable; a divine intervention shouldering sin. We accept all cracked boots, lost artillery, uniform buttons, drool/snot, heavenly proclamations, guilt, and gratuity for safekeeping.
The battle wages like ravenous lovers. A redcoat’s skull kisses the mud and shit beneath a rebel’s thrusting bayonet. Lead balls ejaculate. Bones intertwine as one, lubricated by intestines, severed veins, and dismembered limbs. A general gives a speech: “Tyranny shall never taint this soil.” At his feet and within us, fungi and worms brawl for similar rights. Gunpowder and oxygen lock into a death spiral. We accept all deposits of sapling baby formula for safekeeping.
Brothers on their first bison hunt build a fire from our branches. They roast a jackrabbit snared from our burrows and rest for their first day of manhood. Rival horseback warriors strike under the cover of stars. Hesitation and grace lead to a night of parley alongside coyote howls; two ears exchanged. A hare nibbles on sage and laurels sprouting from its sibling’s bones under nourishing spring rains. We all accept cooling embers, unused arrowheads, bloodless sunrises, and goodwill for safekeeping.
We hear language, coarse and flawed. Artificial. The tribe rests in the shade of our grooved boulders after a long migration carrying little but mastodon hides and community. They weave a story foretelling cyclical returns to we who are neither too hot nor cold. And the descendants do return, smearing our granite faces with the next chapter until they forget or can’t or won’t. We accept all fatigued elders, lost orphans, pottery shards, pigments, oral traditions, and humanized spirits for safekeeping.
A bipedal hominid fiddles with our limestone shards unearthed by ice. Tooth decay pushes the creature to starvation’s edge—it hammers out rotten molars. Relieved, it stuffs its bleeding mouth with our mushroom caps only to wake sixteen hours later, floating in euphoria and exploding neurons. The primate stumbles away, saving more, but abandoning the tool it realizes it can recreate later. We accept all glacial melts, upright footprints, vestigial tails, shattered teeth, intelligent revelations, and interconnected wonder for safekeeping.
We are an icy tundra. A giant sloth is lost after following hardy shrubs carpeting nearby riverbanks. She smells a coming storm and sets excavator claws to work. Burrowed deep into the crook of our clavicle, the scent of a stranger even further from home wafts from the entrance: a weary glyptodont exchanged from South America. Too stuffed to ward off this huge round intruder, the sloth shows her taut belly. Above, we are irradiated when the storm becomes a storm of a cosmic kind. We accept all ice and bizarre couples sheltering in the darkness for safekeeping.
Our dense temperate rainforest convulses from Chicxulub’s impact heard around the globe then lies eerily still. An old Tyrannosaur guards her first successful nest, determined. One peeking snout. Two more. Flustered chirps: a will to live. Crimson sky. Hatchlings live through a lifetime of first breaths, sunlight, breezes, maternal vocalizations, and hunger. But we are kindling. We accept all iridium-enriched asteroid hellfire, flash-heated air, supersonic booms, ash, eggshells, first meals, and a family melted into one for safekeeping.
Desert on all horizons; we are one with all lands. Heat lays everything low: ferns, reptilian mammals, sandstone, precious moisture. We pull it all closer as if sharing a secret. Pregnant cumulonimbus clouds knit a blanket. By the time they unravel, Saturn will earn rings. Conifers shoot overhead. A therapsid learns to stand on hind legs to reach for nutrients, a difficult, uncomfortable movement. Perhaps it’s driven by the call of its descendants. Or luck. We accept all millennia rainfall, rampant plant development, interlocked terrain, mid-process evolutions, teenaged eons, and overlooked extinctions for safekeeping.
Tropical evergreens constantly bloom a new sight and swampy smell. Yet, we are disrespected: trees refuse to deposit. Their immortal woody corpses pile kilometers deep. They overstay and overcrowd with little meditation on renewal—metamorphosis. We deliberate. Trying and failing, munching, mulching—a fungi’s ingenuity always comes in handy. Everything is humbled. We make room for this hefty deposit as we set an example for the rest to follow. We accept all bark-bearing trees, solidified carbon dioxide, mycelium as abundant as our brethren in the sky, and a new world order for safekeeping.
Undersea. A hearty stew. Squids and mollusks dance and prey. Fortresses of sponge and coral. Trilobites tickle our nail beds. Carapaces are precious gems. We explode into an experimental playground. Any minute imbalance may cascade into an unreconcilable unmaking. For the first time, we are content to watch such ingenuity and keep safe. And they watch back. We passionately accept all homely shells, undulating soft bodies, dazed compound eyes, whispers of spinal cords, and satisfying bilateral symmetry for safekeeping.
More sea whose homogenizing composition soothes against chaos’ fickle maw. Tepid currents brush our growing sediments, blending organics. They display such fleeting mortality, consuming one another to survive for a moment longer. We know how victories are the sum of their circumstances. We spy two organisms meeting, engaging, then… compromising. Their merger is robust. Wiser. We cradle the symbiotic speck, microns larger than all others, encapsulating its minuscule carbon footprint for surely this was something special, for safekeeping.
We are endless heat. Molten. New minerals simmering. We pirouette, carefree and transformational. Meteorites strobe the sky bearing gifts. Chondrites are remade. We meet a new friend and lover in H2O molecules, not in the icy, indifferent shape we’ve acquainted, but a complimentary, caressing form, encouraging us to build something tenderly. Something idiosyncratic and harmonious. We cool into commitment. Upon this rapidly-tilting planet, we wed. We accept all volatile impulses, newborn routines, elemental courtship, and beloved seas for safekeeping.
We are as feral as our planetary sibling, Theia, who strikes first. Not to be bested, we shove back. A backyard scuffle rattling our orbital gravity—our crib. Parts of us, pieces we presumed constant, like baby teeth, eject into a far-flung satellite. The time-out corner becomes a childhood keepsake on the shelf. Mashed together, we and Theia share our toys like iron, isotopes, and imitations. Soon, we wouldn’t want or could imagine it any other way. We accept all planetshaping conflicts, including the final third of our core, for safekeeping.
We zip in nebula stardust. Racing. Accretion in a wafer-thin plane. Glittering in the advent of a new star. A crowded tidal wave of amassing minerals, electrifying each other in excitement, forming tribes. We are threaded into territories and teams pledging allegiance between fledgling rocky bodies. Density equates want. Company. A third orbit calls us home. We are made remarkable by cycles of light and dark. We wonder the whereabouts of the rest and if they fared as well. We accept this gravitational pocket in this prosaic galactic spiral for safekeeping.
We are gas. Fluctuating between energized heat and languid cold. Color catches spectral flares and the darkness of pure absence. Pulsing and oscillating at the whims of unseen powers, flung into expansion. Everything is magic. We know not where we’re headed, but potential stirs within. We accept a long, mapless journey with uncertain deliverance for safekeeping.
Exodus from a supernova womb. We receive our tools from the simplest of ingredients. We venture into the unknown, ousted from the fusion equilibrium. We don’t feel ready. How can we make use of our gifts among the vastness of the cosmos? Can we ever live up to the legacy of colossi? Is it futile to try? Are we failures if our destiny is nothing? We accept doubt, hesitation, rejection, and newness for safekeeping.
We are nothing. Or perhaps we are simply too elegant, too pure for evocation. We are entrusted with our first deposit: one proton and one electron expanding into eternity. However, gravity dictates transformation is coming. We can’t stay, wherever we are. And that’s okay. We accept infinite dreams of what we can become, or perhaps what we have been, for safekeeping.A.T. Yano is a concept artist and writer. A graduate of Oregon State University and Pratt Institute, her short fiction has been featured in the Suburbia Journal, Bridge Eight Press, and Crack The Spine.