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Lessons in Negative Space


It’s always night when they wheel us girls in, gowned on gurneys. Underground. They pull their masks up and peer at our faces. Line us in rows along the dark gray walls. We must be sick. They must be healers. Lightbulbs swing from the ceiling. Somewhere down the row is Sissy. It’s her turn, and she’s crying.


I refuse to count backwards because I know I’ll die. The blue-scrubbed surgeon reveals the silver-sharp instruments on the tray, filed in order of shine. He swivels smiling on the stool and asks why I’m afraid, sweeping wide with his large hands. Dark hairs prickle his arms like an animal. Each finger wears a tuft of wool.


Bruises lily-pad down my spine. If I were a little frog, I could jump-jump across them, to my arm, my ass, my thighs, where the bruise is—the bruises—are clustery, both dark and bright, big as a man’s hands. Turn, they say, snapping the camera, trapping each one on film. Readying them for the exhibition. Turn, they say. Don’t look away. Drop the sheet a little lower.


The woman assigned to my case has the face of a young Stockard Channing. I expect her to sing, joke, light a cigarette. We sit in her office and read the judgments, the confessions, the lies. Shapes and voices float in and out. A faceful of wet grass, a kneeful of dirty carpet. I roll into a ball. Squeeze myself as small as the head of a pin. The papers wobble in the woman’s hands and grow wet.


With one gloved hand in my cunt, the midwife tells me to push. She tells me my body isn’t working, the baby isn’t breathing, the car is warming up. I float above the bed, above the dark paneled wainscot, above myself. I am the ceiling. I am the yellowed flowers on the walls. Not the blood and the twisted cord and the oxygen tank, the baby girl suctioned and swaddled. Not the panic passing in the doorway. The car is warm, and they know we are coming.

Sara Hills has been published in various journals such as SmokeLong Quarterly, Cheap Pop, and New Flash Fiction Review; twice shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award and the Bridport Prize; and nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the NetBest Microfictions, and Best Small Fictions. Although she grew up in America’s Sonoran Desert, she now lives in Warwickshire, England and tweets from @sarahillswrites.

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