Flash fiction by Yael van der Wouden
Like, The Universe
She says, "Babe it’s like, the universe hears you? Like you put it out into the universe and it knows you and like, it will let you know what it wants? You know?"
She tells you this at the dredging hours of a party with the glue of her eyelashes melting off while you’re on the toilet falling asleep. She says this under the sheets with her face close to yours on days you are not going to get out of bed. She repeats this again and again, muffled, eating a muffin. Sucking coffee from a straw. Slurred and drunk under campus willows, with a warble and a blackbird singing praise to dawn. Says it putting on her eyeliner with her mouth open. Says it while dapping on the glitter, and then again hours later, scratching it off. She screams it in the sweats of a club, fruit on her breath over the steady beat of songs. What? you scream back, leaning in close to hear. It like hears you! she screams again. Like, the universe!
At home she runs a bath. She waits for the water to heat on the edge of the tub with her phone in hand. She scrolls and likes everything, everything. She’s naked with a bad posture and she likes everything. The universe spills from the faucet and muddies the water. It makes the bath a thin blue and then a deeper purple. Stars barrel out with little burbles as they hit the surface. Moons sink and then float, buoyant. Galaxies fizz below the surface, foaming up the soap.
"Get in," the universe says.
She says, "like, hold on," and likes a photo where you’re petting someone’s dog. Likes a post where you talk about your shrink. Then she puts down the phone and gets into the universe. It’s a nice temperature, like a room where the heater’s off but the company warms you right up. Comets like fish nip at her ankles. The milky way drapes itself over her shoulders. She hums and settles in and her knees make for two pools on the surface. She sinks. Her mouth in the universe, her nose above.
"So like," she says, an echo that sets a shine of young stars skittering, "what do you want?"
The universe seeps into her pores in response.
It lets her know.
Prompted by this tweet:
Yael van der Wouden is a writer, editor, and a mixed-bag-diaspora child situated in Utrecht, the Netherlands. She co-founded Chaos Press, a Dutch feminist publishing house. In her off time she waters plants and walks into rooms to immediately forget why. Her words can be found at Platyplus Press, The Wilds, Ellipsis Magazine, Palmsized Press, The Sun Magazine and Splitlip Magazine. She's currently working on a collection of short stories about monsters. More at yaelvanderwouden.com or at @yaelwouden.