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  • Mica picked some pale leaves from the one of the succulents along the brick walkway and rubbed the small plump leaves between her fingers. A waxy white coating rubbed off, leaving the leaves bright and shiny. They looked more like fat green grubs than leaves. They were taut and resilient, bouncing back to their original curved shapes when she released her gentle pressure. When she squeezed harder, the leaves popped, and a cool wet slime oozed out. The slime had a kind of grit to it, and Mica rubbed her fingers back and forth, feeling the contrast between the smooth moisture and rough grit. The crushed leaves felt sensuous, almost sexual. She sniffed her fingers; they smelled faintly like new-mown grass.

    She grabbed another larger handful of succulent leaves, and rubbed them slowly between her palms, savoring the sensations. Then she placed her hands down on top of some of the plants and pressed down.

    "Mica, stop. What are you doing?" Chico ran over and grabbed her hands. After a minute, he let go and she plucked another strand of leaves. He shook her.

    "You're going to get us evicted," he said, "The landlord will be furious if you ruin the gardens. What are you thinking?"
  • Mica looked up at Chico, worried and puzzled. He had deep lines between his brows. She reached up and tried to smooth them, but they sprang back into an angry frown. Thinking? She'd been feeling. Touching. There were whole galaxies inside the tiny succulent leaves. Galaxies colliding. Explosions. Black holes.

    The black holes were hungry. They nibbled at her fingers, they sucked at her arms. She tumbled headlong into the darkness, the crushing, relentless darkness where the murciélagos lived. [moor-SEE-a-leg-ohz]

    But the murciélagos weren't home. The darkness began to shine with pinpoints of light, more and more stars appearing. She burst through thin papery sheaves of darkness into fountains of light which expanded and expanded until everything was light. Light flowed through her arms and legs out into the cosmos. Light from the cosmos poured in through the top of her head in waves like orgasms. She let go, relaxed into the light. The light hummed and sang. The singing rose and fell, consuming the universe, falling back into silence again, and growing. Growing sweeter, higher, and at the same time, more electrical.

    Sometime later, maybe minutes, maybe hours, maybe years or millennia, Mica woke up curled on the brick walkway in the hanging gardens of the Diamond Heights house where she lived with her husband Chico. Hummingbirds flitted among the fuchsias, butterflies floated above her head. She felt chilled and sat up, wrapping her arms around her shoulders.

    "Hello," a voice said.
  • Mica looked up. Sitting on the redwood deck was a kid, or a young man. His bare feet dangled above the succulents, kicking lightly back and forth. He was slender with red hair and freckles. She had met him before. He used to work at the coffeehouse where Chico worked, but he'd been fired. Why had he been fired? Mica couldn't remember. What was his name? Sean.

    His name was Sean. Sean Michael O'Flannery. He was Irish, no kidding.

    "Hi Sean," Mica said, and Sean grinned back at her.

    "Hi Mica," he said. "Are you hungry?"

    Mica turned her attention to her body. Was she hungry? Maybe, a little. She'd lost a lot of weight, Chico had told her. She rarely felt hungry any more. Eating often seemed like a waste of time, whatever time was.

    "Where's Chico?" she asked, not bothering to answer whether she was hungry or not. It seemed like such a trivial question.
  • "He's at work. He asked me to stay with you, keep you safe.”

    “Safe? Safe? Who’s going to keep me safe from him?”

    Sean didn’t say anything. Mica got up and wandered aimlessly around the garden. Then she went to the fence and looked out over the city. A veil of reddish-grey smog obscured her view of the ocean. She could toss a pebble down of roofs of the houses below the cliff. She wandered back through garden, past the back wall of hanging fuchsia trees, stopping to peer up the pink and purple skirts of the maidens at their many spindly little legs. Then she sat down beside Sean.

    “I don’t get it,” she said, “why do I need you to keep me safe?”

    “You seem perfectly lucid at the moment, and to tell you the truth, I don’t totally understand myself, but Chico says you’re not completely with it. He says you fade in and out of reality. He says you wander around and walk in front of oncoming cars, trolleys, and buses and have nearly been hit on more than one occasion. Is that true?”
  • “Maybe, I guess so. He says so. I can’t remember.” She squinted her eyes, attempting to look back in time, but saw nothing but fog, blank and white.

    “He says he took you to Langley Porter. It’s a psychiatric hospital on Parnassus, do you remember? It was just a couple days ago.”

    “Yeah, I remember. A man there, Dr. Francesco, gave me a bunch of tests. He talked to me a long time, asked lots of questions, made me look at weird pictures and then he talked to Chico about me as if I wasn’t even there. He said I was very sick, that I was psychotic, and that Chico needed to commit me. He wanted to lock me up—for the rest of my life. He told Chico I would never recover, but Chico said no. Dr. Francesco seemed angry when we left.”

    “Maybe he wasn’t angry,” Sean said, “Maybe he was just worried about your safety and well-being.”

    “Maybe. He seemed pretty nice, but his office was full of murciélagos.”

    “Murciélagos?" Sean asked.
  • "They look a lot like bats, but they aren't bats, they’re hell-creatures that resemble bats. They come in all sizes, tiny, small, medium, big, huge, and utterly monstrous. They have huge black leathery wings and red eyes. They sap away joy and fill me with fear and loathing. They suck away my breath. They make it cold and still and lonely."

    “They sound horrible. I guess it’s lucky that I can’t see them,”

    “There aren’t any here right now.”

    “Good. Chico doesn’t believe that your psychosis is permanent, which is what Dr. Francesco said. The doctor said that you would never get better. Chico thinks if we wait a while, if we’re patient, you’ll get better. He told me that the psychosis comes and goes. Sometimes, he says, you’re worse than others, and sometimes, you seem almost normal. Like now, I guess. Are you there?”

    “I think so,” Mica said, patting her head and body. “I seem to be here. But, one can never be too sure.”
  • “Well, Chico hopes that your good times will increase and your bad times decrease. What about lunch?” Sean asked. “Do you think you could eat? “Cause I’m starving. How about some tacos?”

    “How about peanut butter and jelly on rice cakes and we take them up to the wildlands for a picnic?”

    They couldn’t find any jelly in the house, so Mica made peanut butter sandwiches on rice cakes and brought along a jar of canned peaches to open and serve with the sandwiches. They walked to the top of Diamond Heights hill and sat on a fallen tree where they had a view of the whole city. The cat, George Oshawa, came with them and sat beside Mica on the downed tree. His eyes were a pale bright blue, something between lapis lazuli and turquoise, and the lines of energy of the universe perfectly followed the hairs of George Oshawa’s face. His face glowed with energy. Mica saw that he was God, and she was God, and Sean was God. The three of them were the three faces of God.

    God was a terrifying being, horribly powerful. All the city spread below was under their power, and with a single hand, they could crush it.

    “These sandwiches are great with peaches on them,” Sean said, grinning.

    “The city is turning inside out,” Mica said. She set down her first half-eaten rice cake and began to rock back and forth on the log. She moaned.

    Sean stopped eating to watch her, but she didn’t seem to be in any immediate danger, so he finished his first sandwich and ate his other two while he kept an eye on Mica. He put her half-eaten sandwich back in the bag when he saw ants collecting around it.
  • This my assignment #6 for the Fiction Mooc from Iowa Writers Workshop. You can still join it, even though this is the last week.

    Image: Mica in the Garden. Painting by me. You can see I used part of the same image from the last piece. Haven't had time to paint anything entirely new. The original painting was done (by me) in acrylics on the cover of a Moleskine sketchbook.
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