Joyland

New York |

Something Night Music

by Craig Shilowich

edited by Brian Joseph Davis

Abe walks onto his street. He’s just had this very sudden memory of this crazy thing that happened last summer and he’s trying to remember the details of it. Someone had stolen a bunch of x-ray machines from hospitals all over the city. About a hundred of them had just gone missing and theft was the only reasonable explanation.

Abe pauses for a second. Was it hospitals?

Or was it dentists’ offices?

Abe walks up to his house and the thought gets away from him because his feet are so fucking sore. He’s breaking in the new leather shoes that his wife, Eva, just bought for him. They’re black and they’re tall, reaching up past his ankle, far beyond where he’s used to shoes being. They’re stiff. He’s worried he looks like someone who’s about to commit a mass shooting. Like those kids who shot up their high school a few years back, the ones who wore the trench coats. What was that school’s name? A helicopter is circling the city. He wonders if someone’s called him in. What’s the term they came up with for that? He listens to the clip clop of his boots as he ascends the stone steps of his building.

He sounds like a fucking horse.

And his memory, God. Jesus.

They should just lobotomize me.

On the final step, he feels the stiff heel of his boot sink into something soft. He knows it’s excrement before he even looks down. He exhales deeply, hot air shooting out through his nostrils, again, like a horse would. He’s less worried about the boot and more worried about Eva’s reaction. It’ll be a double whammy. He not only ruined some very fine, expensive Italian footwear but he’s tracked shit into the house.

LITERALLY.

Abe looks down. Yep. It’s definitely shit. What’s tricky, though, is that it seems to have been placed there, deliberately. He wonders who would have the audacity to walk all the way up the steps of his house - there’s like eight fucking steps - and let their dog shit there. It just seems cruel to him. Malignant. He grabs one of the several dozen newspapers he never even subscribed to that have piled up on his doorsteps and kneels down to try to push it off the stairs.

An old thought circles through his head, more of echo of an actual thought than the real deal.

What kind of business model is that anyway? Printing newspapers no one wants or is paying for? He resolves to open one of them up one day and see what’s inside.

They’re always so wet though.

As he’s edging the feces off of the top step, Abe realizes with chagrin that it’s not dog shit. It’s distinctly human. He knows this because its reminiscent of several he’s taken himself in the past week. Startlingly reminiscent, actually. He stands up again and looks up and down the street, looking for suspects. What’s the message here guys? The motive? There are usually at least several homeless men congregating on the corner, but they’re not there tonight. In fact, the streets are eerily empty. The only sound in the air is the faint hum of the streetlights in the hazy urban twilight. That, and the sound of those helicopters circling, the dull whooshing of their chops?

Blades?

There are several of them now. A half a dozen, maybe.

Oh! Abe smiles and sort of claps his hands together a little, like a two-year-old being presented with a birthday cake.

Active shooter!

Abe sorts through the mess of keys on his key chain, pleased with his recall ability, pleased he’s not going senile after all. Hey, maybe he’ll watch Jeopardy! tonight. Sharpen up the old wits. It used to be one of the great joys of his life, watching Jeopardy! with a cold beer in his hand, trying to beat the players on the television to the punch. He’d always wanted to be on Jeopardy! when he was younger even though he knew from the internet that it was mostly about buzzer mastery. But man, if a science question came on in Final Jeopardy! he knew it would be fucking over for the other contestants.

Abe puts his key in the door, feeling the sharp, serrated edges of the new key he had made when Eva lost hers – again - grind against the aging lock that controls the deadbolt, the thick chunk of metal that keeps the rest of the world out of their house.

He hopes he’ll be able to wrestle the remote control away from Eva.

Probably not though .

Eva is sitting on the couch with their cat, Mr. Peepers, in her lap. Mr. Peepers looks up languidly at Abe but doesn’t move. There was a time when Mr. Peepers preferred Abe to Eva, but Eva mounted a hard fought campaign to win his affection and, after a time, began to just sit and spend time with Eva and Eva exclusively. There are still moments, late at night, after Eva falls asleep, when Abe and Mr. Peepers commune on the couch together, watching a late night movie on cable, but they’re becoming less and less frequent.

Abe slips off his boots and he’s pretty sure there’s an odor coming from the shit-caked one, despite his best efforts to wipe it off onto the steps. He looks warily over at Eva. He’s scared she’ll smell it, but she says nothing. Her eyes are wide, locked onto the TV. She looks goddamn hypnotized. Abe wonders if she’s in fact been to the hypnotist today, which is something he knows she’s tried recently in order to quit smoking. One of the many just plain weird financial decisions she’s made without consulting him lately. Maybe she should see a hypnotist about her television addiction which seems to him to be pretty fucking advanced.

Hey hon , Abe says, sliding off his socks as well. It’s cold out so he’s wearing thick wool socks and a piece of string from one of them catches onto his wedding ring. He hops around a little, the sock stuck around his ankle. He’s gotten fat in the past couple years, fat, there’s no other word for it, and the skin around his ring is puffing out, looking like a tumor or a small head of cauliflower. Eva always tells him he doesn’t have to wear it if it’s uncomfortable but Abe is fairly certain it’s a trap, that there’s some secret double meaning there, even though it seems like she’s being plain and compassionate, considerate to his condition.

His fucking fatness.

It’s fine. He just needs to lose some weight. He untangles the wool from his ring. He pulls off the sock and sees there is now a hole the size of an eyeball in it. He holds it up to his face and looks through the hole at Eva, the frayed stands of wool framing her face. He keeps staring at her, hoping she’ll see it and maybe giggle but she is just making love to that TV. God.

He used to be able to make her laugh with such ease.

He throws the sock to the ground. He makes a mental note to throw it out later. They were expensive, those socks. He needs to check the bank account. And shit he needs to write a check to the plumber.

Where have you been? Eva asks and there’s a sharpness to her voice, like even more than usual. She doesn’t look over at Abe. Another helicopter thunders over their house, rattling the frame, the chops? blades? sounding distinctly like a sound effect from a movie he’d loved when he was younger, about a wise old dragon. What was that one called?

I’ve been literally calling you for hours , Eva says. I’ve LITERALLY been worried sick.

My phone’s dead , Abe says, which he sometimes says and it’s a lie, but today it’s a convenient truth. He pulls the phone out of his pocket, mashing his fat thumb into the screen, holding it out to Eva to demonstrate that it’s not on.

See?

Abe’s phone is dead because he spent much of the afternoon wandering around the city, talking to his best friend from childhood, who is also named Abe. One of life’s funny coincidences, he’d always say when people would ask him about it, with disbelief in his or her voice.

Abe had called Abe because a memory had popped into his head while at work at the actuarial firm where Abe worked, a job that Eva insisted was beneath his intelligence but that Abe thought was a pretty good gig and besides they wouldn’t really have health insurance without it, now would they?

Abe’s memory was of a song they used to sing in front of people when they were younger, set to the tune of a classical piece, a Mozart song. Abe could remember the German name of the piece with startling ease - it had flashed into his mind in a sort of lightning-esque font with firecrackers going off around it. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. He was even sure he had the spelling correct but for the life of me he couldn’t remember what it translated to, even though he’d taken four or five years of German in high school. He knew it was ‘something’ and then night music.

The song went:

I’m Abe – he’s Abe – I’m Abe, he’s Abe

We’re ABES.

WE.

ARE ABES.

We came to check out … BABES!

Then it would descend into a riotous, machine gun fire repetition of their names and other words that mostly, sort of rhymed with their name. Words like “games” and “nabes”, which was short for neighbors, obviously. They brought it out as often as they could at high school keg parties, because it always got a laugh, and more often than not, got one of them a girl’s phone number or even better, an impromptu makeout session.

I mean , it was a genuinely funny bit.

Genuinely original, the other Abe would always agree.

On the phone with his old friend, Abe, Abe had paced the sidewalks of the city, essentially playing hooky, laughing with him about the song. The two Abes tried to remember how it went beyond the We came to check out babes! part but they couldn’t quite piece it together. Abe’s friend Abe is also married but is a couple of kids deep with his wife, and he could hear one of them, the kids, shrieking in the background.

How’re the kids? Abe had asked Abe.

Oh, they’re good , Abe had said. You know. Slowly sucking the life out of me. How’s things with Eva?

You know , Abe had said, same old same old which was a lie because Abe felt things had gotten decidedly worse between them in the past few months, and this fact of his life, if he was being honest with himself, was why he had reached out to Abe, the something night music song thing just being a convenient icebreaker given that they didn’t really talk on the phone all that regularly. Or at all really. He really wanted to spill the beans about the ever-deteriorating state of his marriage, but now, on the phone with his very best friend from childhood, he felt a cold and yawning conversational chasm open up that felt impossible to traverse.

I gotta use the bathroom , Abe says, walking towards Eva. His movements feel predetermined some how. He feels some older part of himself moving towards her to give her a kiss hello, but some newer part of him, tired of feeling rejected when she either says not now or, more devastatingly, silently turns to give him her cheek, he feels that part of him bouncing off the older part and making a turn away from the couch towards the bathroom. He has a loose memory of some biology lesson about the reptile brain and the mammalian brain, but it’s all sort of mush, and it probably doesn’t apply here anyway. This triggers a vaporous recollection of a commitment he made to himself earlier in the year to take some continuing education classes in science to you know, just sort of brush up on what had once been a great passion of his in his youth. The thought turns to mist as Eva’s voice again fills the room.

Do you honestly not know what’s going on? Eva says, the edge in her voice sharpening, as Abe moves to step into their downstairs bathroom which they had blown their financial load on installing earlier in the year.

There’s a fucking bomb in midtown. In the parking lot of one of the skyscrapers.

A bomb threat? Abe says stepping inside. So what?

No, Eva says, an actual bomb. A fucking nuclear bomb.

Abe shuts the door to the bathroom and locks it. Eva’s been following him into the bathroom lately in a final, defiant desecration of the last boundary between them he used to enjoy. He pulls down his pants and then his underwear and takes his dick in his hand. He looks down at it. It’s small, somehow both brown and pink, and it kind of looks like a mashed bug. No, he’s being unfair to himself. Roadkill. He begins to urinate.

As he pees, he wonders why Eva is choosing this particularly malignant way of fucking with him. He’s barely later than he said he would be. She knows he’s had a lifelong, chronic, often debilitating fear of a nuclear device going off in the city. He knows she knows this because she had taken him to see a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist (not a doctor, mind you) all those years ago to help him get over it. The guy’s office had been in midtown, which Abe knew would be the exact place they’d put a bomb, and when Abe had called him out on that fact, the Therapist told him he didn’t exclusively treat people with a fear of a bomb going off, that it was in fact a very rare and specific strain of anxiety from which he was suffering.

And who is ‘they’? The Therapist had asked. When you say ‘they’ would put a bomb in midtown, who, in your mind, do you imagine is trying to blow up this city?

Abe’s urine is a dark yellow, it’s rank, and it won’t stop coming out of him. Lately, Eva has been encouraging him to drink more water, or not even water, just more liquid that’s not, you know, beer to help combat it and he’s been trying, honestly trying but it seems like it is only making it worse. Like it is just making him generate even more of the smelly, discolored urine. He finishes peeing and stops shaking his small, road kill dick with his fat thumb and fat forefinger. He sniffs the air. It smells awful. But it’s not just his urine, which is pretty definitely pretty ripe, there’s something else in the air. He sniffs again, trying to place it. It smells like cigarette smoke. It smells like someone snuck into the bathroom to smoke a cigarette and blew the smoke into the fan to avoid being detected. There’s the faint smell of perfume in the mix as well, and Abe has the distinct feeling it’s the perfume Eva will wear when she is older, some scent she will choose for herself later on in life to try to recapture some feeling of youthful vigor. He looks down at the toilet water, now a sickly pale brown color, and the weird notion crumbles.

He flushes the toilet.

Abe knew who ‘they’ were wasn’t an easily answered question. He knew there were any number of scenarios that could unfold - Lone wolf domestic terrorist. Arab Jihadi. Some crazy ex-Soviet stuck acting something out, like kabuki theater gone wrong. The amount of material on the subject was deep and astounding and when he had told the Therapist he wasn’t going to pay good money to share his years of internet research on the subject, the Therapist had turned to a very predictable line of inquiry, to try to save face, asking –

When did this first start?

Abe did remember, actually, when his fear of The Bomb had taken root in him. He had grown up near the city and one summer, in grade school, his parents had decided to take him to science camp in the city. Driving down the highway, he had looked out at the city skyline and felt his blood freeze. He had seen a giant mushroom cloud rising up over the city, obliterating everything it touched, turning the world to dust. He shut his eyes to block out the image, but it was there behind his eyelids as well. He could almost feel the atomic fire lapping at his face, his skin, his personhood being reduced to bone and dust. He’d then felt an encroaching darkness, a fading of his vision around the edges, a total loss of self that felt almost pleasant and then he’d blacked the fuck out. His parents had woken him up about an hour later, and they were on the side of the road, slapping him in the face, pleading with him, just wrecked with concern for him.

Their only son.

The passing out thing, that hadn’t really happened since, but the fear persisted and he had just learned to live it, as it came and went in waves, unpredictable in their severity.

So what was going on in your life when this happened? The Therapist had asked.

Are you implying this somehow has something to do with my parents getting divorced that summer? Abe had replied.

Abe remembered that the Therapist had arched an eyebrow and looked towards Eva as a way of saying I mean I think we might be onto something here.

Because that would be impossible, because my parents are still together. They’re annoyingly happy. Inseparable, actually , Abe had said. And they were supportive and encouraging of me, almost too much, actually. He remembered with glee how great it had felt to put that smug, overpaid prick in his place, to have, in one fell swoop, so casually predicted and disposed of the most obvious, most convenient theory for why this had been happening to him.

Abe had done a few more of the sessions before it began to really fucking stress him out and also it was really expensive and then the anxiety about an impending nuclear attack had abated as it always did and he just stopped seeing the point.

Abe steps out of the bathroom and realizes he’s starving.

Did you eat? he asks Eva, walking towards the kitchen.

She doesn’t answer. He steps into the kitchen. Eva was supposed to go shopping today but that clearly didn’t happen. There is a bowl full of apples on the kitchen table. They’re almost all browning, in the early stages of rot, but he paws through them and finds one that is basically fine. He walks back towards the living room.

I mean, we did talk about you going grocery shopping today, right? Abe asks as he begins to bite into the apple, but Eva’s face is ghostly white and he pauses. He looks at the television and it’s an image of a reporter inside of a helicopter with headphones on screaming into a microphone. There is text on screen that says

BOMB IN MIDTOWN. UNCONFIRMED ‘NUKE’ RUMORS.

Abe sits down gently next to Eva, the apple still in his hand.

I told you! Eva says, through gritted teeth.

Well, like, how do they know it’s a nuclear bomb? Abe asks her. Is it a jihadi?

I don’t know, Eva says and Abe sees her nails are digging into her thighs and leaving these really really white indentations in her flesh.

To which part? Abe says.

Either! Eva says, her voice rising.

I mean, that seems like a sort of crazy thing to come out and say if it’s not even confirmed, Abe says and he feels a tremor in his throat.


It’s confirmed! Eva shouts at him.

The screen says ‘unconfirmed!’ he shouts back and her and they’re yelling again.

There’s a guy with a van parked in the basement. There’s radiation detectors or something. There’s been a standoff for the last three or four hours. Oh God. Oh GOD , she wails and Abe knows he should reach out and touch her but in his head he’s doing some old math. He spent years of his life in his twenties studying blast map projections when he should have been out looking for a job and making money or hanging out with friends, expanding his social circle, or completing his degree in biochem. A guy with a bomb in a van, that’s bound to be a pretty small yield. Eva doesn’t know this but when they were looking for a house to buy as a young married couple, with the money they borrowed from Eva’s dad – which she was always very careful to remind him about - Abe was secretly shopping for a place that would keep them outside of the blast radius of a pretty fucking big bomb. He’s set them up for this moment, this moment he’s secretly known would come his whole life. He’s protected his fucking family.

SAY SOMETHING! Eva shrieks at him and he looks over at her and there’s a bloodshot insanity to her eyes that he hasn’t seen since that awful night at John and Deb’s wedding when she’d made such a scene about his drinking even though he’d JUST agreed to stop smoking weed because apparently there’s a hard rule at what age that’s not cool anymore and also how ironic it was that she herself was shitfaced.

When Eva shrieks, Mr. Peepers gets up off of her lap and saunters across the couch over onto Abe’s lap, doing a figure eight on Abe’s legs before settling into his crotch. They’d named him after their favorite Saturday Night Live! sketch about a guy who was half a man and half a monkey named Mr. Peepers. Prior to this, Abe’s favorite sketch had been a recurring Jeopardy! parody. He’d just really thought they’d nailed it. Abe loved Saturday Night Live!, just loved it, and would always try to get Eva to stay awake to watch it with him, but she never could, even though he felt he was being pretty clear about how important it was to him and how she was always going on and on about how sharing things was important to couples, but it was like a total double fucking standard because he would always go to the farmer’s market or see plays but she would never take the time to share what was important to HIM.

On their honeymoon, though, Eva had discovered some dormant reserve of energy and every night they had stayed up in their Jamaican hotel suite and gotten high on native marijuana. It was there final night on the island. Saturday Night Live! had come on the television and Abe had looked over at Eva and seen she was still awake. And he was just so fucking happy to be sharing it with her. And then the Mr. Peepers sketch came on and they had just laughed and laughed and laughed at the actor, Chris K-something, playing Mr. Peepers. His commitment to the physical comedy the role demanded was just total. And they had just laid in bed that whole night, sort of in between awake and asleep, their fingers interlocked, the windows open, waking up periodically to giggle and caress the other ones’ face and just marvel at how sweet and easy life could be sometimes.

But of course life seems sweet and easy on your fucking honeymoon.

Abe stares at the TV screen. His heart is pounding so hard in his ears he can’t make out what the reporter is saying. He blinks. His eyes are dry, the action loud in his head, like someone shuffling a stack of paper. Bills. He turns over to look at Eva and there’s a snot bubble in each of her nostrils, the same imploring look burned into her face from when moments ago she’d just shrieked


SAY SOMETHING!

Abe begins to feel something he hasn’t felt since he was very young, since that very first car ride when his Fear of the Bomb took root in him. His vision is going soft. Abe looks down and his arms seem foreign, they look long and putty-like like Gumby, who he hasn’t thought about in forever .

His face feels flushed, like physically hot, his thought-stream thorny and febrile.

As his vision continues to cloud and darken, Abe lifts the apple up to his mouth quickly and spins it around in his palms, biting into it furiously in a torrent of little nibbles, shards of apple shooting out of his mouth and onto the couch and the floor. It’s a key moment from the Mr. Peepers skit, their skit, the comedic climax, and Abe is performing it. Mr. Peepers the cat jumps off of Abe’s lap and skitters across the room, arching her back and raising her tail towards the ceiling. Abe knows what he’s doing is just plain inappropriate and some part of his brain is shouting Jesus stop! but the message is jumbled by the furious pumping of the blood in his face, and it can’t derail this action that’s happening that’s come deep from within him, somewhere in the something about the reptile brain thing from before which god he really should know. Eva’s face is a jumbled mask of rage and confusion and sadness and lust and Abe just keeps spitting out the apple out all over the couch and the floor, sharing this thing with her, and he begins to feel a closeness to her he hasn’t felt in years and years and years as his face get hotter and his vision disappears, just goes, and his memory with it.

Everything becomes gray. Just this dull soundless gray.

Abe blinks. He blinks again.

Abe watches the television with great intensity. He gets a feeling that he’s been watching it for a few minutes. On the screen, they’re walking some kid in a fake turban out in handcuffs, he’s dressed himself up literally as a towelhead. He’s covered in brown paint, which is now patchy on his skin - he’s sweat through a great deal of it over the course of the evening - to reveal the soft pink teenage skin underneath, his real skin. Abe is blinking furiously, the sound of paper being shuffled again resounding through his fat skull. He’s blinking a lot, more than he knows he should be, but his eyes just can’t seem to get moist. He looks at the digital clock on their cable box and sees it’s a little past midnight. He looks over at Eva, pants-less and pale looking on the other end of the couch. There are stains on the couch, some sweat, some semen, from the love making he knows has occurred in the preceding hour, but he cannot remember a single moment of it for the life of me. He looks back to the TV, and there are reporters on the ground now, and there are about a hundred of them in the kid’s face, and he looks high on marijuana or something and Abe knows this because he’s sure smoked a lot of it in his time, it was something he used to really enjoy, a point of pride even, but he stopped because it freaked Eva out. He had groused about it to Abe for awhile, but secretly he had been happy to comply. He had enjoyed the restraint put upon him. He had enjoyed that it had brought him closer to Eva and if he was being honest with himself it kind of freaked him out too, where the mind could go when allowed to wander off its leash.

He looks down and sees he, too, is pants-less and his dick is still semi-erect, looking less like roadkill and more like some kind of bird, something shrill and ignoble, but at least its alive.

He looks back at Eva.

Her eyes are droopy, her head nods down. His arm is draped across the back of the couch and their index fingers are grazing one another. In that moment, he knows they’ve conceived a child, a boy. He’ll fight for the name Abe, and it’ll be a battle, but he’ll win. He doesn’t know what he’ll have to give up for it, but he’ll win. He has to. He’ll raise him to be proud and strong, to follow through on his tasks. Through the static of the noise his inner organs are making, he hears on the television that the radioactivity that had been detected in the building had been from a bunch of old x-ray machines that had mysteriously disappeared from dentist offices all over the city last spring, and Abe vaguely remembers that having happened but only vaguely.

Eva’s head shoots up off of her chest, her eyes wild, pink, and terrible.

I’m going up to bed she says and she stands up abruptly and it seems like she wants to say more for a second, and Abe sure knows he would like to say something but neither can summon the words. Eva quietly and politely gathers up her undergarments and plods up the stairs. He hears her lumber into the bathroom and the water comes on in the sink which he knows is part of her nightly routine which she does to try to literally cool herself off before bed because she sweats during the night. It doesn’t work though, it never works, and every night around one or two in the morning, Abe wakes up, his pillows a lumpy wet mass, like mashed potatoes, and he looks over and there is Eva, glistening in the dark. It will happen again tonight. He’s positive.

He knows this because he knows her. Almost better than he knows himself. He knows this because

She is my wife .

They’re speculating on the television about why he did it but Abe shakes his head because he knows the only answer lies in another question - why does anyone do anything? He grabs the remote and begins clicking through the channels. He looks over and sees Mr. Peepers in the corner to which he’d retreating earlier, hair on end, back still slightly bent. Abe scratches the fabric of the couch, enticing Mr. Peepers to join him. Mr. Peepers just stares back at him with his inky black eyes. Abe thinks back to his younger days, when he had some sort of special kinship with both children and animals. They seemed impulsively drawn to him, like a moth to a flame for lack of a better saying. It had been some time since he’d possessed such power. Maybe whatever inner light or innocence inside of him had been snuffed out, like a candle in the wind or whatever. Or maybe! it was like a once mighty fire inside him that had been reduced to embers, but that with one great roll of the biggest log left - this log of course being some metaphor for my core inner self, ‘the real me’- the fire would roar to life again.

He imagines, with great certainty, that the birth of his son, Abe, might just give him that push. His eyes flutter and he realizes he’s loopy with exhaustion and/or hunger. He’s a dinner guy and when he doesn’t get it, all bets are off.

He flips the channel to Nickelodeon. In one of life’s funny coincidences, they’re running an old advertisement from his youth. It’s a vintage commercial, made by the network, to promote cartoon programming and it’s also set to something night music. It also features invented lyrics, however they’re used to plug upcoming cartoons on the network, not the intention of the two Abes’ to pick up women.

It’s funny , Abe thinks, as he stretches out on the couch, his head nestling into one of the throw pillows they’d gotten from their wedding registry. I always thought we made that up.

Abe falls asleep and immediately begins to dream. In his dream, he’s laying in his honeymoon bed with Eva. The moon is big and full in the sky. It is shimmering like a white pearl. In the dream, Abe is staring at Eva, who is asleep. She’s not sweating. She looks peaceful and there’s a faint hint of a smile on her lips. In the dream, Eine Kleine Nacthmusik is wafting in through the open window. Abe gets up from the window, carefully unlocking his fingers from Eva’s, kissing her gently on the palm before walking to the window. He walks to the window and in the distance, there is a darkened shape dancing on the waves which lap against the skyline in the horizon. From its movements Abe can tell the shape is half man and half ape. The darkened shape cups what must be its hands to what must be its face and shouts to Abe

A LITTLE!

And Abe knows it is telling him what he already knew he knew somewhere in one of the many brains he knows he has in that dumb, fat skull of his.

That Eine Kleine is German for a little.

Just a little.

It’s almost dawn when the bomb goes off in midtown, long after the drugged up boy who served as a decoy has been locked up and put away. In his dream Abe is turning back to gaze upon Eva. As he turns he looks down and sees the fat around his middle is gone. His waistline is thin, his abdomen chiseled, not in a way that it had ever been, but in way that Abe knows it will someday be.

The bomb is much larger than Abe had ever anticipated, much larger than anyone ever knew a homemade bomb could be, as it was built with patience and care by real scientists, a joint effort between jihadists and ex-Soviets. As Abe looks at Eva, sleeping serenely, in their shared bed, he feels a tropical gust of wind blow in through the window, carrying the smell of the sea with it. The wind rushes over the back of his neck, tickling him, making his hair stand on end, turning his skin into gooseflesh. The waves crash on the horizon, making a crystalline sound as they do, a bright tink-tink-tinking like glassware shattering into a million pieces, which is actually what it is.

The pearl white moon swells to unthinkable size, consuming the sky.

Abe looks at Eva and smiles.

The room is filled with warmth and light.