Rune County Coroner’s Office Autopsy Report, Case #2
Date of autopsy: 11.13.22
Location of autopsy: our narrator’s living room, where our narrator stares at the fish tank on the table and realizes the tank needs to be scrubbed clean or else the fish is going to die
Name of deceased: Stella Marshall
Length: 5’ 5’’
Weight: 122 pounds
Recorded time of death: 8:13 p.m. — 5.22.18
Marks and wounds: 1) stretched and torn muscle tissue lining arms and legs 2) left ankle sprained 3) right arm broken 4) elongated neck 5) rapid abnormal lengthening of spine
Probable cause of death: growing up apart
Manner of death: natural
The Rune Reporter “Remembering:” section, page C2:
[Stella Marshall], , peacefully passed away [from our narrator’s life] on [May, 22, 2018] in [Unimportant, USA]. [She] is survived by [an unexpected post on Instagram that makes our narrator feel out of the loop] and [a decade’s worth of elementary school yearbooks]. Funeral services will be performed by [an impulsive Snapchat sent to Stella] in [the living room where our narrator currently resides] on [Monday, November 14, 2022] at [8:29 pm]. Only immediate family members will be in attendance.
Parting words for Stella that our narrator will speak one day perhaps, if Stella answers our narrator’s Snapchat:
Six years ago:
You asked me what I would do if you started liking girls, a question we’d forbidden ourselves from asking. But floating there in the water, face aimed at the moon, you asked it anyway, and an urge overtook me to collapse through the hole in my inflatable doughnut and sink down to the bottom of the pool, where the water pressure of eight feet deep could squeeze an answer out of me.
But instead, I answered that I didn’t know what I’d do.
Six days ago:
I heard you liked girls. I pictured you at the bottom of your pool, bending your knees, grinding your toes into the tile, pushing up like a rocket ship aimed at the moon. I pictured you breaking the surface of the pool, spitting out water onto the terracotta patio and staining it the color of rocket fuel, and now I’m really happy for you. I haven’t seen you break the surface in six years, but you’ve broken free now, and the way you smile tells me what I should’ve answered six years ago.
Eight years ago:
A group of us curled into your pillows and watched Barbie on your iPad. It was midnight, and you were afraid to fall asleep and risk an ambush of whipped cream on your face. We stayed awake by taking turns dressing like Barbie—soda pop sunglasses and stilettos crusted with glitter that we swiped from your mother’s closet. We were women then. We are only girls now. I still watch Barbie on my phone. You still swipe stilettos from your mother’s closet. You’re still afraid of falling asleep. I’m still afraid of waking up.
Eight days ago:
I saw you posted some of your art online, and I wanted to buy it. You used to paint your animals in soda pop colors crusted with glitter, but now the animals you paint look a lot like your loved ones, and they’re stained in a thunderstorm palette. These animals tug at their skin, pull out their fur, cry all over their claws. These animals are the same age as us, and I can’t help but wonder if the fur-pulling one is me. I write about you. Maybe you paint about me too?
I’ll ask you. We’ll grab coffee (you still like yours iced, right?), and then you can tell me about your girl. I’d love to meet her someday, I’ll say, she looks like she has a good sense of humor. And what about you? you’ll ask, did you ever tell him how you felt? Sort of, I’ll answer, what I told him was goodbye. Then I’ll tell you that I think the reason I don’t have him, or anyone, is because in the six years we’ve been apart, I’ve learned that I don’t really care for feeling those feelings right now. Maybe someday. But I’ll decide when someday is.
I spend my days in my graveyard, digging up old friends, seeing if I can revive any of them, seeing if I want to. I’ve spent a long time kneeling over your grave, flinging soil over my shoulders, tossing the old stilettos and inflatable doughnuts I’ve dug up into a rusted bucket by my side. By the time I reach your coffin and rip open the lid, my fingernails split. Where blood should be, paint drips. It’s the color of rocket fuel, ample enough to break the surface and blast toward the moon. My hands are on your shoulders now, as I try to summon you back to life with the ancient magic of an apology.
“Stella is typing…” illuminates my lock screen.
I think my spell has worked.
Johanna Ziegler is earning her B.A. in creative writing with minors in social media marketing and film studies at the University of South Dakota. She serves as the assistant editor for Hey! Young Writer and is a contributing writer for MJ Canyon Productions, with her latest short film “Church!” currently in production. She has been previously published in The Albion Review and Northern Eclecta, and her short film, “Places That Are Mine,” recently made official selection at the Valkyrie International Film Festival. Her hobbies include curating oddly-specific Spotify playlists and collecting Barbie memorabilia. Follow her on Instagram: @johcecilia22.