Oxidation by Tommy Dean

They said we couldn’t hold a birthday party at the bottom of the ocean. That there were laws against such things. That the costs were too much for the fish, for the city, for the coast guard, who grudgingly admitted that they would have to be on hand if we really wanted to go through with this celebration Renting scuba gear and a boat was easier than we expected. The crew was captained by a man who also worked as a ventriloquist. He offered us a chance to see his new act before we plummeted into the water, but we waved him off, our masks and flippers already on, our bodies leaning toward the sea.

Traveling through the water wasn’t as easy as sinking, as our breath, metered out in puffs of oxygenated air gravity-ed against us, and while I thought of giving up, my hands jazzing through the water, hoping you’d understand, you pulled me farther into the depths.

The bottom was dark, an open cave of stirred-up silt from our feet, your hand gloved and foreign in mine.

I twisted my body to avoid the fish wiggling around me on their way to a less crowded destination. Without other guests, I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do. No gifts, no cake, no music. Just the crushing weight of the sea on our shoulders.

 But you won’t give up. Not on this or any other idea. You have to see things through, to see them to their end even if that end is tragic, a death by a thousand endings. I try to swim closer, but you think it’s a game, a part of the party.

You have found the current and while it whisks you farther into the unknown, I’m anchored in this spot, wondering what it feels like to drown, surrounded by invisible air, enveloped by the clear dread of water.

Maybe you planned on floating away. Joining a school, integrating your body into the flow of the Gulf Stream. I couldn’t join you, feet coraled, body calcifying, another monument lost to the sea.

TOMMY DEAN — Tommy is the author of two flash fiction chapbooks Special Like the People on TV (Redbird Chapbooks, 2014) and Covenants (ELJ Editions, 2021). Hollows, A collection of flash fiction was published by Alternating Current Press. He lives in Indiana where he currently is the Editor at Fractured Lit and Uncharted Magazine. A recipient of the 2019 Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction, his writing can be found in Best Microfiction 2019 and 2020Best Small Fiction 2019, Monkeybicycle, and numerous lit mags. Find him at tommydeanwriter.com and on Twitter @TommyDeanWriter.

Art by OLADOSU MICHAEL EMERALD — Oladosu (he/him) is an art editor at Surging Tide magazine, a poet, a writer, a digital/musical/visual artist, and a political scientist. His works have been published or forthcoming in many magazines and won numerous awards in writing and art; few to mention:  Better Than Starbucks, Undivided Magazine, Feral, Afrocritik, Necro Magazine, Spill word web, Paper Lantern Lit, The Maul Magazine, Zoetic, penumbric, Native Skin, Nymph, Naija Reader’s Buffet, Terror House Magazine, Spring word web, Third Estate Art Magazine, The Hearth Magazine, Kalonipa, and elsewhere. Say hi to him on Twitter @garricologist, and Instagram @emerald_arts1