by: Ben Fitts
Mike spotted the water cube first, which meant that it was his to jump in.
The water cube slithered across the desert towards us where we waited in nothing but our swim trunks, the hot sand stinging the bottoms of our feet. It looked like a big block of fresh marble not yet chiseled away to reveal the masterpiece hidden inside, except it was transparent with schools of fish swimming around and seaweed growing out of its bottom.
As the water cube drew near, Mike charged and dove into it, sending ripples around the spot in its side where he entered. Water cubes might look solid, with their sharp corners and right angles, but don’t let that fool you. They’re nothing but water, scattered remnants of the ocean that used to be here.
Mike swam around inside the water cube, disturbing some fish, then swam out the other end when he ran out breath. He landed on the ground with a thud, sand clinging to his wet body.
We watched as the water cube glided past us and off into the distance, marking its path with a moist trail like a slug.
“Next one is all you, dude,” said Mike.
When the next water cube sailed into view, I held my breath and ran straight into it. The cool water enveloped my body and I swam up towards the top of the cube, passing a squid. Mike liked to thrash around in the heart of the cube until he ran out of breath then dash out the other side, but I liked to float to the top and hang out up there, looking down at the cube and ecosystem inside as it crept through the desert.
I rose to the top and to my surprise saw there was a boat up there that I had somehow not noticed. It was a rowboat, small and crumbling and ancient.
I swam over and hoisted myself up. Once aboard, I saw that there was a woman in the boat as well, presumably the person who had once done the rowing. She was very dead, of course. Her skeletal fingers clasped the oars and empty eye sockets poked out from gray, rotting flesh.
“Hey kid, what are you doing on my boat?” demanded the dead woman.
Embarrassed, I stammered some nonsense.
“You better have a good reason for bothering me, kid. You’ve interrupted me while I was busy decomposing. Decomposing isn’t easy work, you know.”
“I’m very sorry, ma’am,” I pled and hastily dove off her boat, back into the water cube.
I dove with a bit too much force, and the coral-infested floor of the cube raced towards my vision. I pierced through it, breaking through the bottom of the world.
I fell out the other side, as one does in these situations, plummeting from the top of the sky. I was lucky enough to land on a cloud, its velutinous surface breaking my fall.
I peered over the side of the cloud and saw Mike on the ground, tiny and confusedly searching for me.
“Hey Mike, I’m up here!” I called down.
He looked up at me. “Dude, did you fall through the bottom of the world again?”
“You’ve really gotta try to stop doing that.”
“I know,” I admitted.
I felt the cloud growing warm around my feet and gasped as I saw dull red embers swelling on its surface.
“Mike, you have to get away!” I screamed. “I think this is a storm cloud!”
“Oh, shit!” he shouted and began to run, but it was too late. The storm cloud began to rain.
Drops of sizzling magma poured from the cloud, blistering and scorching Mike’s tan skin.
He ran around for a little bit, howling in pain as he burned, but then collapsed onto the ground and didn’t get back up.
I waited until the storm cloud cooled down and stopped raining fire, then I tore off a little chunk of the cloud in my hands and lept off its side.
Gravity wanted me to plummet to Earth, but the celestial nature of the nugget of cloud I held wanted to remain floating in the sky, so the forces worked against each other to create a mild, gentle descent back to the ground. That’s the same way I got down the last time this happened.
I scooped up big handfuls of the desert sand and piled them off to side.
“Hey, what are you doing?” asked Mike from the ground beside me. His flesh was seared red and swollen in the spots where it hadn’t been burned clean off to reveal the naked bone beneath.
“I’m digging you a grave because you’re dead.”
“Oh, thanks. That’s real nice of you.”
I nodded and continued to dig Mike’s grave in the sand.
I was careful not to dig too deep because the last thing I needed was to fall through the bottom of the world again.
When the grave was just the right depth, I rolled Mike’s corpse into it. He stared back up at me with dead, glassy eyes.
“Thanks, Stan. You know, you’ve always been a really good bro to me. Being buried will really help me focus on all the decomposing I have to do now.”
I held back tears as I poured the sand back over my friend and filled in his grave.
Ben Fitts is a writer, musician
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