April 6, 2038

On August 5, 2037, I buried my son in the woods.

His body was nine years old. His body, a perfect vessel for nine years of perfect breath. Today, I am grateful that mine were the only eyes to see it for the last time above ground. I am grateful that my hands were all I had to dig his grave, and that the earth moved so willingly to make space for him. I am thankful that my voice echoed only off the trees, with no one there to hear it. 

The words I spoke that day lying in the leaves beside my dead child were my last for what felt like an eternity. The grief that consumed me in his absence left room for nothing. When it began to swell, my spirit left me, grabbing what she could save as the flames engulfed her home. Carrying my voice and my heart, she left my body and followed me through the woods.

There are places in which the rules of our world’s time do not apply. It is inside one of those places that my spirit finally returned to me this morning. Had I invented the story of this reunion, she might have moved as slow as the breaths she entered between, like a ghostly fog that would wake me with a song, guiding me to the mirror to see that I was whole.

In reality, she burst through my doors like a child returning home after a summer at camp, a beautiful tornado of tears and stories and songs and art that she couldn’t wait to show me. I hugged her so tightly that she disappeared, settling back into my bones to rest. Careful not to wake her, I tiptoed to the door of the tank. I was startled by my own heartbeat as I reached for the door, expecting to find that a million lifetimes had passed since it was last shut.

I was in that timeless place for eight days. It has been two hundred and forty-three days since I last spoke.

Today is my birthday. This is my Qualia.

. . .