Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams




A Guide to Grief

You love someone.

A boyfriend, who hogs the covers and pisses with the bathroom door open. Your mother. Your little brother—he never calls, communicating instead via selfies verging on the ridiculous and too-brief texts.

Something happens, as these things inevitably do. Drunk Driver. A mugging. Suicide. You cry for days, or try to hold it in, or both; your boss tells you to take as long as you need. Some days, your chest hurts from the pain of it all. Crying doesn’t help anymore—it never really did.

You love someone enough to get your hands on a time machine.

Perhaps you’re some kind of genius. Leave your tears behind and start gathering parts. Hands slimed with grease, you sweat that love into metal and power cables and code. The work consumes you. The work grinds its way into your lungs until only your body remembers to breathe.

Or perhaps you’re not all that bright, but you’re desperate. You think and plan and lie and steal—you steal yourself a time machine, breaking laws that aren’t even a scratch compared to the laws of time and space.

And you have no idea what you’re doing. But all you need is to get lucky once.

(Things go wrong. Those times don’t bear thinking about. Try again.)

You love someone enough to go back.

• • •

You go back.

• • •

For a time, everything seems a little bit brighter. You’re alive, alive, alive! you chant silently, watching them make coffee. The colour of their eyes is somehow new and wonderful; you cry.

But you’ve seen all the movies—you’ve read enough shitty novels to know how these things go. Panic begins to claw its way out of your throat. Someone saw, you think—someone knows. The barista across the street. A neighbour. The man who walks his dog, same time every morning.

Or perhaps you’ve heard the theory; you’re some kind of genius, after all. The sensitive dependency on initial conditions. Butterflies.

The kid who crushed your boyfriend’s car lives, and flees the scene. Two dead—dying on the motorway.

No need to check the CCTV for a crime that didn’t happen. He gets away.

Your little brother goes back to school.

You love someone. There is no such thing as a perfect world.

• • •

The house is quiet, TV turned down low. You slip your shoes on and stare at the faded linoleum. You love someone enough to make things right. The knife block empties itself onto the counter. You choose well.

There’s no point in leaving a note, but you do anyway. You’ll be back in no time at all.

• • •

You go back.

Emily Fox

Emily Fox_photo

Emily Fox lives in a town you’ve never heard of in Queensland, Australia, and is a graduate of The University of Queensland’s Writing, Editing, and Publishing program. When she’s not reading her way through a dragon’s hoard of books, Emily spends her free time following the adventures of bat-like superheroes and reading slush for Aurealis Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @byemilyfox.