There’s a city inside me. It sits deep down in my belly wrapped in high pink walls. The people who live there, they all moved in slowly, one-by-one, beginning with just a single person so long ago. Back then it was quiet, peaceful, but now there’s so much movement that it keeps me awake. Now there are so many people I’ve stopped counting, and they’ve built houses and buildings and skyscrapers so tall that they poke into my lungs until it hurts every time I breathe in.

The people inside me, they’ve taken over.

They swim in rivers of bottled water and build swings from spaghetti and kick blueberries around like soccer balls. And they’ve planted trees now too. I felt the roots digging into my abdomen shortly after I accidentally swallowed an apple seed.

I’ve watched them grow up inside me, each and every one of them. I’ve seen children turn into doctors and teachers, neighbors fall in love and have families of their own, little carbon copies with green eyes and curly hair. I can feel the spinning tires of dirt bikes and the vibrating hum of cars stuck in morning traffic. I feel my insides wringing out with warm welcomes and difficult goodbyes.

There’s so much life in this city they’ve built. But still, they sleep with their suitcases packed, ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

It’s dark all the time in their city. I eat starfruit and moon pies every night before I go to sleep to give them a night sky, and I drift off imagining that they’re looking up at the same stars I am. I try to make it as nice in there as I can for them, try to keep it warm and keep them protected. It must be pretty, I think, with the constant bokeh of a speckled night sky.

But it’s not enough for them, the stars and the moon. They pass rumors from house to house about the sun, about something so bright and beautiful that you don’t mind that it hurts your eyes. I press flashlights to my skin and I swallow down sunflower seeds but it does nothing to abate their interest. They don’t know about how cold it is out here, about the rain and the wind and the snow. And they don’t care; they want to see it anyway. They say things like “One day I’ll get out of this town,” and maybe one day they will. And I want them to. I want more than anything for them to be happy.

But not a single one has been able to leave yet.

Lynsey Morandin reads and writes fiction that makes her cry. She drinks too much coffee, is terrified of flying, and is desperate to see the Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup in her lifetime. You can find her in Cease, Cows!, Crab Fat, and The Quotable, among others, or at