We thought the place where the cattails thinned was still the shallows, but the water came up to the inverted “V” where your ribs fused together. The Xiphoid process—a name I cannot forget, an extraterrestrial name for a bit of ossified cartilage that welds the ribs into a cage. The moonlight beamed upon the stream, a silvery light seen only in B-movie abductions. In the faded still shot, your backlit torso had already dematerialized, a silhouette where a body ought to have been. On the water your torso’s twin, a water-severed reflection, surrendered to the mercury-white column of light. A tractor beam, drawing you from us. That’s no moon, we heard you say. It’s a trap! (Would you scream that, those months later, when your Humvee raged over the packed earth toward what you thought was a dry-rotted beam?) Your muscles didn’t ripple that night but the water did. Abductee’s terror, apostolic rapture: whatever you felt, it compelled you to raise your hands above your head. The cattails’ wands raked the water; they were brown-black as sticks left in the fire ring, charred as the remnants of afterburners kicking a vessel into the stratosphere. From one of your hands, creek water sieved in silver grains. We know it can’t be so, but even then we thought each drop struck the water and sizzled like molten fragments of shrapnel.
Patrick Thomas Henry is the fiction and poetry editor for Modern Language Studies. His work has recently appeared in, or is forthcoming from, Fiction Southeast, Massachusetts Review, Clarion, and Passages North, amongst other publications. He currently teaches creative writing at the University of North Dakota. You can find him online at patrickthomashenry.com or on Twitter @Patrick_T_Henry.