If you drive home over a snowy bridge in a panic, that night you will dream yourself into a staring contest with someone you didn’t—awake—know you wanted. But beware, sweetness, your fiction is being fact-checked. Seek out the inventors of card games and court women who are good at lipstick. Press a flower into a book on a page where a character goes through a door and ask what is on this island? Hint: mostly shame, a little bit failure to ask. An AI has been programmed to care if you won your fantasy football matchup this weekend. No worries, a letter will come. Find and ride a Ferris wheel that sits atop a mountain; feel doubly dizzy. An AI has been programmed to love you, distantly but for real, over decades—all of your decades—and then die. The opposite of a story is to stray. New babies are coming for people you love—no teeth, barely eyes, all bundle and nuzzle, which is to say this is not that letter. Your mouth is a metaphor in your own life, small like a poem. Answer: was that grief.
Jennifer A. Howard teaches and edits Passages North in Michigan’s snowy Upper Peninsula. Her collection of flash sci-fi, You on Mars, was published by The Cupboard Pamphlet, and she has a new chapbook of dispatches from one kid’s Flat Stanley coming out in 2021.