I had seen twelve different doctors and had twenty-seven different appointments over the course of a few months. They had stopped looking at the notes I’d carefully written up, the symptoms I’d underlined twice with the felt tip pens I normally saved for grading and now used to grade the severity of my own symptoms—this one doesn’t need to be mentioned as much, it only keeps me up sometimes, this one could be phrased stronger, I have to be more clear here. The doctors told me to try something for my anxiety. The only thing I’m anxious about is my health and the state of the world, I said. And they smiled politely and typed notes into my chart.

• • •

Sometimes I went out at night when I couldn’t sleep and watched the dark unfold itself around me, becoming less fearsome as the stars crystalled themselves into pinpoints of light, the insects hummed their songs until the sound overcame the buzzing of my pain. I’d sit under the sky until I felt closer to myself.

• • •

See, the doctors said, it’s just your nerves. Have you always been a nervous person? But when I was young, I used to be able to play dead so effectively that I never lost a game of hide-and-seek. I’d still my body into my surroundings. Calm was my gift. No, I said, I just can’t keep it all contained in me anymore. Yes, your nerves, the doctor said and nodded.

• • •

It had started with the world, how I’d been watching it creep under my skin. A news story and then a new pain, a sharp burning under the veins in my arm one day, a headache that pulsed in one eye and never the other. Eventually I didn’t know which had come first—the symptoms or the stories.

• • •

Maybe you shouldn’t watch the news, one doctor said. As if it was easy to push away, as if we all should just look away. I’m sick, I said, not complacent. Some people are just more sensitive, the doctor said.

• • •

The sun will expand before it collapses, I told a doctor. It’ll engulf everything and then fall back into itself. Don’t you think we might be like the sun? The doctor frowned and added another note. I imagined being crushed under the weight of everything the world contained. Somedays I couldn’t take deep breaths, they sunk into my lungs so deep that I couldn’t pull them up. Imagine that weight, I thought.

• • •

The doctor tells me to open my mouth, say ah. He holds a light but I’m not sure he can see, all the way into my throat, deep down where the night sky has bled its hope into me, all the galaxies I am starting to swallow. They go on and on and on until I’m just light.

Chloe N. Clark is the author of the poetry collections Your Strange Fortune, Under My Tongue, and The Science of Unvanishing Objects, as well as the forthcoming short story collection Collective Gravities (Word West, July 2020). She is co-EIC of Cotton Xenomorph, writes for Nerds of a Feather, and teaches composition, communication, and creative writing at Iowa State University.  Find her on Twitter @PintsNCupcakes.

© 2020 Chloe N. Clark. Published by LITTLE FICTION | BIG TRUTHS, May 2020.

Editors: Troy Palmer, Beth Gilstrap & Alvin Park. Images from The Noun Project (credit: Alyssa).

The 2020 Flash Issue:



by Chloe N. Clark
Even the Night Sky 
Can Learn to be a Fist