1999 and later

I am in a backyard with a childhood friend. We are boys in 1999. We run without pattern until he slips on a patch of wood chips and cuts his hand. Instead of crying, he places his hand near an ant hill, holding it there until I lose attention and walk away, turning the afternoon into days later when he is still at the anthill. When I see him again, I ask what he is doing. He tells me he has engineered an ant to bite the cut until it heals. Engineered what? I ask. He wipes the leftover blood on his gym shorts and I go about my life and he goes about his. But he never leaves the yard, instead teaching the colony to heal his self-inflicted wounds until the ants go to him, enter through his nails and heal his cancer, his wrinkles, his gray hair. He heals others too with the trademarked skill and makes a life by it.

One day, the world has different yards, and there are too many people and not enough pools. I am one hundred years old when children launch themselves from unseen canons above the manufactured bend of cornfields into my neighbor’s pool. Some bodies splash against the sky, causing shadow and dripping blood. But most splash in the pool and emit secret yelps that nonetheless resound in a room’s enclosed space. Other children come from a hole cut in the sky, sand spilling from a steel skeleton holding up the floor above us. Sand still spills as they look around for grumpy pool owners and then drop a rope and slide down. But my neighbor, unseen, is waiting and watching. He realigns the rope to a hole he has cut in the ground. The children fall through into an icy tundra. He does not cover the hole after scaring the other children from his pool, so the glacial winds crust the hole’s outline with its otherworld. No one cares, and no one cared before, if the ice stays or goes. The children in the tundra below us will either die or learn to ski.

ISAAC LAURITSEN is a writer and poet based in Chicago, IL, where he works as a content writer. Forthcoming work is scheduled to appear in Adelaide Magazine and Habitat Magazine. He is currently working on a book-length poem and a number of themed chapbooks.