No More Dead Women
The story has just one rule: no women will die.
On the Oregon coast, a 70-year-old grandmother digs for clams along the beach. The sand, slicked silver in the weak sun, compresses and pales under each footstep. Bending over, she doesn’t see the surprise swell. It reaches up, grabs her, spins her out to sea. Her husband, a couple hundred yards ahead, doesn’t notice. And then he does notice, and he screams, runs into the surf, screaming, screaming. The woman is pummeled by waves, held under for far too long, lungs sponging seawater. Her husband collapses, wet and weeping.
And then the ocean spits the woman back out. She picks herself up, uncoils seaweed from her long, grey hair, thumps a clogged ear with her palm. Her lungs sag with water weight inside her. Her husband gapes.
At the same time, elsewhere in the country, a wife is shot by her husband. A mother of four is strangled. A prostitute in Chicago has ovarian cancer, and it isn’t responding to treatment. A female college student gets hit by a car. A teenage girl is abducted by her boyfriend’s father, who hits her on the head with a hammer.
They do not die.
The wife looks at the gun in her husband’s hand, then down at her perforated torso. Four bullet holes, punched clean through, streaming with light. She inserts a finger, curious, probes around. She feels a splinter of rib, the warm beat of blood.
The mother of four stares up at her attacker. His hands have been around her neck for a full 10 minutes. He is sweating, his eyes large with fear. “Are you about done?” she asks.
The college student rolls from under the smashed car, plucks chips of windshield from her face. The teenager blinks her dizziness away and touches the back of her head, where fragments of skull slide like loose puzzle pieces. The prostitute, on a whim, reaches a hand inside herself and, gently, pulls it all out: uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, tumor. She looks down at the alien shape of her insides, her head slightly cocked. She feels alive and fine.
All over, women continue not dying. The men are baffled. They scratch their heads and run many tests. They are frightened. They are disturbed. “This makes no sense,” they say. “This makes absolutely zero sense.”
Alyssa Quinn is a creative writing PhD student at the University of Utah, where she reads fiction for Quarterly West. Her work has appeared in Ninth Letter, Brevity, Gingerbread House, Sweet, Frontier Poetry, Punctuate, So to Speak, and elsewhere. Her prose chapbook, Dante’s Cartography, is forthcoming from The Cupboard Pamphlet in 2019.