SmokeLong Quarterly

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Mortality Event

Story by Hadiyyah Kuma (Read author interview) July 29, 2019

Art by Jury S. Judge

Day 1 (We’ll come back to this)

Hi kid, I’m one of those dead pigeons that fell from the sky, seemingly out of nowhere. I might’ve hit something, or something might’ve hit me. Please don’t feel the need to bury my body or anything, because I wasn’t ready to die. So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to become you. The chosen one should never fight or scream.


Day 2

I’m going to become the kind of person who secretly watches romantic Korean dramas on the floor of her bedroom with no pants on. I’m going to cuff your mom jeans and shave your leg hair every week, which is a drag, but if you suddenly stopped people would wonder. I’m going to sleep with your knees tucked up because I’ve never had knees and I kind of like the idea of curling into a tight little baby ball. I’m going to have lots of sex and your partners will agonize over you when you leave them. Being inside of a bird inside of a human is a whole different experience. You’re just a bit too inexperienced, but don’t worry, you’ll have a lot of fun. I’ll take cough syrup before I shower to take the edge off seeing your body there, in front of me, naked. What’s it like to have no feathers? Humans are so naked. I love cough syrup.


Day 70

You make a lot of Spotify playlists. All your K-pop playlists are private, but I’ll change that for you. I like these BTS people, they’re nothing to be ashamed of. I like the way they dance and feel themselves. I like their coloured hair. Your food account has a lot of Instagram followers. Why does the tv emoji look like a bus? I would like to know what ‘sus’ means and your best friend says that about everyone. Also, why does your search history have so many mentions of Jungkook? My eyes get tired scrolling and I steal your mother’s reading glasses and I get slapped. It’s strange getting slapped, it’s strange learning you had problems too even if you’re not dead.


Day 100

With your eyes I’ve seen birds hit windows and collapse, instantly dead. It was shocking. I’m okay now. I’m okay with that, because I have this body, and it’s pretty good, even if it can’t fly. You don’t have a bad life. You can sleep whenever you want to, except when you have to serve bubble tea. But when you sleep you do it well, curled up in the dark, forcing your brain to have a nice dream about soaring through red open skies. So thank you. I feel you get stressed sometimes: stomach clenching, shoulders tight. I sort of wish I could build a nest for you so you can get away sometimes, but the problem is that nobody would understand. Another problem is that your body is too big to fit there. We’ll have to settle for burying our head in the couch and listening to the drone of Wheel of Fortune, what I’ve come to know as your mother’s favourite show.


Day 200

I’ve become the kind of person who likes walking even though it’s nothing like seeing the city from above. I look down more than I used to. I have to stretch my legs every few minutes. Dogs scare me. My friends sometimes walk slower for my benefit, they know something is off with me, has been for a while, but like any good friends they don’t say anything. They just try to be nicer. I get a lot of free lunches. I like sushi, and I love broccoli. There’s just something about it. Sometimes though, when no one’s looking, I sneak an earthworm into my mouth. I use my hands to do this. I use my hands to grab and pull and twist, I think I’ve got the groove. And I finally understand why people cry. I do it in the shower, which I have to take every day because I have this rancid smell under my armpits that worsens over time.  When a human cries, it’s a sacred thing. I treasure those moments. I push down deep into my stomach, let the cough syrup drip out of my nose, and wail a raspy wail.


Day 250

I jump off a building because I know I’m going to fly. I break a knee and a wrist, but I don’t die and it’s amazing. I spend weeks recovering, my mom feeds me liquids and we watch rerun after rerun of Pat Sajak asking players to pick a category. A woman picks “Person” and I tell my mom, “I’m one of those. Me.” She touches my forehead.


Day 365

On my birthday I jam out to BLACKPINK while fitting my arms and legs into a skin-tight holographic jumpsuit. My butt looks amazing. My friends, the slow walkers, throw me a surprise party. There are so many people in one room and we’re all sweating at the same time. I wrap my smooth legs around somebody’s warm waist and scream. I get drunk on a single lime cooler and start pecking at people’s necks. I’m so charming, everyone loves me. Crying is great but laughing is pretty fun too.


Day 1 (I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget)

They call deaths like mine mortality events, but when you look it up on your phone, you read it “morality event” to your friend. That’s how I know you’re the perfect fit. I dive through your mouth, because it’s wide open with questions for the sky, like what happened to you? And how does it feel to be born again?


Notes from Guest Reader Helen Rye

Fresh, inventive and charmingly quirky — I loved this. The voice is urgent, natural, full of personality — mischievous, naive, curious, vain — so endearingly birdlike. The writer takes an unexpected viewpoint and fills it with energy and heart, telling a compelling, layered story that’s both funny and moving.

About the Author

Hadiyyah Kuma is from Toronto, Ontario. Her work has been or will be featured in places like The Jellyfish Review, The Aerogram, Cosmonauts Avenue, and Mojave Heart Review. 

About the Artist

Jury S. Judge is an internationally published artist, photographer, writer, poet, and political cartoonist. Her Astronomy Comedy cartoons are also published in Lowell Observatory’s quarterly publication, The Lowell Observer. She has been interviewed on the television news program NAZ Today for her work as a political cartoonist. Her artwork has been widely featured in literary magazines such as Arkana, The Tishman Review, Open Minds Quarterly, Blue Moon Review, and The Ignatian Literary Journal.

This story appeared in Issue Sixty-Five of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixty-Five

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