We are in a museum of natural history, and I am taking photographs of my brother taking photographs of skeletons strung up against Bristol-bottle- blue walls, of glass cages that house the blunt politics of giant crystals, minerals looping into themselves like spun sugar, splinters tweezed from the earth’s skin. We walk past fragments of volcanoes, the gaping ache of craters where sky and stars vaporized on contact. We talk about the wounds of lakes, the brutal masses of ice that birthed them, the trees that came up from the wreckage, minute insects. He is eighteen; I am twenty- one. We pinch our fingers into our hands to keep them from shaking, but when we talk, fear colors in our ohs, unravels our vowels, betrays our fear that the next corner will send us hurtling into the ether. So we stay glacial, and talk about dinosaurs, and fossils, and the aristocratic curl of unfurling ferns. Ancient, ostentatious things.
And then he points, and tells me that the blue whale’s heart is the size of a Volkswagen. My mind leaps to spaces, and I imagine myself inside it—crouched low in a red chamber, the bloody backseat, touching the wet walls with my splayed fingers, the frame around me shifting with the intake of fluid, the pulse beat, every eight seconds, echoing into the abandoned metropolis of the surrounding sea. And then, I lay my head into the tissue of the upholstery, the sinew and the muscle, the loudness and the quiet, and listen to the lub dub of larger things.

Carmen Maria Machado is a fiction writer and essayist whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in AGNI, The American Reader, Tin House’s Open Bar, Five Chapters, Best Women’s Erotica 2012, VICE, The Paris Review Daily, The Hairpin, The Rumpus, Los Angeles Review of Books, and many other publications. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Philadelphia.