The River of Discard

Something bad has happened upriver, and black tar swims down to them like baby eels. It has claimed the lives of two young swimmers, lovers, and an untold number of waterfowl. The banks are clogged with feathers.

A man stuck his arm in up to the elbow and was made an amputee. His hand and forearm were cleaved away, lost in the tar-river. A Labrador went in and did not come back out.

People came from all over to get rid of their things. Little computer discs and memory cards. Cars and grand pianos. Safes and lockboxes. Journals— so many diaries, papers eddying on the surface before slipping inside. A silver baby rattle. Bodies. Naturally, bodies. An encampment of mur- derers sprung up overnight. They mostly kept to themselves, and they were left unbothered. People were too busy carrying their things to the river. Wives pushed their husbands in, and the river divorced them cleanly. So many things people wanted to be rid of, truly rid of.

The air smelled sticky and submarine. Brine and vinegar clung to their clothes. Soon everyone stripped before going down to the riverside. They ferried their belongings from hidden stores, ran all of it naked to the river, and drowned it all.

Months later the mangroves grew, their abnormal growth stirred by the tar-river crucible. In the buttress roots and the dripping leaves, the slaughter of discarded things hung, translucent as deadly jellyfish.

LiAnn Yim received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Maryland. Her work has appeared in The Nation, fwriction : review, Luna Station Quarterly, and Verse Kraken. She co-edits the speculative literary journal The Golden Key and tweets from @lkyim.