What Happens After – Michigan Quarterly Review

What Happens After

“What Happens After” is from MQR’s Summer 2022 Issue. You can purchase the issue here.

We always wake up on Mondays. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes it snows. Flakes fall from the sky like dandruff—wide, fluffy, itchy pieces of god’s scalp. I fear even Heaven is disintegrating, that it has come undone while we were sleeping. My husband asks why the sky keeps spilling. 

“Because we’re dead, we died, that’s why.”

He starts to cry.

“It’s okay.” I pull him by the hair into the soft of my stomach. At the end of our world, softness is the least I can give him. I scratch his head with my fingernails. 

We are in bed, my husband, our dog, and me. We have a baby, but she’s not with us. I try not to think about it.

 I have one leg under the duvet cover. With the other, I take the air’s temperature. It is getting hotter. Drier. Our dog pants heavily, dripping from his long pink tongue. My husband keeps crying, contributing to our room’s moisture. I imagine his tears evaporating and leaving me with nothing but salt. Let me be dry-cured with enough salt to float an egg with. Let me keep without spoiling. 

I squeeze my husband’s cheek. It feels like a tough piece of meat. Is he thirsty? 

“Do you want some water?” 

When he doesn’t respond I reach for the cup on my nightstand, but it’s empty. I hand it to him anyway. “Here,” I say, smiling, “take a sip.”

He does.


We always wake up on the same Monday. I had imagined our world would end on a Sunday, at the end of a weekend, for the roundness of things, so we’d be able to look at the calendar and find comfort. So we could smile with wet eyes and say, “It’s come full circle.” There would be some relief in that. 

I notice the fullness of my husband’s face. His eyebrows cast shadows over his eyes, highlighting his sockets. A skull with flesh. Eyes in orbit. “Did you know that the eyeball part of the eye is called the eye globe?” I say, imagining his eyes as whole worlds of their own. 

“Yes, globes,” he says. “I’ve always found the sphere to be the most tragic of shapes.” 

“What’s so tragic about it?” I say, but then think about the hamster I had that would roll around the apartment encased in its plastic ball. 
My husband starts crying again, his face scrunched. Ugly. He looks like a helpless fucking baby.

“Why do you have to be so dramatic?” I ask.

He accuses me of being cruel. And, well, this is hell isn’t it? Not death, not this weird limbo we’re in, but watching him cry, again and again.


It’s Monday. I miss my baby. 

When I’m not with her, I feel like part of my body has been physically detached. But then I remind myself that it’s good we’re here and she’s not. 

“I miss her tiny tiny feet,” says my husband.

“Her smell,” I say. Her newness. The way she squirmed in our arms. 

We’d spend hours playing with our baby’s feet, holding her toes in our palms. Our dog would jump around and play with her too. My husband joked that our baby was a regular inhabitant of the world and we were aliens on vacation, extraterrestrial giants on a mission to capture the cutest native of Earth and report back to Planet Giant. He pretended to be a monster by lifting his arms and wiggling his fingers at the baby. It was silly. We were exhausted. We were happy. I think. 


In the evenings, I watch people from our window. I trace them on the foggy glass with my fingertip, as if I’m trying to write to them in squiggles and symbols—not language, but erasures of condensation. We watch the same people every evening. An old couple seemingly arguing, who slow down so their old dog can catch up to them. A scowling woman wearing a T-shirt that reads Radiate Positivity, who runs into an orange cart and causes the oranges to spill. 

Sitting on the bed, my husband draws a heart on the window. “For you, an upside-down butt,” he chuckles.

“I wish I could warn them,” I say.

“Better not to think about it.”

But how could I not, when night after night, I watched them burn?

“Do you think they’re real people?” I ask. “Trapped in here with us? Or are they more like background props to wherever we are?”

He sinks deeper into the bed, getting under the covers.

I see my husband’s brown eyes warm into auburn. His face is lit. The air is hot. Soon, we’ll hear a bang. Soon, we’ll watch the flames lap at our windows.

For more from the Summer 2022 issue of MQR, you can purchase the issue here.

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