by Janna Miller
Shadows of houses and garden gates rest in dirt, digging down, if you know how to find them. Fire rings and driveways, captured flat as a photo, a natural cyanotype of features frozen into place. Once timbers are pulled to the side and sod removed, a clever trowel uncovers carbon printed outlines, the past revealed in a plateau, grain by grain.
Digging down, close to the surface, the first level lies just under bent blades of grass. Within the primary segment of debris: discarded firecracker wrappers, bits of trimming wire, and tinfoil in churned earth. To the side, a ring of fire, the soil blackened, sweetened with dropped marshmallows and onions, caramelized into ash.
Close to the surface, but just beneath, an oblong shadow, a grave. Buried in a tattered t-shirt, sleeps a robin I could not save, a victim of the cat’s spring hunting. Fifty paces east, square timbers shape the outline of the garden, pushed half deep into soil surrounding trailing roots and ghosts of potatoes. Earthy and alive, worms crawl into each space.
But just beneath, the earth is less disturbed, the shadows more distinct. The end of the mailbox post pools here, the swing set and badminton anchors. Darker stains of earth trace tunnels of voles, kingsnakes, and pipes. A tin treasure box, lost by the child of the owner’s past, hides in a vertical column of sepia dirt.
The earth is less disturbed, a layer of sterile soil before the last. Here, tree roots reach deep, a cache of stone weapons surrounded by a denser brown, balancing at the end of aging oak. Black remnants of an ancient fire circled in cracked stones. Beneath the basement, round bits of decayed wood: post molds from a fortress, an old city. People lived and breathed.
A layer of sterile dirt before the last, rocks and magma can’t find you at the core, digging down under oblong shadow. A treasure chest left behind, a fortress, a city. Digging down, close to the surface, your fingerprints are not measured, nor your footprints. There is no remnant of you, no shadow. No matter how deep under the fire ring, the mailbox, shadows of houses and garden gates, there is no example of your life, your time. Not a trace or an artifact nor ghost of ash. No grave, no scar, no shadow. Remains.
Librarian, mother, and minor trickster, Janna Miller has published works in SmokeLong Quarterly, Cheap Pop, and F(r)iction. Nominated for Best Small Fictions and Best Microfictions. Generally, if the toaster blows up, it is not her fault.