KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 1: Fall 2014
Flash Fiction: 954 words

Half Life

by Sarena Ulibarri

The first thing she lost was her name. One moment she sat at a back-corner bar table while someone read poetry through a hissing microphone, the next she stood on a foreign beach with a green sky, the next again she was back in the bar. The poet finished. She applauded with the rest of the audience, but when the host called the next name, someone else at the table had to tap her. During the whole journey to the microphone she felt like an imposter.

Into the microphone she said, “I’ve left my name on another planet,” but everyone thought that was the first line of the poem, and she ran with it, reading lines from the creased pages in her shaky hand, the words coming out as meaningless as the sound of her name, just vibrations of the throat, movements of the tongue. Everyone applauded once she finished, but instead of returning to her seat, she left, trading the stuffy bar for the cold bite of the winter evening, the hiss of the microphone for the growl of traffic.

She could remember where she lived (an apartment three blocks over with sealed-shut windows and a faux wood stove), where she worked (a billboard advertising agency), what she had for dinner, (enchiladas, too dry, too bland), her college major (literature).

But her name? Gone.

She had seen that green-sky beach once before, in a dream, and had woken with a vague sense of something missing, like some vestigial organ had been removed in her sleep, or a memory had been extracted. She had forgotten about it, until now.

She learned to navigate without her name, realizing that people rarely called her by it anyway, choosing more often to greet her with “Hey.” She wondered at first if that was her name, but it felt wrong, like trying to put on a glove and discovering it was actually a grocery bag. It didn’t matter. She scribbled strings of gibberish on receipt lines. Every time she looked at her name, printed on a card or a bill, it rang as false as a photocopied painting.


The next thing she lost was her fingernails. In the middle of a meeting in which people talked about graphs and charts that proved and disproved the effectiveness of their billboards, she blinked and the room disappeared. Green sky stretched above her; the sand sparkled crystalline beneath her. And then she was back in the meeting room, reaching for her water bottle to have something to hold onto, and her fingernails, usually painted a dull pink, were gone. The finger skin was smooth, as though the nails had never existed. She wondered if they ever had, but yes, she had painted them that morning. She lifted one hand to her nose and she could still smell the fresh polish.


It started to become a problem when she lost an eye. Like the nails, the socket just smoothed over, and she could see her own nose, blurry in the periphery of her left eye’s vision. Two close calls while trying to merge into the right lane and she stopped driving.

No one said anything. They just averted their gazes.

She spent nearly an entire paycheck on acrylic paints and canvases, and tried in realist, then surrealist, then expressionist modes to depict what her world looked like, with one eye and no name. She carried the paintings down to the coffee shops and bars where she used to read her poetry, but they said it looked like she was trying too hard and refused to hang them.


After the eye and before the arms, she also lost her age and her sense of smell. Once she lost her arms, she stopped going to work. She wandered around her apartment, waiting for the next flash to take her to the green-sky beach.

When it did, she felt her arms, saw out of her other eye, and for the briefest moment, remembered her name. Water splashed against a single large rock. Something that resembled trees sprouted up from the horizon, but they were crystalline, like the sand. Her body was being reassembled over there, piece by piece. Would her consciousness stay there once it was complete, or would she separate entirely, a disembodied mind with no name or identity in this world, a body without consciousness in the other world? Would she have two lives and be able to live neither of them?


Once she lost her nose, she called in to a talk radio show, afraid her mouth would be next.

“I’m losing myself,” she said to the radio therapist. “Piece by piece, I’m slipping away.”

The therapist took it as a metaphor and gave some advice about not always giving others what they want and returning to the things that you love, but she wasn’t sure what she loved because that was gone too. The next time she stood on the green-sky beach and felt whole for a moment, she looked for those things. But the moment was too quick, and when she reappeared in her apartment, her ears were gone, and with the outside world silenced she drowned in the noise of her own head.

She used her one remaining foot to scratch out lines of poetry in a notebook. When the foot was gone, she bashed her torso against her art supply cabinet and writhed in the paint, making abstract streaks across the walls, feeling those desperate paint streaks were the closest she’d ever come to saying something really true. If she ever crosses all the way over and stands whole on the green-sky beach, she’ll carve those same patterns into the crystal trees of that other world.

Sarena Ulibarri
Issue 1, Fall 2014

Earned her MFA from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and graduated from the Clarion Workshop at UCSD in 2014. Her fiction has appeared in Lightspeed, Lakeside Circus, Kasma SF, Serving House Journal, and elsewhere.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

It Pours, flash fiction in The Cafe Irreal (Issue 51, Summer 2014)

Interview of the Author at (Issue 27, June 2014)

Brain Child, flash fiction in Serving House Journal (Issue 8, Fall 2013)

Working Like a Dog, flash fiction in Bartleby Snopes (January 2012)

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