Author: Jeremy Port-Tuckett

They danced until midnight. She kissed him full of hunger. Her chaperone watched from afar.

“I have to go,” she said.

He walked her to the car.

“Who are you?” Dave whispered into the neon. “Where did you come from?”

He watched the lights until they were swallowed by the darkness of the city limits. She had lost her shoe. He picked it up.

“Come inside,” his mother said. He stood in the rain staring into the dark. He didn’t sleep. Too many butterflies.

“Please,” his mother said, “eat.”

He could not.

In the morning he packed a bag. He packed her shoe. His mother cried.

“Don’t go,” she said. He walked out of the city. It was cold but he was warmed by the thought of her.

“I’m coming,” Dave whispered. Moonlight kissed his face. He slept. He dreamed of her. The smoothness of her skin. The manner of her speech. Her clipped tone. Her laugh. It sounded like crystal clockwork. Innocent. In the morning he walked again.

The sea sang a lullaby. He stared at the island. It looked like paradise. He held up the shoe.

“Please,” Dave said.

He waited on the beach, on the night smothered sand. Stars danced in the sea. A voice sang. He followed it into the jungle.

“You have it?” the voice said. Dave nodded.

“This way.”

Dave followed the voice. Lights twinkled among the leaves; red and green. Blue.

“What is this place?” he asked.

“A place of dreams.”

A manicured lawn sprawled under phosphorous plants. Music.

She came to him in the clearing. Limping. She listed to the right. Behind her he saw the chaperone waiting.

“You have it?” the chaperone said.

He passed the chaperone the shoe. She held him. There were tears in his eyes. The chaperone retreated into the jungle. Drenched in moonlight he held her. Drowning in her. They lay down on the grass.

“Come with me,” Dave whispered to her. She slept. Dave listened to her sleeping. It sounded like purring. Her heart was ticking. Dave had never heard a ticking heart before.

A man came. He wore paramedic overalls. He carried the shoe. The man lifted her dress to reveal the socket, the plug of her ankle. Broken. Snapped while dancing. The man shook his head. She woke.

He pushed the shoe on. She smiled.

“Thank you,” she said. Slurring. The man rolled his eyes. He rolled her over so she looked into Dave’s eyes, pressing his finger to her neck.

“Who are you?” Dave asked her.

The man inserted something in the back of her head.

“Ella,” she said. “Version 3.1” The slurring more prominent. The man frowned.

“I’m sorry,” the man said. “Moisture in the circuits. From the grass.”

“I love you Ella,” Dave said pulling his wallet from his pocket.

“I know,” Ella slurred.

“Can I get money off?” Dave asked the man. “This one’s broken.”