Author: Maudie Bryant

Cool water wraps around me, my skin dappled by the summer sun through the rippling surface. Laughter echoes down the shore where friends splash without care. I push back a loose strand of hair, and catch a flash of what looks like glitter clinging to my thigh. I brush at the spot, expecting the sparkly fleck to disappear, but it remains stubbornly in place. Strange. I pick at it for a moment, scraping my fingernail across the area. It reflects the cerulean sky and cotton clouds above. In the fading sunlight, it almost seems to smolder. A shower will get it.

Under the steamy spray, I scrub the mark, growing more annoyed with each pass. It won’t budge. Leaning in for a closer look, I realize it’s not glitter at all—it’s a hole. A tiny, perfect circle punched into my flesh. A puncture. A trick of the light, maybe a scratch. I just didn’t notice it before. But the more I look, the more it becomes clear. The pitter patter of water against the bathroom tile competes with the growing pounding in my ears. An apprehensive touch sends a tremor through my leg. Panic begins to grip me, but I push it down.

It doesn’t hurt, but it feels unusual. My hands fumble with a pair of tweezers, pinching the edge of the opening. I press my finger beside the hole. The world inside tilts. Instead of sinew and bone, I see… sky. An endless blue dotted with fluffy clouds, stretching as far as my limited view allows. Below, an inconceivable turquoise ocean shimmers back at me. It’s like looking out of a plane window, only this view is coming from inside my leg.

Vertigo slams into me like a rogue wave. This is impossible. A hallucination, a dream, I’m dreaming. This is some bizarre joke from the universe. Anxiety claws at my throat. I twist the tweezers still pinching the edge of the hole, attempting to see both sides of my flesh—of the fabric connecting me and whatever this is. Tears begin to blur my vision. What if the hole keeps growing? I wonder if I can dig it out. Can it be surgically removed? What if the inside of my thigh becomes a portal, taking me up in it? The thought of this small mark becoming a prison sends a fresh surge of panic crashing over me. I drop the tweezers and sink completely in the tub, the shower spray flowing over me. When I next peek through the porthole, I see a dark, elongated shape cutting across the blue expanse. The vessel leaves a wispy plume of white mist in its wake, moving with a mechanical grace. My throat clenches as the vastness of the sky inside my leg suddenly becomes suffocating. I’m not alone. A choked sob escapes me, joining the echo of water on tiles.

With a shaky breath, I pull back. The strange world remains, another sky, another ocean inside my body. I shut off the shower, stepping out while water cascades off my trembling limbs. My fear wrestles with a strange, nascent sense of wonder. This hole in my leg. This impossible breach. This doorway to the unknown. I rummage through the cupboard and find a cartoon-themed bandage, affixing it firmly over the spot.