My uncle used to say that hills held secrets, that hills grew over the Earth specifically to protect those secrets. I grew up in a hilly suburb on Long Island and spent my childhood digging holes in our yard, hoping to unlock their secrets – to my parents’ dismay. When I was twelve we could no longer afford the luxury of the gold coast and moved to a poor flat town with a canal.
Every time it rained the canal would flood and come rising up our street, up our lawn, and stop to lap at our doorstep. I often wondered what secrets the water held, but the water didn’t hold secrets. It held things.
After the water ebbed away, in the post-storm calm, I would pick through the debris on our lawn. Discarded or lost toys – dolls, or sometimes junk. Pieces of driftwood and seaweed, shoes – boots, sandals, and sneakers. I began to think that gifts were better than secrets, even if they were garbage.
I kept the best of the water’s gifts on a shelf in my closet. An old chipped camera lens, a variety of keys, a fancy doll with a pleated skirt.
After a particularly bad storm, the canal gave up a body, right onto our lawn.
It was bloated and grey, and fish, or something, had nibbled at its face where the eyes began to rot, though they still stared glassily enough. I threw up nine times before the police came, but they never found out who he was or how he got there.
I turned nineteen and moved to the foothills of Los Angeles. Now I leave the hills alone.
Annika Bee (she/her or they/them) is a queer, Jewish transplant from New York currently living in Utah with six cats. Their writing has appeared in Hobo Camp Review, Arcana Studios, and Throats to the Sky Magazine.