I wake up in a forest, in a cold glass tomb. I push off the lid, surprised by how light it is, step out of the tomb, and stretch. I cannot remember the last time I stretched. The pull and release of tension is lightning through my body.

The forest looks ordinary. Green and dark. But it’s daytime, and tiny slits of light shine down through the thick canopy of leaves above.

Two young boys stand in the distance. I approach them, slowly. They are holding sticks like rifles, pointing them at each other. Their clothes are rags, their hair unkempt and full of grease, and they have small pouches attached to their belts that say: CLEAN O2. Each pouch has tube that connects to a small black device on the boys’ necks.

The larger boy lowers his stick and says to the other boy, “I won’t shoot if you won’t shoot.”

The smaller boy says, “That’s what you said last time,” and doesn’t lower his stick.

“But I mean it this time.”

“Okay, fine.” The smaller boy throws his stick to the ground.

The larger boy does not throw his stick to the ground. He raises it up, points it at the smaller boy, and says, “Bang! You’re dead!”

“No fair!” says the smaller boy as he falls to the ground.

I say, “That wasn’t very nice.”

The boys look at me, eyes wide, then run. They run toward the bright white at the edge of the forest. When I reach the edge, the boys are nowhere to be found. I stand there in the warmth. There is nothing beyond this forest.

I have been asleep for a very long time.

Stories Inside the SHADES OF GREY Special Feature:

The Difference Between
My Sister and Her Photograph

by Tim Gilmore 
by Mark Ari 
I Have Been Asleep
For a Very Long Time

by Sal Bilheimer 
Gathering Sounds
by Matthew B. Shaw 
In the Sun Too Long
by Hurley Winkler 
Oxygen and Apologies
by Carl Rosen 

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october, 2021