When you first meet her, you don’t know her; she is a quiet hymn wrapped only into herself, a silent whisper or prayer too stifled to hear. She has navy blue hair like the night sky. Her pupils are sharpened, her eyes overlaid with a cornea layer from an illegal surgery, crisscrossing copper like a semiconductor, little flecks of light racing along the lines until they reach the edge of her iris and they dissipate. You notice the freckles on her face, and hidden in between them, you notice four dimpled scars around her eyes from where something was drilled into her face.

In the dark of the maintenance space, you catch her, after you notice her fingerprints are missing, after you notice her disrupted biomarkers, after you notice the huge scar over her lip, after you suspect she’s hiding her allegiance. And you chase and shoot, and she never fires a single shot back. When you knock her to the ground, you reach down to rip her earpiece off, and when you yank it out in one motion, you wince as you realize it’s a combination hearing device and attached to her cochlea. She screams. You cry.

When you meet her later, you don’t know it’s her and walk into the hangar bay with your hand near your holster. You see and hear through the windows before you open the airlock, and there is sparking and hammering around a small foreign ship with rusting joints between the windowpanes.

With your gun drawn, you enter, and she looks up from her welding, helmet over her face, and white, dry hair sticking out from under the straps. It reminds you of stars, far away, as if she flew out into the far reaches of the frontier in the rickety cruiser and grabbed a handful and dumped it over her head. When she finally takes the welding helmet off, her eyes are light blue, pupils still sharp, and her irises have darker flecks shaped into stars and a crescent moon. She keeps a cloth over the bottom half of her face and grease smudged under her eyes, connecting and merging all the spots across her skin into one nebulous entity. There is a cautious magnetism between you two, like a moon being drawn into orbit around a planet. You hold her close with your hand on the back of her head and whisper. She cries.

When you meet her for the last time, she appears. You enter the room and she’s already there, ahead of you, facing away, wearing long cargo pants with her hair neatly tied back into a ponytail, the ends blunt and clean. It’s a dark brown, and she turns to you, her eyes the color of milk with no designs, no patterns. When you draw her to yourself, there are tears and the smell of warmth and chemical cleaners, and your arms fold around each other and settle contentedly like land subsiding after an earthquake.

Jessica Young

Jessica Young studied creative writing as an undergraduate at the Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University, and presented her work at the Macksey Undergraduate Humanities Research Symposium hosted by Johns Hopkins University.

Hailey Renee

Hailey Renee Brown is a professional illustrator born and raised in mid Michigan. A former field biologist, she moved across country from Michigan to New Jersey, also moving from science to commercial art. A professionally trained artist, she attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, NJ. She was selected the recipient of the 2017 Norman Maurer Memorial Award as well as the 2019 Joe Kubert Jumpstart Project.