Through cigarette smoke She licks Her lips, tonguing cuts and pricks that never heal, never change, never waste away. She stays, that's all, everything, The End, thank you for playing, your consolation prize is one non-refundable eternity. Tobacco always burns at the end of a marble pillar toppled over in Her fingers, a bastion of history reduced to smoldering as She sips it, savors it like fine wine She wishes She had tasted before this foreverness began, before She came into being to be and be and only be.

A sea breezes and blows and blusters behind Her, salty-sour but tasteless because nothing really exists in eternity. To exist is to have been, to will be. This is. A sky sighs with the untold true of not-color, graygreenbluewhite so flat it is fathomless. They are not The Sea, The Sky; those linger in a world that changes, whirls, wanders, wonders. This is Nowhere, and She is the Nowhere Woman.

"It's dry out," She whispers, but thunder shouts, and the words drown. The words always drown while their meaning licks at the bones of the Other, begging to be given flavor. The girl hears but does not listen, cannot know what is meant. She is Other, she does not belong where the Nowhere Woman belongs, but there she is, existing. And she does exist. Has been. Will be.

"It's dry out." Silence. A sea hushes, anticipating, pulling its arms back. The girl stops, turns summer colored eyes toward the inside of a clapboard house which is not beside a sea. The Nowhere Woman sits, a rocking chair beneath Her hips poised on two points, still. In a brick hearth, driftwood lounges, so long at sea it has forgotten how to burn. That sea is far from here, but the house and the sea dwell inside the Nowhere Woman, and where She is, they are.

Tomorrow comes and goes beyond the window, the solitary window which isn't glass but paper slick with oil, bright seeping through it from outside. Behind the door a nightmare waits, and there is no door in this strange little house. The grand tally is one paper window, zero doors, a fireless place, and an odd old woman who might not be a woman at all, might be something deeper.

The cigarette smolders, curling its smoke upwards in lazy aspirations toward the ceiling, evanescing with the effort. It smirks at the girl who has come here, who hopes to know, winks one dimming eye before the Nowhere Woman suckles it again, bringing it to brilliant ecstasy.

"It's dry out," She exhales, waving one withered hand toward the window and it's burning away, embers lacing along the edges of a growing tear whiteblackwhite falling down, hot carbon snowflakes. A fairytale forest burns in the square left behind, too broad for real life trees cut down before they can even dream of majesty. A forest burns and it takes the walls, latches on with flaming fingers grappling for purchase, so thin they should snap but they sink in anyway, tear away wood with passion as two people who aren't just people watch.

The Nowhere Woman tips Her chair gently, moves with the fire as Her house crumbles. Who needs a door when the walls fall away so willingly? When it ends, those summer colored eyes are red with smoke and ashes rain down around a jagged floor, a brick chimney still holding that fireless place inside where the sea remembers. She is right, this haggard shell of someone half remembered. It's dry out. So dry, so black-cold now and the air too bright to breathe.

"Sit," the Nowhere Woman says, and the girl does. Her white dress smudges with soot sifting and grinding into bridal lace. She wasn't wearing it before, she thinks, but can't remember what was there instead. Something but not, an unimportant detail out of focus. Her lungs ache with ash and salt, the sea still hiding behind this new illusion. It must be, she can smell it, but it's all unreal and inside her she knows. She knows but cannot know, so she is here to ask a question she's never thought before, but it is waiting. It will come, gush from her with the force of birth, of idea.

She cannot remember her name when she is Nowhere, names slide about and maybe that woman is called Annie or Abigail or Alice but She is the Nowhere Woman always, never changes but changes everything. All is nothing is all and it burns or sways or goes out on the tide because the mind is a powerful thing.

Wood luxuriates against lace, holding this unbelonging creature quietly against itself against burrs and blemishes so that maybe when she goes she will take them too, show them new surfaces. These boards are so uneducated, so exposed to only cracked calluses and shoe leather and some far off memory of slick metal stealing their shapes.

Sitting in a strew of ashes, unknowingly clutched against the floor, the girl who is Other smiles slowly, an eyes-closed-head-tilted smile that screams "iknowsomethingyoudon't" but screams it gorgeously. She waits. This is ending, all ending like it does that's what happens but it doesn't and the smile slows down, feathers like cheap lipstick, frays. Stops.

Ashes still rain on her wedding dress, in her hair. Sea breeze blows right through them, the sea is back it is sand she sits on not wooden planks from a not-house that burned down around her. Ashes rain and it is dry out, out but not under, under is damp sand making love to emotional fabric. Black draws straight lines from sky to land, ignores the air while water laps at it pleadingly, desperate for a taste of bitter but just like sour-salty the bitter is not.

She tried tries to speak, but when she sends the words from mind to mouth it is the Nowhere Woman's lips that move in the wrong shapes, wrap themselves around syllables strung into sad sentences she cannot read. Black falls faster, static and bad reception, the picture fades while clear skies mock two earthbound lumps of flesh.

A rocking chair sinks one grain at a time, no hurry. Its passenger waits watches speaks pleads and the girl is drowning waves snatching at dark hair as she lays back lets ashes fill her eyes salt stings her throat lungs soul so sharp but slowly, lovingly it rapes her until a skeleton grasps her wrists. Bare joints pinch the skin and it bleeds too much, bleeds until she is white dead hollow, floating up up up out of pink water to air so light the Nowhere Woman inhales her with a drag of smoke and she climbs against Her ribs for borrowed oxygen, threads herself between bones becomes nerves, becomes feeling at its basest nature before perception can sensor her.

Then she is down again and naked, dress caught in a fiber filter. Water streams from hair ears shoulders secret places. There is no skeleton, no blood, only a bare girl and a clothed woman.

"Walk with me," the Nowhere Woman says, and they are standing in a silver desert. Two blue suns hang on the horizon, rising from West and North. When they cross, the desert will melt into a silver lake, but the morning of this place is cold. It is a mirror image, Nowhere but also not also real also changing. And it is dry out, but She doesn't say so.

A fragile language spills from the air, rich and guttural but oh so brittle, cracked in places no one will repair. All the tongues that birthed these words are dead and still speaking from shallow graves, repeating their lives, hoping someone new could remember them instead.

"I can't be here," the girl says, not expecting to really say but she does, the sounds are pushed through her lips, through air she knows she can't breathe but breathes anyway. The Nowhere Woman sips Her same cigarette, nonchalant and patient with this still wet girl who does not know she is trying to destroy herself and more importantly does not yet know why.

"You don't belong here," She answers. "This is not your place, and yet you come."

Water sheets across newborn asphalt, cascades through gutters in search of lowlier places to rest, to be unhurried after so much falling splashing rushing running like good water ought to. It wants to stagnate just a little, but the girl and the woman whose feet it brushes don't know what the water wants, don't care because it's just water after all and not real anyway so it can't hope or wish but it does, and one day the girl will remember what the water wanted because she will want the same thing.

They walk down this solitary street, one girl and one Nowhere Woman, Nothing is beside them but the good kind of Nothing, the kind that does not threaten to make more of itself. The girl who is Other wants to call it grey, but as soon as she does it is wrong maybe that same uncolor of the sky now all-around, multitalented, becoming everything that is not the road and the people-but-more.

The girl takes longer younger strides, but always they are side by side because the mind is a powerful thing. It's dry out and the mind is a powerful thing and the water wants but air is too bright to breathe in the unplace where houses burn to the ground so beautifully and silence screams gorgeous nasty selfish things.

Bruises blossom on her skin, this Other girl is battered but she smiles anyway for a moment. She can be battered and unashamed and naked here, broken vessels can chime across her cheekbones and the Nowhere Woman will never ask She doesn't ask She tells, She must be asked that question gestating inside a girl who can't be here but comes. A pregnant silence swells too quickly, miscarries with a scream but not really a scream because sound is subjective and the mind is a powerful thing.

Perhaps the question has miscarried too, maybe it's rotting away inside her belly until she can ask and it will only come out in fragments, no one will understand not even the girl who nourished it, who became Other in a place she does not belong a place only the Nowhere Woman belongs. Then it stirs, flickers, turns over lazily to settle back to sleep, and the girl is glad.

She is bruised and glad and naked like the first day he touched her, but he doesn't touch her here, he is not Other he is Same he is broken somewhere inside where the good people grow. And a good thing does grow inside, not yet but soon so soon and they'll never know it. Instead they'll know creamy walls and real glass windows that don't burn and a place with doors, doors that might have nightmares behind them but there are doors so it's okay in the in between places.

Water runs in search of lowlier ground, or maybe a sea to drown in. It cannot drown but it will try like the girl tried, choke salt into its system and in return become enormous. It caresses the heels of a girl who knows who wants who dreams this dream so must be something stronger, fills the space around her feet then calves then knees rising toward the empty place between her hips it senses, sees, longs for because it is cold the water is cold that place is warm and ready to hold something that needs takes clings.

Asphalt cracks in safety glass patterns, tiny blocks falling away into churning air but they walk on side by side across a stillborn void that is really sand, the same sand as always back to the sea she never left, the Nowhere Woman's place. Purple stains her stomach still, unrelenting, skirts across her collarbone to pool under one summer colored eye right where he left it.

"It's dry out," the cigarette whispers, tar tinged and poisonous. It kills but only comfortably and the girl wants it, reaches for it but it winks out when she touches its skin it is only the Nowhere Woman's vice. At the Nowhere Woman's lips it rekindles and smirks.

"It's dry out!" it shouts in a voice she will hear another time, another place when it's all too late and nothing matters anymore. She wants to cry but the Nowhere Woman rocks her, holds her against withered breasts on a barren lap. Ashes still fall onto her nakedness, weaving into a tattered charcoal gown that she wears as she rocks and the Nowhere Woman smokes, everything nonchalant like never.

Unremarkably, it ends.