Fireworks Over New Brunswick

written by Weaver Melching. Weaver Melching (they/them) is a writer and student from Los Angeles, California. They primarily write speculative fiction with a humorous edge, and though they would deny any accusations of being a poet, they do routinely write poetry. They have previously had work published in Gluepot magazine and by Invader Comics. When they are not writing, they can often be found in the kitchen pretending they are much better at cooking than they are.

Thursday, 26 January.

I went out to visit Eunice today. I tried the car, but whatever makes it move had rusted and fallen to bits since the last time I used it. So yeah, I walked. I considered giving up and going back to sleep, but I had to get the letter to her. I’d been putting it off for four months and wanted it off my conscience.

The streets were in total disrepair. I guess I should have known they’d be, but it was worse than I imagined. Grass had begun to cover the asphalt where stray roots had pushed through and broken it. The three eyed birds and two-headed squirrels had built their nests in trees right in the middle of the road.

Fireworks were going off over New Brunswick. “Happy New Year,” they said in blue and green lights. They’d been rumbling on and off for weeks. I don’t know how. Someone must have fallen asleep on the job.

I missed the New Year celebrations entirely. Well, I guess that isn’t true. Teren and I dropped the kids off at laser-tag day-care and watched the sky change from the private, open-roofed suite in the country club, but still, I couldn’t help feeling a pang of guilt that I hadn’t been here, hadn’t seen the city lights when they’d started. Maybe next year I’ll set an alarm, just to make sure I wake up at 11:55 and see what happens. Teren won’t be happy, but he’ll survive. I wonder what colours they’ll be next year. They might be the same. I hope they’re not.

Anyway, Eunice. I got to New Brunswick after about an hour. The streets were completely empty, aside from a single old, withered mailman walking along, adding to the giant piles of letters that spilled out of every mailbox. I waved at him. He smiled at me, but turned away when he saw the circles under my eyes. He didn’t
have any, he hadn’t ever gone under. I was going to approach him, ask for directions, but I spotted an intact street sign and knew exactly where I was. I walked down three more blocks, climbing over two giant chunks of upturned cement and rubble from fallen buildings. The air was thicker in the city, and I wished I’d brought my ventilator, but I hadn’t, so I just coughed through it.

Eventually, I came to the door of Eunice’s building. I rang her doorbell ten times before giving up and kicking the door in. The elevator was broken, so I had to walk all the way up to the second floor. Her door was unlocked, and I went inside.

It was a mess. Like, somehow worse than my house. Trays and trays of takeaway and useless antiques were just stacked on top of each other, making her already narrow hallway even narrower. I remembered when she moved in. She was all excited about its “open plan,” the way that there weren’t really any walls or doors
between rooms, just holes that let light and air move freely through the space. I don’t think the apartment’s open plan anymore. You’d be hard pressed to find any plan in there.

She was in her bedroom, asleep, the bottle of Nightshade still in her hands. I was four months late, but the fact that she hadn’t waited for me still stung a little. I shook her for about five minutes before she finally gasped awake, panting and screaming at me to bring her water. Once I found and filled a glass that was
anywhere near clean, I sat by her and she gulped it down in one go, taking almost a minute to breathe after she finished.

“So,” she said, “why now?”


“Why are you here now?”
I looked at my knees and checked my pocket to see if the letter was still there. It was.

“The fireworks are still going,” I said. She laughed. “Though, you probably knew that already.”

She grinned and pushed a strand of ash-grey hair behind her ear. My heart fluttered, and I let my grip on the letter loosen. Her eyes were glazed over from months of inactivity, but behind the clouds I could still see the brilliant, radiant emerald green they’d once been. Her skin was oily, and she’d had a few breakouts on her forehead and neck, but her nose still poked up, a bit like a mouse, and her ears were adorned with gorgeous blue jewellery.

“Yeah, I could hear them,” she said, “they’ve been spilling into my dreams for months now.”

“Ooh,” I said, wincing. “That go how I think it went?”

“Yeah, it started as a lot of warfare,” she said, sipping on her empty glass. “First, one of my best friends moved in, and that was pretty cool, only then my family was blown up, and when I thought it couldn’t get worse, bang!

She made finger-guns at me.

“My house blew up. So, yeah, I started fighting back, was naturally promoted to top commander of the resistance, and I won. I took my goddamn revenge against the exploders, and we started setting off fireworks to celebrate. And we’ve been at that for a few days now.”

“God,” I said, sitting on the edge of the bed. “Your whole family? Eunice that’s terrible.”

“Not my real family, Natasha,” she said, rolling her head around her shoulders. “Dream-people. They’re nice but they aren’t alive.”

I scowled at her.


“What the hell are you talking about?” I spat. “Like my husband and kids aren’t real? No, Eun. I know they’re real. They’re my everything. Just because they’re in my Dreams, doesn’t mean they aren’t real.”

“Nat, how–”

I pulled the pills out of her hand and held them up to her. “If these people aren’t real,” I said, “why the fuck are you giving them your whole life?”

She paused, put the glass down, and sighed, sitting up and dangling her feet off the bed next to me, the little bit of light poking through her blinds drawing a box around her sad eyes.



“Yeah,” I said, quietly. “His name’s Teren.”

I paused.

“We have two kids – Jaden and Cormac. They’re into sports and video games, like normal kids, you know. We live in a, uh, comfortable house on a big green hill with a bunch of neighbours who like cheese and bruschetta and fine zinfandel wines. We make love every night, and he works at the local bank, and I start businesses on the side like, you know, better wine glasses, and ironic T-shirts and nice, artisan cutting boards I make myself and, you know, It’s good. It’s nice. It’s good.”

She said nothing, stared at nothing, no emotion on her face. Then, she smiled, chuckled, and blew her hair out of her face.

“Okay,” she said.

My knuckles went white. “Well, what do you want me to say?” I shouted.

She frowned and looked down.

“What is it, Eunice? What?”

“I’m married too, you know,” she said, stone-faced. “In my Dream. Or, I was, at least. We lived in a little apartment in New Brunswick. Life was hard, but we were happy. She worked, I worked, we came home, we ate shitty takeout or whatever abomination she’d made in the kitchen while I was out because my shift was two hours longer than hers, and we’d fall asleep in each other’s arms, each and every night.”

The room was nearly silent, if not for the sound of settling dust.


“She was supposed to move to her parents’ house,” she said, starting to cry. “The world was turning into an irradiated shithole, so she’d gotten addicted to weird, mind-altering pills and she was gonna go away, just for a little while, to detox. I didn’t think it would work, but I let it happen, and – and wouldn’t you know it, she got better.”

“No,” I said, tears welling up in my eyes. “No, she didn’t.”

“She got better, she came back to me, and it was great,” she said, choking on the words. “We kept by each other’s sides even as the bombings started, started opening our loving doors to other people taking refuge from the explosions, and she was so amazing – so – so – she was a star. She was my everything. And she–”

I put my head on her shoulder. She leaned into me.

“She blew up.”

The sunlight was fading. I could still hear the fireworks in the distance, thumping, thumping. Without thought or care, I turned my head and kissed her.

“I can’t stay here,” I said.

She nodded, wiping her eyes. “Nope.”

She reached for my hand, as if to hold it, but she took the bottle of Nightshade and poured three pills from it. “It was nice to see you again,” she said.

“You too.” I smiled.

She threw the pills into her mouth and swallowed. “Say hi to Teren for me.”

She fell asleep immediately. I checked her pulse: it was okay. I stood up, choked back my tears, and left the apartment.

The walk must have been long, but it felt like an instant. I sauntered up the lawn, snuck in quietly through a window for tradition’s sake, and crept past my parents’ bedroom and into my own. Now I’m here, writing, waiting for the Nightshade to kick in. It’s a low dose, but it should keep me under for a couple months.

Image: Din by Tadhg McDonogh-Cunningham. Tadhg is a writer and director based in Dublin. He graduated from the National Film School at IADT in 2023 where he majored in directing and minored in television production. He also enjoys photography and writing poetry.

CategoriesIssue VIII