You are. You are two cells old–zygote and sperm. You are the miracle. No need to know, only to grow. You hear the heart of your mother and the music soft and far away of human voice. You twist and turn and grow. Safely cushioned, needing no air to breathe, no food to eat, you feel the fluidic warmth press all around you, gentle touches from outside. A sudden, strange rush and pull, tugs you into another place; colder, harder, light–full of faces and needs.

You lie and play at ‘me–not me’, extending a hand here, a foot there, touching together fingers and feeling for sensation. This is yours and also this. You feel it to be so. Touching an object to the side, this is not you, the sensation is isolated. Corporeal identity preoccupies you. You learn yourself and your noises, feet and fingers; learn the smiley faces from above. Dappled light furnishes the ceiling of your world with playful tones and shadows. You pull yourself up from the blanket, stagger, fall and bounce. It hurts. You cry. Not all faces smile. Soap, music, a pink playpen–bars.

Behind the railings there are school books, rule books, unfriendly looks. Playing at ‘me–not me’ has new parameters. Who are he and she and they? What and why are we? You long for the security of warmth all around you. Instead there are ever higher bars to jump and bars to squeeze through–inclusive and exclusive. One smiling face would do. Any smiling face would do.

You see him across a haze of alcohol–smiling. You stagger home from the late night bar. Playing at ‘me–not me’ is not an easy game when there seems to be two of everything. Your companion helps you with the key, then with the stairs, then with your clothes and then he helps himself. No need for names, just needs. For a minute or two the ‘not me’ boundary shifts, and you are one.

The cold light of day has a harder face. You see your mirror image. The mirror always lies. This is your reverse. Straightening up, your head hurts and you moan. You try to wash away the shame with soap–drown it out with music. Knowing his name would help but you didn’t even take that precaution.

You pray for the miracle–not to conceive. How many cells too late, you do not know but there it is. You are no longer alone and he is gone. What can you give a child but rules and bars? It is all you know. What now? Confess to those smiling faces or deny all?

Lying on the bed you play at ‘me–not me’, watching the shadows lengthen and grow dark. Gradually losing awareness of the corporeal, you slip out of consciousness and are no more.

Oonah V Joslin lives in North East England with her husband and cat. She writes poetry and short fiction and is currently working on a first novel.

Rate this story:
 average 4.3 stars • 4 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Intense and powerful. So much captured in so few words. Very nice, Oonah!

  • Beth

    >You are two cells old–zygote and sperm

  • Beth

    >You are two cells old–zygote and sperm

    So, the narrator is a conjoined twin? And that’s why the repetition of me-not me? (Sorry, I couldn’t *quite* figure out the story, though it was nice.)

    • Beth,

      me/not me strikes me as being the type of game a newborn infant might play, which makes it more poignant later when the girl commits suicide after playing the same game.

  • Oonah V Joslin

    Exactly it Jordan.

    The last thing this was, is NICE. It is about the discovery of self, separation, isolation, depression, the substitution of love for sex and the ultimate negation of life itself – so maybe no surprise it’s not popular BUT I don’t always deal in nice.

    Sometimes I do. Watch this space

    and thank you Jordan,Camille and the delicious Steven. Mwoa Mwoa, XX

  • This story is one of the saddest beautiful things I’ve read in a long time. I particularly love the ‘me-not me’ theme: so much a part of infant development, and as you point out, so much a part of existence. The subtle language is perfect.

  • Wonderful, heart-wrenching and – yes – nasty flash, Oonah. Brava.

    • Oonah V Joslin

      Sarah, Thank you. I like that as a name – Oonah Brava. Makes me sound Spanish. What d’ya think?

  • The story is good.

    What I liked about this, Oonah, is the fact it was so well written in second person narrative. (Not an easy task, because second person ‘can’ irritate. If one is to let the writting ease into the mind like smooth silk, as you have done, then it is only due to the skill in which it was constructed)


    • Oonah V Joslin

      Clyde thank you. It may interest you to know that the motivation for this was a challenge

      to write a flash in second person, present tense and include several time frames in the MCs life.

      I believe I was the only taker that week… but you know, I enjoyed it and it’s working title (and the one I still think of) was “Second Person Present”, hence the zygote to sperm and the longing for companionship, the game, the pregnancy, the suicide…

      But we are all alone, aren’t we.

      • Thanks, Oonah!


  • John Allen

    Powerful, terrifying stuff – but for some reason, I still like this a lot.
    Well done, Oonah!

  • Avis Hickman-Gibb

    Wonderful stuff Oonah! Sad and very powerful. I loved it – even though it was so…raw and in the face.

  • Oonah,
    this says so much in so few words, and so beautifully. A whole life. Very powerful.

  • Oonah V Joslin

    John, Tania, Avis, Thank you. I appreciate it.

  • Kristina Kirby

    WOW, that’s extremely powerful.

    Yes I finally found it!

    As always, your work is something I thoroughly enjoy reading and am thrilled the rest of the world get to share in it.

    Much love


    • Oonah V Joslin

      Thank you Kristina. That is so kind from someone who has put up with my stories for so long! Bless you, petal x

  • HvD

    Beautifully moving. Read with bated breath and aching soul.

    • Oonah V Joslin

      Many thanks Howard. That is very rewarding.
      Oonah 🙂

  • S Conroy

    Enjoyed this. Such a lot packed into such a short space and the me/not me motif was really skillfuly employed.

    [Got a bit stuck in the first line at the ‘zygote and sperm’ phrase and wondered if it shouldn’t be ‘ovum and sperm’ since (if I rem school-biology correctly…) the zygote is already a combination of the two. I’m putting brackets around this since it’s only a blip, but it tends to take longer to explain blips and then ends up taking up more space than deserved.]

  • S Conroy

    Thought this was very well done with just one nit which took me out of the story. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood something. Isn’t a zygote an egg which has been fertilised by a sperm, so shouldn’t it be either ‘sperm and ovum’ or just zygote?