The sweat wandered down the insides of Winn’s elbows. Hot cotton stuck to her arms and pulled
closer to her face when she breathed in, threatening to seal her mouth with the scent of summer
fresh anti-static sheet. The window light diffused through Winn’s world of off-white. For a
moment, she stopped sweating, stopped breathing and sticking and fighting and was gone.
Then it was back, the scratch of 200-thread-count sheet against damp skin, the dryer heat, the
suffocating weight of the fabric, the heart race to get out.
Winn grabbed for the inside corners of the duvet cover and pulled her head back out through the
hole. Gasped as the cooler air glanced across the back of her neck. Felt her hairs frizz and stand
What did mom teach me? Duvet cover inside out, grab the inside corners, match to those of the
blanket and shake shake shake to change the sheets.
But the room felt too big, like there was now too much air. She wasn’t sticky and stuck anymore,
but she wanted the cover place back. The blank dullness of the light through the fabric. The
edges smoothed off the birds and voices outside.
Winn dropped the blanket but held tight to the cover. Tucked her head into the opening and
closed her eyes as the cloth against her ears rolled sounds into a soft rumble. She dropped the
corners, and the cover slipped over her head completely, grazing her toes on the hardwood.
The sweat started to prickle on Winn’s neck. It was too warm in here. The blank was gone.
Winn’s heart rushed ahead as the sheet grew heavier and heavier on her skin. The edges of her
vision started to blur and creep in.
Winn gasped, preparing for the sheet to stick to her mouth and tip her into full-body shakes.
Then the blank returned.
The sheet floated over Winn’s head, not even brushing her skin. Her arms smoothed and dried
out, feet hovering over the hardwood without the familiar summer stickiness. And the go go go
too fast beat beat of her heart was not. The blank, the half-moment before she remembered to
panic every morning. Before she panicked about not panicking. Before her stomach migrated
back up toward her throat and the tightness set in. Winn squinted in the duvet and tried to worry
that she wasn’t worried. That her heart might have stopped altogether. That her feet might be
numb. That her skin had stopped sweating. That she might have heat stroke. But the blank
Winn swayed under the duvet cover. What now? Should she go eat? The thought of food made
Winn’s heart jump and trip most days but the blank flattened all that out. She floated to the
kitchen but her stomach wouldn’t grumble. The world outside the sheet was glowing through at
her but everything was flat.
Maybe she would clean instead. Scrub the dust off the blinds. But how to reach them through the
sheet? The blinds tapped against the window frame in the breeze. Even the dust blowing through
the screen and gathering on the slats didn’t jolt Winn into fidgeting.
Her phone rumbled on the coffee table, and Winn slid over to check the screen.
The blue light bled through the fabric and warmed.
Winner! Why wont yo u call me back xoxo mom ok call soon
Winn waited for the familiar tightness in her throat, but the blank filled her body with air and
heaviness at once.
Winn swayed in the living room, absorbing the dullness, the non-reaction. And hovered. And
Her phone rumbled again. The sound usually reverberated up Winn’s feet and into her chest, but
the sheet deflected the vibrations.
Winn followed her naked feet around the apartment, yawning at the ant on the kitchen counter
and the mould on the tub caulking. A car alarm rang out, but the blank filled Winn’s ears with
The alarm grew closer, and a soft redness crept across Winn’s sheet world in slow warm flashes.
The apartment hummed.
Winn turned to reach out for the wall to absorb the reverberations and—the blank ripped off her
as she hit the floor. A prickly sweat broke out across her exposed legs as the sheet crumpled
around her face.
Winn’s heart revved as she clutched at the fabric and pulled herself out through the hole in the
duvet cover. The corner snagged on a cupboard handle. The alarm clanged in Winn’s ears as a
siren echoed closer and closer.
Out the window, Winn’s neighbours sat on curbs and dialled cell phones. Winn’s jaw ached
behind her ears, and she squinted against the sun and flashing lights. Her knee, patchy and purple
under stubble, pulsed. Winn closed her eyes and squeezed every muscle in her face, but the
flashing and buzzing and stabbing noise continued.
The fire escape thudded against the building. Heavy steps and yells.
Winn’s foot prickled under the sheet. Started to go numb. Electricity surging through her chest,
Winn took a breath against her heart climbing up her throat, pulled the cover open, and slipped
The sheet sucked up the stab in Winn’s ears and softened the light as the red flashes melted into a
hazy pink glow. Her chest filled with air as the blank pressed her deeper and deeper into the
Kate Hargreaves is a book designer, writer, and university writing advisor in Windsor, Ontario. She is the author of three books, including Leak (Book*hug), a collection of poems. In her spare time (when she doesn't have a broken leg), she plays roller derby and rides her bicycle. Lately, she just spends a lot of time with her cats.
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