“Nightmare II” by Ada Hoffmann

Outside the white cube laboratory walls
that we have tried all night to escape,
the ground rises red.

It’s the rich, says the rotten-skinned man in the keffiyeh-
they learned how to keep even stone for themselves.
Where they walked, the ground hardened, pulled tight
to split apart between their paths
and the lava rose

these first shudders
the white cube sinking
into a red sea.

Aha, he says, you see, you see-
everything that came before, the battles, the rapes,
all this was our false-hope hallucination
while we boiled away-

I wake in almost-dark. The air presses in.
I do not know if I have escaped.
The twilight glow behind my bedroom window,
the streetlights, what color are they?

(Only the cat feels real, cool and soft,
green-eyed, smirk-purring under my hands.)

Go back to sleep, says a mind-voice.
Go back now. Under the covers. Hide.
Do not look at the lava.
Do not think.
It comes in faster, harder, hotter
if you think about it

but all I can think is the heat
seeping into me,
my body sweating molten steel,

the thick dark world pressing in
at the small cube of my home.

Ada Hoffmann is the author of The Outside. Her poetry has appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, and Uncanny. You can find her online at ada-hoffmann.com or at @xasymptote, or support her on Patreon at www.patreon.com/ada_hoffmann.

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