Teresa’s Cataclysm – Samantha Haviland


There’s a skeleton on the roof. Not a real one. 

We found it in the biology classroom 

on the first floor, while climbing 

through the window. It fell off the shelf 

onto Teresa—

she didn’t even flinch. Only rested it gently 

on a desk then leaned down 

to pick up the displaced phalanges 

and metacarpals. Tiny phalanxes pinging 

against the linoleum. 

We named him Cal, short for Calcium, 

and declared him a he

after a long and heated debate:

We’re really naming him after big dairy? 

I bet your bones 

would snap like twigs. We heard footsteps 

and ducked. Teresa and I took cover 

under the teacher’s desk. 

The others scattered throughout, 

Jimmying into cupboards 

and praying in dark corners. The footsteps paused 

in front of the door. Teresa’s breath 

smelled like sour candy. It was one 

of those moments where I thought the world 

would end

but I didn’t mind. Then the footsteps left. 

Teresa and I stood, the plastic 

bones slipping 

from her hands and spilling 

between us. 


Principal Jensen says he doesn’t need a night shift,

but I disagree. Someone’s got to keep the ghouls

from messing with things. 

It’s not your job.

Well, then what is my job? 

Fine do what you want, 

it’s not like it’s costing us 

anything. Probably better 

to have you here.

I wouldn’t want them to pay me for the night shift, anyway.

Then the ghouls wouldn’t listen. Money invalidates things. 

Money skews time and dream. 

That’s what they say. 

Dream. I haven’t dreamed

since I met them. Haven’t slept

either. Just curl on my side

breathing in lemon-scented 

floor wax. 

And I’ve been piling up my checks from the day shift in a locker 

down corridor F. The one with the dinged, dark red combination lock. 

7, 12, 32. Mostly I just push them through the slits. 

All that money. I’m not sure

what would happen if I opened it.


I felt my ribs rattle. The curve of a hooded shoulder

Echoed through me. Cal, they said, but I’m not 

calcium. I’m polyethylene. I’m resin. I’m their recycled 

rubber bath toys—because of course, this school had to be 

environmentally conscious. 

I’m not even my own. 

I’ve learned enough about reactions sitting 

in the back of that classroom. Enough to know

I don’t have any. No enzymes. No proteins. No air 

flowing in and out. Except for that day, they stuck

balloons into my chest and pricked them—


—the holes in my skull caught the light glinting 

off the lockers, but I lost it again in the rifts 

around my joints: dark as ever. I saw the two of them, 

spinning my bones like coins, like pennies and dimes 

running between their knuckles. 

Who’s got the keys?

We left the locker-lined halls for a stairwell

with concrete steps. There was no light here either, 

but I glimpsed the grey before the door closed behind us

and then again when another one opened.

We stumbled onto the roof. They laid me down.

I’d never seen stars before. 


Our backpacks were full of chalk

stolen from the wood sheds

behind the elementary schools. 

            Those buildings are all rot

anyway and the chalk 

hasn’t been touched in years. Admin stifling

            the creativity of the youth

—the plastic containers 

are filled with spiders and ants.

We cut our hands on the sharp 

corners and Teresa pulls out

a first aid kit. Dumbasses. 

CVS brand hand sanitizer 

stings less than the official kind. 

Probably means it kills less too. 

Another girl, whose name is 

not important, rations out 

her keychain-sized, pumpkin spice 

infused Purel. I decline, that stuff gives 

me hives. Teresa’s is scentless

and there’s more of it, so it stings less

until I soak my hands.

Then cover each wound 

            with a breathable, Spider-man

band aid. Teresa’s knelt down 

next to Cal, gripping chalk. She draws him

            a pillow, then a sword.     


I’m not superstitious. I always thought religion was for quacks.

Then the ghouls turned the shadows into ducks and I shoved 

a whole loaf of bread into the gymnasium wall. 

A week’s worth of sandwiches 

bought me the void

whispering in my ear. Keeping

time, like a metronome

but only sounding like a bomb.

They say the whole place

is about to give and the kids on the roof aren’t helping. The ghouls 

watched them snatch the key from Jensen’s desk. I just watch 

their shoes scuff the floor. 

It’s like standing on bubble

gum, either the bubble pops

or something sinks and the membrane

wraps around. Engulfing.

The ghouls want 

the girl. 

I told them to swallow her

like they did the bread—

they said that’s now how this works.


They never brought me down, and then I saw

the biggest star. The sun rising over the horizon. 

They don’t talk much about stars in ninth grade biology—

rumor is that it’s just a ball of gas. But in ecol

it’s important. I know about the sun.

The source of all energy. 

I thought lying there would bring me to life.

It didn’t, and I was stuck. With a flat pink sword

under my left ulna. I thought they weren’t coming back.

But they did, after the sun went down and up 

three more times.

All the while I felt something growing beneath me.

Loud, filling, getting ready to burst. Cytolysis,

when osmosis gets overloaded, and the cells—POP!

Then they opened the door and stormed 

out, feet pounding like a herd. The same girl

sat next to me.

All reactions require energy. 

This girl is some sort of spark, breaking bonds

like phosphorus. She carries matches in her back pocket

and a deck of cards. She took my hands, then gave

me a weapon. Does she know I watched her fail 

that test six months ago? From the back corner.

The catalyst.


The stairway is covered in chalky 

handprints that Teresa and I spend 

an hour cleaning up. The others 

left early, giggling all the way

down. The flashlights

on our phones were too bright

            so we use the light from the home 

screens. Three notifications 

from mom, five from dad,

and my favorite podcast,

21st Century Oracle, just released 

a new episode: The Underworld Wants 

You! We don’t have water 

or rags so we wash the concrete

walls with hand-sanitizer

and the dark-colored sweatshirts

            we wore to try and blend 

with the shadows. 

            We don’t seem to need

them now. Even Teresa’s

bright yellow converse are just

            sound. The dull thump of soles.

She turns around 

the bend of the stairwell

her phone lighting

up the scratches on the wall. 

Then it’s dark. Then a door opens and shuts.

Teresa’s Snap Story

Close up of Cal

            his hands are folded on top of his stomach

            he’s wearing a West Lake Baseball sweatshirt—#23

            the caption reads “he needs pants” 

Black Square

            just a black screen, maybe a close up of someone’s sweatshirt, or t

            the caption reads “ghouls don’t believe in pants, what about skirts”

Plastic Bones

            hands covered in spiderman bandaids hold the plastic hand bones

            chalk smeared converse can be seen below the hands

            there is no caption


            a photo of the stairwell, the flash on

            a dozen chalky hand prints, one wrapped around the metal bannister

            the photo seems washed out, the edges darker than the should be

            the caption reads “assholes, it’s like they want us to get caught”

Red Combo Lock

            the caption reads “7. 12. 32.”


            the locker is open with envelopes piled up inside and out

            the caption reads “wtf”

Black Square pt. 2

            the caption reads “i should probably delete all this, the ghouls want me to”


            the night sky, speckled

            there is no caption

21st Century Oracle: The Underworld Wants You!!!!

Sounds of water rushing, stones hitting each other. It slowly merges with techno music. A soothing but raucous sound. At the end, someone hits a gong.

Enter the 21st century:

I met this guy while buying a train ticket in Grand Central. He offered me a bundle of envelopes.

Told me that if I took them time would stand still again. I told him I had an appointment.

Appointment: noun, an arrangement to meet someone at a particular time and place

Then he started talking to me about particles. Subatomic, anatomic. Electrons and organelles. 

He was wearing a blue/red ski jacket over navy coveralls. A carabiner of keys attached to his hip.

I told him again, I have an appointment. He started shaking his head, holding the envelopes out.

7, 12, 32. There’s a school a couple stops away from here. In Westchester. About to go under.

Westchester? Those rich motherfuckers? What happened? Don McLean come rolling into town?

Did the music die again? Then the guy specified. A different kind of under. Then he got vague.

Something dark and cavernous. Something without hands. Something asking for his hands. 

I wanted to tell him to take a hike but he pointed at the ceiling and I watched the constellations. 

It’s like in video games, when the boat sails across the map. The pegasus rammed into Orion.

The blue folded over into something else. The guy grabbed my arm and pulled.

He pulled until we were at the tracks, shadows pooling between the grates. No rats, no nothing. 

He wanted me to jump. I told him to go to hell. Sure, he said. 


Years ago they wrapped me in clay.

To simulate the layers of the skin. Three types

of dermis. They stretched it too tight, and I looked

starved. Now they’re shoving a shirt over my head,

carefully pulling my arms through the sides. Polyester

over polyethylene. 

Is this what it means to peak in highschool? 

In a couple of months, after rain and snow, at the beginning 

of spring—mold will start to grow. I’ll feel it building up 

behind my eye sockets, like a tension headache. Until a hawk 

flies off with my skull, and the cardinals and sparrows 

pick at the smaller things. 

Becoming a part of the ecosystem. 

The sword at my side is no good, melting in the morning

mist. I’ll still remember the girl who gave it to me. Who took 

my hands. Who brought me here. Even while soaring, 

talons digging into the softened plastic. How she handled

my bones like poker chips. 

I felt like a bet or a bluff. Still do sometimes. 

At least the school didn’t implode. She left and the place

calmed down. Or maybe it wasn’t her leaving. I can’t

figure it out. That other kid came back alone and pressed

a bandaid into my sternum. Peeled it off their hand 

and left it there.