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Casting Off by Ann Hillesland | Word Riot
Flash Fiction

October 22, 2016      

Casting Off by Ann Hillesland

First I knit the stars. I fixed them shimmering in the ceiling’s firmament. Next, I knit an ocean, of yarn cobalt and aqua and sliver threaded blue. I filled the sea, knitting the fish and all the creatures of the deep, counting the octopus arm stitches carefully and using the finest yarn for the jellyfish tentacles so they would sway with the tides. The trees were difficult. I had never created anything so tall before. I stuffed the trunks with batting and knit each individual leaf. When the breeze blew, the leaves moved without rustling. With tiny needles, I made the buzzing insects. I made a mohair monkey, an angora cat. I knit the zebra with two yarns, black and white, and stitched him together one evening at the seaside. When I finally sewed his hooves on, he galloped into the far corner, where the trees were thickest. The brightest yarn I used for birds and flowers, royal purple and scarlet and saffron. The birds flew from flower to flower like an endlessly turning kaleidoscope. I saw that everything was good.
      I rested under the soft leaves, knowing the majesty of star and sea, the beauty of the jewel-winged dragonfly and the fishes’ silvery schools flitting beneath the foam. I looked in the leopard’s eye and knew his soul.
      Still, I was lonely. None of these creatures thought as I thought, spoke as I spoke. So I created a man. For him, no ordinary yarn would do. I spun my bone into strands dyed with my blood. The pain of that spinning! When the yarn was complete, I used my finest gauge needles so that his skin would be smooth, unblemished. I was so careful, my slowed needles pricking my fingers. His hair was silk embroidery floss. His fingernails and teeth shell buttons that gleamed in the light of my openwork stars.
      When I cast off the last stitch and he stood before me, I looked into his eyes and saw mystery. I’d never know his heart, his thoughts, his soul. He touched my face, his fingers whisper soft. I had no defense against the blood singing in my ears, against the desire to give him myself and my full creation. The dragonfly hummed, the plants murmured as he moved into my world, changes rippling out with every step. “Go!” I said, pointing to the trees where the zebra had disappeared. But he wouldn’t obey. Instead he started snipping branches from trees for a bower. Drawing me into his arms, he guided me down to the soft scattered leaves. His fingers moved over my breasts, down my sides, his thumb caressing along the scar where I’d removed my rib to make him. I ran my hands over his back, the smooth muscles, the wings of shoulders, searching, searching for a loose thread I could pull to unwind him, wondering if I could bear to pull it.

hilleslandbiophotoAbout the author:

Ann Hillesland’s work has been published or is forthcoming in many literary journals, including Fourth Genre, Sou’wester, Bayou, The Laurel Review, Corium, and SmokeLong Quarterly. It has been selected for the Wigleaf Top 50 Very Short Fictions, won the grand prize for prose in a Spark contest, and has been presented onstage by Stories On Stage. She is a graduate of the MFA program at Queen’s University of Charlotte. For more of her work, see

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