by Olivia Germann

            Walking inside, the air felt different. Disturbed. On the surface, the apartment looked the same as when I had left. But there was a shift, and an undeniable understanding that something had changed. I walked slowly, looking at each of my items with a trained eye. Was my sofa creased that way earlier? Is that how I folded the blanket?

            I stood in the center of the apartment and rotated, hoping to catch a glimpse of what was eluding me. Eyes hopped from the floor covered in a thrifted Persian rug, the side table covered in trashy magazines, the bookcase overfilled and spilling over with volumes upon volumes that I may never read.

            My eyes caught on the clock I had brought from my mother’s home after her death. It was in the same spot. But I couldn’t put my finger on why it felt wrong. I went over and examined it closely. It was clean, no dust. And the timepiece ticked away, matching the thud of my heart. I set it down.

Then I ran my finger across the shelf it was sitting on. Dusty. Which makes sense, because I’m not much of a housekeeper. So then why was the clock clean? I picked it up again, looking closer this time. The back of the clock was fastened with a small catch, one that I never opened unless I needed to wind it, but I popped it open now.

            Inside was a small piece of paper, folded together tightly. I worked the paper loose from its bonds and in my mother’s small spider-like script was a message.

            “You have to oil the gears too”


Olivia Germann is a 26-year-old writer from Chicago, currently residing in Newport News, Virginia as the director for the Creative Writing Magnet Program at Woodside High School. She is a queer artist, choosing to spread her work across genres and platforms. She received her MFA from National University and has been previously published by Helen: A Literary Magazine, Turnpike Magazine, and Yemassee Journal among others. It is her goal is to make her art accessible and expressive both on and off the page for all audiences.