Up In Smoke by Nicky Drayden

“Evan, you’ll give your brother nightmares,” Mama rasps. Slumped in her vinyl chair, she barely has energy to scold me for smoking in her kitchen.

Dewey beats his chubby hands on the tray of his highchair, pulverizing steamed carrots. Yeah, he’s still on solids. The brat can’t talk yet either, but he idolizes how I can dissipate into thin air, dine on a gentle breeze, look for love in a storm cloud, then slip under tattered weather-stripping and into bed before Mama ever suspects.

I grow smoky tendrils behind Mama’s back like giant bunny ears. Dewey laughs, spitting up carrot mash, and for a brief second his arms become gray wisps reaching towards me. Mama sighs and pats him on the back, too many sleepless nights to notice.

Smoking this young, Mama’s gonna be pissed. But for now it’ll be me and Dewey’s little secret.

Tonight we’ll seep through a cracked window in his nursery and I’ll teach him to surf the auroras, hitch a ride on the doldrums, and court mischief ’til we hit the stratosphere. Cloud chicks dig babies, I hear. I might like being a big brother after all.

Nicky Drayden is a Systems Analyst who has made the recent life decision that she’d rather spend her time working with prose than code. Her recent publications include Necrotic Tissue and Space Squid, with forthcoming work in Space and Time Magazine and Shimmer Magazine. She resides in Austin, Texas where being weird is highly encouraged, if not required. You can see more of her work at www.nickydrayden.com.

Image: A small portion of the Veil Nebula as photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope, showing smoke-like wisps. The original photo was taken by the HST WFPC2 instrument in November 1997 with an exposure time of 7400 seconds. This version was released on October 10 2000.