“In Orbit” by Eric Hawthorn


Out the window: Mars. They saw Earth a little while ago. Mercury and Venus are tucked into the sunlight somewhere behind them. The wife sits up in bed with her husband zonked out beside her. They have been in orbit for one year and one month, Earth time. Every room of their spinning home goes through an entire day/night cycle in about 60 minutes—each room subjected to a time-lapse sweep, shadows stretching and diminishing, the house a lantern in reverse. Their house plants have more or less adjusted.

The wife gets up and looks for her slippers as sunlight leaks into the room. Clothes are strewn about: sweatpants, socks, the negligee she wore earlier at her husband’s behest for just a few minutes of rote foreplay. Her husband breaks wind and mutters something in a chewing way. She draws the blinds. There’s a smell, not her husband’s, creeping into the bedroom. The cat. Probably their cat left another mess down the hall. (Her husband’s snoring recedes.) There it is, waiting for a hapless foot at the top of the stairs. It’s solid, at least. Where did she leave the air freshener? The wife goes downstairs for a paper towel. The dark kitchen is bisected by a slot of light coming in from the den. The stripe shines across the stove and linoleum, lights up the canister trash can and traces the dent her husband kicked in its side. There are dishes in the sink and a swarm of stars out the window.

They pass other stations out here, each one spinning in its own quiet orbit. (Creaking steps above: her husband is up.) Sometimes, the wife will sit at her telescope and watch their distant, temporary neighbors in their single-family orbits. She’ll see these couples through their windows, cooking or eating, doing laundry or fighting or fucking, always orbiting, always spinning. Now and then, a neighbor will stand at the window and look out at the solar system, palms pressed to the glass like a trapped animal.


Eric Hawthorn studied writing at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, which is a real thing. It’s a writing program out in Colorado. Now Eric lives in Philadelphia, where he writes disembodied fiction and works at a real estate company. His stories are published or forthcoming in such journals as LIT, decomP, Thrice Fiction, and Spork. He is the founder and curator of FictionFeed.net, a showcase for the internet’s most interesting flash fiction.