Congratulations to our Best Microfiction and Best Small Fictions authors! Check out the Honors page.

A Single Ladybug, Lying Dead on the Windowsill by Elena Zhang

It started with one. Legs up, like it was trying to walk on the ceiling but suddenly realized it couldn’t. Like it believed that up could be made down. On the other side of the window, pale blossoms began to dot the bare trees, cotton tufts stuck on spindles. Muddy snowmelt swirled down sewer drains. Squirrels hunted down buried walnuts in warm earth. But here on the inside, in my cramped and lonely apartment, there was a dead ladybug on the windowsill. I swept the beetle into a dustpan, but by the next day, there were two more. A pair of lovers, frozen and on their backs. Then, dozens. I stopped trying to get rid of them, since nobody was left to tell me otherwise. In a week, the entire kitchen was littered with dead ladybugs, a carpet of scarlet desiccated bodies, a tapestry of leftovers, a graveyard puddle. They made a soft swooshing sound every time I waded through to make a cup of coffee. After some internet sleuthing, I learned that these ladybugs had most likely been wintering here, much like you had been. But once the gentle touch of spring came upon us, they tried to return home, only to find sealed cracks and shuttered windows. My haven, an unknowing prison. I stooped down and gathered them in my hands, feeling their hollowness against my skin. They were hard like beads, so I strung them together into a rosary, their exoskeletons rattling out a prayer for forgiveness, each one a reminder of you.

Hear Elena Zhang read her piece.

Elena Zhang is a Chinese American writer and mother living in Chicago. Her work can be found in HAD, JAKE, and Exposition Review, among other publications, and has been selected for Best Microfiction 2024. You can find her on X @ezhang77.

Plastic Rivers by Shome Dasgupta | Lottery by Scott Garson | Drones by Ulrica Hume | Mushrooms by Kathryn Kulpa | The Archipelago by Lorette C. Luzajic | Manual for an American Novice in a Small Indian Town by Tara Isabel Zambrano | A Single Ladybug, Lying Dead on the Windowsill by Elena Zhang