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Breaking Earth

Breaking Earth: a prose sonnet
by Annie Neugebauer


She wants to break the earth in her hands, she says, feel it crumble around her skin like the dirt is under her power. She is wild with the desire – the need to have something submit. Never mind that spring has brought the damp soil and lively worms of an early shower. She is on her knees grasping gratefully in a pink and yellow sundress through slime and grit.

She moans that she will know the secrets of soil. Hands shake and nails are packed with dirt, but still she burrows deeper. It is through the exterior that she fights – beyond the deepest reachings of some inner turmoil. She must conquer; she must be something’s keeper.

It is only when she’s elbow-deep and coated in the purest gray-brown she’s ever seen that something breaks. Beyond her understanding, against her will, she freezes with the realization that she will never fly. The need to dig – to control – is a rebuttal denying that where shoulder blades sit and wings could grow is where it aches. She sits back on her caked heels, covers face with muddy hands, and gives in to the need to cry.

She came here to destroy, contain, command, inter. But somehow, in spite of all her rage and all her tears and all her effort to scrape the roots of deepest trees… earth has broken her.

* * *

Annie Neugebauer is a short story author, novelist, and award-winning poet. She has work appearing or forthcoming in in over a dozen venues, including The Spirit of Poe, Underneath the Juniper Tree, So Long and Thanks For All the Brains: A Zombie Anthology, The Stray Branch, Phantom Kangaroo, Six Sentences, the British Fantasy Society journal Dark Horizons, and the National Federation of State Poetry Societies’ prize anthology Encore. When she’s not frightening people with her writing, she’s most likely frightening her husband Kyle and their two mischievous cats: Buttons and Snaps. You can visit her at

What do you think is the attraction of the fantasy genre?

The attraction of the fantasy genre, for me, is the ability to approach big questions in new ways. Literary fiction is limited in its scope for the reason that (for the most part) it can only answer life’s questions in ways that real people can. In fantasy, the circumstances of the world can be completely geared toward one specific, unknowable question. For example, would someone really trade all of their wealth to see their dead parent one last time? In literary fiction, we can only theorize. In fantasy, we can force a character into a situation where they really have to choose. We can put the question to the test and see the results.