Lucy Zhang



Every few weeks, my sister eats our electronics: the smartphones, the dongles, the gaming PC, the iPad whose upper half of the screen refuses to respond to touch. She eats a fortune worth of electronics, claiming she has a craving for–and thus a deficiency in–metal. If it were just metal, she’d leave the silicone phone cases alone, but those disappear into her stomach too. We’ve never had a plumbing issue though; the toilets are as sparkling clean and unscathed as they had been when we moved in, and our parents insisted on replacing them with high-quality porcelain and bidets.

I try to avoid home when my sister’s binges happen and keep my phone and laptop with me at all times. This usually works, since I have these devices in my hands anyway, scrolling the web on my latest rathole. But the moment my parents call me home for dinner and I look away from my backpack slumped by the front door, my phone becomes my sister’s snack.

Every three months, my sister starts a new relationship. It’s unclear to me if she has ended the previous one. All I know is that she brings them home for dinner, and they mysteriously lose their tablets and smartphones and electric guitars at our house. You can only eat so much of one person’s electronics before they hit the financial blocker of being able to afford new devices. I like most of her company though. They distract my sister long enough to keep my smartphone safe for another week, and the people are sometimes decent conversationalists too. I especially like her latest victim, this cute guy with a curly cowlick and clear framed glasses and swanky jean jackets. He’s a bit nerdy and still hasn’t noticed that his tamagotchi, Pokédex, and Nintendo Switch controllers have gone missing. I like him enough that I hang out with him more than my sister does: we’ll be soldering an old radio kit while she is out climbing boulders. This relationship lasts a long time, likely due to his bottomless supply of gaming consoles and computers.

My parents say that I don’t have cravings like my sister does because I was born without deficiencies. When they had my sister, my mom was still recovering from a previous illness. Something to do with the bones. Apparently, women in our family run a risk of their bones hollowing out and cracking like chalk. This is not a problem because the women in our family survive just fine without structural bone–our muscles are strong enough to hold our bodies up without a scaffold, and our bloodstream reabsorbs the calcium dust remnants, adding elasticity to our body. We grow flexible, a line of women who bend and shimmy through door cracks even when the door bolt latches shut and a huge Bagua mirror hangs at the front to dispel evil spirits.

Every year, my mom would trek to the top of a mountain with nothing but her clothing and a jade bracelet. She left her gold necklace and earrings and wire-rimmed hat at home, not a single piece of metal to weigh her down. This trek supposedly provided her form and physical integrity, allowing her pulverized bone to properly integrate throughout her system. But she gave birth to my sister too early, alone at the top of the mountain, before her body could settle and her blood could redistribute what was once solid to particles. My mom blames herself for my sister’s binges and never questions when the TV lacks a big chunk from the receiver, or several lamps have lost their heads.

I don’t believe it’s my mom’s fault, though. If my sister wanted to stop eating electronics, she totally could. The problem, so she has told me, is, “I like having structural integrity.”

Every month, I slip into the house unseen. Like a ghost, but not quite–there’s still matter and biomass, just spread so thin I can blend into the crevasses behind the refrigerator or beneath the couch. I am still working on my control over my body’s changes, and, although I cannot tell it when to disperse and when to converge at will, my mom says this will come soon, I need only move more to accommodate my body’s changes. My sister doesn’t undergo any of this, naturally. She opens and closes the door with a loud slam and when she climbs the stairs, it sounds like the house might collapse.

The Pokémon boyfriend insists he never knows when she leaves or enters, though. I suspect he’s too engaged with hacking his PokeWalker pedometer to get a rare Pokémon. He doesn’t even notice when my mom brings us a glass bowl of grapes that clunks on the table and shakes the table’s creaky legs. I hate to break his focus, especially if taking the time to pluck several grapes might result in my sister snatching his STM32 ARM dev board away as an evening snack.

My parents let my sister do whatever she wants because they believe she won’t last long with her body so she should enjoy life while she’s got it. They let her take the car keys whenever she wants to go on an evening run to Best Buy, and quietly replace the engine and battery when they find it gnawed. Sometimes she returns home later than my parents’ usual bedtime, but my mom will endure staying up past ten to welcome her home. “What if she forgets the house keys? What if the lock runs out of battery or your sister eats it?” is my mom’s argument. I, of course, can slip through the keyhole and the window screens upstairs, left open to air the bathrooms. I fit into any old article of clothing my mom owns, unlike my big-boned sister whose frame stretches the fabric taut. I slip in like a snake, engulfed by folds of silk and cotton, as though passing through the fabric as a state of matter.

Every morning, my sister spends an hour in the mirror rearranging outfits and trying them on one by one. She insists that the way the fabric frames her figure is important, because not every shirt will accentuate her collarbone, and some will make her shoulders look broad and ogre-like. I’m often out of the house long before she’s done though, especially when I spot teeth marks in the new hairdryer. Devices that require plugging-in are the most vulnerable because those are the ones we never put back into the cabinets, conveniently left below an outlet.

My sister has begun to intrude on so much physical and mental space that I can’t even drift past her sleeping form on the couch without her waking. It doesn’t matter if I’m spread fine like diatomaceous earth. I’m convinced she detects disturbances even in her sleep, especially disturbances that carry battery-powered watches. My bones have nearly finished dissolving. The moment they’re gone, I will move out. I operate best floating through cables and routers, uneaten.




Lucy Zhang writes, codes, and watches anime. Her work has appeared in Westerly, Apex Magazine, Split Lip Magazine, and elsewhere. She is the author of the chapbooks HOLLOWED (Thirty West Publishing) and ABSORPTION (Harbor Review). Find her at or on Twitter @Dango_Ramen.