I watched as the leaf fell toward me; slowly, elegantly, dancing with the wind; its vermilion hue shimmering in the evening sunset. As I grasped it, cold wetness splashed upon my chilled hand. The misty air broke into a soaking downpour, as the sky released her tears. The sun was laid to rest, and the darkness rolled upon the earth.
I came to on the bathroom floor. The garbage can had been knocked over, and trash littered the floor around me. My head was throbbing. I shakily picked myself up and cleaned the floor. Then I snuck back to my room, hoping no one had seen or heard anything.
The tiny cell screamed in agony. Its nucleus tried to think—tried to figure out what was happening. More ATP! it would yell. But the mitochondria were unable to produce. More glucose! they demanded back. But glucose was not to be had. Deliveries had become sparse. The cell knew there was a famine in the universe, yet for a while the fat reserves had sustained life as usual. But recently an intercellular rumor had begun to spread. It was easy to discredit the basophils; after all, they were always overreacting. But despair began to set in once the lymphocytes confirmed: the great fat stores had been depleted.
I lay huddled on the couch, feeling naked and abandoned and cold. So cold—and exhausted. I finally garnered enough energy to ask for my ragged, oversized, flannel jacket. My belongings hadn’t been approved yet, but perhaps the nurse was moved to pity me. She retrieved my jacket from the back room, and I returned to the couch. I curled myself into a ball—the jacket covering my entire body. Behind my eyelids, my muddied brain recalled a vision I had seen upon arrival. A woman. And tubes. Tubes on her body. Tubes going into her body. She was being fed through tubes. I don’t want to be that bad, I thought. I pulled my body even tighter, trying to disappear. So cold.
I tried to leave the city. A man in white: white suit, white hood, white boots, white gloves, white mask, black gun. A man in white held a black gun to my face. Get back, was all he said. I stood for a moment, looking at the line of other white men around him, and then I turned around. As I walked the dirt road, I could hear moaning from every direction. The stench clung to me: vomit, defecation, blood. The entire city was being consumed. I entered the shack. My sister lay on the floor facing the wall. I listened to her strained breathing, relieved that she was able to escape death through unconsciousness. My head began to throb. I sank to the ground next to my sister and placed my hand on her arm. It was cold—colder than her skin should’ve been in the summer heat. I shook her. She didn’t wake. I could still hear the strained breathing, but her chest wasn’t following rhythm. Agitated and confused, I shook her again. Tears filled my eyes, and I felt my nose begin to run. Tremors convulsed my body. I brushed my trembling hand against my nose, and then reached again for my sister. But I stopped when I saw the red on my hand. Copper and iron coagulated before my mind. I coughed and painted my sister crimson.
“You look like death.” “Your body is eating itself.” “Your heart is so weak; it will eventually stop beating.” “You are killing yourself.” “Maybe you should write your own obituary.”
Look away from me.
I don’t want you to see.
I know I’m on my own, but I wish—
I wish you'd call me home.