. . . and Void
By T. Fox Dunham
“Particle by particle, I’m flying apart. I see you no more. My eyes dissipate. The protons fall away like dried grapes in the bunch. The electromagnetic charge fades. I’ve lost my Higgs.”
Mars beats his ears till they bleed to block the cry of the worm waiting down the corridor. Quotidian, he is brought to the worm, to lay prone beneath its aphotic face, its rapacious lips that suck and chew. His healer is named The Good Doctor Sullivan. He vowed a cure for chaos gone wild in Mars’s blood.
Athena clutches Mars’s arm, but she can’t feel his skin, muscle bone or hot blood. The chemo burned her nerve endings.
The worm sings down the corridors of Athena’s love, her need. It has burrowed into their flesh, sipped their souls:
Soul seeks sensation.
“Sorry,” Athena says.
“Don’t let them take me,” Mars says.
Nurse Wolfe hunts at the threshold to the private limbo waiting zone of the Oncology Ward. She juts out a three jointed digit and beckons Mars. The mouth waits. The mouth hungers.
Master mouth mutilates.
“It’s not so bad, God of War,” Nurse Wolfe says. “Just a few minutes a day under the black face. It growls, and you’re on your way.”
“Keep me close, Athena,” he says. “Don’t loosen your fingers.”
“My fingers don’t feel your flesh,” Athena says. “I try to hold on, but my arm grows weak. You’re flowing away from me like a melt water stream from the mountains. I long to see mountains again. I can’t climb anymore. My hammer is melted. I’ve lost it.”
The portal vortex sucks his body into the corridor of the Radiation-Oncology department. He holds to her arm for traction, foundation, but her wheelchair yanks forward.
Fingers feel faint.
“If you let go, they’ll shoot their rays and beams through my molecules. I’ll fade and break apart, and my atoms will dissolve and become energy; and the energy will lose form and drift apart to void.”
“Forgive me,” she says. “Or I’ll float in Hades a mindless shade.”
Her hands slip. He collapses into the row of uniform plastic seats, into the magazine table and box of children’s toys. A ratty puzzle box flips over. Its pieces rain on the brown rug, scatter and fall in a random pattern close to the paradigm for which they’d been designed. He discerns a mountain river flowing away in the vision depicted on the visage of the component cardboard motes.
Wanting water wanes.
Mars gazes on the mixed motes, on their inchoate visions, and the image fluxes, changes and rearranges. He views his life before his white cells went wild, when he was not a victim of thermodynamics and chaos. Cancer infects other people outside his borders, characters in books and on telly who were born to be nailed to crosses, to suffer and be called martyrs then forgotten. His crimson hair flowed in wild strawberry fields, now burned clean. He owned his name. They’d taken it, stolen, ripped it away and promised him it was for a salubrious reason of a new healing season.
“I blame you, and I might forgive you,” Mars says to Athena. She’s lost her name, also. “I’ll try to forgive you. I am flawed.”
She turns her wheels and looks away. Her hair has grown chemo, and it glows in the sallow halogen lights like dying daffodil flesh trampled by careless boot.
Nurse Wolfe holds her hand out to him. It curves and flows with snake’s body, grooving and oozing to her triple jointed finger, calling him forward, to face the face that spits radiation lace.
Fear fiery face.
“Find my name,” Athena says.
Nurse Wolfe guides him from the waiting room, down the corridor. Shadows bite his feet. He stumbles when he walks, weakened by the toxins and cosmic rays the healer employs to devour his temple, chipping the marble, smashing the altar and burning the fig leaves laid out for him in sacrifice.
She leaves him at the linear accelerator chamber. Minions in black lead garments lay him on the block of ice. They strip his depleted body and chain him to the frozen table. The worm emerges from the ceiling, vomiting its ebony face, eye lining to eye. In the screen, he sees his future—buried beneath black soil and the roots of an apple tree digging into his flesh. The sun shines on his grave. The snow falls on the grass. No man or woman weeps at his marker.
Leave low love.
“A woman I loved. I remember her. A goddess. Her hair flashes like sunlight and blinded my eyes. The high priests burned away her legs and grafted wheels to her hips. They stole her womb and ripped away her name. I loved her soul, but she is fading. Why can’t I remember?”
Obsidian screen growls. Crimson fingers emerge from the worm flesh and burrow into his forehead. It cracks his skull, drilling deeper, trespassing on his mind and deeper yet. Below it seeks the core of his crystal dreaming. It sucks the marrow of his night reveries, drinking high and wobbling from intoxication. It has no dreams in its manufactured mind.
The worm soaks him in cosmic rays, curing and killing, healing him if he can endure the holistic poison. He burns anew, hollowed and reset, sans his dreams.
“My molecules rip apart. The magnetic bond breaks. Gravity. Electromagnetism. Strong and weak nuclear forces. The weakest force. She felt so real.”
The worm works. His skin fades, dissipates to chunks of muscle and bone. The chunks break into motes, and the motes spread to atoms. He rides the cycle. Void. Matter. Man. God. Man. Matter . . .
. . . and void.
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T. Fox Dunham resides outside of Philadelphia PA—author and historian. He’s published in over 100 international journals and anthologies and writes for Team Obama. He’s a cancer survivor. His friends call him fox, being his totem animal, and his motto is: Wrecking civilization one story at a time. http://www.facebook.com/tfoxdunham & Twitter: @TFoxDunham