Posted in 2018-2019, Fiction, November 2018

Apple-Basil Stew

By Elizabeth Mcfarland

I don’t know if I’m dead, exactly. I don’t even know if I’m human. I think I look like a human, I guess. My hands do at least. Humans glow, in a halo around their bodies. I don’t glow, and I haven’t settled on what I think about that, yet. No human has ever done what I do to them to me. I Consume them. I think it serves a purpose. If one of them is glowing too much. I dip my hands into their shoulders and eat. Have you ever been depressed by a meal? I am, most of the time. It’s cold and still. A bit how I assume being human actually is.

It’s a part of them. I know what meat is supposed to taste like, what blood is supposed to taste like, and this is something different. Fluffier. At least I can believe I serve a purpose. I think I’m saving them. They’re too sad– too anything –and they glow too hard. I’m drawn to them like smelling cookies straight out of the oven, and I drink. I just know, I don’t know how else I would tell other than whatever feeling this is.

There was this girl, I think, in tennessee who was holding a gun to her head, shining the most appalling shade of red I ever saw. I came up from behind and reached inside of her. It was metallic and oily, like someone was cooking rusted iron. It tasted so good I felt like I couldn’t move. I’m getting used to being depressed by my food. She just dropped the gun on the floor and faded to a soft grey-blue.

Humans can’t see me. I think, if they did, they would have more objections to whatever I do to them. I once saw a man grab a woman in the chest and she slapped him. They both acted like it hurt. I’m glad none of them feel what I do.

I used to think I was the only one. I wondered what happened to everyone else, if there was anyone else. I had seen the feeling of lonely, drank it too, but I never thought I could feel it. I wondered, for the longest time, if it would be possible for me to die. I thought about trying it once or twice and it made me nauseous.

Then I met her. I was in a grocery store, and the fluorescent lights were flickering and made the halos hard to see. I followed her out of the frozen aisle into produce and she saw me. She wasn’t glowing and she looked right at me. Her posture dropped, and we stared at each other. The cold of the grocery store squirmed beneath my skin and we approached each other like feral cats.

Her eyes were big and round but the color was off. It was a watery plain gray. Not how some people say gray eyes, but grey, like a sad awful stone. Her hair was dusty blonde and long, but it was pulled back into a ponytail.

“What are we?” she said. Her voice was soft and crackly.

“I don’t know,” I said.

She nodded, “Do you call yourself anything?”

“What? Like a name?” She nodded again. “No.”

“Why not?”

“Why not? What, do you have a name?”

“No.”

Why not?” I asked again.

“I think it’s because I see too many.” She cocked her head to a family picking out apples beside us, “Their parents choose their names for them. I don’t think, if it were left up to them, they would be able to choose either.”

“We might’ve had names,” I said. “I don’t remember anything… before this, so we could have had parents. I hate thinking about that, though.”

“I wish I had a name.” Her eyes wandered to the grocery store tile.

“Why not get one?”

“I wouldn’t have anyone to use it with.” She glanced around frantically. “Apple,” she blurted. “I want you to call me Apple.”

“Like the fruit?”

“There are people named Apple.” Apple bobbed up and down on the balls of her feet. “You should pick one too.”

“Why?”

“I want to have something other than ‘mister’ to call you.” It dawned on me right then that she was the only other thing like me I had ever seen. I looked around the produce aisle and my vision jumped from grapes, to pears, to zucchini, to spinach, to barley, to rosemary, to basil– basil. That sounded normal enough. As normal as Apple.

“Basil, I guess, is fine.” Apple smiled and gave me a deep, tight hug. I couldn’t reach into her. She got this intense smile and started shaking a little as she held onto me.

“I always wanted to do that,” her eyes got misty, “but I never could.”

“Do you think we’re ghosts?” I asked.

“Like, Beetlejuice, you mean?”

“No, do you think we’re dead and this is just what we do?”

Apple pulled away from me. “I don’t know,” she motioned around the store, “lots of people die, and… look.”

“I wonder if it matters.”

“It doesn’t matter.” She sat down in the middle of the aisle. “It’s not like anyone cares.” I sat down across from her. “It doesn’t matter what we are, it matters that we’re a we.

I nodded. “I sat in philosophy lecture at some Ivy League college— lots of very high strung people— and they all seemed to think it matters a lot.”

“How much do you hate this?” said Apple, lying down on her back “Not being able to feel things, for real?”

“No.”

“Sometimes, I go for days without doing it. I sat on some man’s bathroom floor and watched him cut both his wrists open in his tub because I couldn’t bring myself to taste that. It was torture, but watching him die was better than feeling anything close to how he felt. I could have saved him. He was glowing so hard it wasn’t even a color, wasn’t even light.” There was a long pause.

“Lighght.” I said.

“What? I said it wasn’t light.”

“It’s a poem. By Aram Saroyan.”

“That’s stupid.”

“It’s beautiful.”

After a while, Apple and I left the grocery store. It closed while we were still inside

We walked the streets for hours talking about what we think we are. Apple mentioned Cihuateteo, an Aztec goddess who drained the life out of people.

“I don’t think we’re anything like that,” she said. “For her, there was never the prospect of being hurt herself, or depressed by it.”

“Do you go to a lot of places like Mexico and all?” I asked.

“Yeah, all the time. I haven’t been to England though. China is nice, though. I like the jungles, and the deserts, and the…” Apple stopped walking. I turned around and saw her standing completely still, with her hands covering her mouth.

“What?”

“I can’t believe I haven’t told you! Oh god, you have to see it! You are going to love it.”

“Love what?”

“In China, there’s this place. It does something to you.” She giggled and started bouncing up and down on her toes again. “You have to come! We have to go now!”

I agreed before I even considered any part of it. China. I didn’t even know how far away that was. It was a whole ocean away. But what did I have to lose? I wanted to know her. Apple dragged me to a port somewhere in the city. I wanted to know her, and I wondered if this was how Adam felt when he met Eve, but on fire and resurrected.

The port was cold and bleak. A single cargo ship was being loaded with steel and iron exports that was heading to Hong Kong. Apple looked up at the monstrosity with absolute wonder.  

I followed her onto the deck of the boat. Men moved passed us in a perfect rhythm carrying boxes and crates, and even bigger crates swung above us carried by enormous looming cranes.

Apple and I fell asleep on the dec the first night, watching the city shrink away from us. It wasn’t until after the ship left the port when Apple bothered to tell me the ship’s course was a month long. It felt like a part of me cracked off and fell into the ocean. In that moment, I felt glacial and empty. But I dealt with it, like everything else.

The ship wasn’t how I’d imagined. Everything was cleaner, more modern, and cushier than the picture I had in my head. The sailors, even, were different. I didn’t picture pirates or anything, but they looked more like dads than bearded, rubber-yellow-hat-wearing, sailors. But that was fine. I preferred dads to pirates anyway. I got hungry almost every day. They glowed bright blue with boredom, loneliness, stagnation.  

Apple watched me one day, when I did it. My arms were buried up to the elbow in the back of this man, glowing the most intense blue. He was running a zippo lighter next to an oil barrel, watching the paint curl away. He tasted cottoney and intoxicating, like rotted strawberries. When he faded, and I left him, he turned and put the lighter in his pocket. He remembered he had something else to be doing.

“How did it taste?” she asked. Apple was paler than she was before the beginning of this trip. There was a bright red rash on her wrists and neck and she scratched at it.

I told her exactly how it tasted. “Are you ok?” I asked.

“How does it feel?” I had to think for a moment.

“Like when you stand on a high place and want to jump.”

“There’s no one happy, or even just content on this entire ship,” she said. A big teardrop clung to one of her bottom eyelashes. I bent down to her level. “I’m so hungry.”

I stood, and took a step back from her. “You’re hungry? Eat then.”

“I have eaten. I just can’t do that. I can’t live though feeling that anymore. The other day, that one guy was playing that video game and when he won, I ate that. It was like lukewarm lemon water. But it was better than wanting to fling myself off a cliff.”

“You’re starving.”

“But, I can feel things. Taking other people’s feelings, just isn’t the same, and sometimes it’s just too much.” Have I ever felt my own emotions? I follow wherever the hunger leads me, and eat whatever it tells me. I do what I want along the way, but it’s always… tinged, by whatever I consumed last.

“Halfway.”

I think Apple only eats the happy things. I don’t care. Everything almost tastes the same to me anyway, and it’s harder to find people happy. She and I didn’t talk for two weeks, we were so consumed by looking at the waves curl and dance against the boat. It wasn’t until we heard we dock tomorrow come out of a shipmates mouth, that we were whipped out of our trance. We both stood at the gate of the ramp and waited.

Hong Kong looked like any other big city but it’s road signs begun to morph from Cantonese to English. I looked at Apple and she grinned so wide I thought it might’ve been hurting her.

“Isn’t this place amazing?” she asked.

“I guess.” A mechanic scream erupted from a bus catapulting down the street. “It’s loud.”

There was a woman sitting on a bench outside a store front reading a book. I felt it immediately. She was glowing this bright sunny orange. I moved toward her, but Apple beat me to it. She dipped into the woman like paint, and the halo seeped into her. The rashes that had splayed further from the time I first noticed them, shrank into puckered scrapes, and her skin looked like someone was alive inside it again. The woman’s face spun from a soft smile to shaken emptiness.

There was a halo around the whole city when we left. From the people, and from the lights in the buildings. Apple and I caught a bus into a small village and spent the night there. The village was so silent. Soft light pulsed out of small houses but I stared straight up at the leafy ceiling above me. Stars peaked through and I watched the sky spin around me. I felt so empty. I felt like I could float, disappear, and never come back. Apple and I were going to take a truck full of jackfruit in some empty dirt road. She said she knew exactly where we were going. Beautiful she kept saying. Beautiful.

Suddenly I was overtaken. What if I die here? What would it feel like? If I’m not already dead. I tried to picture nothingness in my brain, the physical erasing me. Black, with inky purple swimming in it. I couldn’t do it. All the ways I could die played in my brain. I hadn’t had this little to do in my entire existence. I wanted so badly to listen to some professor, and take notes on some lecture. I wanted so badly to be distracted.  

My skin had started to burn and go pale with the same rashes Apple had. I was hungry. We walked a little longer, and I started to feel something.

“We’re getting close,” said Apple. Was this it? Some sort of energy field that made my bones ache. Apple swiped another big leaf out of her way, “Oh my god!” She shot ahead of me.

It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It was a big clearing, encased on one side by a sheet of mountain rock. A small waterfall poured into a spring at the base of the rocks. The water was the clearest I had seen in my entire life. And the feeling was stronger, and I wondered if this is what being high feel like. This was better. It felt like I was buzzing.

Apple was floating on her back in the water, and I joined her.

“Oh god, this is cold,” I shuttered. It was the coldest water I had ever felt.

“Do you feel it?” she whispered. “I think this is what it’s like to be human.”

I felt each cell in my body dividing, every breath I took, every pump of my heart pushing blood through my body. I could feel my heartbeat in my eyeballs.

Apple sank under the water and bobbed back up. “I’d almost forgotten what this felt like.” She leaned back and floated at the surface of the water. “Have you ever felt pain, without being hungry?”

“No.”

Apple took me by the arm and rested at the top of my inner forearm. Her hand curled into a claw and shot down, sending a stingy salt and vinegar pain up my arm in a red firework.

“Agh, god what the hell?” I screamed, clutching my arm. She just fell back into the water laughing. “I’m serious!”

“How does it feel?” I stared at my hand. It was a small scrape next to my thumb and it was only throbbing now. I felt alive.

“Human.”

Human. I could live off that word.

Apple cracked open a pomegranate on the sharp side of a rock. When I took a bite out of it, spongy white membrane and all, it flooded my body with flavor. The rashes on my skin disappeared, and the burning disappeared. It was real food.

“Why did you ever leave?” I asked her.

“I got so lonely, and it felt like I was going completely insane.” I wondered if you could get lonely with another person. I don’t think I could get lonely with Apple. We laid down next to the spring and stared up at the sky, alight in reds and oranges. I took the last bite of the pomegranate and threw the husk into the bushes. Apple rolled over and plucked another off the tree.

Posted in 2018-2019, Fiction, November 2018

Six Months

By Hailey Stoner

Sarah is driving home after a thirty-six-hour shift at the hospital. She’s exhausted and struggling to stay awake. Her eyes become heavier with every blink. Sarah is only two minutes away from her apartment when her eyes slip shut while she’s at the wheel. She runs a red light and t-bones a minivan with an eight-year-old boy in the back seat. A police officer calls her husband to meet them at the hospital. He finds Sarah sitting on a bed in the emergency room clutching her wrist to her chest. The boy was killed on impact, while Sarah suffers only minor injuries.

It’s been one week since the accident and Sarah is unable to sleep. When she closes her eyes, she sees the dent her car left in the side of the van. She gets up and goes to make a cup of tea in the kitchen. Sarah sips it and turns around to see the boy from the accident standing in front of her. Sarah drops the cup and it shatters. Then he’s gone. “Sarah?” Her husband calls from upstairs. He comes downstairs and into the kitchen. “Sarah? Are you alright?” He walks towards her, avoiding the chunks of glass. “Honey, what’s wrong?” She doesn’t move.

It’s been a month since the accident and Sarah has started seeing a therapist. The therapist asks about the last time she saw the boy. It was yesterday. She was sitting in her husband’s car in the driveway. Her eyes were shut, her hands were on the steering wheel, and she was taking deep breaths. But when she opened them, she saw the boy in the back seat, through the rear view mirror. The funeral was a week ago, and the therapist asks Sarah if she had gone. She did. Her husband drove her. But once they parked and were about to go inside, she burst into tears and couldn’t stop crying. The therapist wants Sarah to meet with the boy’s parents, once she’s ready. She thinks it’ll help Sarah forgive herself. But Sarah doesn’t think she’ll ever be ready.

It’s been four months since the accident and Sarah is finally meeting with the boy’s parents. The three of them sit in the living room. They offer her a cup of tea and start chatting. It’s all small talk at first, learning more about one another. Then they begin talking about the accident. About what caused it. How they handled it. Neither party coped very well. But it’s understandable. They talk longer, and the boy’s parents tell Sarah to stop torturing herself. They say they’ve forgiven her. Now it is only a matter of forgiving herself.

It’s been six months since the accident and Sarah is sitting at the boy’s grave. The hallucinations ended shortly after meeting with his parents. She lays a bundle of flowers on his grave. “I’m sorry,” she whispers, and stands. Sarah takes a deep breath and the wind begins to blow. She wraps her arms around herself and walks back to the road. She gets into the car.

“Are you okay?” Her husband asks from the driver’s seat.

Sarah says, “No, but I will be.”

Posted in 2018-2019, Fiction, November 2018

A Rumble in the Cemetery

By Sara Malott

“Lilly, go play,” said Mother. “I saw some lovely little headstones on the way in. They’re just adorable. Go find me the prettiest one.”

Lilly glared at Mother, but reluctantly walked away. Her parents were combing out the details of Grandmother’s burial. Lilly wasn’t thrilled about coming along for the trip. She didn’t know Grandmother all that well and she didn’t grasp the whole “death” thing yet. Once Mother was out of sight, Lilly ran. She ran as fast as she could while doing her best to avoid flowers and tombstones. In the distance she could hear the ringing of church bells.  

She came to a tree and sat to catch her breath. Next to her there was a headstone. A blank headstone. She didn’t think anything of it until she heard knocking. It was soft at first, gradually growing louder and louder. Lilly cocked her head as she tried to locate the noise.Then she cupped her ear and put her head to the ground. It became clear that the knocking was a wood-like sound. Coffin wood perhaps. She was about to write the knocking off as one of the many earthly wonders she did not yet comprehend when she heard her name. The knocking softened but from the ground came the faintest Lilly she’d ever heard. Again Lilly ran as fast as she could back to her parents. Tears streaked the apples of her cheeks as she made her way through the field. Her parents were standing outside the church talking to the minister. She leaped and wrapped herself around her mother’s leg.

“Lilly darling, there you are. I was starting to worry about you.”

She pulled away while keeping her wide eyed stare.

“Lilly, what’s wrong, love? Frank look at her. She’s as white as a sheet.”

Lilly nodded intently while keeping hold of her mother’s pant leg. Frank bent down and put a hand on Lilly’s shoulder.

“Hey, babydoll. There’s nothing to be scared of. What was it? What did you see?”

Lilly nodded and buried her face in her mother’s pants.

“Lilly, I promise that there isn’t anything scary about this place. Nothing at all. Let me show you. We can walk through and everything will be just fine.”

Reluctantly, Lilly pulled away from her mother. She took her father’s hand and together they started walking. By the time they got back to the tree, Lilly had nearly forgotten why she’d been so scared in the first place. Then, she pointed to the tombstone.

“Hmm… that’s weird. There’s no name here.”

He bent over to look at the grave. He started wiping off the stone to reveal that it in fact had a name written on it. As he was wiping away the dirt, he heard it too. There was the knocking. Then a Frank came ever so softly from the ground. He put his head to the dirt to listen more closely. Immediately his head was swallowed whole by the dirt. Then his torso, then his legs. In a matter of seconds, Lilly watched her father disappear before her eyes.

Before Lilly could even process what happened, the name on the tomb revealed itself letter by letter as the dust blew away. Beneath it was written: “Frank Mckinney. Rest in peace.”

Posted in 2018-2019, Fiction, November 2018

The Feeling of Waiting

By Gabriella Ganoe

Quick footed leaves darted between the currents of the wind, their bellies displaying a sunny yellow, while the edges looked to have been burned by a dark crimson. Smells of freshly picked apples and rising bread follow the leaves, carrying the fall air throughout the town. One lands at my feet, nudging my boot until I give it attention. I pick it up, and slide it in my pocket, careful not to curl the corners and tear a gash in the middle. It lay silent in the safety of my jeans.

The innocent shouts of playful youth cut through the endearing scents of the season, their delightful squeals joining the symphony of squirrels scuttering up the trees. I come upon the children playing in their yard, their mother eyeing them as she hangs an obligatory Halloween sign. She has a smile on her lips, but her eyes read tired.

I walk a bit faster, seeing as the sun is beginning to drape low in the sky, peeking through the slender fingers of branches. I know I need to hurry.

The oaky smell of wood was stirred into the cacophony, briskly followed by the accompanying pound of an ax against a tree. My face drew back into a wince, disgusted and fuming at the loss of unfulfilled life.

With my legs moving quickly, and the tired sun leaning onto the mountains far off in the distance, I make it to my haven. A hill. On top it lies a tree, just a single tree, abandoned by his buddies but refusing to leave his post. They look like they are waiting for someone, their bone arms grasping out for something it will never reach. Just like me. It also seems that whatever they’re staying so patiently for, is never coming back. Just like with me. So, I’ve decided, we wait together.

I make my way up the hill, boots digging into the chunks of frosted grass splintering under my weight. I find my way onto the thickest branch of the tree, my legs swinging from under me. My dangling limbs look like leaves clinging to its branches, and my warm yet stoic expression, looks like the bark weaving patterns into the face of the tree. We are the same in so many ways, needing warmth and light and something to stay rooted to. We both feel the sun rays brush against our cheeks, and we both peer out of what’s left of the town that we call home.

Posted in 2017-2018, Fiction

They’re Never Really Gone

By Nathan Retherford

Mother woke me up at about 8 AM to check on the garden, she had her thin green plastic gloves on, and her sun hat that frayed slightly at the edges, and she had a smile that said Have I got an adventure for you today Darcy. We went to the flowerbed right beside the front door and there was an eyestalk growing from the ground. It was Great Aunt Leontine’s (and I know it was hers because it kept searching the window for the little trays of cookies she would leave out, and my brother and I would steal, when he still lived here). I had no idea who buried her there, but Mother seemed pretty content and fed it and the veins along its side sort of convulsed in a seemingly pleased way when she did. This is probably because my uncle who lives in South Dakota planted Grandpa and last Christmas he sent us a card with a photo of a leg squirming out of the earth with the caption “Me and the Old Man, still kicking!”.

That night after everyone went to sleep I had to look out my bedroom window and Leontine’s eyestalk had grown out maybe another quarter of an inch and was peering around the front of the house in a very lumbering way. I saw the tips of her manicured fingers wriggling slightly in the dirt and I guess it really is like Mother said, that they’re never really gone.

By the next week, when I had to go back to school (it was Christmas break, and when I asked Mother why we planted Leontine in the winter she said a woman as strong as her could grow any time of the year) her hand had shot out of the ground enough to wave goodbye as I got on the school bus, and sometimes Mother would show her my homework and spelling bee awards and get those signs of positive reaffirmation and she would say Darcy Dear, I am so proud of you. And for a while, piece by piece, Leontine was there, her nose took root not too far from the window and we would let her smell the casseroles and pies and other things we made and her eye would dilate as if to say Thank you.  

But one day I came home from school and I got off of the bus and Mother was there, crying, and Father was holding the weed-eater behind him, and the whole front of the house was covered in little specks and splatters of blood. I tried to ask what happened but it was pretty clear that there was no getting Great Aunt Leontine back now, and that tomorrow they were going to come with a big backhoe and put her somewhere else. Somewhere she could Rest In Peace.

 

Posted in 2017-2018, Fiction

Late Nights

By Autumn Thrift

“I couldn’t sleep, so I called you.”

“Dude, I was asleep.”

“Sorry.”

“No, it’s okay.”

“…What were you dreaming about?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Oh.”

“Since you can’t sleep and I can’t remember my dream… Why don’t you tell me a story?”

“Oh, um, okay.”

“Hold on, let me turn my lamp off and lay back down.”

“Okay.”

“Alright, I’m ready.”

“Uuuhhhh…. Once upon a time there was a star on Earth. She was so beautiful, and burned so brightly but she destroyed everything she touched. It made her sad, but she learned to deal with it, I guess.”

“You guess?”

“Oh, shut up. Anyway, yeah. She couldn’t help but burn up anything and everything that was near her. She tried to look at everything as best as she could from a distance, but it wasn’t enough for her. She felt isolated, miles away from everything and so, so far from anyone. A never-ending darkness surrounded her-”

“Edgy.”

“Shhh… she was alone, and it made her sad. She was stuck in space-”

“I thought you said she was on Earth?”

“Stop interrupting! She is, it just felt like she was stuck in space.”

“Oh, okay. Continue.”

“Alright, so… she was sad. And lonely. I already said that. But what she didn’t know was that there was a lonely asteroid who admired her from afar, cold and drifting, stuck in an orbit he couldn’t get out of. It was all… really, really sad. She was stuck and he was too, but he kept moving and she didn’t. She couldn’t light her own dark, and he couldn’t break his own orbit. I don’t know. This sounds bad–but don’t you dare interrupt me.

“Anyway, uh, she noticed him at some point, and she watched him as he danced around and kept moving. He was amusing. She, of course, stayed put. The lonely little star unable to have any company. Ever. Even if she stayed where she was the asteroid still watched her like before and admired her–okay, that sounds creepy, oops–and they kind of made each other happy. To know there was someone else there. They may have been on Earth but space is still vast and lonely, and that’s what was between them. Space. But there came a time where finally the asteroid made his move, and came crashing near the star. She was so happy, but so scared. She was going to burn him. The thing is, he never made it. Instead he burned while crashing to the Earth and she had to watch. She saw him streak across the sky and funnily enough he was a shooting star. She wished he’d come back, but he couldn’t. He was now just a meteor stuck on Earth, stationary and warm. She was a star who sat and waited for her time to come, and when it did she exploded beautifully, but destroyed everything in her wake. The end.”

“That was… really sad. Are you okay?”

“Yeah. I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am. Are you tired?”

“I am. Are you?”

“Sure.”

“I’ll stay longer, if you want.”

“No, it’s fine.”

“Okay, goodnight.”

“I love you.”

“Love you, too.”

Posted in Fiction

The Woman in the Japanese Hospital Bed

By Derek Frazier

The early morning shift of the Kyoto Takeda Hospital was a slow one, dotted with the occasional life or death cases. The doctors had taken to calling it “The Delivery room.” The hospital lacked the necessary equipment to deliver children, so the name stuck.

Einosuke Hada was the newest member of the Delivery, a bright young man in his late twenties who recently graduated from an American medical school (he had gone on scholarship) and acquired his position. The only sound in the common area was the clop-clop-clopping of his shoes as he paced, papers being signed, and the ringing of the receptionist’s phone.

Einosuke heard the ringing of the ambulance sirens as the vehicle parked. A split second later the doors swung open.  

A group of four emergency medical specialists pulled a gurney with a woman strapped to it down the hall towards an operating room.

“Hada-Sama,” one of the specialist exclaimed, adding the honorific to Einosuke’s last name, “give us a hand!”

The young doctor stepped quickly behind the gurney, the baggy legs of his purple scrubs fluttering as he doubled his pace.

“Status?” he asked, keeping his eyes on the emergency room doors that were growing closer and closer.

“Female in her twenties, she’s stable but her vitals are weak,” The specialist from earlier spoke.  His name tag in his left breast pocket identified him as Harada.

“Cause of injuries?” Einosuke asked, looking down at the woman before him. She wore a ripped raincoat slick with blood. Underneath Einosuke could see a well made black dress, with silver detailing working its way down from her breasts to her stomach like a spiderweb of dew. The left side of the dress had split outwards from the seams, exposing purpled flesh. Blood and scraps of fabric mixed like paint on her pale skin.

Harada’s breath came out in puffs as they rushed along the sanitized halls. Einosuke repeated the question.

“Severe blunt force trauma,” Harada said. “Witness said she threw herself in front of a truck.”

The doors to the emergency room opened with a heavy clunk, as they slammed against the light blue walls. With a grunt, Harada and Einosuke managed to lift the young woman onto the table in the center of the room.

“Left brachial and antebrachial are shattered,” Einosuke muttered to himself, looking at the signs of damage after he gently cut away the undamaged sections of coat and dress. “At least three fractured ribs and possible bruising of her left lung.”

With a sponge he began dabbing away the blood, his stomach clenched at the tender give of flesh and bone.

“Massive bruising and contusions on the left side of her face,” Harada said, pointing before leaving the room.

Einosuke lifted his head from the apron he was tying behind his back to look at an entering nurse.

“Get Doctor Hirano, and bring an oxygen mask immediately!” he exclaimed, “And notify the blood reserve downstairs that we will need a possible transfusion.”

“Of course,” the nurse said before stepping out.

Eventually, the nurse and Doctor Hirano returned. The graying doctor did her best, trying to keep up with the frantic movements of her younger counterpart.

“Her breathing’s shaky,” Einosuke said, a hint of panic seeping into his voice and clawing into his heart. The woman’s already pale skin faded into translucence.

“Let’s get her an MRI,” Doctor Hirano said, wheeling a new gurney over to the table before holding the patient’s ankles. “Slip that mask over her mouth.”

As Einosuke watched the young woman sleep in the MRI under the influence of anesthesia, he felt a lump grow in his throat.

He was just about to pray to the Buddha when Doctor Hirano made a noise in the back of her throat.

“What is it?” He asked.   

 Hirano let her gaze turn to the door of the analyzation chamber.

“She has a tako tsubo,” Hirano said.

Einosuke looked at the monitor in disbelief, blinking his eyes in hopes that he wasn’t seeing the disfigured bell shape of her heart.

However, no matter what, her heart stayed misshapen.

“Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy,” Einosuke said.

With a grumble of frustration, he ran his fingers through his straight black hair. Individuals who suffered from the ailment experienced an overflow of blood into their heart, a result of the interior tendons snapping. They died of a broken heart.

“Is there anything we can do?” He asked. “I’ve never– this isn’t something I– can we do something?”

Hirano shook her head and whispered, “nothing,” before leaving the chamber to return the patient to the emergency room.

In the staff locker room, Einosuke lit an offering of incense for the large metallic statue of the Buddha that took up most of the space in his locker.

“Take her into your arms, Lord,” he begged, tears beginning to flow from his cheeks. “There is nothing I can do…look after her,– in this life and the next.”

If the mighty Buddha accepted the offering or pledge he gave no sign, he simply smiled his bronze grin, staring back at the anguished doctor.

Who said nothing.

Who heard nothing.