Cathryn could have spent all day sitting looking at Henry as he lay there breathing almost imperceptibly, the long clear reverse leeches of intravenous tubes feeding him, drip by drip. She took his hand for a time, but it was like holding the limp foot of bird. It still had the weathering that bicyclists get, but no longer the nutrition. Henry’s hands were strong enough to get a glass jar of sauerkraut open in less than a minute most of the time, but not now. His hand, like his whole body, seemed little more than an asterisk for the real thing, but the real Henry was buried in a footnote that she had no access to.
So here she was, walking into Skullbox Espresso, trying to find that footnote and bring him out of it into the body text. Maybe this dictionary thing was really unrelated. But until he was talking again, what else did she have to go on? And the nurse and Doctor Nurse had said positive things but looked more concerned than she thought they should. Continue reading
Cathryn flicked on the kitchen light. She set her purse on one counter. An open bag of corn chips was mostly sticking out the top of it. In her left hand was a brown bag with a fifteen-dollar screwcap bottle of red wine in it; she set that down next to the purse. She walked up to the cupboard that held the glasses. Open… ah, whew, still there. She opened one of the food cabinet doors.
Still not there.
She closed the cabinet. She said, out loud to the empty apartment, “Our food and beverage supplies are literally decimated.” She opened the cabinet again, hoping to see 90% of it there. Continue reading
“I’m sorry,” Cathryn said to her friend Lily as they sat down in the subway train. “I shouldn’t have said I’m— I shouldn’t have said I was worried sick.” The doors closed and the train started moving, carrying them away from the platform where Cathryn had just urgently left a very unpleasant mess in one of those clear hanging garbage bags that are supposed to better for security.
“It’s OK,” Lily said. “It’s stress. This is sudden and unexpected.”
“And downright weird,” Cathryn said. Then she was seized with a fear that she might instantly be surrounded by ghouls or goblins or other eldritch entities. She looked around. There was a lady with a bright orange shower-curtain-looking dress. A goth-dressed girl with black lipstick reciting a litany of discontents to her apparent boyfriend, who had four lip rings and hair dyed orange onto the scalp. A very small but very muscular woman wearing cactus-coloured scrubs. A fellow with a matted beard and jeans and a vest that didn’t seem to have been washed since the last unexpected rainstorm. Several people togged in H&M’s finest (does sarcasm still work?). Two very tired-looking women, even more tired-looking than most people, having a pleasant conversation. Across from Cathryn and Lily, a fiftyish man in a black leather jacket was reading a battered copy of Joyce’s Ulysses and glancing around every so often. All perfectly normal for the subway. Almost normaler than normal. Continue reading
Cathryn sat in the padded guest chair by the hospital bed, a brush sketch of black clothes and red hair and pale pink skin in the overriding washed green and taupe décor.
It just didn’t seem real. Henry had been… how would you put this? The picture of health? But that’s only appearances. And now he was an unconscious stick figure under hospital sheets. What could she say that might make it all change back? He was literally the healthiest person she knew?
No, then they might all become sicker. Continue reading
“Your husband is literally starving to death,” the emergency room doctor said. She looked almost exactly like the doctor emoji on an iPhone, blonde female version, right down to the stethoscope hanging like a fox fur stole. “When was the last time he ate?”
“Last night!” Cathryn said. “And I swear, he was f—ing fine, he was f—ing healthy… argh, no, I don’t swear, but he was fine, he was healthy, and suddenly he was like this.”
“This doesn’t happen suddenly,” the doctor said, in that medical-professional-patiently-levelling-with-you way that is probably a one-credit course all of its own in med school. “This is the result of a long period of not eating properly. Or at all.” Continue reading
It was a bright fall Sunday with a crisp fresh taste of cool decadence in the air when the first head literally exploded. Spots of overnight frost marked the capybara-coloured leaves that lay on the pavement now misted with a bright aerosol of blood. Dogs rushed to inspect the fallen body and the stoplight-red pool that it was making. A screaming came across the parkette.
This is all very unpleasant, though. And Cathryn was nowhere near it at the time. Let’s move on. Continue reading
I’m writing another serialized work of fiction, as I have for the past two years in November. I make no promises as to how long it will take; you can’t count on the last chapter being timed to arrive on the last day of November. But I’m publishing each chapter on Patreon a day before it goes live on my blog, just to give a little plus to my paying subscribers – and an incentive for potential new subscribers.
Coming up tomorrow (and already available today on Patreon): Chapter 1 of Definition.