“I can’t breathe.”
Now keep writing.
But I just used my last gulp of oxygen. How can I make this pencil work? How can I make my brain work?
Fill out the form. Get in line. You’re just a number, remember.
My knees are buckling. My head is whirling, filling with sparkling lights, voices are echoing around me.
Just write your name. Forget about the rest.
My name. Got it. My address? Can’t remember. Can’t think clearly. Can’t.
Leave it blank. Cause for visit. Tell them. Quick.
I think I’m dying, I think I’ve been poisoned, my throat is closing up—
Write it down. Two words. Dying. Poison. Push the paper in front of that woman with the clipboard. Hurry.
My fingers fall limp, pencils rolls out of my hand, skips across the floor. Paper in hand, I shuffle toward the clipboard, toward the matriarch guarding the doorway. Put the crumpled sheet on the top of her stack. Try to get her to notice me. It’s not working.
Go ahead. Fall down.
I can’t fight it, my legs fold beneath me.
Quiet. Into the night.
Darkness wraps around me, even before I hit the floor. Darkness, but not quiet. I am a raging mayhem, a blistering storm of heat and light, a lava flow of molten flesh. I am a wreck, crashing and burning across the emergency room floor. Even in the not-quiet dark, I know.
It wasn’t poison.
No. Not poison. My sweat on the floor, my blood, my skin. It was my own designer disease, all brand new and deadly . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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