art by Junior McLean
by Kenneth S Kao
My name is...John.
I have a wife and a daughter. They are visiting me today. Their names--
Alice. And Anna.
I can see, sort of. Everything is blurry. I am submerged in a coffin, a clear coffin with green water. There's a tube in my mouth so that I can breath, machine-like.
My legs are transparent. I see veins and arteries, thin muscles that look like spiderwebs bundled together. The doctors say my memory will be fuzzy. It's supposed to come back quickly.
Happy. I love my job. I work with credit. I help people fix their lives with financial counseling.
But I have a disease.
The spiderwebs are growing. Tiny red dots appear under my skin like fresh wounds bleeding.
I see dark shadows outside the coffin. My wife? Beside her is another silhouette, a skinny teen with short brown hair. It is my daughter. I am sure of it.
I HAD a disease.
It was a flesh eating bacteria, resistant to everything. It shut down my body limb by limb, organ by organ.
A sudden loud noise all around me. It sounds like a muffled engine blasting in my ears. It hurts but fades and becomes tolerable. My head, then my face and chest lift out of the water.
Panic overwhelms me and I grip the tube in my mouth with both hands. I pull, wanting to breath on my own. Gloved hands catch my arms. I am frail. They tear my hands from the tube.
Seconds later something jerks from my stomach. The tube retracts. I gasp. The hands let go of me and I wipe my face in one big stroke. Slimy green is everywhere.
Alice and Anna, they are beside me and their familiar voices are soothing and calming. Other voices, Doctor Holly Anderson and her assistant... I can't remember her assistant's name. They are speaking to my family. They explain that the treatment was successful.
The treatment was successful.
Alice leans over the BAC--Biological Accelerator Chamber. She hugs me, I see her tears. I smell the acute smell of butter, coconut oil, and sweet bread. She had a pastry recently, probably from the local farmers market. It is her comfort food.
My daughter smiles at me but does not approach. I wave her over and my voice comes out. A deep and smooth baritone. "Anna, come here."
She hesitates, but she comes forward.
"How's your boyfriend doing? Jake, is it?"
Her mouth opens and closes like a fish. I laugh. "He ain't the smartest," I say, imitating Jake's accent. "But he's no lack of heart." I grin. I have a full set of teeth. Real teeth. Modern technology is amazing.
Anna nods, smiles shyly, kisses me. "Dad, I love--"