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Negative Space

It took a long time for Lucy Morgan to die.
It was an unremarkable death, a slow unraveling of skin and synapses and self that inconvenienced no one and left nothing behind but dust and the lingering memory of lavender in the air. And then, after men in white suits had come and vacuumed away all the traces, sealed them in little clear bags and thrown them away with the evening garbage, nobody seemed to remember that there had once been a person there at all.
It had started simply, in the quiet twisting time lapse of an ordinary day--wake up, get up, clean teeth, brush hair, make tea, get dressed, do the crossword, listen to the endless tick tick tick of watch parts and the buzz of a fly and wonder if the toast will burn. There was nothing to suggest that this day was unlike any other; she went about the quotidian tasks of her quiet lonely life, thought complacent thoughts, dreamed a younger woman's dreams, and never noticed that she was coming apart until she looked down in the shower and saw her idle fancies washing away down the drain.
On her weekly walk to the supermarket her sense of perspective sloughed off like snakeskin into a puddle on the side of the road, and this she didn't see, merely continued on with a strange lightness of step and the warmth of the morning sunlight on her face. And she left behind her, too, little piles of skin, cells drifting away like dust motes on the smog-stifled breeze.
At work, she left in the photocopier long strands of dark hair and the memory of her father, jamming the machine with warm laughter and the rustle of pages and the smell of Sunday breakfast. At her desk she left time, and the sound her fingernails made when she anxiously tapped them, and somewhere in the musty grey carpet fell one soft black eyelash.
In the rich air of her favorite coffee shop she lost all the words she'd never said and all the feelings she'd never acknowledged--all the poetry and the stories and the blazing, aching idealism of a girl who'd, just for a moment, believed so desperately that her body had felt as light and brilliant as supernova suns--felt them float away in the dark, grainy grounds and the tapping of expensive keyboards and the slosh of overpriced lattes. And in the silence left, she turned gently inwards to the bleak, bare core and let its winds cool the ashes of a fire that had long since gone out. No more words crossed her chapped lips, then--could cross them--and when she moved, the blurred edges of her being left behind her a stain like oil slicks.
That night, she sat down at the kitchen table and dissolved entirely into teacups and the pages of the evening paper, all bone and skin and hair settling between the editorials and vanishing away into steam. And when men in white suits knocked on her door the next evening, they found no photographs or trinkets or memories, only dust as it filled the air, sticky-sweet and cloying. And they sighed, and put on their masks, and got to work. When they went home, they forgot all about the hundreds of little plastic bags they'd left lying in trashcans, all over the sleeping city.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
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