A Crumbling World by Victoria Passey

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

The world ends while she is sitting in a doctor’s office.

The smell of antiseptic and cheap plastic furniture singes her nostrils as she breathes it in. She hears the fish tank burble and a patient cough into a face mask. An outdated magazine sits abandoned in her lap; she rubs her thumb against the sharp edge of its peeling corner.

She doesn’t seem the type to have ever been able to stop herself from picking at a peel. Her hands illustrate countless battles lost to her subconscious. Her nail beds are red and sore—hangnails begetting hangnails. She cannot leave them alone: endless repetition, all in the pursuit of some form of peace. Even when they are red and raw and bleeding, she still can’t stop herself. It’s easy to wonder if that same irrevocable impulse has brought her to the doctor’s office today.

Maybe she’ll talk about her impulses, maybe they’ll prescribe her something that will make her forget—make the idea of holding his hand on a porch swing in Louisiana sound unappealing—but it appears she is here to talk about something else entirely.

Watch her now as the nurse finally calls her name, and she sets the magazine back in its basket and follows her.

The inner workings of the doctor’s office are the intestines of an enormous beast. The hallways snake back and forth, but the nurse navigates them as only one who has studied anatomy could.

Her knuckles are white pearls.

The nurse gestures into a small room with diagrams of the digestive system on the wall. The labels of the diagram give her the words to describe her surroundings: mucosa, epithelial

tissue, plicae circulares.

The folds of this inner layer of the small intestine undulate as she walks into the room.

It won’t be long before the doctor’s office devours her whole.

The nurse gestures to the examination table and begins to ask the usual questions. Watch her close her eyes as the nurse types her findings into her small, black laptop, and watch her nod as the nurse says she’ll go get the doctor.

The body speaks to its own gods, and digestion soon forces the doctor into the room. To deny the mechanical workings of anatomy would be to deny fate.

He smiles at her. He introduces himself. He hands her a cup and points her to the bathroom. She lays back on the tissue paper and lets him prod her stomach with his cold hands. The nurse drags blood from her veins. She tears at her hangnails. Her cuticles bleed.

The doctor and nurse return to their place within the viscera. They leave a single slip of paper to denote that they were ever there.

She has her answer.

The doctor’s office devoured her, as we knew it would, and her remnants are pushed back into the parking lot after she pays her fee.

She has her answer.

She carries the makings of a brand new consciousness inside of her. A brand new being who has never before existed, inside of her now, and the electricity of its reality hums inside of her veins.

Somewhere within her abdomen—past her intestines, muscles, and veins—a creature has fashioned itself a nest. Like a bird lining its home with leaves and twigs, the creature has nestled itself into a warm cushion of her blood and tissue. It knits together her DNA, and his DNA, to make a body for itself out of her body.

How alien it must be to feel it squirm, or to think you feel it squirm. Watch as her body sinks towards the sidewalk. Watch as she wraps her arms around herself and looks at the sky.

Fascinating, isn’t it?

The parasite calls to her, asking that she prepare to tear herself apart to give it life. A legion of hosts call to welcome her into their ranks. What is to be made of a host who does not care for her parasite? To be a woman is to stare down the barrel of a shotgun. To deny the mechanical workings of anatomy would be to deny fate.

On the horizon rises a thick cloud of gold, rushing forward like a rolling wave. Her ears almost don’t register its deep and constant roaring. It is like hearing the wind—like standing in an endless field of wheat.

Watch it as it comes closer and closer: overcoming microscopic skyscrapers, until, finally, it swallows up the sky.

Those final moments are like sitting on a crab boat as it’s swallowed by a frothing wave. But this wave is made of sand and dust, and it swallows everything.

About The Author

Victoria Passey is an assistant project manager and freelance editor with Eschler Editing. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband, their little Halloween baby, and their three cats.

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