Letum

Fiction by Abbigail N. Rosewood

Before the death drive became a viral phenomenon.

Before famous people like Tom Hanks and Kevin Spacey were diagnosed with it.

Before Madonna described to People Magazine that it was a force simultaneous demonic and soothing.

Before labels of the gentle but seductive disease were stamped on T-shirts and treated as nothing but a phase of bad metal bands or The Third Reich that would rise just as forcefully as they would fall.

Long before this, seventeen years ago, Cory’s father came home to find her lying face down on the back- seat of his Honda Civic. One end of the garden hose was connected to the exhaust, the other locked inside the car. The key was turned inside the ignition.

Cory’s father grabbed the axe hanging behind the garage door and smashed the passenger’s side window with it. He pulled her convulsing body out of the car and laid Cory on her side on the garage floor. She vomited a cloud of blood.

Inside the ambulance, Cory became conscious. Her head was on her father’s lap. He petted her hair, ran his fingers through the matted knots to undo them. At his feet was a Saks Fifth Avenue bag. In his distress, he had grabbed it while the paramedics carried Cory on the stretcher.

“Got you a new scarf,” he said.

“Thanks, Dad.” Cory sniffled.

They sat in silence as if time didn’t move. Cory thanked her father two or three times for the scarf. She knew she would love it without even looking at it. He knew it too.

Today was Cory’s thirty-first birthday. She sat on the kitchen barstool while crunching on a bowl of Fruit Loops without milk. The bottle of milk she had in the fridge had expired last month. Cory was waiting for Elaine, who insisted they go out to celebrate on a Monday night.

On her Sony tablet, Cory watched the news. Her teeth crushed the cereal so noisily that she could only partially make out what the reporter was saying. It didn’t matter too much to Cory what the woman was saying; it never does. Too often, newscasters conveyed the information in a perfect monotone that made it difficult to differentiate one report from another. Every three seconds, the screen switched to a different image.

The Death Drive Strikes Again was in a block of red letters above the name of the newscaster. For months, the disease was a hot topic. One in five Americans had felt the death drive. D.D was the headline of all major newspapers. Now on the screen appeared a group of people restraining a man in his late fifties from jumping off the Manhattan Bridge. He was smartly dressed, wearing a salmon pink button-up vest and a felt Homburg hat. He reminded Cory of her father, who was always stylish, and as he had later admitted to Cory’s mother, gay.

The newscaster spoke in a speedy and artificial voice. It was the salmon-vest man’s birthday too. Instead of having breakfast with his family, he’d left them a perfunctory suicide note. Perfunctory because it had the typical, self-deprecating tone of, “I’m sorry. It is not your fault.” His wife had found it and immediately driven as fast as New York City’s traffic allowed to the Manhattan Bridge. Apparently, this was not his first attempt in the last three months. “This isn’t like him,” the wife said to the camera, still wearing her egg-stained bathrobe.

“Last night, he still took his Linsinopril. People who want to die don’t take their medicine!” She sobbed openly, free of shyness and restraint.

Cory laughed.

She had a habit of laughing at things that weren’t exactly of humorous nature. Though there wasn’t a cure for the death drive, there was a temporary treatment. A serum. Cory had been getting hers regularly every three months. Finally, there was something terminal cancer patients were good for—relentless, unyielding, foolish hope. The very genetic mutation that doomed them was also the key to combat the death drive. Scientists were able to harvest these patients’ curious penchant for life. There were many different methods, but the preferred practice was to penetrate the patients’ brain with a sixteen gauge needle and shock their pineal gland. The electric current induced memories, from the earliest to the most recent, of times when patients had experienced a sense of hope. Then, one by one, as each moment was revived, they had to relive it, but with all optimism removed. Through induced hallucinations, again they sat in the reception room awaiting the doctor’s verdict. This time, they did not wonder whether they might still climb Mt. Everest next year, or make it till their son’s graduation. This time, they saw the inevitability in the result of the X-ray before it was even delivered to them.

The vaccine worked like a truth serum by reigniting a desire for survival in some people and sustaining the rest. Against nature’s entropy, which pushed and pushed on men’s already weakened will, the serum was the only thing that worked, however impermanent.

Of course, some people saw a problem, like people always do with new inventions: once the substance was taken from the terminally ill, it was gone forever. Cancerous men, women, and children were left to die without a shred of hope. But what did they need it for anyway? Their fate was decided.

It was fifteen past eight. Elaine was late, but Cory knew she would arrive exactly at eight-thirty. Elaine was punctual in her lateness.

A knock on the door, Cory looked through the peephole. Elaine was not wearing her usual high heels and tight dress appropriate for girls’ night out. She sported Seven for Old Mankind jeans and a see-through black blouse. She slapped the door with her palm.

“Come on, babe. I know what we’re doing!” Elaine shouted through the door. Cory was worried.

Cory turned each knob on the triple-lock door. Elaine ‘s usual Marc Jacob perfume invaded the room.

“Get changed. You can’t wear that.” Elaine said. Cory held back her questions. Elaine would tell her soon. She couldn’t control herself for long.

“We’re going to protest with the NYU students tonight!” Elaine squirmed in excitement.

“What? Why would we do that?”

“Oh, naive Cory.” Elaine clucked affectionately. “Protesters! Booze! Parties!” She never liked to explain things to others. It was not one of Elaine’s strengths.

“Forget it, Elaine.” Cory said without much conviction. Elaine had always been able to persuade her. “What are they protesting anyway?”

“Oh, I don’t know—humanitarian something.” Elaine said vaguely.

“Fine,” Cory conceded. She walked to the bedroom and took off her skinny, cleavage-bearing dress. Looking through her closet, she took out her protester V-neck T-shirt with a sarcastic Obey! printed across the chest. On the back of the T-shirt was a picture of a raised middle finger. “Why not?” Cory thought. This shirt had blended in well at other similar events. She put on her most tattered jeans, ones she would not miss in case the protest got out of control.

The crowd of protesters conglomerated in front of Central Park then snaked slowly up Park Avenue. Cory and Elaine joined them. Though it was only the beginning of fall, the air was chilly. In front of Cory marched a tall, lean, beautiful blonde with dreadlocks down to her waist. Cory knew the blonde was beautiful because of her walk, one step aligned perfectly in front of the other like on a runway. Beautiful people always walked like the whole world was watching them.

“This doesn’t look like the regular NYU crowd,” Cory whispered over Elaine’s shoulder.

Elaine cupped her hand on the side of her mouth, making it obvious to everyone around that whatever she had to say wasn’t pretty.

“More like national hippie day. I’m going to kill Nick.” Nick was Elaine’s marathon buddy, and a factory of bad ideas.

“Just because he’s pretty doesn’t mean you should listen to him,” Cory said reasonably but she knew Elaine did not hear her.

A young man in his early twenties came up beside them. “Smile!” he said, and the flash on his camera blinded their eyes. “I’m Kyle. What are you girls’ names?” Cory studied his slicked-back hair, his flawless white rows of teeth.

“Cory,” she said with a measured voice so as not to appear overly friendly.

Elaine, of course, had no such qualms. She broke into a conversation with Kyle right away. “What the hell is going on here? Do you know?” She stared hard at him without any reservations, like they had always known each other.

“Oh,” Kyle displayed his rows of teeth again, seemingly proud he had information Elaine wanted. “They’re heading to the governor’s house. There has been talk—”

At this, he lowered his voice almost to muteness. “The governor’s daughter has been getting the serum since her diagnosis with the death drive last year. Apparently, gallons of serum were stolen from a hospital as a reserve for her. An intentional oversight of the hospital CEO perhaps? His bank account got that much fatter. We got inside information the serums are gone and the governor wants to keep his daughter alive. Their chauffeur, one of ours, is to go back to the hospital tonight. We’re going to meet them there.”

“So everyone here is against the serum, is that it?” Cory knew that wasn’t the point. Nobody should have access to that much medication when everyone else was slicing their wrists, jumping off buildings. But she was unnerved since she herself was a regular, vaccinated girl.

“Not necessarily. A lot of these people have the drive too. Some believe we should just embrace it. Like the bubonic plague. Happens for a reason you know.” Kyle winked at them then continued, “The rest are here cause they can’t afford the cost of the vaccine. Tonight is their chance. To steal from the thief.” Kyle laughed. His laughter was inappropriately loud and callous. Cory looked over at her friend. Elaine was smitten.

Cory had heard of these extremists before. Underground cults that strived to preserve the purity of the death drive. The mainstream media had its divides, too: the Republicans who would do anything to be alive, and the pro-choice Democrats who had supported assisted suicide and now felt forced to continue this line of logic.

Everybody pretended to have an opinion, but the truth was nobody understood what the death drive was and why it was so widespread throughout America and the European continent. Within a year, it had already killed over two hundred thousand people. A scientist speculated that people prone to depression and other mental illnesses were more vulnerable to the death drive. But soon, it became obvious that the disease did not discriminate.

What did the Himalayans do to deserve immunity?

A smart-ass journalist coined the Freudian term for the modern disease, which showed no sign of bodily deterioration. Nobody argued with him. Just as Freud had said, the death drive was a simple, human desire to return to an inanimate state.

Just as Kyle had said, a black 2014 Ford Excursion was parked at the back of the Weill Cornell Medical Center. Cory recognized a tuft of Governor Allen’s silver hair through the back windshield. She felt a pang of pity for him then. He didn’t just send his henchmen to do the dirty deeds but came himself. His daughter Virginia was sitting next to him. Poor Allen. Bringing his daughter here, he really didn’t suspect a thing. He was only taking what he believed was due to him, to Virginia.

Elaine took Cory’s arm and pulled her towards the back of the crowd. “I’m going to kill Nick,” she whined. But neither of them was inclined to leave.

“Pleasure meeting you ladies. I have work to do.” Kyle curtsied to them. “Ciao!” Then he was off, mixing into the crowd. For a moment, Cory wondered if it was Kyle who had written that article in The New York Times last year, giving this intangible sickness of the human heart a tangible name. He seemed the type. The clever sort who pretends to be daft to match his good looks.

The protesters circled the brand-new Ford like hungry vultures. Allen was alarmed. Immediately, he reached into his breast pocket and started to punch numbers onto his smart phone. He said something to Virginia and the girl scooted closer to him. Her eyes looked out the car window to the protesters. She was frightened, her skin a sallow green. Dark circles enclosed her eyes. Virginia looked closer to thirty than twelve years old.

When the death drive first invaded a person’s body, it came as lethargy, a deep sleepiness. Cory had yawned constantly and wanted to lie back down just as she woke up in the morning. There was no pain, except for a need to be absolutely still. Eventually, any movement at all was unbearable. Even the blink of an eye. Cory could hear the sound of her own blood cells rushing through her body. Red, white, platelets—her blood was separating. The noises her organs made by throbbing, squeezing, thumping, roared in her ears. There was no peace anywhere. She could hear her own thoughts as if somebody was saying them out loud. She wanted everything around her to be dead silent. But even her wanting was deafening. Never before had she noticed how much all things were in constant motion, until she stopped moving with them.

Cory had been in bed for several days when Elaine found her. At first, hunger had gnawed at her. Like a rabid dog, it was chewing on her insides. Eventually, her pulse slowed and she felt more restful. Right when Cory closed her eyes, Elaine dashed in through the door, dragged her down eighteen flights of stairs, and checked her into an emergency room.

Letum. The doctor scribbled on his notepad. The Latin word for annihilation, ruin.

“Everything is too fast for me. I just want to lie down. Please,” Cory pleaded to the dimpled-cheeks doctor.

He nodded and cooed to her like he would a child. “Soon, Cory, okay? Just after this. A little prick is all.” He inserted the needle into her arm. The liquid traveled through her body within seconds. It was numbing her senses as it passed. Colors, sounds, tastes were restored to a normal speed. Perhaps they did not change, but she was no longer aware of them.

A man wearing a T-shirt two sizes too small for him walked up to the Ford. The chauffeur nodded to the man in complicit acknowledgement. From the inside, the chauffeur unlocked all four doors. The trunk popped open. The protesters swarmed in then, like honeybees, taking out the vaccine coolers one by one. There were fifty five cases in total, fifty in the trunk, five in the front passenger seat, supplies enough for five hundred people to use for six to eight months.

“No—please. My daughter. She needs them.” Allen clambered out of the car. He was small, around five feet seven inches. His slightly hunched back made him look even more helpless.

“Virginia can come with us,” the man in the tight T-shirt said. “Come on, baby girl,” he said to the governor’s daughter.

“Virginia, stay where you are,” Allen said, his voice still shaken but with a tinge of bravado this time. “I’m calling the cops—You. You will pay for this.”

“And tell them what? That you’ve been poaching medical supplies for personal use, Governor?” The man smirked. “I have no use for you or your daughter. I want those coolers and I’ve got them. My job is done here.” He laughed a smug, throaty laugh.

“But those guys there? You see them?” He pointed to a distinct group of people among the crowd of protestors. Cory and Elaine were standing next to them. They had the same look on their faces as Virginia had. Dark moons under puffy eyes. They looked thin, hungry, exhausted.

“A promise’s a promise.” The man gestured. “You, there!” He shouted in the direction where Cory was standing.

“Yes. You with the Obey T-shirt. Come here, please.”

Cory felt sick to hear his feigned nicety. She understood his cause, the protest, even the madmen who advocated for the purity of the death drive. But standing in the middle of the scene, the man had sounded like a common bully, a criminal taking advantage of the weak. Perhaps it would always appear that way. The governor was in the wrong. Cory tried to remind herself of this.

“Fuck. Don’t go.” Elaine squeezed Cory’s wrist.

“It’s okay. I’m fine.” Cory walked through the path the protesters had parted for her. These people were not dangerous. None of them seemed to carry any weapon, not that she could see. There was no threat at the moment, but violence was on the horizon, if there was resistance. Cory had no reason to resist.

“Tell the little girl to come with you,” the man spoke to Cory in a hushed voice.

“Hey Virginia, want to come outside for a bit? It’s a bit too stuffy in the car, yeah?” Cory summoned her kindest voice. She wasn’t used to children and didn’t know how to act around them, except to treat them as smaller-sized adults. Virginia nodded meekly and got out. Cory tried to send the governor comforting looks, to reassure him that Virginia will be safe, but he was too distracted. His face contracted in confusion. He seemed to be searching his options.

“Let me come with my daughter too, please,” Allen said to the man who appeared to be in charge.

“It’s not my decision.”

“What do you people want with her?” The governor was shouting desperately now.

“Get back in the car, Governor. Keep him here,” the man said to the chauffeur, who took out a shiny 22 Glock and waved its barrel at the Governor. Allen had bought the gun so the chauffeur could double as both a driver and security guard.

“Why are you doing this? I treat you well! I treat you so well—” Allen said, choking on each syllable.

“You’re full of shit, Governor.” The chauffeur took a deep, long breath. It seemed he had been waiting a long time for this moment. “I’ve been with you for what? Eight years? You promised a wage increase after the first two. And nothing! You know perfectly—,” he drawled out the word, then continued. “You know perfectly well with what you’re paying me, I can’t afford the damn medicine for my wife!” He laughed, incredulous as he replayed the memories of the past years. “And there I was, like an idiot, stealing serum for your daughter. You, greedy bastard,” The chauffeur scoffed. “I’m not your idiot anymore, Governor. Get in the car!”

The man in charge turned to Cory, “Take Virginia over there. Tell that man in the gray jacket, tell him this closed our deal.”

“You can’t just kidnap a child!” Cory pleaded.

“They won’t hurt her. That’s not part of the plan. Just look at them.” The man said warmly. Somehow, Cory believed him.

The man in the gray jacket also had a gray dress shirt, cufflinks, scarf, and shoes. Cory thought the color of his skin looked gray too. He nodded to Cory and Virginia. His manners were gentle, unobtrusive.

“I’m Alexandro. Would you like to come with me and my friends, Virginia?” He smiled.

She stared at him without speaking.

“It’s only a little walk. We’ll take you back to your father very soon. We just want to show you—” At this, he paused to look at Cory, as if he were revealing a great secret. “I can show you how to make it hurt less. Wouldn’t you like that? You won’t have to get those shots anymore. They’re no fun, are they?”

Virginia nodded at Alexandro, her lips thin and purple, her eyes watery. She seemed relieved to hear her illness spoken about so frankly.

Cory was suspicious of Alexandro, but his voice, mannerisms—his whole presence commanded her trust. Still, it wasn’t possible to make it hurt less. Not without the serum. The girl was squeezing Cory’s hand now. Virginia’s bony fingers were stiff and cold.

“Come with me, please,” the girl asked Cory in her mousy, anxious voice.

Cory agreed and watched Elaine’s expression turn from shock, to fear, to annoyance, and back to shock again.

“I’m fine,” Cory reassured her friend for the second time that night. Though she wasn’t fine at all. Part of her blamed Elaine for the outcome of the night. She wanted to go home and finish her bowl of Fruity Loops. Then she wanted to crawl in bed and remember her father, the man who in his last stage of lung cancer had let himself be hooked up to needles and tubes and deprived of his last drop of optimism, of hope, to save Cory. It was his way of atoning for sins that weren’t sins—his love for another man, his honesty to Cory’s mother, his insistence to stay in a hopeless marriage for Cory’s sake.

Inside the harvest room, other terminally ill patients like Cory’s father, sat in a row with pious resignation. They all shared a common sentiment, the fear of being a burden to their loved ones. But this final act of altruism would restore their need to feel useful, worthy. On the wall hung a poster with a quote by the psychologist Erik Erikson:

“Hope is both the earliest and most indispensable virtue inherent in the state of being alive. If life is to be sustained, hope must remain, even where confidence is wounded, trust impaired.”

A small electric current was sent through the back of Cory’s father head. Attached to needles that measured his pulse and heartbeat, memories blossomed as if he were experiencing them for the first time. He was a five-year-old boy again, waiting for his dog on the bench, outside the veterinary hospital. Except this time, he did not shiver in anticipation, he did not pray blindly to a god he wasn’t sure existed and promise to never be late for school again, to always eat his vegetables, if only his dog would live. He also saw himself at nineteen, meeting his first love at a frat house party, a boy with the longest eyelashes he had ever seen. He remembered kissing those thick, brown lashes. Standing on the altar, before he said “I do” to Cory’s mother, he’d trembled at the thought that a boy he once knew would crash the wedding and take him away forever. His hopefulness had not paid off, and so he was more than willing to give it up. There it was, false hope, perfectly contained in little tubes that could save his daughter’s life. That was enough.

Every three months, Cory visited the hospital, showed the front-desk attendant a card, and then was led to the bank of serum her father left behind. There was not enough for a lifetime, but his gift had bought Cory another year, another birthday. She did not know what the future would look like once the reserves ran out. The price was rising every day. And though Cory had a good job and a comfortable life, she would not be able to afford it. Cory did not tell Elaine any of this. She did not tell her friend that she wasn’t afraid to accompany Virginia, to follow Alexandro wherever he may lead them because Letum was not a tangible disease, but a daughter’s guilt and broken heart. Even though Cory could no longer hear the rushing of her blood, even though her father’s sustaining hope continued to course through her veins, Cory would go with Alexandro. She would find out what he meant about it hurting less.

The warehouse, around twelve hundred square feet, overlooked Harlem River. The outside walls were a grayish blue. Though the structure was large, it blended in perfectly with its surroundings. Nobody would look twice there.

“This place is completely soundproofed.” Alexandro shepherded inside a small group of seven people that had broken off from the earlier protesters. “I need it. Living in the city, everything is just so loud.”

The indoor decor was warm in tone. Persian carpets lined the floor. In the middle of the ceiling hung a small, rustic chandelier.

Ignoring everyone’s eyes on him, Alexandro focused his attention on Virginia.

“What calls to you, Virginia?”

The girl looked at him uncomprehendingly.

“I should be more precise. What does your death drive want you to do? I try not to use those terms. They are misleading, you see. What we have, this thing that both you and I deal with, doesn’t want us to die. That isn’t its purpose.” Alexandro paused to ascertain that Virginia still followed his every word. “For me, it’s fire.” He unrolled his sleeve to reveal a charred arm, the skin still raw and pink.

“Depth.” Cory murmured under her breath unconsciously.

“Water.” Virginia mouthed timidly. She looked ashamed. Coming from an orthodox Christian family, she’d had to deal with the contempt of the church, which had no sympathy for suicidal children.

“Ah, an agent of water.” Alexandro was pleased. “I can show you, Virginia. And you can help me show America.”

Alexandro took the girl’s hand and led her to a granite bathtub in a corner of the warehouse. A screen separated the tub from the rest of the place. It was already filled with water. Cory was concerned. What did this man plan to do? It would be easier to say no to him if he were violent, but his manners were unfailingly placid. He directed the girl to lie down in the bathtub.

“Trust your drive. It just wants to be acknowledged.” He placed his hand on Virginia’s forehead to keep her submerged under water. “Naturally, this is where you need to be. Don’t fight it.”

The protesters stood behind Alexandro, watching him in reverent silence. After some time passed, Virginia convulsed slightly.

“Please, please, please.” Cory found herself repeating under her breath to no one in particular. She was selfishly hopeful for herself. Perhaps Alexandro wasn’t mad, perhaps he knew of a way to save Virginia, to save them all.

“Right before it envelopes you with complete darkness, come up for air.” He pulled Virginia up with one hand behind her back to support her. The girl coughed painfully for a whole minute.

“Acknowledge. But don’t overindulge yourself, or you will die.” He said. “You’re lucky, you know. Fire is not as forgiving as water.”

“It’s enticing to stay in that calm forever, though you’re trading your life for it.” The yearning in his voice was a sad echo in that giant, soundless warehouse.

Next to the grave of a Percy Dayton was a lusciously green and unoccupied burial plot. A plot at Grace Cemetery sold from five to eight thousand dollars. Then there was monthly maintenance fee. Cory explained to Elaine about her need to be independent of the vaccine. There they now were, under the waxing crescent moon with shovels in their hands. Elaine’s pointy heels left round holes two inches deep on the cemetery path.

“Babe, are you sure? I’ve got goose bumps. But if you think this would help,” Elaine chattered nervously.

“I have to try.”

“Embrace your agent. I know.” Though Elaine did not look like she understood. What kind of disease was this? Elaine had paid five thousand for Cory’s first shot. Yet it did not cure her. All these deaths everywhere, with the most abstract causes.

Together, they began digging. The deeper the better. Cory needed to be encased as far inside the earth as possible. They stopped at five feet to make sure Elaine would have enough time to get Cory out.

Lying inside her self-made tomb, Cory’s vision muddied to a tunnel of swirling grey. Above her, the stars blinked brightly.

“Alright, you ready?” Elaine leaned on the shovel.

Cory nodded. Her arms were neatly tucked by her sides. The cool earth fell on her stomach, knees, face. As her breathing slowed, an unmeasured calmness washed over her and numbed her senses. Creatures wiggled inside the crumbled dirt. Cory felt their liveliness more than ever. They slithered and crawled about noisily, indifferent to her presence. Though Cory’s eyes were closed, she could see through the soil, to the stars, to the forever rotating planets.

Underneath the cool earth, Cory dreamt about the day of her father’s funeral. She had wanted to jump after his coffin as it was being lowered into the ground. She was not ready to see him as an unthinking, inactive mass of flesh. Worthless to everyone until his body disintegrated and became food to maggots and worms. She wanted to hold on to him a little longer, to tell him that his life wasn’t false, nor his self-denial cowardly. She wanted to convince him he didn’t waste his last hopes on her.

After two or three minutes, Cory heard the sounds of Elaine’s scooping up the dirt. Elaine was quick. On her pointed heels, she pushed the shovel inside the earth, took out a portion of dirt, and heaved it to the side. She never stopped to take a breath.

Cory took the hand that reached out to her. Elaine glistened with sweat.

“A real friend digs you out of trouble. Literally.” Elaine wiped her face. Her forehead was streaked with dirt.

Back at her apartment, Cory went to bed with the dirt still clinging to her pores. She found sleep easily. When she woke, she did not want to get up but to lie there, to listen to the swishing sounds of her blood. She knew if she listened long enough, her body would calm and find its center where silence was absolute. But Cory also knew she would get up again. She would go to work, eat cob salads with Elaine, flirt with strangers on Saturdays.

When Cory got up from her own grave, she had felt bolder and more thirsty for life. Like a cicada who’d tunneled into the earth and stayed for seventeen years, only to spring up again, Cory gasped for air as if it were the sweetest thing she’d ever tasted. Her lungs and chest were full and large, just as they were many years ago when her father pulled her from his car and forced life back into her.

At eight o’clock in the morning, Cory read two news articles by Kyle Adlem. “The Architecture of Hope” was published by The New York Times, “Drowning in Manhattan” by Huffington Post. She was now certain he was the same Kyle she and Elaine had met at Central Park. Both articles were analyses of recent events: the governor’s daughter’s suicide, and the deaths from overdose of over a hundred protesters at the East River, under the Manhattan Bridge.

Virginia had inhaled enough water from her shower to fill her lungs with liquid. The church refused to coordinate her funeral. Governor Allen announced his public separation with Christianity.

As for the protesters, their corpses stacked together at the scene, according to Kyle Adlem, was an orgy of death. Empty needles were left floating on the river.

Kyle Adlem believed the protesters should have suffered much worse, for their irresponsibility, for the loss they had caused to New York City. But the protesters had died an easy death. Their lungs had been dry, their consciences guilt-free. They had been high on the vaccine, on the life and hope it had given them.

Just another young soul attempting to unravel the mystery of the world. Abbigail Nguyen Rosewood is a vagabond at heart, a traveler and a couch potato, a library “frequenter,” a believer of God and an agnostic. She is filled with contradictions. A writer that thrives on human predicaments, sustained by the imagination, hindered by this prison of atomic structures. Interested in character development and tragic endings. A good friend and a coward. A girl and a ghost. An admirer of human accomplishment and a recluse.

Her stories have been published by BlazeVox, PensOnFire, The Bad Version, The Missing Slate, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Blue Lyra Review, The Rusty Nails, and Thoughtsmith. Her new short story is also forthcoming at Umbrella Factory Magazine. She is the recipient of the 2012 Michael Baughman Fiction Award by Southern Oregon University.

Abbigail is an MFA candidate in fiction at Columbia University’s School of the Arts in New York.

Featured Image photograph by E.B. Bartels, www.ebbartels.com.

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