A hole inside you, growing
You stand naked in front of the mirror and see her image in your reflection. Long hair. Dark skin stretched over your hips. A hole like a cigarette burn in the middle of your chest.
Bunching your hair in one hand, you pick up the scissors.
The door creaks. Her shadow extends across the floor.
It’s not about holding on, she says. You’ve got to let go. Remember?
The doctor asks you to sit on the bed and unbutton your shirt. The hole is now the size of a bullet. He sticks his finger inside and pokes around. Behind you, a whisper.
There’s nothing he can do. The only person who can save you is you.
You rock back and forth on the swing set. Snowflakes fall from nowhere and dissolve into nothing. The seat beside you sways in perfect counterpoint to yours.
It’s nobody’s fault, she says. There’s no reason.
Closing your eyes, you feel the hole inside you, growing.
The hole is now the size of a fist. As you sink beneath the surface, hot water pours into your lungs.
A silhouette wavers over the tub. Her voice slows, echoes.
You’ve got to breathe, she says. You’ve got to keep breathing.
Two seats under the desk. Two photographs nailed to the wall. Bunk beds. Nothing has changed. Everything has changed.
The hole covers your ribcage and touches your collarbone, your navel. Reaching inside, you try to find your heart, but you can no longer feel it beating.
You climb onto the top bunk and bury your head beneath her pillow.
When you sleep, you dream of a white room. A white bed. An open window.
The doctor turns, shakes his head.
You sit by her side.
Are you holding my hand?
She smiles as you lift her hand into the light, your fingers linked with hers.
The gown slips from her shoulder. A red scar sliced across her sternum, the stitches unravelling one by one.
You grip her hand as a hole opens in her chest. Black wings slick with blood struggle free.
Please, let go.
The bird takes flight. Its feathers brush your cheek, a kiss, before disappearing out of the open window.
You open your eyes. Your heart is pounding. The hole in your chest knits together, becoming bone and muscle and flesh.
The echo of her voice fades.
Outside, the sun rises.
Christopher M. Drew is a short fiction writer from the UK. Most recently, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Literary Orphans, Cabinet of Heed, flash & cinder, Moonchild Magazine, and Longleaf Review. You can connect with Chris on Twitter @cmdrew81, or check out his website cmdrew81.wordpress.com