Issue No. 6, Autumn 2013

The Anatomy of Self-Destruction
Alisha Grace

It creeps into all areas of the body at once.  A cold flush comes to the skin and dives down deep, snipping veins as it passes.  Muscles are left numb and flat and full of expanding air.  The air is stolen from the lungs.  The lungs fill up with vines that grow thicker until they burst through arteries and claim all contours of flesh.  Limbs stiffen.  Eyes shut or peel wide, but nothing in-between. It is poisonous and it never stops growing.  It drains blood.  It steals breath.  It switches the heartbeat with a high-pitch screech and the rhythm of the body is gone.  It spreads just under the skin and pulls at your seams.  Your body never breaks, just stretches and stretches.

It comes when you are around others, a face in a sea of bodies, and in seconds it swallows you whole.  It brings ancient images of bloodletting and robed figures at the edges of forests.  It plays dark things on a projection screen behind your eyelids and never stops cycling.  Leeches and snakes and a pungent glowing vial sealed with a cork.  It is full of magic, the blackest kind.  It should be burned at the stake to save the rest but it’s nothing alone, it’s only inside of you.  You are its vehicle and it goes wherever you go.

It is broken but was never whole, no hope of anything to put back together.  It takes the pieces of your life, the places, the people, the moments. It douses them in gasoline.  They burn and you watch and you cannot touch because you are already on fire.  It leaves everything you bring near in a pile of ash that dissolves under your feet.  You cannot stop walking.  You trample every dusty trace of the things you knew and there is no footprint left in your wake.

It cannot die.  It lives only inside of you.  You are a mortal thing with a high-pitch screech where your heart used to be.  You feel nothing when you are alone, less than nothing, a void where ghosts roam and curse their prison.  You are the cold steel bars, and the bullet-proof glass between that blocks the air that might have drifted in.

It can only fall asleep.  It can be shoved into your stomach and left in concrete boots under a sea of whisky and vodka.  It will forget about you until the tide recedes.  It can be skewered with needles and pinned under razor blades.  You can trap it there, outside yourself, until it struggles free.  It can be blanketed in white powder and adorned with blue and yellow and green ornaments etched with medical hieroglyphics.  You will feel beautiful and strange and your heart will thump a few times before the nails-on-chalkboard screech returns.

It loves when you look in the mirror. It takes your image and paints itself over you and it’s only shadows. All you see are shadows. You have no features. It has stolen your skin and covered it to match the silent depths of midnight.

It loves when you take a lover. Another friend to hold by the neck, at a distance, a new pair of bright eyes to watch like nuclear blasts across a vast ocean. As you implode and implode but it never ends. It just starts again.

It is poisonous and it never stops growing. It is winning and it cannot die. It lives only inside of you. You are losing and you are mortal.

Alisha Grace is a writer living in Los Angeles, the strange urban patchwork quilt of movie magic and gritty realism. She is working on my M.F.A. in creative writing from Antioch University, with her second novel well underway. She has had poetry published in The Silhouette literary magazine, and enjoys reading everything from historical biographies to fantasy.