The hospital room I wake up in smells of sweat and urine, of feces and decay. I remember being there when it didn’t, when I had only a concussion from a car accident. I shake my head and take a moment to blink away the haziness, allowing the dirty white walls to come into focus, the broken light overhead to appear, the gaping doorway framing the scattered hallway beyond. The gown crackles when I slide off the bed, the ground trembles, and the gown swishes like paper being rubbed together as I stumble face-first into the wall. After a couple minutes, I steady myself, the ground calms, and I hold the wall for support as I make my way out of the room.
Computers and laptops lay in broken heaps against the walls, needles and syringes and medical waste piled on top or in corners, there are small lumpy things beneath tattered gowns but I don’t bother to look closer. The elevator at the end of the corridor no longer works, so I limp to the closest stairwell, a smear of black runs up its handrail, and go down.
Debris and glass litter the entryway floor, bones and ash scattered like pepper and salt. At the smashed double-doors leading outside, I hear someone cough. I turn and see a shallow-faced, gaunt man sitting against the wall, below the handicap button. He looks up at me with eyes filled with blood. He coughs, laughs a little. “Where you going?”
I try to form words but they get lost between my mind and mouth. I point to outside.
“Only madness out there,” he coughs, laughs, runs his hand over his peeling bald head, “or are you already lost to it, too,” he glances towards the ceiling, “like all the others up there?”
I shake my head. The ground shakes beneath my feet.
“Feel it?” he asks. “That’s not an earthquake.” He suddenly leans over and hacks black stuff onto the soiled hospital gown, then he leans back and starts laughing in a high pitch. He rolls over onto the ground, wrapping his skeletal arms around his body, and continues.
I leave him and go outside.
The ground shakes— no, I realize, it’s not shaking… It raising, lowering; raising, lowering. It’s breathing, the ground is breathing. I stumble forward and grip a gnarled, blackened tree. I look up to see the thin, gaunt branches reaching, pleading, towards a swirling star-speckled, purple sky. Silhouettes against the color, like a cut out.
The ground calms, the sky gradually slows and stops. My eyes widen, blood vessels within pop. A silver seam runs across the sky. The top part begins to swirl, the bottom does too, but counterclockwise. A white light blares out from the seam as it stretches, as it pulls a part, as tendrils of melted cosmos are pulled taunt and snap.
The tree I’m holding is lifted into the air. The hospital is below me, rising, too.
I’m crying. I’m releasing my bladder and bowels.
Before me the light overwhelms everything and ebbs colorless, ebbs all the colors in the world.
Soon, I’m one of the stars in the sky, endlessly swirling, one with the world or what consumed it, one with the others up there.