Waiting for the End
Angela Miyuki Mackintosh
One morning you look into the mirror and don’t recognize yourself. Your eyes are white gumballs covered in wax paper, and your brow slumps down so far it creates two tiny horizontal lines above your nose. This isn’t me, you think. It’s not the end.
Your cheeks, dotted with deep pores, are dimpled golf balls. Your flesh hangs like a cloak. When you turn away from the mirror, your reflection remains.
Dead things dwell within your house: shoes, handbags, belts. They were live cows, you think, once grazing, roaming.
Outside the sky fades milky and overcast. A barn owl swoops down and grabs something both furry and snakelike in its talons. Its face widens to the moon, waxing or waning, rising or setting. You wonder, Is it day or night?
Your fingertips bloom pink like you’ve pressed them together, and you remember moving them circularly against your temples. Time slips into the sheets, lolls about the covers. There were those months at the grocery store when you became invisible. No one noticed you as you shopped from aisle to aisle picking out green squash, pink salt. Color seemed significant. You grabbed bright orange carrots, dark purple eggplants, yellow cornmeal from the bins, red licorice, brown pretzels.
When you got home, you put all the vegetables into a pot and let them simmer on the stove until steam wet your glasses. In went the curry powder, coconut milk, and a pinch of turmeric to fight swelling. You ground rock salt onto your palm, then straight into your mouth, and you sucked the granules until they melted, the sharp sweet tang on your tongue mixed with the taste of your own lips, primordial. You wanted to pull fish from the oceans, have someone else gut them, then drive to the mountains while they cooked on your car’s manifold, until the skin crisped char and meat flaked orange. But that was before everything became unpresidented. Before your Twitter pal said a guy tried to mansplain what a sawhorse was. I shut him down, she said, because she was well aware that sawhorse was the past tense of seahorse.
That one summer, when you shucked mollusks and slurped brine, tossed their vehicles into the fire pit until they burned black and cracked into pieces; your niece wiggled her fingers into the sand to find shell homes. A park ranger drove up in his red jeep and pointed to the sign two feet from the tide pools that said “No Collecting” and something about the fragile ecosystem. Those tiny soft creatures jostling in the tide might die without the right-sized shell home. But your niece was four and having so much fun and her grandmother told her to do it. “Hide them in my hat,” she said after the ranger left. You wanted to object, but you didn’t want to fight. What’s one or two shells? you thought. Everyone else thought the same thing.
Then came the sickness. Sequestered rooms. You felt like David Bowie in The Hunger, where hours in the doctor’s waiting room became decades as he aged to his three-hundred-years. His skin flaked to crepe paper and his hair fell to the floor, when moments before he and his wife had been prowling for their next victim at a punk club. Peter Murphy’s sepulchral voice behind the bars of a cage crooning, Bela Lugosi’s Dead. Undead, undead, undead.
When you were drinking, you saw your glass as half empty and fastidiously made measurements and did the math. The wine left in her glass – the wine left in the bottle = shit. Not enough. There was never enough. Then you panicked until somebody popped another cork. You had the hunger then. Now you’re sober. There’s nothing around you and no one left to please, so your flesh slides into the grave awaiting the beetles and worms, your skeleton cracks and crumbles, and like a gravedigger, you become bone tired of it all. Not even the seasons remain. The wildfires have turned the summer sky into some sort of nuclear winter. You cough from the smoke, pull your mask up over your nose, and step out into the bright white. The sun shines veins behind your eyelids until they turn husk-like, deciduous. Then you wait. Wait for the fable to end.
About the Author
Angela Miyuki Mackintosh is a writer, editor, and illustrator living in the Sequoia National Forest. A Pushcart Prize and Best of Net nominee, her work has been published in Writer’s Digest, The Nervous Breakdown, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Eastern Iowa Review, Exposition Review, Under the Sun, and Harpur Palate, among others. She’s an editor at WOW! Women on Writing. When she’s not writing or editing, she enjoys trail running, oil painting, cat rescue, and spending time in the water.