By Erika Eckart
A tumor like melted taffy has soaked into her brain. Little niblets of steel-colored cottage cheese, the hardened ends of old gray play dough. At first her syntax remains, but all the nouns have been replaced by more magical material. Planet and alien replace house and car. “Did you push the red on the map, for the lemon aliens?” We sit and interpret, trying to gather whatever bits of information we already know. Cancer is river. “Can’t they get this river out of me?” she begs. When close to a river she tries to jump. At night she moans “don’t let it take me.” Who? “The river,” she says as her fists grip our nightclothes. We lie and tell her we will protect her, but there is nothing we can do. The river’s current is carrying her away in the anonymous way it can even extinguish the beings bound to it. Some of them lay thousands of eggs just to have a few survive to pass on their traits: silvery flesh, bulgy hazel eyes. We can only watch as the weight of the river’s body pulls away first proper nouns, then memories, then chewing, then control of her bladder. Finally, it steals her breath too and makes her hands hard, but we hold them anyway, until the current carries even the body away.
Erika Eckart’s prose poems/flash fictions have appeared in Quick Fiction, Quarter After Eight, Quiddity, nano fiction, and Women's Studies Quarterly, among others. She has an undergraduate degree in Creative Writing and English from Loyola University Chicago and an M.Ed. in Language, Literacy and Culture at the University of Illinois at Chicago. When not writing, she teaches high school English and bakes vegan treats for her husband and two young children. A resident of Oak Park IL, she is currently writing an untitled novel about a cult leader, an energy megacorporation and a popular high school girl found dead in a river. (Updated September 2015)
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