Cassie Kosarek

I turn a corner to lose It. Lose, cruise, fuse. I hear Its nails shuffle and double against the concrete behind me. Again, the stinking breath bursts against my hairline. Dr. Mann was a wolfman; Mom was a bird; everyone lied. Everyone lies. Even Jesus couldn’t find the truth. Truth, spoof.

Six years, fourteen hours, and twenty-one minutes from the first time I met Dr. Mann and his head turned into a wolf’s and I sunk between the cushions in his couch until I disappeared into the world of Hades  – that long It took to catch me. I bite my tongue.

Tongue, shun, run. I run. It is dark and the old rowhouses stand shoulder-to-shoulder and bend over me, their door-mouths yawning open and welcome mats rolling out dogged whispers, “You’re done, you’re done, you’re done.” It took so long.

Long, song, wrong.

I am being strung along. Another hot breath sweeps the nape of my neck and I shiver. I am caught. Eight years, ten months, and six days from my twenty-second birthday, with my bleeding tongue and tired feet, I am being swallowed whole. I hear a heartbeat, erratic, alive, and wonder if it is the beat of predator or prey. Thump thumpthumpthump thumpthump – it is in my ears or my chest, I can’t be sure.

I liked it better when I was Jesus Christ.

Jesus. Joseph. Mary. Scary, hairy, fairy. Mary.

Mary was a mother. I am a mother. Mother, lover, recover.

They told me to recover.

They are in the cabinet, the pills that taste like stale Christmas candy if I let them on my tongue for too long. I was Jesus Christ, and Jesus didn’t indulge.

Last week, I saved the world. And my children and I drove fast to its edge. And instead of the Christmas candy, my Joseph was a Nazi doktor and called me back to Auschwitz with a needle-cross. Remember? Remember? Remember I stole the needle, and late at night I pricked my forehead a crown of thorns. “I am He, I am He.” I was absolute. I was free. They gave me another needle, and I was freed.

And again my beast found me and stripped me of divinity. My thorns became pinpricks.

I smell the putrid musk of a frightened dog. A mutt barks behind a chain-link fence. “Murder, murder, murder.” I curse at him breathlessly; he knows what I say: “Go to Hell!” He grins and laughs, his black chops peeling back to reveal bright pink gums and teeth that shine with saliva in the darkness. He presses his slimy nose against the gray metal of his fence and gnashes his teeth against the links, telling my beast to get me, get me, get me. My burning muscles press faster; It keeps up.

It is a persistence hunter. I’ve learned this. It chases game until its heart stops.

Stop, pop.

The nurse gave me a cherry pop after my flu shot when I was five. At eighteen, there was no pop – only a shot. At twenty-two there was no pop and I didn’t know about the shot. The nurse in the pink scrubs with the lion’s tail pinched my arm and I melted like January snow into April and woke up in a hazy Summer.

They told me they could keep it Summer forever if I was good. Eat these candies – some worked, some didn’t. And I ricocheted off the walls of one waiting room to another until I landed with Dr. Mann. He told me his plan would keep the beast away. Lies.

Lies, dies, flies. They drink from the droplets of cold sweat on my brow and bite little wounds into my skin. I pass familiar shop signs twisted by the shadows of streetlights and watch myself run past the display windows – a human shadow amongst mannequins without eyes, but that cover up with the latest fashions nonetheless.

None see, none see, none see me.

I read a book about being invisible. Tenth grade, English class, “The Invisible Man.” Wells got it wrong; it was not a serum that makes flesh disappear, but words on a page – prefaced with “schizo” – that write you off.  I disappeared in 1998.

Eight, date. I have run late. Minutes become meters and I only have a sprint left. I leave the familiar and narrow, meandering streets rise to greet me, spitting gravel into my face to slow me, slow me for the beast behind. My right lace giggles as it unravels and I stumble and skin my knee and get up just before It seizes me. The wound smarts and our pace intensifies; It smells my blood. Above, clouds drift in front of the moon, spelling “doom” like a one-man airplane could over the ocean on a summer day.

Day, say, bay. They told me they could keep it at bay. I would be OK. The words dripped off their blue prescription pads and into little orange bottles. My son got into the bottles once, and they pumped poison from his stomach and later explained, “This is Mommy’s poison.” And on the train home, he laid his head to my chest and his frightened-bird beat marched to mine.

I turn another corner and the horrible heartbeat thuds in or behind me – I can’t be sure. I am wheezing, coughing, gagging on my own tongue like a child epileptic, and my legs are sewing a white flag of lactic acid. “No more, please no more.” I lift my head to gaze at the darkened street before me. We have long left the streetlights and the moon has been silenced. Hot saliva drips from my neck down the knobby outline of my vertebrae. I will be consumed. The street buckles under my weight and I am thrown forward into concrete. A wall kisses my forehead cooing, “This is your end. This is your end.”  I fall back into Its arms and stare at the sky above, watching the moon burst forth from the clouds just before I close my eyes.

Eyes, lies, dies.