To the Grave
By Atiqa Chowdhury
People tell me I can’t bring my objects to the grave with me. I wanted to play around with this idea of permanence in my piece. This flash fiction explores what happens when we can.
Doctor watches Guard push a gurney into the operating room. Doctor takes in Guard’s bouncing heel and tapping fingers. Guard looks at Doctor and hands him Clipboard.
Clipboard’s robotic voice echoes data to the operating room: Identifying Information: Patient is UNKNOWN years old. (RACE N/A). (ETHNICITY N/A). Woman with (CHILDREN N/A) (MARITAL STATUS N/A) who was presented to ward involuntarily.
Doctor wrinkles his eyebrows taking in Patient: its body is covered in a film of sweat, fluorescent lights leading their skin to appear rubbery and translucent. Limbs are long and hair the color of a spider’s web, their slender nails seem seconds from falling off. Doctor puzzles over the absence of veins and the floral perfume its skin emits. Clipboard wonders why it hasn’t been submitted earlier. Guard grunts at Doctor, jutting his chin to Patient, who is still.
Guard roughly clears his throat. Doctor sees skin cracking. Guard’s voice booms around the room, waking up all the instruments.
“Patient is here. It make mess on our floor. Jeremy is very tired of mopping every hour. Told to bring them here. Make stop. Getting too much.”
Guard looks at the ground and his cracked skin settles into the crevices. Guard buries his hands in his pocket, Doctor notes as his toes wiggle like worms within the leather shoes. Without another word, Guard leaves the room, the door swishing softly behind him.
Doctor watches Guard’s head staring at tiles the entire walk from the doors to the elevator, never once turning back to face him. Clipboard calls for his attention and he is directed back to Patient, whose gown is now drenched with sweat.
Guard presses the “1” button on the elevator, watching the numbers count down from 100.
Doctor checks Patient’s vitals and scribbles on Clipboard, who enjoys the quiet of the operating room and the attention of the doctor.
The elevator is now at floor ninety.
Doctor is at eye level with Patient and makes the first incision with his scalpel. Clipboard sits alert, surveying the movement of Doctor’s wrist, the bend in his stance, preparing for Doctor to reach behind and grab the gauze lying next to him. Clipboard does not watch for blood, because it is his job to watch Doctor. Even if Clipboard was watching for blood, none would be found.
Guard taps his fingers on his thigh. The elevator is now at floor 80.
Red sap oozes from the cut on Patient’s thigh and the scalpel is covered in a thick layer of crimson. The scalpel will need a good wash, Clipboard decides. Doctor feels the air pressure change and everything goes still. His nostrils burn from the alcoholic sweetness that Patient’s skin releases. Doctor stares at the deep cut and blindly slams his hand on the table behind him for forceps. Eye level to Patient’s thigh, Doctor closes the forceps around something Clipboard cannot see. He grabs Clipboard and frantically searches the room for a pen, rhythmically shifting his eyes from paper to forceps to crevice.
Guard is humming his favorite song. Jeremy showed it to him. The elevator is now at seventy.
Doctor scribbles wildly onto Clipboard and red sap begins staining his sheet. The stream of sticky petals begins dripping onto the tile. Doctor leaves Clipboard on the operating table and grabs a handful of towels to place underneath the flow. Clipboard continues surveying the bend of Doctor’s knee as he crouches next to Patient. A sticky petal lies forgotten on Clipboard, making him squirm. Doctor leads the forceps to Patient’s ragged toenail.
The elevator is now at sixty. Guard begins singing the lyrics of his and Jeremy’s song under his breath.
The forceps don’t catch Patient’s nail before it falls. Clipboard sees the folded piece of paper before Doctor does. He hasn’t seen such a thing before Doctor did, and waits impatiently for the paper to be picked up from the ground. Clipboard guards the paper, worrying it would become too dirty to read. Clipboard names the paper Paper, and decides to write this on Doctor’s report. Doctor is fixed in place, examining the green skin of the naked toe. His breathing is deep and quick, shaking the forceps in his hand. The movement in Patient’s web-like dreads go unnoticed.
The elevator is now at fifty. Guard is belting his song in the elevator. He has never sung aloud before, and decides he quite enjoys it.
Spiders crawl all over the tile. Clipboard barely registers Doctor’s shouts, maintaining a keen watch on Paper. Paper is Clipboard’s first friend and he refuses to let him out of his sight. Thankfully, Doctor has not stepped on Paper during his odd bursts of running but Paper does move about a centimeter to the left of his original position. The gurney shades him from the fluorescent bulbs and Clipboard decides this was quite alright. Kiley
Guard never steps off the elevator.
Smooth out the parchment paper and find writing in sap: We hide in you for fun. We are permanent. You are not.
This was a pretty difficult piece to write, as I’ve never written magical realism before. It began as a journal entry, which I shrunk into a short poem. I wanted to commit to this idea of objects being as important as people, but I realized I wasn’t articulate enough so I wrote it out as a short story. I originally wanted to make a short story directly from the journal entry but realized I needed more development. I knew I wanted to base it in a hospital-type setting, because it was something I’d never played with before. I love trying to challenge myself and that was the purpose of this piece. My writing style is purposely choppier and short to create a different tone from my usual pieces. I wanted to focus more on scene development rather than character and write a piece that paid homage to horror work. I had a lot of fun developing this piece and thinking of possibilities for the plot.
Atiqa Chowdhury is a passionate writer who loves telling stories through her poetry and flash fiction. Most of her room is filled with books ranging from historical fiction novels and fantasy to short stories and prose collections. She is currently a student in her last year of high school, preparing for her first year in college.