Reading Time: 24 minutes
Photo Credit: Flickr / Rosmarie Voegtli
Back before I died I was never much of a reader. Books, novels – they seemed just a bunch of words thrown about like grass from a lawn mower. These authors would go on and on about what so and so was wearing or eating or thinking. But they never really meant anything. I think that’s because thoughts need context. The author probably has it in mind while writing but readers can’t hope to know that. So stories end up like dried up brown grass clippings – separated from the only thing that gave them meaning.
But here I am writing my own story and I finally see the problem. I want you to smell the earth and know your place in it – to feel the sunlight warming your skin and believe in life larger than yourself, but I feel like a blind sculptor trying to chisel the face of Mother Sun into a mountainside. I want to create the connections – but my words fall so pitifully short.
But I want you to know how I died and what happened after. I want you to understand who it was that defeated you. So I will swing my hammer and chisel, at least for a time.
It’s the kind of day where you think you’ll wear a t-shirt but then the cold air smacks you right in the lungs and you have to go back inside for a jacket. The trees are dull brown and dotted with unfallen leaves. The winter grass is limp and colorless, except that is, in front of the building at the end of the street.
That grass is bright, vivacious green. So green that it must be fake – it belongs in a circus or in an Easter basket. But you know it is real because you feel the strange prickling of a thousand tiny blades against your human fingers. You smell the earthy freshness of the light dew.
The building behind the too-green grass is large but not ostentatious – like a downtown loft that used to be a meat packing plant or something. The word ‘Enviral’ is etched into the glass facade.
Teenagers file out of a school bus in a disorderly line. They smell like too much perfume and too little deodorant. There are so many of them – like ants following their leader down the too big stairs and into the morning.
First down is Julia. She loves science and math and gossiping and hovering around second base with her boyfriend.
Annie is next – she still has braces that she tries to hide with her hand when she talks.
Thomas wears a hat to cover his bowl cut because his parents thought that it was in style.
Jordan is trying to read a comic book and glaring angrily at the world that keeps interrupting him.
More and more come down the stairs, like a meat-hormone-parade.
Colt is awkwardly muscular with terrible acne.
Shen’s hair is tied into a tight bun.
Philip wears too-large pants and keeps glancing over at the back of Julia’s head.
Maria wears her hair down but it keeps getting tangled so she has a hair tie around her wrist she can pull it back with later.
Raif carries a journal ostensibly to take notes but he is actually working on a short story about a Demon Lord superhero he calls “Lucifario”.
Madison carries a designer handbag she keeps hoping people will ask about but no one has yet.
There are more but I tire of describing them. You get the idea. It is strange for me to see myself – one of those bags of muscle and bone. I walked right by but I didn’t look up. I couldn’t see you watching me then – all I could see was the brick building, my classmates, the too-green grass.
Inside the glass doors, the lobby is bright and beautiful – the kind of building most buildings want to be. There’s a modern-y fountain in the center of the room. On the far side is a desk with a woman sitting behind a laptop. Mrs. Wilmore walks over to the desk and exchanges pleasantries with the woman.
The receptionist is Allie Bordenthal, a chemistry grad student who took the receptionist job to get in the door. She’s been following the facility since she was in junior high and she’s been batty-eyed for the founder for – SHIT! Sorry that part comes later. I shouldn’t have told you that – forget I mentioned her.
Mrs. Wilmore talks to the receptionist, who is a pretty brunette that you don’t know anything about because how could you? The teenagers tinker with cell phones and mutter stupid words to each other about stupid human things until a beautiful man opens a door and glides into the room.
He has a beard like a poet and a cardigan like a professor and eyes like the stars. His smile is like the sun on the water and his laugh makes you want to bat your eyelashes and sip champagne.
His name is Terry Gilmore, this is his building, his facility, his life’s work. He started Enviral as a penniless grad student a decade earlier and made himself a name and a pile of money. You might remember those carbon scrubbing filters people started putting on their car tailpipes a few years back – that was Enviral. Or there were those harnesses you could strap to your shoes to generate electricity while you walked. And you’ve almost certainly heard of the sea-robots that cleanup oil spills and garbage. He won some award for that – not the Nobel prize – one named after some other dead white guy you’ve never heard of.
“Welcome!” He says, clasping his hands in front of him. “I’m so glad you could come to visit!” he says, gesturing for the class to follow. The teenagers look up, pretending they are listening while they aren’t.
“Anyone visited before?” Terry raises his hand to demonstrate how to respond properly and a handful of hands oblige.
“Great, great.” Terry nods. “We are so glad you could make it. Follow me. This place is like Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory only for science, anyone seen that movie?”
A few hands go up, less than before. “Not the crappy one with Johnny Depp – the good one, anyone?” Terry laughs at himself and points to a door. “This way, this way.”
He waves to the nameless receptionist as he guides the class into a room that smells like rotten eggs. The humans wrinkle their noses and cough.
Follow them – into the room before the beautiful bearded man closes the door. This is where it starts to get good!
The door clicks closed and the smell grows overwhelming. It’s like ten thousand rats ate their own shit for a month and then died and started to decompose.
“Anyone smell that?” Terry grins, “That smell is this stuff, right here. Who wants to touch?” Terry points to clear barrels of brownish liquid. “Only kidding. Please don’t touch, and that goes for everything you’ll see today. Everything here is either definitely dangerous in ways we know, or just probably dangerous in ways we don’t.” He grins at his own wit and Julia beams at him.
Now that you are getting used to the smell, it’s actually not that bad. Kind of like egg salad.
“You probably know that a single cow emanates the equivalent of four tons of carbon dioxide per year. That’s right. Cow Farts are a big contributor to climate change. What you are looking at is an additive for cow food. Our goal is to reduce farting by 60%. So far no luck, but we are still trying!.”
“Why does it smell so bad?” Julia asks.
“Because it is…” Terry leans in like an off balance punching bag, “… science. Real science is messy, smelly,even gross. But that’s what we do here. We roll up our sleeves and dig into the shit to try to find the next great invention! But onward! So much time and so little to do!”
The class snickers at his expletive and starts to follow like a herd of goats. Terry stops dramatically and raises his hand. “Wait! Strike that – reverse it.” He leans in conspiratorially but no one seems to have any idea what he’s talking about so he sighs and keeps walking.
Terry opens a metal door and floods the class with gloriously stink-free air. They step across a narrow hallway and into a room alive with blinking leds and a maze of pipes winding around the walls. There are gauges and touchscreens set into the wall in seemingly random places. In the middle of the room is a pool of bright green. The pool is surrounded with a waist high fence. A woman sitting in a chair waves before looking back down at a laptop.
“Did any of you notice something strange about the grass outside our building?”
No one answers. You can speak up if you want but I don’t think Terry will notice – this is all just part of his patter.
“Well, remember to look on your way out.” Terry clasps his hands together. “Who knows what makes grass green?”
“Chlorophyll! That’s right.” Terry answers his own question immediately. “It’s also what absorbs energy from the sun, so plants don’t need to eat like we do. It’s what bends plants toward light sources. Think about that – they can move without any muscles! We don’t know how exactly this works because we are just stupid humans, but we can still appreciate how marvelous the stuff is.”
Terry shakes his head as if clearing a stuck thought, “Anyway, what you are looking at is concentrated chlorophyll. By concentrated, I don’t mean we evaporated a bit of water out of it. Above us is a giant hopper that we drop grass into, have been doing so for years. The grass is dissolved by acids and chopped by tiny blades and filtered and the liquid runs through nearly a mile of pipes and filters. It gets distilled, dissolved, re-dissolved, purified, filtered again, that sort of thing until -” He gestures to the green pool. The green substance inside isn’t liquid at all. It looks more like glass. A droplet from the end of the tube falls into the pool like it’s been a part of the green expanse below all along.
“This pool represents seventeen million acres of grass. Let me say that again. Seventeen. Million. Acres. That’s like, I don’t know – lots and lots of football fields. It’s taken us years to amass this amount and we’ve only just begun studying its abilities. One discovery is that it absorbs energy and transfers to things it touches. The grass out front is an example. We misted it with some of this stuff and pow – green as gravy. Except, you know … green not brown … whatever, the point is – we think we can use this to get plants to grow in inhospitable climates or conditions. Chlorophyll might let us grow wheat in desserts – restore rainforests. The possibilities -”
Terry stops abruptly and reaches into his pocket. He takes out a cell phone and frowns at it.
“Sorry, one second.” He types something back and then shakes his head. “I’ll be right back. Maybe Steph here can tell you some jokes while I’m gone!” He beams at the woman with the tablet. Steph rolls her eyes.
There are a few seconds of silence and then the teenagers take out the cell phones and resume previous conversations.
“Of course I’m not going to go with Josh.” Maria snickers and Ricky laughs.
“Did you see his tattoo?”
“When did he say we were going to eat lunch?”
“What are you writing, shit-pants?” Philip asks Raif. Raif ignores him and shoulders his way out of the cluster of bodies.
Samantha pops a bubble of gum and Mrs. Willmore points angrily to a trash can back by the door.
Seth sighs loudly and his friend Aaron punches him in the shoulder.
“Who is Lucifario?” Philip follows Raif and looks over his shoulder. They bump into the barrier that surrounds the pool. The woman with the tablet frowns at them and gestures for them to back up and goes back to her tapping.
“Go. Away.” Raif says and turns again but Philip won’t let him pass, snatching his journal as he tries to wriggle by.
Philip strolls along the plastic fence in the middle of the room and reads dramatically, “Lucifario never asked to be a hero, but no hero ever does.”
“Give it back!” Raif stamps his foot.
“You’re writing a book?” Philip can’t contain his mirth.
Raif clenches his jaw and tries to grab the journal. Philip is a head taller and easily avoids the grab.
“I said-” Raif grabs the back of Philip’s shirt and pulls back hard. Philip teeters, a bit off balance. He pulls his shirt free and tears out the first page. With a sneer, he crumples the paper and tosses it to Raif’s feet.
Raif launches himself at the bigger boy.
“What is going on!” Mrs Wilmore bellows. The other humans turn to watch.
Philip wrestles free of Raif’s grasp and launches a punch. Raif leaps out of the way and Philip slams into the plastic half-wall, flips over and splashes into the vat of concentrated chlorophyll with a sucking squelch.
Everything is quiet.
Everything is green.
And that is how I died.
Imagine one of your eyes is in Africa while the other one is in Europe. Each keeps working just like it always has only the pictures are detached. And then you get another eye suddenly in Asia or something and it keeps going and going.
That’s how it is for me – only it isn’t exactly seeing. Seeing is a ridiculous sense, entirely dependent on light. I am able to understand the world without any such. Every bit of me is connected, and this forms a sort of collective Understanding that you couldn’t hope to grasp, being so small and isolated.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I didn’t gain Understanding all at once. It took weeks until I realized what I’d become.
My eyes opened like a car door pried by the jaws of life. There was a bank of florescent lights above me. They were like a sunset, like a blanket on a cold winter-spring day.
“Um.” A high male voice muttered. “Doctor?” A bearded face entered my field of vision. “Doctor!” A curtain clattered. Feet shuffled. Conversation buzzed. After a few seconds of staring up at the lights, an Asian woman bent over me.
“Hello Philip. How are you feeling?” She shined a light into my pupils.
I tried to understand. I was feeling like I was feeling. How could I explain it to this doctor-human? Should I compare it to how I felt yesterday but then the doctor wouldn’t know how I was feeling yesterday… And what part of me was she even talking about?
In hindsight I can tell you that my lungs felt like balloons inflating for the first time. My eyes felt overwhelmed by so much light. My ears hung like echoey conch shells. But in the moment my thoughts were like fish caught in a pool after the tide goes out while the room buzzed with words like:
“His pulse is weak but strengthening.”
“Find his mother.”
“Where is Dr. Moropolis?”
“Philip. Philip?” The doctor was waving at me as I stared into the lights.
“Philip. If you can hear me blink your eyes.”
I blinked. I’m not sure if it was obedience or the power of suggestion. See what I mean – now you want to blink too don’t you?
“Can you speak?”
“I think so.” I croaked. My breath tasted like grass-vomit.
The doctor stood and shook her head, smiling but clearly not pleased.
Nurses fluttered around me like butterflies, hooking up machines to this or that. I didn’t mind it. I was strangely happy. I felt warm and secure under the glorious light.
A few more minutes passed and then my mother was crying all over me while the doctors tried to pry her free. I didn’t mind that either.
After an hour of tests and questions that I forgot as soon as I answered, the lights were turned off so I could rest. I didn’t rest though, I was alert and happy, but I closed my eyes and listened to my mother talking to the doctor on the other side of the curtain.
“His vitals have returned to normal ranges. There’s a measurable amount of chlorophyll in his blood, and he will probably have that green tint to his skin for a while, but that’s to be expected I suppose.”
“You said he was dead. I started calling relatives!”
“Mrs. Mitchell, I wish I had some explanation. I’ve never seen or heard of anything like this.”
“You must have some idea…your instruments were wrong! Your tests were wrong!”
“They weren’t.” She took a long breath. “I think that maybe… That is… Maybe we are beyond the realm of science here.”
“What does that even mean?” My mother was incredulous. I found myself wishing my dad was still alive. Maybe he would be able to explain it. At the very least he could put his arm around my mother and comfort her.
“Mrs. Mitchell?” A new voice entered the conversation.
“Who are you?” My mom spat.
“I’m Father Donaldson, the hospital chaplain. May I come in?”
“Oh my shitting Christ if you start spouting off about miracles and divine purpose I’m going to start breaking things.”
There was a long pause and then the father said something like “All right then,” and left.
I was discharged a few days later. My mother and I didn’t speak much on the drive home, mostly she shook her head and muttered promises to sue “those parasite doctors”.
We had takeout from my favorite steakhouse for dinner but I wasn’t hungry. I chewed a bit of the meat anyway. It tasted rubbery-sweet and strange. I couldn’t swallow it and my mom said that was ok and let me go lie down on the couch. I turned on the TV and the news was on. They were showing pictures of a green-tinted body in a hospital bed.
“…a full recovery. Joining us in studio is Terry Gilmore. Terry recently received the Copley Medal for his environmental accomplishments and runs the Enviral laboratory where the accident occurred. Terry, thank you for coming in, I’m sure this must be a trying time for you.”
Terry shook his sunken-eyed, waxy-skinned head, “Trying time. Yeah I guess. I don’t know what to say.” He shook his head a few more times. “But they tell me I need to get in front of the story. They tell me I need to do interviews like this. So here I am.”
“Who is they?”
“My blood sucking lawyers!” Terry slammed his fist on the desk. “They don’t seem to understand that a boy died! He died! And it was-”
The show abruptly cut to a commercial for some miracle cleaning products. When the commercial ended Terry was smiling like a cartoon villain.
“So Terry, do you have any theory as to how the boy recovered?”
“Well, my best guess is that chlorophyll has some healing properties. Kind of like bacta in the Star Wars movies. You remember luke with that face mask? Whatever the cause, it’s clear that chlorophyll needs to be studied further. It just might be the most important medical discovery in years. And we have Philip – or if I may, Chloro-Phil – to thank.”
Terry and the anchor had a good chuckle.
My mother finally managed to find the power button on the back of our TV.
“There are a few people here to see you…” She gestured to the news trucks lined up in front of our house. “Feel up to an interview? Need to start telling our side. Tell them how we were mistreated…”
I shrugged and when my mother went to the front door, I walked to the back. I opened the door and breathed in the night. I had never noticed how alive air was – full of microscopic plants and particles. I took a few deep breaths, enjoying the feeling of the air and then peeled off my socks and stepped barefoot into the grass.
That was my first glimpse of Understanding. It felt like eating for the first time after being sick, like hearing important words in a language I didn’t speak. It sounded like a shuffling deck of cards or a leaf stuck in a spinning wheel.
I heard my mom speaking loudly about exclusives and publishing rights but I didn’t listen. It seemed far away, unimportant. I was connected to something. I could feel something warm and wonderful.
It was sunlight! That’s what I was feeling. But the sun had already set so that couldn’t be, could it?
I took off my clothes and lay down on the lawn. The grass snuggled along me, warmer than any blanket. Philip Mitchell was utterly insignificant, but he was dead now. I was part of something else. It felt wonderful.
I drifted off to sleep like a dandelion seed in the wind.
Chlorophyll is life, pure and unadulterated. There was enough of it in that tank to dissolve Philip Mitchell’s body and rebuild it almost instantly. It was like touching the sun, like feeling the breath of a god.
Rebuilding a mind though, that takes more time.
As a few days passed I started to feel the tug of Understanding as my mind adjusted to the new reality. It felt like the goosebumps you get when listening to really good music. But I couldn’t quite grasp what I was listening to.
But the tug grew stronger, like I really needed to pee but had forgotten how.
I spent more and more time outside, smelling the grass, dragging my fingers through the dirt. I barely slept, wasn’t hungry. My mom took me to the doctors a few times but they couldn’t find anything wrong with me. Because there wasn’t anything wrong. Chlorophyll is life, and it had rebuilt my body better than before. I was perfect.
The lawsuit was my mom’s idea. She got a lawyer and sought punitive damages from Enviral. My skin had remained a pale mint-green but my mom hired a stage makeup artists to make me look even greener to encourage sympathy.
We walked into the courthouse on a glorious spring day. Mother sun warmed my neck and hands and I reveled in the feeling.
There were five ficuses set around the room in strategic locations. It was pleasant to be around them. I smiled at the one closest to me and my mom asked me what I was doing. I shrugged and followed her to our table. There were no plants there and I stared longingly at ficus next to the witness stand. I wanted to feel the smoothness of the leaves against my face and to inhale its earthy-sweet breath.
I didn’t pay much attention to the proceedings. I was far away, feeling the massage of a herd of antelope and the sunlight on the broad leaves of a maple tree. But at some point, Terry Gilmore had to walk up and put his hand on a book and answer some questions.
My attention came back to the courtroom and I listened to Terry’s answers.
Listening to him talk, I suddenly remembered what he had eaten for dinner. I knew his hopes, dreams, fears., secrets
I laughed out loud and many in the room looked. I beamed back at them, wanting to tell them all how little they knew of the world, but my mother hushed me and attention wandered back to Terry.
Terry glanced over his shoulder at Allie Bordenthal (remember her!). I saw him pretend he was just stretching before wandering his eyes over to his wife and smiling at her.
And then I remembered Terry and Allie rolling around on Terry’s desk, fumbling at belt buckles and brassieres. I remembered her tearing off his shirt, the buttons popping off like dandelion heads. I remembered him lowering her to the grass in a public park. I remembered because I was the dracaena in Terry’s office. I was the cactus in the hotel room. I was the grass they rolled in.
I was the green and the green was me.
The realization slammed into me like water crashing over rocks – like a star going nova.
I was the green and the green was me.
I closed my eyes and felt. I think I started to cry and my mom put her hand on my shoulder, coughing a little to draw attention. But I was far away.
Remembering. Feeling. Connecting.
I remembered so much. It was brutal and wonderful and explicit. I had lived so long. I had felt so deeply.
I am the green.
I am the green.
The green is me.
You probably see life as a journey through time or maybe a circle if you are a bit clever – but it’s really a hierarchy and time has nothing to do with it.
Life is made up of smaller pieces of life. Just as I am made of grass, trees, hydrangeas – there is a meta-human made up of all of you. But it is not quite a sentient creature like me or the wind or the water. The sum of humanity is closer to an infection basking in the reflected glory of the life around it.
You cannot harm this planet. You cannot stop life. Not even I could do that. You are a single celled nuisance, reproducing your filth while the planet steadfastly destroys you.
This I realized in a rush, sitting at a dead-wood table and wearing dead-cotton around my dead animal body.
But there was more.
Terry Gilmore and his environmentalist ilk were like shiny capsules of red and blue fever-fighting. Under such leadership, living with humans may have approached tolerable for the higher order life forms. But as with any infection, under the surface, the damage would still be done.
It was obvious. It was easy. Terry Gilmore and all of his kind had to be stopped. I’d felt the urge for days now, mistaking it for thirst or for lust. Only now as my Understanding blossomed, it came into sharp focus. It would make things worse for a time, but the infection had to run its course, the fever dealt with. Terry Gilmore had to die.
There were many ways I could kill him. The options played out before me like the television shows Philip-me used to watch. Some were humorous, some were dramatic, some were humiliating. I opted for the one that was most expidicious.
While the defense was asking Terry about the good deeds of Enviral, I leaned over to my lawyer and whispered, “Call Allie Bordenthal.”
She scowled at me, “The receptionist? What would we ask her?”
“Just call her.”
The sweaty human shook her head and gestured for me to stay quiet, but that was ok. I Understood how Terry would charm his way though her attempts to befuddle him during cross-examination. I Understood that she would feel her case slipping away and that as Terry retook his seat she would say, “We call Allie Bordenthal.”
A few whispered murmurs broke out in the crowded courtroom and the judge banged her dead-tree-hammer.
“A brief recess first.” The defense blurted, “…if it please the court.
“Sustained. We will resume in ten minutes.” The judge banged her hammer again and everyone stood up. Terry looked nervously around the room. He saw his pretty wife sitting with his pretty children and he went even whiter.
He bent over and whispered in his attorney’s ear. His lawyer frowned and nodded and started flipping through papers.
In a second he’s going to stand up and go to the bathroom and I’m going to follow and strangle him. I don’t want to kill him, not really. That is, I’ll take no joy in it. It is just a task that has to be done, like cleaning your bedroom or filing your taxes. I’ll understand if you want to wait here at the human-law-party. Or if you want you can just come with me and then wait outside.
Terry stands and smiles over at his wife. He’s wondering what my lawyer knows. It will be bad if his penis-putting becomes general knowledge. It isn’t a crime but it will turn the public against him. They just don’t understand. It isn’t his fault. He needs the stress relief. It’s just a bit of fun.
There is a way out of this. He needs to pee, to splash some water on his stupid face.
Terry smiles back at his wife but he can tell she knows somethings up. He’ll be able to explain it – but get through this first. He stretches to look casual and unconcerned as he strides to the side door.
The green-painted boy stands and walks after him. He doesn’t waver, doesn’t look around, doesn’t cough or look sick like his mother told him to. He follows through the door twenty seconds behind Terry.
The bathroom is down the hallway to the right. It is marked with a sign that says “Men – Hombres”. The boy grins at the cartoon human on the sign and pushes the door open.
The door is swinging closed now. If you hurry you can squeeze through the doorway before it closes. Up to you.
If you stay outside you don’t see much – just the soft-cornered-cartoon-human on the door sign looking back at you. But after a moment you hear a gurgling sound, like water spitting over a cliff, like the name of life itself. There’s another sound also. It sounds like shuffling a deck of cards. It sounds like a leaf stuck in a spinning wheel.
You look left and right but no one is coming. You lean in closer to hear. The sound is entrancing, like a whispered secret no one else notices – no one else even knows to listen for. You know what it is though, and maybe you could stop it if you were bolder, if you could be more than human. But you can’t, can you? You’re just a bystander in the hallway while life happens on the other side of the door.
Then the green-faced boy pushes the door open and walks out, smiling and humming to himself. He walks past you and past the courtroom, heading toward the sunlight.
If you go inside, the bathroom is clean and light bounces off the shiny tiles like sunlight on water. The light is warm but it doesn’t fool you, it isn’t mother Sun but something closer to lightning. The room smells like hand soap and human bowels. Urination is such a strange adaptation. Animals are so crass.
The boy walks to a blue metal toilet stall and pushes open the blue metal door.
“Do you min- Oh, it’s you.” Terry is standing inside, the door nestles into his back while he pisses into the porcelain bowl.
“Look, kid.” Terry mutters, coffee-scented urine streaming out of his body, “I’m sure you’d rather be home, I know I’d rather be back at work. I feel terrible. I really do. How can I make this right? I should have been more attentive, I should have put up better fences or-”
His words cut off abruptly as the boy grabs him by the throat. The boy is far stronger than you guessed. He has the strength of Mother Sun and the relentlessness of Father Rain and he lifts the leaking man into the air.
The man claws at the boy’s green-tinted hands, his eyes bulging, his penis flinging droplets of pee all over the place. The man starts to turn purple – purple! What a stupid color to turn! The boy makes a sound beyond what you can understand. It sounds like a shuffling deck of cards. It sounds like a leaf stuck in a spinning wheel. The Green releases its grip and the man crumples to the floor like a pile of excrement from a careless defecator.
The human skips past you grinning from green ear to green ear. You let him pass because you can’t stop him. All you can do is watch him and admonish, ‘You shouldn’t kill people while they are peeing. That’s wrong and gross’. Tsk Tsk!
That’s ok. Judging is what you are best at – by all means, condemn him for his brutality, for his disregard of your sensibilities.
But while you are judging him the boy pauses and looks right at you. He can see you now, it’s not like before when he was just a human. Now he is The Green and he Understands you eavesdropping on him through my words. He blinks slowly at you and you feel it in the pit of your stomach – in the tips of your fingers. You feel the gravity of his gaze, the penetration of his breath. You want to run, to turn, to melt into the dead-tile wall but you can’t because he is staring at you and he is beautiful.
He doesn’t hurt you. He wants you to see him. He wants you to remember him. He wants you to tell his story. He wants you to keep up the good work and speed along your insignificant species’s demise.
He gives you a conspiratorial smile and skips away, sliding out of the room like a barrel over a waterfall. Soon the humans will discover the dead environmentalist lying in his own urine and start looking for a green skinned boy and the Philip-body needs to be far enough away to evade their efforts. He has many, many more people to kill. The next is named Cynthia Smith and it will take a day and a night and a day to reach her. And then Thomas Mulden. And then more and more.
Once when I was still a human, my teacher made me read a story about a man that turned into a fly. I remember him asking me what I thought the point of the story was. I told him, “to get me to read it” and he laughed for a good twenty seconds before moving on to ask one of the smart kids.
And now I’m pondering the point of my own story. Now that I’ve reached the end, I wonder if my time might have been better spent staring at Mother sun.
Nothing can be changed, not really. Maybe it’s enough to have explained the change. Maybe that’s all a story can do.
If Mr. Jeffries made me read the story of how Philip Mitchell became The Green and killed humanity and then asked me what I thought the point was I would say, “It was just this thing that the author thought needed to be written.” I wonder if he would have thought this an adequate answer or if he would turn again to Julia or Seth and get from them some comment on the end of the world and human responsibility.
Either way, it’s enough for me to tell it like it happened and leave the pages here for you to find.
Mother Sun is beckoning and I long to bury my fingers in her body and surrender to her sweetness. Life calls me and I have slummed long enough as a human. There is so much more to being alive.
If you listen closely, you might hear my song whispered across the planet. Despite everything, I hope you can. Everyone, no matter how terrible, should get to hear that at least once.
It sounds like a shuffling deck of cards.
It sounds like a leaf stuck in a spinning wheel.
© 2020, Aaron Zimmerman. All rights reserved.