by Ben Berman Ghan Day One Something bit me on the way home from the marketplace. My shopping scattered. It gathered them up again. It told me it was sorry. It told me this is how it always happened. It told me I didn't have long. Day Two I wake, bloated and bloodshot. I take an Advil, choking it into the tunnel of a dry throat, pretending not to see the teeth marks on my neck. At work, people wish me a happy Chanukah, ask if something's wrong. Too much holiday food, I joke. Too much potato, and onion, and oil. Too much meat. I leave the leftovers from the night before cooling in the fridge. I’ll get to them in the morning. Day Three Sunlight slides in through closed blinds. So bright, so hot. I feel swollen inside. My stomach churns. I sweat. At lunch, I watch the others eat. I smell spoiled, wet meat turning to sludge between their teeth. I excuse myself, cold water against my skin. In the mirror, purple bags adorn deep-set eyes. In the sink, I'm spitting red. Day Four Over the phone, I say I think I'm sick. I don't want to spread it. I keep the blinds closed. I lie back and sweat. Day Five In the evening, I'm feeling like myself again. I go for a walk, take my hat off, feel the cool air on my ears, on my scalp. I feel good. It’s good to be alive. Everything in the city smells good. The gasoline from the cars. The storefronts. The salt, the people. Everywhere, I smell the people. The skin of my neighbour in the elevator. Their perfumes and leathers, colognes, toothpaste, and sweat. At night, I dream of the smell of people. I wake up so thirsty. Day Six The slimy bloat of me has been replaced by an awful chasm. Beneath my skin is nothing. Under my arms, my legs, behind my mouth, inside my chest. There can be no blood, no bones, no tissue, no muscle. Nothing. Day Seven I spend an hour with my face pressed to my front door, long tracks of drool connecting with the floor. My neighbour must have cut themselves while leaving for work. A little stain remains on the door handle. I imagine stepping into the hall, putting my mouth around the copper piece, feeling the dried salt and iron on my tongue. But I think now if I leave my apartment, I won't come back. There are rooms in this building I would go. There are other buildings. I’m not in denial about what’s happening to me anymore. I know I can never leave. Day Nine Nothing peaks at me in the mirror. I take out my phone, ignore missed calls. Investigation in selfie mode. Nothing. Online, two explanations are provided: mirrors have silver backing or no soul to reflect. But my mirror is a kind of plastic, isn't it? There's no silver in my camera lens. I don’t understand. Objects don’t have souls. Flowers, rocks, plastics. They keep their reflections. Why is it just me? Have I become less real than plastic? Day Ten The peculiar leathers of my skin are grey and veined. I investigate my textures with one winged talon hanging from the broken light fixtures of my room. I like the feeling of my wings. I like the furs. I'm glad now that the mirrors can't see me. So long as I can't see my face, I can pretend to be beautiful. Day Eleven Oh god, oh god. The rattling of the door. Holding it shut with my fingers. My mother, begging me to let her in, to let me see her. Please, I say, I’m sick. I say, I don’t want to give you what I have. I'm so scared. I want to open the door. I can smell her. My heart isn't beating. She says she'll leave food at my doorstep. I know I'll let it rot. I know once the door opens, I won't come back. Day Twelve The transformations come at will. I'm a bat, I'm a person, I'm a body, I'm not. I'm dead, I'm dead, I'm dead. My hands on the blinds, straining to fling them open and let the Sunlight in. Day Thirteen When I finally pull open the blinds, grey Canadian winter skies protect me. By the time the sun is shining, I'm in the dark again, and I know it is too late. I am so hungry. Talons claw at the empty space inside me. Day Fourteen There's blood in the walls. There’s blood. I can smell it. I'm so hungry. I tear the door off my fridge, stuffing the dripping, mushrooming rot I find within down my throat. It does nothing. I scream and stop myself from screaming. I sit in the corner, frightened someone might come, someone might call. I can hear my neighbours through the walls. I can smell them. It's so hard to even think of them as my neighbours, and not just the meat that might fill me. I am so hungry Day Fifteen I’m trapped, I’m trapped, I’m trapped, I’mtrappedI’mtrappedI’mtrapped. I’m sorry. Day Sixteen I bite something full of meat and wet drink outside the marketplace, watching spilled red wine splash along the pavement. Relief. My stomach full; my emptiness is gone. Relief. And now I'm sure, I'm going to be okay. I can go back to my life, my job, my family. So long as sometimes, in the night, I can be something that bites. I look down at my meal, no longer needing it, and know pity. I help it up, say I’m sorry. I tell it, it’ll understand soon. I tell it, it doesn’t have long.
Ben Berman Ghan writer and editor from Tkaronto/Toronto, Treaty 13 and Williams Treaty territory, now living in Calgary, treaty 7 land and home of the Blackfoot Confederacy, where he is a PhD student in English at The University of Calgary. He is the author of the books What We See in the Smoke (Crowsnest Books) and Visitation Seeds (845 Press). His next novel, The Years Shall Run Like Rabbits is forthcoming with Wolsak and Wynn for 2024. You can find him @inkstainedwreck or inkstainedwreck.ca