The Big C
Two for the Road

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Limited Omnipotent

"I'm sorry to blurt it out like that. When I say it in my head, it sounds a lot more eloquent. But it turns out quiet dignity is hard to do out loud. So that's it: I have cancer. Melanoma, to be exact. And I'm dying."

She's brave, looking in his eyes. His Self is splitting.

First he asks what she's going to do; his sister always has a plan.

"Other than eat more sweets? Not really. I've looked into it, the options aren't good."

It sounds like a roaring, a tearing. It makes it hard to laugh. He skips a stone. He wanders away, across the sand; his mouth opens and the sound comes out. He's going to have to be stronger than this, to pull himself together like the world. His voice changes, he talks like a man:

"Well, okay. Okay. Okay. Well, people die. You know, it's a guarantee. Something is going to get you. Now you know what it is. Me, I'm in the dark."

It doesn't help. She pulls back the curtain and there's nothing behind it. Maybe rage. Maybe holy rage and rhetoric, like bends the harsh world back. Maybe the prophet can handle this one:

"But people die! That's the way it works, people! You just..."

But it sputters out. There's no rage, there are no people. Just his sister, and the roaring sound of night. And suddenly death everywhere. She holds the world together. The agreement is that his sister holds everything together and he lives down in it, and they save each other when they have to. That he said no to the whole world, every single part of it, except for her. He said no to things.

"You're gonna die, and it's gonna suck, because I was just starting to figure you out, Sis. You know? I was just... I was just starting to understand..."

Their relationship was ever increasing. Joking about their relationship was their relationship: This is a step too close. Curtains. He said no to things, because they caused his Self to split. Sean's sister is the only thing he has.

Sean holds his hands to his face and his skull and he sobs in great screams, holding the pieces of himself together, and he can't stand. On his knees, shaking.

Sean's sister's seen the world end before; she knows what happens next. She could wrap both arms around him, press so close around him they'll be one sobbing creature on the banks of the Mississippi, but she can't undo the damage here. He's already too torn. Sean's sister isn't cruel.

He cries out for God and then for nothing at all, just unceasing roars of pain. And so his sister smiles, to test it, smiles behind and against his back. And then a quiet laugh, and then she builds until she beats upon his back, hysterical. Putting everything back where it belongs. It hurts his ribs, the way she held him. Pressing on his bruises, holding him together.

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The Big C




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