Tell A Tale — Gothic Fiction

Breaking the mirror By Sairah Ahsan

We trust (and fear) that the government knows everything. We watch them watch us, as they erect CCTV cameras, monuments of surveillance. We didn’t hold them to care, to listen. Where scientists plea, telling of traveling disease, begging for vaccines, antibiotics, they turn a blind eye. When the pandemic breaches borders, the only thing they stockpile are bodies.

In the first week of infection, victims turn translucent. Organs pulsing, pushing against taut, thinning leather. People turned to silk purses, spoils of blood and spools of guts pooling out of splits ripped into them.

It nests in the bone. They turn to twisting, swelling, spiralling structures, looking like spun marble. Some protrude, erupting from dying bodies as if attempting to flee the disease within them. But it is their own cells which burst with the virus. They thin too, and collapse into themselves.

Amongst the dying, the living continue to squabble.

Joshua and Thomas grow into everything the other is not. Joshua a child prodigy, dances sun soaked and golden in the memory of everyone who meets him. Thomas remains his twins reflection, a vacant and irrelevant picture. Whilst Thomas grows sick with envy, Joshua grows sick with disease.

Guilt destroys Thomas. Taunts him with memories of jealousy, as he finds himself blessed with every opportunity stolen from his brother. His fevered dreams twist history. Every night he finds himself ripping the vitality from the heart of his counterpart, his own fingernails and jaw bloodied.

He fasts in repentance. It pulls his skin taut, his bones prodding tentatively at it. His body shakes from the effort of waking. He gives up on walking, leaving him heaving over a church pew. The light cast through stained glass paints his brother's bruises on him. He remains his reflection.

Joshua lies in quarantine.

His limbs hang heavy with saline. His veins are threaded through with sedative. Waves of morphine paint the flickering halogen lamp golden. They leave him colder, under stiff bandages and paper blankets.

Doctors, rubber wrapped, changing his bandages, resort to investing resources on better bets.

Solitude starts to speak to him. The static buzz of machinery becomes a hymn. Where he lies, alone and betrayed (by family, by Thomas), the angels remain. They sing, and spin his blood into wine till he becomes drunk between the drugs and visions of sacrifice. He resolves to share the drink in his veins.

There is a breach in quarantine.

A collision between a hospital and chipboard barricade sent Britain reeling. The infection, unsealed, pours through vaguely recollected streets, the night light and fleeing drugs burn his skin. Collapsing body held up by divine will and doctrine.

Thomas wakes - mouth dry, skin dry - to screaming pain. His lips refuse to translate his final plea, mind stuttering in shock, heart seizing up with the infection poured into it. Joshua, the dregs of a nightmare clinging to his cold skin. His twins ghost carving his own wounds into him.

Thomas lies in quarantine.

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