(Sometimes resulting in a cytokine storm). My beloved pet chicken, Pyramid, the first time I intentionally beheaded anyone. She had hid her wound under her wing. “She” will always hide her wound under her wing, that’s what “she” means.

I took a big swing with the hatchet and hoped to hit hard enough for a merciful clean cut. We thought she would struggle so we wrapped her body in a towel and he held her tight. We thought she would struggle but she didn’t. She rested her head on the log, utterly still, and looked into my eyes as I held the hatchet over her. I split the empty space between her head and body again because I wasn’t sure I had been merciful enough.

Her head was easy to find.

The blood was brown as mud. In a few days it would have been black. But now it was brown on the little log we chose to chop her on. Flies began to harvest the rotten blood right away. He swatted them away. “It’s ok,” I said to him. “Someone has to eat it,” as if someone had to eat it.

I walked a few feet away for some reason and dropped to the ground, easy to find. I cried, now that it was done and I was allowed to soften, being a “she” with a hidden wound. I was forced to make two bodies of her body out of my own ignorance and he put them both in the hole. He took the towel away to wash it, although it wasn’t dirty. He hurried to bury her two bodies and take the towel away for another purpose while I cried.

This was before I thought the State was dying. This was before I thought my particular structure was ever going to end. All apocalypse fiction to me was dorky, only an occasion for heroic masturbation! Can you imagine, now? Bacterial virulence factors allow colonization, immune evasion, and establishment of disease in the host! He hurried to take the towel away for another purpose!

I walked a few feet away for some reason. I don’t know where her grave is now but I’m sure it was poorly dug since I didn’t do it myself. I imagine her bones must be close enough to the surface for someone, not me, to smell. This was before I paid any attention. Even this didn’t make me pay attention.

I think about sepsis every day now. It’s the long death caused by ignorance, which is what is happening. (Current professional recommendations include a number of actions (“bundles”)) that are now too late. (I asked “what is going to happen?” and he said “it’s happening.”) For whom is it “too late”? Whose blood is already rotten brown, brown as the bark on the log covered in flies, soon black? She didn’t struggle.

Molly Brodak is the author of A Little Middle of the Nigh (U of Iowa Press, 2010), Bandit (Grove Atlantic, 2016) and The Cipher (Pleaides Press, 2020).

Photo from performance by Leif Holmstrand.