All the Ghosts - Rebecca Jarrell

            The baby girl came screaming into the room and slipped easily into the nurse's hands just like hundreds before her. She wriggled and scrunched herself up, waggling her tiny fists about her to beat back the overwhelming other-ness of her new surroundings. The difference between this child and the others was that she screamed into silence.

             There was no clapping in the operating room. No laughter, no tears and no congratulations.

            Only a fifteen year-old girl ripped in half on the table.

            The nurse bore the tiny human through the sliding doors and into the filtered hospital air, head hung with pointless shame. The girl still shrieked and writhed as the nurse rested her tenderly onto the trolly and completed the necessary procedures to warm, clean and support her. 

            Behind a panel of glass elsewhere in the stomach of the hospital, a tall, seventeen year-old man with midnight hair and razor sharp eyes lay curled up like an embryo on the sterilized floor. Two middle-aged women flailed at each other around him, but all he heard was silence. He wrapped his long fingers around himself, because he could feel all his muscles and bones wanting to run and he knew if he didn't hold them together they would desert him. He wouldn't notice the hand-shaped bruises on his cheeks until days after the women tried to slap his broken pieces back into the boy they knew.

            There was never so much gravity in the world.

            It sucked the man to the earth and made all his being kiss the floor. It magnetized the nurse's stoic knees and rattled her shoulders so she had to cling to the base of the baby's trolly to keep from disappearing. It feasted on all the blood the girl had, drawing it out in haunting splatters of hot syrup. Frothing. Smearing. Pooling.

            The cleaner hated cases like this, but she came in with her bucket and tools and mopped it up all the same.

            And she completed the necessary procedures, and she cleaned the death away so someone new could enter the operating room and never know the ghosts it held.