Surrounded by Sky
A woman imagines she has cholera and worries she will be eaten by a shark. She fears she will slip under the fence and be swept over the falls at Niagara. Whenever she eats, she thinks she will eat so much her belly will explode and kill her and whenever she flies, she thinks she will die in a plane crash. Every snowy car ride turns into an automobile accident and every Ferris wheel threatens to collapse when she reaches the top. She collects clippings of people killed by wildfires, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, escaped lions, burst appendixes, rabid rats, ice falling off church roofs, infected toenails.
One day, the once worried woman, who had already died a million imaginary deaths, lies dying. Dementia consumes her and she fails to recognize death's teeth at her throat. The reaper pulls off his black hood to show his boney face and she only smiles. She dreams she is a child, and afraid of nothing. She climbs the tallest pine in the forest, a cabbage pine with branches like a ladder. Up and up and up and up, like Jack on the beanstalk she ascends, effortlessly, to the tippy top. It sways in the breeze. The sky surrounds her. The treetop bends, then breaks. She should fall. Instead, her body inflates with sunshine and she flies. She flies so high she can see the individual rays of starlight and each has a voice and a song. When the woman joins the song, a terrible rasping pours from her throat. No one at her deathbed recognizes as the angel voices the cacophony flowing like a fountain from her lips.