“We All Fall Down” by Jessica Minyard

The dead ones fall from trees, my dad warned.
Those left on the ground never knew why
they went all the way up there to die. The virus was funny
that way. The dying would climb trees
and the living had to walk with their eyes aimed
skyward to watch for falling body parts. They’d come down
in bits and pieces.
First, a couple of fingers, a couple of toes,
maybe a hand, and then the whole arm.
I saw my first head fall when I was nine.
The muscles and sinew in the neck were ragged. It was missing
all the teeth, the mouth a soft and puckered maw. I had cried for days
and my mom held me and tsked and told me not to touch anything.
This is the way of the world, she said, ever since the virus.
But there were trees everywhere and dead everywhere
and it was hard to remain untouched. The itching had begun in my hands
several days ago, and had spread to all my extremities, as inexorable as red wine
spilled over a tablecloth. Fiery red lines had appeared,
crisscrossing their way along my skin. I placed a hand against the trunk of the tree
my parents fell from. The bark was brown and green
and streaked with blood.
The trees didn’t seem to mind the dead. Hot flesh sloughed from my palm.
I had an irresistible urge to climb.

Jessica Minyard (she/her) is an author, poet, adjunct, higher ed professional, and new mom. She has an MFA from Lindenwood University and her short fiction and poetry has appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine, Slink Chunk Press, Capulet Magazine, Vamp Cat Magazine, salt + vinegar zine, Nightingale and Sparrow, Royal Rose, and Taco Bell Quarterly. She lives in Kentucky with her family.

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