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Hydrophobia

by Rachel Marie Patterson

the fear of water; an archaic term for rabies

 

You jerk away from the metal bowl, you run from the spitting creek: When you swallow it feels like you’re swallowing sewing needles, but you can’t sleep for thirst. Last night you bled across the highway and hid in the tall grass while the fever rushed your skull and boiled your brains until they were hard like the hard-boiled eggs your master used to feed you on Saturdays. Now every old loving feeling has snuck away from you and you are wild again, deaf to your family; you troll the woods mouthing up squirrels and crows, moaning against the wind, your eyes as wide as the plates you used to lick clean, as red as the cardinals you used to let dart through the yard undisturbed. You rampage through that yard now skipping bullets, lapping up mud and rodent guts, and you’re not angry because you’re sick, you’re angry because you were made this way, all foam and blood, all hunger and thirst, rolled-up newspapers, bacon grease. Even while they were good to you, they were not good to each other. Whatever that was, your old life, is receding: Now the hand outstretched to you seems evil, and it’s not because you’re sick—every gentle impulse turned to fear—it’s because your fever has let you see what’s true.

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