Susie is Dying by Liz Grear

Susie started dying a few months ago. At first a fingernail popped off while she was grooming her puppy. It did not hurt. She did not even notice until later that night as she sipped on a glass of wine she happened to glance down at her hand and instead of seeing a fingernail she saw little pink puffy skin like clouds or a tiny pillow. “That’s weird,” she muttered to herself.

Next it was her eyelashes. She woke up one day before work and when she mechanically went to apply mascara, her hand stopped midair as soon as she realized there was nothing there. She went into work and apologized to her coworkers. No one seemed to mind. But it annoyed her because things were constantly getting into her eyes and it made her blink a lot which caused a headache that lasted for two and a half days.

“Lampe sick egoshoot” (image via Flickr user Lampeduza)

Then her knuckles began to vanish. The skin felt soft and tender and when she bent her fingers they would droop and lose their shape. The skin almost acted as the skin of an elbow on a stretched arm. She could pinch it and feel nothing. It felt like a miniature bag full of cottage cheese. She could not easily grip things and it is then that she decided to go see a doctor.

“We have no idea what you have,” a young man, who Susie could not believe was old enough to diagnose her because he could not possibly have lived long enough to know anything about anything, said. His black hair looked plastic and his nostrils flared when he spoke. If her eye brows weren’t both hanging on to her skin by a few hairs she would have raised them.

“So?” she had asked. By now saying words was like releasing a rough cough from deep in her stomach and out her raw esophagus. Her throat felt cavernous at this point.

“At the rate of your body altering itself into an unusable state, we are predicting you have a couple months left,” he said—pressing his lips together in a thin line that looked like a wrinkle. “I am sorry.”

And Susie hated him for saying he was sorry because really he wasn’t. He was just doing his job. She had sighed and dragged her body off the patient table as if she was stuck to it with Velcro. Flakes of skin danced off her looking like mini lanterns under the buzzing hospital room lights.

Right now Susie’s skin looks tight. Like the end of a wax candle before it’s melted. Her eyes have lost color and her lips are in a constant quiver. No one knows what Susie has and Susie does not try to explain to people that she is slowly falling apart. Instead she smiles when strangers look at her and wonders what it would be like to know.

Liz Grear is a recent Columbia College Chicago graduate where she received her B.A. in Creative Writing. Since moving back home to Jersey, she is busy getting used to not pumping her own gas. You can read more of her stories at Word Riot, in The Story Week Reader (her school’s annual journal of flash fiction), and Arts Across the Waters, an anthology of short stories online. Her loves include writing, cheerleading and teaching. When she is not doing one of those three things you can usually spot her with a colorful scarf and a hot cup of coffee. Find her at