Fear first. Fear sharpens the startle
of latches and footsteps behind you.
Hallucinations next. Eyes shut,
neon patterns swirl into maps that confuse
and attack you. Faint robot motors scream.
Spider webs begin to breathe.
Panic follows as your brain cells
warp and swell. You’ll sweat and shiver
for 30 hours that you’ll sense as days.
Nauseated, you may bleed through your ears.
You’ll want to rip out your life support.
Fight! Fight for each swallow of water.
Fight to stay in bed despite your impulse
to run. There is nowhere to go but Death.
And here on Mars, as Phobos and Deimos
circle round and round, you must muster
the will to deny all you feel, and trust
what we know: that this virus shall pass
and your brain will heal, but only if you
do nothing but breathe and sip and wait.
Sara Backer walks the woods in New Hampshire, finding the line between surreal and speculative. Winner of the 2015 Turtle Island Poetry Award for her hybrid chapbook Bicycle Lotus, her speculative poetry has recently been published in Asimov’s, The Pedestal Magazine, Gargoyle, Hermes Poetry Journal, Shooter Literary Magazine, Bracken, Mithila Review, Silver Blade, Illumen, and Strange Horizons.
Editor’s Notes: An image of Mars and its moons, Phobos and Deimos, from 21space.info is collaged and overlaid with flu virus images from worldbestnews.net, which themselves appear quite alien.