I. Daisy's bedroom is decorated nice, but more and more it looks like something off the SyFy channel. The wire frame of her bed is painted white, and names are carved in floorboards where she might have watched trains pull from station to station until their lights burned out, swallowed in the heat rising from the earth. All of this gingham and lace, braided with red wires like strings of candied gemstones. Necklaced like a bright, happy bomb. Daisy keeps all her hospital bracelets taped under the mattress, where she can brush her hands against them, count them: "One, two, three, four..." The inhaler from when the school nurse thought it was asthma. The heart machine sitting on the floor, the mattress and drapery in trauma center pastels, and the pills like handfuls of yellow rice.
After a few months her mother invited me over for dinner. Daisy sat at the dining table, wrinkling the skirt of a cherry-red dress in her hands under the tablecloth, her mother's good china and doilies like seismic chasms softening every edge of the house. "Daisy-proofing," she called it, like her condition made her "motherfucking sleeping beauty, pricked and purple." Her chapped fingers drifted from silverware to napkin to glass. She sat there with cannulas framing her neckline. This jet-black heart-box like a sneer of all teeth, wreathed in clear plastic tubes, sitting next to her.
II. We met in an office, like a lunch detention but with a round wooden table and Crayola 64 packs of crayons. She lied, and told me she was in trouble for making a shank out of paperclips. She offered me a cherry candy she'd pulled from a grocery bag. She told me how, growing up in Manhattan, there were news reports warning about razorblades in halloween candy. How her grandfather broke every cherry sour in half on the counter with a sledgehammer, how they stuck to her shirtfront like skullshards, red like the first time mom said a cussword. How the counter was sticky for weeks.
People from the church remember Daisy as a kid drowned in birthday cake, happy kid in the Christmas cards with pale elbows in a sweater red as a nosebleed: Santa Claus with a serial killer grin, cheeks red as ulcers. I'd say, tell that to the funny little metal bits living in her chest cavity. Tell that to her razorwords, her namesake—Daisy-cutter. Pajama day at school, her in those boxers and the aquamarine jacket. How the other girls talked in the lunchroom and she hid cookies from the blood drive in her pockets and stapled perforated slabspeech to the grainy walls.
III. It was the Fourth of July and we were in the cafe parking lot with the fireworks her mom didn't know she'd bought. By then, Daisy was getting driven to Rochester every fourth week of the month, missing a lot of school for checkups and surgeries. We were in a sort of flea-town, a drizzle beginning to rattle the roofs like tin cans. Daisy unwrapped a bag with bold letters and cartoon sparkles reading "COSMIC WHEEL," and handed me one of the pink orbs.
"It's supposed to look like the birth of the universe. I watched some YouTube videos." She had a black lighter in one hand, a lime coke set on the curb, and cotton shorts stained by the smoke bombs from earlier. She handed me the orb, which sat like a peach-pit in my hand. Said, "Wanna hold the beginning of the universe?" and lit the thin fuse without waiting for an answer. It started spinning, and for a second I thought my hand had exploded. I threw it to the black-top, screaming, sparks whirling from its tender blackheart like a shattered chest, something bottomless. Daisy-cutter laughed so hard she choked on her coke. I had blisters on my hand for months.
IV. After dinner, we were in her bedroom by that oak bed, choked by childhood and overstuffed pillows. She taught me to pull blood to the surface of my skin by sucking my wrist until red pricks of blood appeared. She was smiling, her skin an afterbirth stain in the pink light from a flower-shaped desk lamp.
We sat there giving ourselves hickeys, and then she was naming all the girls in class 132 she thought were dykes. Her ankles were swan-diving over the rosebud smear of the bedspread. She tilted her head back and smiled all sly. "So I'm smoking in the locker room just last Friday, and Jenny walks in and I'm already putting it out over the sink and the whole room smells like fucking skunk-puff, right? And she's just grabbing her bag or whatever, but she sees the ashes all doused on the ceramic and gets really close to my face, I mean so close I can smell her strawberry milkshake lip balm and the shit on her breath and she says she'll report me." She was hugging a pillow, leaning forward as the suspense built. "Okay, but she's getting really close, and she's looking at me like she can see under my shirt. Staring at my mouth. She backs me up right over the sink. And I don't care, I just want to mess with her, but I lean in closer and she falls in, we're kissing and she's all bent-up about it. Really, it's pathetic. I still have this impression from where her bracelets were jangling against my wrist when she grabbed my arm. God, how am I gonna get rid of her now?"
"You shouldn't be smoking. You're sick." She didn't like to be reminded.
"That's my heart, girl. Not my lungs."
V. She told me her mother, in lieu of therapy, had her doing meditations: rolling beetlejuice-bright chakras along her spine, her peripherals. "I sit like this, cross-legged, and imagine a white hot ball of light. I make myself a finger in a socket or a fork in a toaster." She holds her hands steady, near her chest. "The high voltage travels through my legs, my stomach, my arms." I imagine her melting organs like glowworms. Her mottled hands, beholden to this ball of light. "It doesn't heal a damn thing, no matter how hard I try."
I fell asleep on her floor, that night. On a scratchy carpet in shades of pink and scarlet like dilated blood vessels, a smell of shampoo. I dreamt of her heart as a jelly shoe I lost in the mud as a child glittering in the sun, a herd of cats phantasm-ing across my backyard, a dead mulberry tree glowing like the x-ray smear of the echocardiogram screen. Daisy's heart in ultrasound. Or the firework, bright and scalding in my palm. Cruel as she was, I wanted her iridescent and alive. I wanted to pull the light from her chest and crack it like a glowstick. Sling it across the pavement.
VI. The thing is, it's hard to fantasize about someone when the closest to naked you've ever seen them is shirtless with a slew of bandages woven across their chest.
VII. She used to like her hands. I remember them shaking in the emergency room, all the blood she lost in that Walgreens and tissues in her nose, my jacket around her to hide the stains on her blouse. They were becoming strange, like her skin was melting into bone. She wore a lot of rings, chunky ones that hid her fingers.
I visited the hospital and it was all very Battlestar Galactica, with the lights dimmed to show the dialboard of machines, the wrecked fuselage of metal-bolted bed. An echocardiogram showed her guts, lit up and quarantined. She told me about the metal bits, the operation, and I called her bionic. She shot me with a finger-gun, said "Boom." I think she was woozy from the meds. Before the next surgery I shot her with my finger-gun; pulled the trigger of my index, flicked my wrist. She played dead. She was good at playing dead.
They said she'd be bed-ridden for at least a few weeks. Once, I came to visit her. The mobile life-support sort of lump she had to drag around, which we'd started calling the heart-o-matic, was on a chair by the TV set, and a sundress was on a wire hanger on the window blinds. Daisy's eyes were bloodshot and her hair was snarled, said all the beeps from the heart machine were making her crazy. I had brought her an orchid in a plastic cup. I thought she'd want something to grow beside her, something alive that she could nurture. Not those mushy plastic-wrapped bowls of pineapple cubes, or the rubbery leaf-plants in the doorway. She took the orchid and threw it at my head.
Daisy said, fertility freaks the hell out of her. She was an easy target of the present-day aseptic-ness, how everything comes from the supermarket in a void fill wrap. I used to dream a lot about farms, even though I never lived in one. Daisy says, "If you live on a farm, you have to kill a lot of animals. If a horse breaks its leg, you have to shoot it."
VIII. We were outside the church on a rocky hill, and Daisy was smoking cause she couldn't in front of the bishop. I'd put on a dark blue dress with funny sleeves—I remember cause I hated it. How my legs looked strange and reddish under the fabric. Some priest or father had just got done blessing her, raising his hands above her chest in a ritual prayer to heal her dumb, bleeding organ. The heart-o-matic sat in the pew next to her, and its silhouette reminded me of satan gazing with a sinful red-eye. I think Daisy had given up on it: wearing black tennis shoes and chewing gum, like her Catholic mother wasn't raising her hands hallelujah to the ceiling.
Then, we were in her bedroom again and her mom was making us lunch, and she was wearing two sweaters when it was barely cold. She'd snapped the stem of this daisy I'd found under the gable of the church mausoleum. She said, "Goddammit, Macie, stop giving me flowers," and put her hands in her pockets. That's about when she started crying. It's weird, but I'd never seen her cry before. Same way you never see your father cry, it was strange and I didn't know whether to touch her shoulder or look out the window. I guess I looked out the window, cause I remember seeing the stark profile of rusty boxcars on the treeline moving along the tracks, heading toward a slow extinction. Daisy put her head on my neck and it suddenly occurred to me how very warm she was.
Savanna Judd is an art student who mostly draws comics about zombie apocalypses and mostly writes about the various ways the world will end. She was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but doesn't remember anything about it except an interactive airplane exhibit in the children's museum. She's been published in Phosphene Literary Journal and various independent zines including Other Worlds: a Zine of Queer Futures, but mostly writes for herself and aggravated friends who Really Did Not Ask.