Our Island of Epidemics was used to one epidemic fading into another like seasons. The epidemic of unusual growth fading into the epidemic of illogic fading into the epidemic of overpoliteness fading into the epidemic of teeth falling out. Very recently we caught an epidemic of obsessing. We starting leaving our lives for the things we thought we loved: quitting our jobs for hobbies, leaving our spouses for crushes, disappearing from our homes to go back to the places of our youth, dreaming the same dreams night after night. What we wanted was for what we thought we loved to last forever and for what we wanted to be the same as who we thought we were, and we became obsessed with the epidemic of obsession.
We had to call an intervention. We all gathered in the big park by the hills with our knitting and our coin collections and our lovers and our accomplishments of youth and so on—the first time any of us could remember trying to end an epidemic ourselves, and one we secretly loved—and talked about our families and our jobs, which some of us had forgotten and some of us clung to fiercely while everything else jettisoned. We stood up one by one, then sat down again beside our obsessions and felt our blood flash through our veins and wanted to give up. Though really what we wanted was to obsess over more justifiable things, the things we used to believe we cared about. Though really what we wanted was to obsess over our obsessions even more, enough to block out everything else completely.
And we made a decision: we shoved our obsessions away from us and stumbled through the park looking for the families we said we loved, groveling for our old jobs, old lives, while in the back of our minds our obsessions pushed against our brains like tumors we didn’t want to want. We sat in the park for three days before someone started to sprout hair from his back like grass, and then someone else, and all of us.
We went home. To our own homes.
But what we loved remained what we loved—we could see that clear as day and still in our dreams—and we wondered whether the epidemic had faded or whether, during those few months, there’d been no epidemic and we’d still been getting over the epidemic of fainting. We felt weak. Maybe we’d started and ended an epidemic on our own.
Matthew Salesses holds an MFA from Emerson College. He is the author of The Last Repatriate (forthcoming from Flatmancrooked), and We Will Take What We Can Get. Stories of his have appeared or will in Glimmer Train, Witness, and American Short Fiction. Other short shorts in this series are in Cavalier Literary Couture, Wigleaf, Word Riot, Necessary Fiction, Thieves Jargon, Everyday Genius, and Pindeldyboz, and will soon appear elsewhere and as a PANK little book, Our Island of Epidemics.