Carbon-based Physiology
By Aaron McQuiston

The decision was made, and I was dead. No heart rate. No respiratory rate. The neurons in what is left of my brain have finished firing. The last real memory before this line was crossed was the handgun pressed to my temple. Blood and brain matter and skull fragments are now all over the place. My naked torso sticks to the carpet.
Temperature is more important to me now more than ever. The drop from 37 degrees Celsius to more ambient temperatures can determined how long I have been lying here, no longer a person in a conscious sense. Of course my consciousness left a few hours before I became physiological reactions, but it's too late to think about that now.
I know what happens next. Since my muscles have energy reserves, I use them. My glycogen makes my muscle fibers fire one more time, stiffens everything up, but there will be no way for them to retract, thus leaving my muscles tight and rigid. This will last for about thirty-six hours before the fibers turn to gel and everything really turn to shit.
There is no more pure thinking; there is no more past. Memories of mothers and fathers and friends and lovers do not matter anymore. I am reactions and bacteria growth now. I am a biology experiment. I am a test.
My former life did leave a mark, like the dragon tattoo on my right bicep, the scar from when my appendix was removed, the cut under my chin where I was shaved this morning. It makes me wonder why I well-groomed this morning, only to be face down on the floor this afternoon. If I can meet him somewhere, have him explain the situation that led up to him leaving me behind, to pursue another form of life, I will gladly accept the invitation.
I can speculate to pass the time. Since the bacteria in my intestines in starting to grow and take over, E. coli being an organism that grows better in an oxygen free environment, my abdomen is starting to swell from the gaseous byproduct, I can say that my former occupant had his problems, like everyone has his problems, but not everyone takes the quicker way out. Most people just hurt and live and hurt and live.
After my abdomen has swelled and stretched my skin to the limit, the gas starts to escape, finding routes of least resistance, turning the small apartment into a noxious environment. I start to stink. Now that I think about this, now that the blood inside of me is pooling toward the floor due to gravity and turning my skin purple and black, I should be more upset than this. I should not be in this position, but I cannot let anger and disappointment rule the rest of my short life.
Nobody has come by this room to find me lying here. It has been days. All of the blood splattered around the room has dried. The blood underneath me has fused my torso to the cheap carpet on the floor. I feel sick, but I remind myself that I'm nothing more than chemistry. I will eventually be found, I will be wept over, I will be put in a casket and displayed as a symbol of the person I used to belong to. All that is left of him in the eyes of those who still love him. I will be buried in the cemetery. The process of my decay will not stop until it is complete.
I don't have a lot of time. As soon as the E. coli really takes over, it will eat my organs, transform them into jelly muck. Realistically, the reproduction of this bacteria should not be my only life. I should still have consciousness, should still be walking around parks and watching TV. I should still be having laughs and drinks at bars. I should still be moving, still be using blood to transport nutrients and oxygen to my cells, still be unclamping my muscles fibers, still be living. I try not to be angry, but I am angry. I have been left behind.
I cannot stop thinking about what is happening with the other part of me, the part that left. I hope that he has found happiness, that he has found peace. I hope he has escaped what he was running from, and not living like the gas that is escaping me, continuing to find the path of least resistance.
Sometimes hope can be such a heavy thought.

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I am a licensed respiratory therapist, and I help my father with his painting business. I figure this means when my lungs are shot from paint fumes, I can treat myself. I have a few published stories.

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