18. I had never seen anything so terrible.
“My mom owned a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant when I was in high school, and I spent my weekends working there. Other than me, she had only two other employees—a young married couple, Hope and Jackson. After working with us for a year, Hope was diagnosed with stomach cancer and over the next few weeks we watched her waste away. She became emaciated when she could barely handle the pain of her all-liquid diet. It was like a battle between starvation and the cancer, as far as what was going to take her in the end.
Hope insisted she keep working for my mom to take her mind off things, but eventually she was placed in hospice when she became too weak. One day while I was working with my mom, she got a call from Jackson who could say nothing, only sob into the phone. My mom closed up the place and we rushed to where Hope was in hospice. I thought she had died already, but when we got out of the car I realized I was wrong. We could hear her from the parking lot. Unearthly shrieks slapping their echoes against the surrounding brick.
Hope screamed for two hours. She screamed until her voice was gone, and she still kept trying to scream—a raspy, hollow, breathy sound, like a death rattle that wouldn’t quit. Her eyes rolling, her gaunt face drawn tight against her skull and the veins in her neck straining from the force of her silent screams. Her bloody bile gathered at the corners of her mouth and ran down her chin and neck. I was horrified—I had never seen anything so terrible. They pumped her full of morphine but it didn’t seem to affect her. She screamed until the very end, out of her mind with the pain. After two hours, she was gone.
She was only 24 years old. Ten years later, I am now 24 years of age. I think about her all the time.”
19. It didn’t make sense to see a human body in so many pieces.
“When I was in grad school circa 2011 I would commute to school on the train. There were two sets of rails going each direction; the slower commuter lines on the outside and faster bullet trains on the inside.
We pulled into a station one morning, probably around 8:00am, and people were shuffling on. I was already seated and staring out the window at the opposite side of the tracks, where this older-middle aged woman was sitting on a bench. As I’m watching, the lady stands up and starts walking onto the tracks. She gets to the inner track and stops.
A few seconds later, a bullet train whizzes by.
It’s difficult to describe really what I saw. It didn’t make sense to see a human body in so many pieces. I was studying anatomy at the time, and was able to identify bits of her lungs, intestines, arms, legs, jaw, eyes, etc. all spread out over a dozen or so meters, as well as innumerable chunks of fleshy God-knows-what.
A lot of people on the train saw, and everyone got really quiet. One man said, “Shouldn’t we help her?”
A moment later, our train started moving and we left the station. I went to class and but didn’t really talk much for the next week. I can still see that woman’s face like it was yesterday, both intact and spread out all over the tracks.”