Annie, gen, group.
Prompt: there's a knot in my chest
no sweeping exits or off-stage lines
Behind the doctor, sunlight glows so bright it hurts the eye. White slats fracture the incoming rays, splitting them into little spears of gold that arc over the woman in a white coat and punch straight through Annie Edison.
There's a knot in your chest, says the doctor; the blinds sway in the window while she talks.
Am I going to die?
There's a knot, right here, the doctor explains, and it takes root in the bloodstream. We have something we'd like to try, to nip the blossom while its still a bud.
Annie closes her eyes, and the doctor disappears.
We love you, says her mother, and Annie opens her eyes to a pair of strangers.
It's gray outside, soft light that doesn't burn. Annie turns over on her hospital bed, face to the widow.
I want my friends, she tells the stranger. I don't want you.
There's a knot, she explains to the crowd of broken faces. Evening light washes over them, a rainbow of color and dreams and so many chances seized.
Her fingers drift to the collar of her hospital gown. It's in my chest, right here, and it's sending out roots and when it's done I'm going to be a tree.
This elicits protest, a chorus up and down until it fills the room with song: But you're my favorite. This isn't fair, we were supposed to be better friends and now you're leaving. I'm praying for you honey. I don't want this show anymore, it's sad all the time. How can we make it better? Don't go.
Annie squeezes the beige blanket in her fist and says, I love you guys, you know that, right? I love you and I want to stay. I have to stay! I just got started.
She wakes up, in the moments between, and there's a man in her room. He's in the chair set aside for guests, and his face is bowed between his knees. His hands hide his eyes from the dull emissions of the overhead fluorescents. She watches him cry without a sound and Annie knows she should be touched, but all she can think is, Shut up, shut up, it's my heart. You don't get to cry over it.
Don't go, says the man in the chair. I'm not ready for you to go yet.
It's always about you, isn't it? Her voice is a flutter, a whisper of breaths in the gloomy atmosphere.
He puts his hand over hers, too little too late. Stick around, and I'll be better.
The sheets are rough against her cheek; her eyes slip closed again.
There's no sunlight in here, just white blazes and red dots and green lines.
I'm going to be a world famous detective, she tells the nurse who asks her to count backward.
Ten, nine, eight.
I'm going to fall in love.
I'm going to tell—