It happened one morning when I woke up: my bones were empty. I could feel it in my marrow, in the lightness of my yawning stretches and the curious silence of my heart.
I went over to the mirror to examine myself, but nothing looked amiss. My exterior self showed no sign of the alien space that had ballooned inside of me. There was not a single bruise, not a sign of a struggle between the shell of my skin and the wild cells that had flown the coop in the deep of the night. My body surrendered itself languidly, with the guiltless ease of a traitor.
When had it all begun to unravel? I don’t remember, so it must have been somewhere in the beginning. It happened so gradually, washing over me in warm trickles so that I kept my eyes shut in the glare of the sun and failed to realise the rising of the tides.
Or perhaps it had arrived, virginal and unnoticed, in my gene pool generations back. The pockmarked family tree clings steadfastly to my bedroom wall, singed yellow by the years of multi-flavoured cigarette smoke blown against it for the lack of a better recipient.
A great-uncle squats silently on a lower branch. A lonely void engulfs his name and the white nothingness underneath, proof of a barren life that had borne no children. The poor soul suffered from an eternal frailty of the bones. They called him the Glass Man.
It was how I felt now, standing in front of a mirror that seemed more tangible than me. My reflection looked back and smiled a smile of pure spite and satisfaction: she was the one who was real now, and I was stuck behind glass, blown to the wind.
I fought for so long against her, but somewhere between last twilight and this morning my vitality had been sucked from me, so greedily I had not a single drop left. I was so tired, too tired to fight anymore.
For weeks, she had been acting out of sorts. Since birth, she was content to pantomime as my faithful shadow, my conjoined twin, my parasitic lover. When I put my mouth to the glass I kissed not myself but her lips. We danced, we stretched, we examined the pores of our skin and the luster of our hair. We showed each other our nakedness, so that we knew each other down to the very last mole and mottled birthmark.
But after so many years, she was growing tired of my selfishness. She wanted to be in the spotlight, and slowly her love turned to hatred and her smiles turned to grimaces. She never spoke, but I could see it in her eyes. They stared at the worm inside me and clutched me with cold fingers, and I could not break free.
I am still now as she examines me, from slender sternum to rounded pelvis. She smiles again, and this time it is a smile plastered with sweetness, so she can relish in her victory and murder me softly with her love.
And yet still she is hesitant, as if unsure if I am really helpless or just pretending. Hers is a world of shadows, after all, a dream-state that hovered in a limbo of unreality and forced limbs to be slow and mind to be sluggish.
So when she eats me, it is with a slowness and tenderness that makes me shiver, goosebumps on the skin. Sinking into my flesh, she parts my ribs like the red sea. She consumes my heart, then my kidneys, my delicious liver, a sliver of my lungs so that my breath catches and I gasp in pain.
She licks my spleen, devours my stomach: taeniae coli, cecum, sigmoid colon; she unravels my intestines, plump with the void inside of me. She detaches my fallopian tubes and swallows my unborn eggs without mercy. Uncle, I whisper. Now my name, too, is a barren void, and I shall leave no legacy.
With a pale hand, she reaches for my gland of gratitude, my cells of joy. She slurps at my well of sadness, grasps my fury by the balls and inhales my hundred years of solitude.
And then she has become me, and I have become her shadow. I stand in the mirror, and I cannot speak. My mind is intact, but I am hollow.