photo of the back of a girl with her hair in an updo

The Prom by Joshua Rupp

Wake up.

Don’t try to move. You’ve undergone exsanguination.

Exsanguinated. It means the complete removal of blood from the body. Your blood’s been piped out and replaced with saline.

Please don’t be that way.

Pardon? Oh. Well, it’s for research. Of course. For the war effort. You’re actually in one of the nicer wards, I pulled some strings. You should see what they do down the hall, that’s gangrene research. What they do, you see, is they take liquid nitrogen and they…

You know what? Never mind. Let’s talk about pleasant things.

You don’t remember me, do you? I was in Bio 101 with you, back in high school.

I was shy, I almost never spoke to you. Never worked up the nerve, except for that one time. I doubt you remember. Looking back, maybe that’s for the best. Clearly, our politics differ. We probably would never have agreed. Did I think you’d end up with the rebels, though? I don’t know. You had a certain…luminosity.

Luminosity. You were a free spirit. Everyone could tell. Can I tell you something? Without making you upset? I had such a crush on you. I think we all did. Did you feel that? You probably did. I think all the beautiful girls know that, when that happens, when they’re in that position. Which is probably why you didn’t talk to me. Which I do not blame you for. I like to think I’ve filled out since then, but I wasn’t the most attractive kid. I don’t know if you remember. I sat in the back of the class. I didn’t ask questions.

You don’t appreciate this, but that would surprise a lot of people now. I’ve become very well-regarded in my field. I really fit in here. We all find our place, I think, once we get out of high school. High school is the worst. High school sucks. You have to completely reinvent yourself afterwards. Look at me, I couldn’t even get a girl to talk to me. I couldn’t get you to talk to me. I don’t know if you remember me trying. You probably don’t.

Really, the rebels? We’ll clearly never agree on patriotism.

Pardon? You have to enunciate more clearly, your motor skills have been impaired.

Enunciate. I don’t understand you.

Oh. Well. Realistically no, it’s a very dangerous procedure. We’re certainly not ready to test on people yet. I mean, of course you’re a person, but you know what I mean.

I mean, given your position…your involvements. I agree, it’s severe, but you have to consider the position of the military. And, as I said, I pulled some strings to get you here. I know, you don’t feel like thanking me, but this is one of the less painful things that can happen to you here. I was so surprised to see your picture. I’m sorry for your choices. I’m so glad I get to see you again.

Do you remember the prom?

I asked you to dance. That was when I spoke to you. That’s so long ago now. I forget what you said. Did you say anything? I don’t think you said anything. I remember that you laughed. You had a lovely laugh.

What’s that?


Thank you.

Of course I accept your apology. We were young then. You didn’t know. Everyone was mean in high school. We grow out of it.

Yes, the dizziness is caused by oxygen deprivation. You can breathe and you can feel yourself breathe, but your cells aren’t processing the air. Your organ functions are being compromised. That’s what’s causing the heat in your chest. We’ve been trying to crack it. We’re making progress. Anyway. You’re experiencing the early stages of hypoxemia.

Hypoxemia. That’s what we call it when the blood stream is inadequately oxygenated. You never did pay attention in bio class.
Excuse me, I have to…I just have to check the pressure of this…

Interesting. You’re actually doing very well.

I wouldn’t want you to think that I…that is to say, I wouldn’t want you to think me petty. Indeed, I have a regard for you. It took courage to take a stand like you did, much as I disagree with your political affiliations. Now that I think about it, this was probably inevitable. No one would ever be able to tell you what to do. We all knew it.

We could all feel it. Your luminosity. Even if you didn’t ever let me touch it. Which I do not blame you for. I remember you dancing at the prom. It was so long ago, it means nothing to you now. But it was magnificent. It was like watching flowers grow. It was like watching life cheat death. We were so young back then. You’re still young. You seem younger than you are. If I may say that. You’ll always be so young to me.

I thought you were the prettiest girl in class.

I probably should have told you that.

When Joshua Rupp was a child visiting Germany, he went to the Bone House, a cage in town where they stacked the skulls dug up from paupers’ graves. While he was staring at the skulls, a man from a local stall came over, wound up a mechanical chicken, and made it walk over the top of the cage. He then took his chicken back, bowed, and went away. Joshua realized that nothing more important was ever going to happen, and that he was destined to become a prophet. Joshua Rupp lives in the north. He’s fine, and thanks you for asking.

Lead image“untitled_(234_of_442).jpg” (via Flickr user kimwillen)