"I'm not afraid."

He feels her forehead.

It scalds his palm,

the flaky skin

rubs off onto it.

Her skin is pale, lips gray

and chapped, spirit hollow.

She coughs up blood.

A demon is eating her insides,

starting with her stomach,

then her large intestine;

the screams she shouts are not

loud enough to match the pain.

"Tell them I wasn't afraid."

He holds her as she shakes.

She looks so real today.

Her fingers curl like bird talons.

Short of breath, she asks,

"Why can't I stay?"

When she stops shaking,

he touches her face,

rubs her arms.  He whispers

the story of A Little Princess,

her childhood favorite.

She had begged him to read it

to her yesterday.

But today she's just a body.