Tag Archives: kindness

Medical Microfiction: Ecdysis

Dear John

By the time you read this, you will have found my body.

Don’t grieve. I’m not dead. I’ve just moved out.

It’s not anything you did. It was the right time.

I’m worried about you, though. You don’t have many friends apart from me. So someday I’ll visit. I’ll knock, you’ll invite me in for coffee, and after a long chat, I’ll explain everything and we’ll laugh.

But you won’t recognize me in my new skin. I could be old or young, male or female, Greek or Israeli or Japanese. Better offer coffee to anyone who knocks. Just in case.

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molting (moulting) dragonfly
Is she dead, or has she just moved out? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ecdysis is a word to describe the molting of an exoskeleton in certain species, particularly insects. Usually this shedding of the old skin happens at a time of developmental transition, when you’re moving from one stage to the next.

People don’t molt, of course. Not like insects do. So it’s interesting to think what this process might look like to us if someone we loved underwent ecdysis. My heart is with poor John, who has found a note and a body and must make up his own mind what to believe. Is his loved one dead, or merely transformed?

This story came from a personal place, after several late-night talks with my husband following the sudden death of one of his young students last week.

What might happen to us after we die? Is death a final end, or is it a sort of ecdysis, a shedding of one body as we move to a new stage of development? Like John, we have no way of knowing. We can only make a choice on how to live, given the possibilities. John can live in hope, and treat strangers with the utmost love, or he can live in despair, and ignore the door.

And if he’s wrong? I guess he’ll hand out a lot of free coffee for no reason other than human kindness. But I can think of worse ways to spend my life.

I’ve shared this video before, but it is such a great illustration of ecdysis that I hope you won’t mind me resharing it: the incredible life cycle of cicadas! Set the video to HD and make it big for best results!

I hope your weekend is wonderful, and full of coffee shared with friends and strangers alike, my friends!

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Medical Microfiction: Arachnoid

In the Shelter of Each Other

Wanda found a spider in the shower one morning. No surprise; it was an old house, full of cracks, leaks, drafts, and squeaks — much like Wanda herself.

“Let’s get you out of the steam, little friend,” said Wanda. She trapped it in a Mason jar and freed it in the attic, where there were abundant insects to eat.

That winter, the house somehow felt a little warmer. The gas bill dropped and her arthritis eased.

In spring, Wanda checked the attic. Her friend had been busy. Carefully overlapped leaves wrapped in spider silk patched each hole in the roof.

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The arachnoid: proof we all have cobwebs in the brain.
The arachnoidea: proof we all have cobwebs in the brain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Arachnoid means spider-like. In anatomy, arachnoid specifically refers to one of the three membranes that cover the brain inside the skull. The first membrane touches the skull directly and is called the dura mater, which is Latin for “tough mother”. This awesome and hilarious name came about when Greek medical words were mistranslated into Latin. The second membrane, the arachnoid mater or arachnoidea, underlays the dura mater. It’s named for its thin, weblike appearance. The third membrane covers the brain directly and is called the pia mater, or “pious mother”. Once again, that name came from a translation error by way of Greek.

Meninges of the brain
Meninges of the brain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Together, these three membranes protect, anchor, and cushion the brain and spinal cord so they don’t spend all day getting knocked against the inside of your skull. If you experience a head injury and the doctor puts you on concussion watch, it’s because they’re worried about bleeding in between these membranes or meninges. The disease meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes in either the brain or spinal cord due to a viral or bacterial infection.

So much relies on this delicate trio of tissues. Good thing they’re one tough mother.

This is another story I wrote for the Drabblecast’s ongoing flash fiction contest, this time on the theme “Good Samaritan”. Have you ever had a stranger do something particularly kind for you?