The Human Genre Project

Coagulation Cascade

For so long it had been a sight to conjure up not just surprise or shock, but the deeper, tuberous roots of a mortal fear that had been drilled into him since he was old enough to think; a regiment of anxieties, brought to the sharpest precision. The bead of blood that welled up against the side of his finger for a moment almost sent him spiralling off into one of those earlier panics, or threatened to lock him down into that glazed and hypnotised terror that no soothing words could open up; only the red blood's retreat from wherever he had been cut, the stemming of its endless tide.

In the darkness, though growing paler now, even down here, as the summer sun began to rise, the boy watched the blood-bead roll down to his knuckle. He held up his hand to catch the light. It looked black against his skin. Blue blood, they had called him, and then laughed to see it was the same colour as their own.

He pressed his lips to it, a flap of skin peeled back by some extrusion from the wheelchair's frame, tasting the familiar copper notes against his tongue. Important not to let his mother see; she would only worry more. The boy called up the techniques he had been taught, the way to measure each breath, train it to slow down his heart rate so the blood would settle.

“Because you are special,” his niania had said, once. “That is why it will not stop. Not like my blood – thick, peasant's blood, not like yours!”

Mother was sitting near him, her hand straying over always to rest against his arm. Sisters there, somewhere in the corners. Father, all stridency muted now. Black things rustled in the room's corners; a verdigris of dirt against every surface.

They had been told what was going to happen, no triumphalism, just simple fact. No move, no flight in the twilight hours to yet another location. He pressed his cut finger against the side of his shirt. It would stain, and in the morning his mother would no doubt see it and scold him, but then there would be no morning now, for any of them, so what did it matter? But still, he would not want her to worry. The bleeding would stop, he hoped it would. He kept the cut hidden.

There was, beyond the door, the sound of men approaching, and in his mind came the image now of palace snow, and long grounds unstained and pure.

Richard Strachan