Psychopomp Magazine Fall 2013 - Page 19

IV. The Exopath

A mysterious but hard-headed virus, the exopath invades human skin and hardens the exterior of the body. Sufferers find themselves suddenly unmoved by their surroundings. Try as they might, the afflicted remain toughened to the world until the virus runs its course and their skin slowly softens.

Causes

The exopath works in symbiosis with stress, commonly infecting those whose immune systems are already compromised. The virus maintains a gradual onset, wherein the sinking of the sun each day slowly becomes less striking. Sufferers report that the virus fully sets in across the span of five days, after which the afflicted no longer view the sun’s sinking and close their blinds completely.

Symptoms

· Irritability, quick to anger; as the body’s skin slowly hardens, the growing pressure that the internal organs might implode

· Tendency to view pictures of owls, kittens, baby walruses, growing pandas; any attempt to soften the skin and dull the virus’s slow spread

· Tendency to venture to big-box stores in the middle of the afternoon and travel to the aquarium section, often sequestered in the back, to stare at one lone puffer billowing silently through stilled water

Treatment

Listening to love songs. Watching James Stewart movies. Drinking hot tea, letting steam soak through pores. Taking hot baths, steam baths, sauna trips, jacuzzi runs. Letting the skin soften of its own accord across a span of days, with the help of steam and sentimentality, until the body slowly thaws and the sufferer finds oneself moved. Until the sufferer gazes upon a baby elephant and feels the heart softly thud. Until the sufferer at last opens the blinds and lets the melting sun pool across the floor.

Valente | 15

Writer's Statement:

This project began as a collaboration of surprise. I’d been thinking about viruses-–less tangible ones, the small sadnesses that infect all humans-–but in the same way that they are elusive and somewhat inexpressible, I wanted theses viruses to be equally obscure. I told Josh Finnell to draw a series of creatures without telling him what I wanted to do with them. Once he drew them, I mapped a virus for each creature based on what the drawings suggested to me. I then researched the taxonomy of virus names and how they are classified, and I created the form of the piece from that research.