Mona was eleven the first time she bled. The pain was so sharp, and the blood poured so thick and fast, that she lay down under the apple tree her father had planted for her golden retriever and waited to die.
With every drop that she bled, Mona felt herself take a step towards death, as if the blood she was losing was the same vital red stuff that ran through her veins. She had been dying for twenty years now, and she expected to be dying for twenty more.
When Mona’s older sister Kayla had started to bleed, she grew more powerful. It was as if each month Kayla lived through a traumatic experience, and came through the other side, stronger.
The second time Mona bled, she went back to the apple tree. This time she sat beneath it, trying to read a book and ignore the damp, itchy rag in her pants. In light of her dying, her proximity to the dead dog’s body seemed apt.
When Mona was thirteen, her mother took her to see the doctor. The doctor said that Mona should take some tablets, so she did. The tablets would help her cope with the feeling of dying that overcame her every time she bled. They would also stop her from becoming pregnant.
One day, Mona’s father brought home a new dog. He asked Mona to name her. Mona named her Janet.
Mona took the tablets every day for sixteen years. She moved out of her parents’ home, but she still found a tree to sit under every time she bled.
One winter, Mona met a nice boy who cooked dinner for her and gave her his jacket when she was cold. When winter turned to spring, the boy surprised Mona with a picnic in a small, hidden park. He laid a blanket out beneath an apple tree. Mona looked into the beetroot dip the boy had made, and thought about her insides seeping out between her legs.
When she was twenty-nine, Mona stopped taking the tablets. She couldn’t see how the pain or the fear of dying could be worse. Now instead of swinging between very happy and very sad, her mood was consistently below what she thought of as average. She wasn’t sure if it was better or worse.
Since the first time she bled, Mona continued to grow weaker. Where she had once climbed trees and worn shorts, she now stayed indoors and covered herself with blankets. Every time she bled, she became colder and thinner.
Eventually Mona became so thin that the bleeding stopped. Her family and colleagues told her that she was too thin, but nobody could deny that she seemed more alive than ever.
By this point, Kayla had bled so many times that she had become a veteran of sorts. She had lived through ten lifetimes of trauma. She loved Mona, but she thought her sister should just get over it. Mona is such a drama queen, she thought.
The better Mona felt, the more blood would escape her; and the more blood that escaped her, the worse she felt. She did not bleed regularly anymore and the blood regulated her health so that she could not be both happy and well.
You look very pale, Mona’s father said, squinting a little.
You look like a ghost, said Kayla.
Perhaps we should take you to a doctor, said Mona’s mother.
Mona had noticed the difference herself. Her hands seemed less opaque in front of her eyes. Her reflection was watery.
When Kayla became pregnant, there was less attention on Mona. Although more and more often, people would say things like, oh I didn’t see you there, or Mona, where did you come from?
As Kayla’s body got bigger, Mona’s got smaller. She wasn’t losing weight anymore, but her body occupied less space. Nobody knew how to describe what they thought was happening to her, so they didn’t say anything at all.
Kayla wasn’t bleeding anymore, and she seemed to be getting weaker. But perhaps that was just the baby sucking the life out of her.
Mona became translucent. Light passed through her, and people confused it with radiance.
Mona watched the baby being born, but nobody noticed she was there. She looked up turning invisible on the internet, but she couldn’t find anything that wasn’t metaphorical.
The blood was thick and dark and real as ever as Mona faded away. She went back to the apple tree in her parents’ garden and sat amongst the rotten apples a foot or so above her dead dog. Janet came outside and limped over to Mona. She licked Mona’s face. Janet was old now, she was half blind and completely deaf and her breath stank. Mona wondered how long Janet had left to live. She lay down with the dying dog and waited to disappear.