BRANCARD • by Travis Flatt

Across Reddit, Wikipedia, Quora, I hunt it. My eyes burst vessels. My wife leans in the door, saying, “Babe, you’ve got work in the morning.”

I wasn’t religious until sickness ignited my brain. Not madness, electricity. Seizures sparking from nowhere, like the Big Bang. These seizures surgeons chase with scalpels, finding nothing.

They’re God’s touch. I feel it golden, sizzling.

I gave up on the doctors and found the brancard.

Tug your hair back. Gape your eyes until you cannot blink. Smash your nose into the flimsy glass you’ve been sold all your lives and look. Stare until you see it.

See the little girl lying in a willow grove, head wrapped in linen bandages from cracking her temple on a rough-hewn oak table, dizzy with maladie des chutes, “falling sickness.”

Beneath her in the clover lays the brancard, her stretcher. She’s been sleeping on it. Her siblings, Catherine and Pierre, carry her down to the grove to rest when she gets sick. She loves sunlight, breeze, buzzing. Fresh air helps her coalesce.

The brancard Joan’s left behind in the grass. She follows the dazzle and pop of the whispering saints. She’s beginning to seize. The kaleidoscopic disruption of neurons shatters the glass and allows in her neighbors. Those who circle and swirl above.

The saints do not waste words. “Save the world. Expel evil.”

The rattle of their breath leaves her locked, clenched, and sprawled on the muddy bank of the stream that slides alongside the grove, eyes rolled back and showered with the glittering glass sand that scratches away the brown from her irises to expose what’s golden. Pierre, delivering her bread, discovers her, shoves a stick in her teeth, cradles her head as she weeps and speaks of heaven.

“Let’s get you home,” he says.

“I’ll walk,” she says. And he allows it. The voice of a crusader.

The brancard will now rest in the corner of the barn, grow dusty, straw-covered, and refuse to age. From generation to generation the brancard slips hands, until it’s a rack of slats and sticks. No one knows what it is, but now touched, it evades ruin.


Did you know there are still d’Arcs today? Some use other surnames. Clotide D’arc, a young woman from the line of Pierre with the tumbling hair and glinting smile of a princess, exploits the name for festivals and parades.

Under the guise of a smiling, ordinary tourist — t-shirt, jeans, bad posture — I brush fingers along her white stallion as it passes. Into my gums stab the splinters of the brancard. A window unlatches. I glimpse a basement of a farmhouse on the outskirts of Orleans — for sale! — and, at a showing sneak downstairs, brush those same fingertips along the brancard’s frame where it rests against a moldy, foul-smelling wall. The colorless oak is notched together like Lincoln Logs, no slats nor fastening twine survive — only the frame and handles. Embedded in this frame lives pollen, skin dander, shards of miracles.

It found me, not the other way. I swear this to you.

I’ve waited in my hotel room for ten days and not felt a spark of sickness.

I haven’t swallowed a pill in a week.

It worked.

Travis Flatt is a teacher and actor living in Cookeville, Tennessee. His stories appear in JMWW, Flash Frog, Bending Genres, Maudlin House, and other places. He enjoys theater, dogs, and theatrical dogs.

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