A Regular Hexahedron
rating: +21+x

On the fifteenth of October, 1998, I was crushed into a cube.

Logically, I knew I was dead, because before I was dead I felt the excruciating agony of the transformation, and afterward I did not. I knew I died sometime after my eyes popped and my organs stopped bursting and my tendons stopped snapping and my bones stopped crunching and grinding into powder but sometime before every single ounce of flesh and blood in my body became pressed together in a perfectly homogeneous solid. All of it, and my guts, my heart, my lungs, my brain, my skin, my… I don't know, my lymph nodes? All compacted down into a cube sixteen millimeters on a side. Or, I guess it's an edge. Geometry was never my strong suit. But then, what was?

I was dead but I wasn't dead. Somehow, I could still think and feel and experience things and be aware of what was around me, like my mind was in a camera looking down with a light shining onto that little flesh-colored cube, each square face always glistening, raw as a chicken leg fresh off the butcher's block. I didn't have to live in myself anymore. It didn't hurt, but it felt like tremendous pressure, like swimming deep underwater and looking up at the sky. I actually almost drowned once, when I was younger. It felt like that, like that moment before my body went limp and I lost consciousness in the water and I was finally peaceful and didn't hurt until they hoisted me from the pool and pressed the calming water out of my throat and my lungs until I was coughing and choking and gagging and breathing and feeling again, my head splitting and my nostrils two rivers of mucous and burning chlorine, wondering why they pulled me out. That moment right before I gave up life and fell asleep where the weight of the water was pressing on me and all around me and up against me inward all the time, extended out to forever, exactly the same on all sides, that pressure. That was the feeling of being a cube. The feeling of letting go. The feeling of escaping myself. The feeling of leaving behind my useless body that never worked right, that never looked how I wanted it to, and moving beyond. Now, with six identical faces, instead of one I never recognized.

The one who crushed me picked me up with her long thin fingers and she put a jeweler's loupe over her eye and she looked at me. Through the loupe her eye was distorted, bloodshot, green, grotesque; and yet, even with all of that, I was no longer afraid of being beheld. She smiled and her perfectly white and even teeth glimmered in the dim light of the room and she reached overhead and flicked on a bright lamp and she took out a small cedar box. I had seen it when I first came into her little cottage, when I begged her to make me normal. It had a carving in the top of it of some sort of plant. I'm not a botanist or anything but I thought I had seen this kind of plant before, though I couldn't recall what it was. The old me would have felt stupid for not knowing. The box was smoothly polished and the top of it slid off silently, fluidly, and even though it was in excellent repair and clearly of superlative manufacture, I could still tell by its sides, worn thin from years of frequent handling, that it was very old.

From inside the box the woman pulled out a tiny, short paintbrush, maybe only three inches long, almost as slender as a piece of straw. The brush was carved all up and down with symbols and figures and patterns I couldn't even begin to decipher and the detailing of which was bewildering. Inside the box was a little crystal vial of pitch-black ink and she pinched the top of it carefully, perfectly between her fingertips and lifted the lid off and set it aside and with the same hand lifted the brush and dipped it expertly into the ink and removed it. The ink clung to the tiny clutch of bristles like a frightened child to a mother's leg, and she lifted me with her left hand into the bright pool of light from the overhead lamp and began to paint. On each side she slowly, with great deliberation, inked the numbers one, two, three, four, and five on five of my faces while she gripped me by my corners. Or, I guess, vertices. The sensations of the brush were bizarre and alien on my faces, like hair hanging down in the eyes, but magnified, across a huge portion of my ability to feel, across my whole body. Then she painted that same plant that was engraved on the box upon my remaining face, opposite the number one. It had two twisted branches with three leaves on the end of each, and her slim, nimble fingers made the tiniest, most precise motions I had ever seen, with such care, with such sensitivity, drawing each minuscule vein upon them. Her signature, marking me as a piece of some game or tool of divination unknown to me, but of great importance to her. I could tell by the expression on her face and the great care she took that she loved inking my faces. Loved and enjoyed the process, a master of her craft, attending to detail on me. On my body, on my faces. Attention like that, to me, for the first time I could remember.

She set me down gently on a piece of felt she had laid out on the table after making sure that the ink was dry. Then she went over to her wood stove, poured a measure of some viscous substance in a small tin pot, stirred in powder from a burlap sack on her shelf with a blackened wooden spoon, and heated the mixture over the flame.

The smell, I don't know how I know this, because my nose was in the cube, unrecognizable, and I could not breathe, but the smell was atrocious. It was the smell of burning hair and tar and melting plastic bottles and a thousand other things I didn't know and it was overwhelming to me. I felt like I might burst, I was so nauseated, but there was no discernible organ inside me to hold that feeling, and at any rate there was nowhere to burst to even if I'd had a stomach or something like it any longer. She brought this bubbling, steaming, stinking pot, now filled a quarter of the way with a foul, churning liquid, thicker than syrup, thicker than spent motor oil, and set it on the cloth, and took out a pair of metal tongs from her box and picked me up and thrust me directly into the bubbling liquid, which was

agony

suffering

torture

all I have ever and had ever and will ever know is the burning, the smell, the hissing of the skin, the blistering of the flesh, the searing, the

raw unfiltered feeling of death of dying of "this is it, this is the burning end"

t h i s m u s t b e h e l l i t s e l f

and it was over and I was lifted out and the substance was hardening in the cold air of the little cottage and the draft under the door and it stiffened, stiffened until I was in a straightjacket made of this stuff, a cube-shaped insect, with a human for its guts. She looked at me and smiled again, and she said, "You'll do," and she was beautiful, and she said that about me, and I felt the strangest feeling, with the ink lovingly, tenderly detailed on each of my faces, like finally, somewhere, somehow, for the first time in my life, it would be okay, and I had turned out perfect, just the way I was.

I remember now. It was poison oak.

cottage.jpg

by TrapdoorViolet

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