rating: +11+x

Includes: Gore, Self-mutilation.

    • _


    Beneath the membrane of the glove: scales, cold and sticky. Cut, and slick red oozes out.

    Below the red is pale pink. Keep cutting. Above the muscle. Tendons, ligaments, tissue in lean strings, lines patterned together by the under-skin. Cut the lines. Peel up the skin like leather, the scales like millimeter-thick sapphires, the whiskers radio antenna. Feel it bend so soft and sweet, then blush so red and brown underneath.

    Peel it up. Fold it over. Cut deeper. Jab the knife in there, at the junction of tissue and clear white crunchy cartilage. Bend the knife, nice and deep. Weave around. The skin is thick – feel with the hand holding the knife and see on the other side, where the knifepoint bumps up, a clear point against the joint like a tumor, or a sharp-headed mass of maggots.

    Then curve the blade around, still watching from the outside the motion of the knife as it skips around, jabs in and out and snaps ligaments and tendons. Try not to go too deep – go long and shallow, grazing the surface of muscle. It’s hard to be good at this. Animals are complex, different each time. This one is denser than expected. No matter. Adaptation is something to be proud of.

    Focus. It’s easy to lose track. The knife hand has made progress, looping around the digits and musculature of the hand. Good.

    Animals aren’t fully red inside. To the left is a coyote, a practice animal before this new thing could be done for real. A roadkill. It’s not something to be thankful for, but at least it got a quick death. Or so was the hope. It has been eviscerated, the long looping worms of its guts scooped out. That’s the word that is used because it is true: it’s like an ice cream scooper were used to grab a soft ball from the rosy armour of its ribcage. Its bones, pink and yellow, remain, as do some organs left carelessly on the side, spidered with blue arteries and cobwebbed with red capillaries.

    Return to work. The hand has progressed, the skin nearly gone. It really isn’t all that red inside. Switch knives, moving to something without serration. Divide up the underarm, a fine cut down the middle where the scales are less like sapphire and more like platinum. Draw up, and make five separate cuts down the hand. It’s painful, but necessary for working with such delicate skin.

    Cut, and bite down. It hasn’t hurt until now. Mist that from the mind, break it apart until it is a fine pink fog. Can’t think about that right now.

    Lay the arm open like a corset coming undone. Let the skin fall to the dissection tray, a clean sheet. A perfect removal. The exposed muscle flexes and turns. The removal of the skin’s not what hurts yet, though. It’s what is about to happen.

    Move the knife to point in the line of skin and exposed muscle at the wrist. Inhale deeply. Hold the pink mist-mind, painless and pure, in a locktight grasp.

    Hammer down on the knife, shattering the bones of your wrist. Slam down again, eyes screwed shut. Scream bloody mercy through the leather strips in your mouth. Hammer and saw the knife back and forth with your free hand, the one not contaminated with scales. Yank the knife out, smaller and shorter than a finger, and plunge it back in, daggering it and sawing it between screams and ragged breaths that taste of iron. Feel the crunch of cartilage in your wrist, the breaking and rolling of bones as you tear them in half and rip them apart from their encasements. Against your gloved hand holding the dagger, the faint diamond-dust sensation catches and you wipe it onto the thrashing meat that is your skinned and bloodless white forearm and the grotesque thing at the end. Jab the dagger in again, again, again.

    Hot oily tears roll down your cheeks. It’s not coming off. The bone is too strong.

    Take your arm up. The forearm where the scale-skin still lives resists, tugging away. You grab it anyway, clasping hands with yourself. The thing jutting there claws madly, grasping and biting with its fingers as best it can. Something cracks in your jaw – a tooth splitting – and bile rises in your throat and on your tongue, yellow.

    Grasp the hand and take a deep breath, scrabbling frantically for wet control over yourself. Hold on tight, a self-handshake.

    Twist hard to the right. Then use your teeth, because that isn’t enough. Clench down and through your molars feel the grind of bone on tendon on muscle on bone like grindstones together, powdered, and then a

    – pop –

    and let go. With your mouth, not your hand. Finish twisting there with your free hand, then hold the remains down under your elbow, breathing hard and dripping sweat onto the dissection plate. Take a moment, readjust the thing at the end of your still-weakly-struggling left arm and hand, and bring the knife down again.

    This time, there’s no bone in the way. Just tissue. A horrible crunch fills the lab, followed by the soft wet noises of pink muscle and dark arteries being severed. The thing at the end of your arm rests limp.

    Breathe. Bring your real hand up to your face; slip off the glove with your teeth. Turn it inside out as you go, then drop it from your mouth into the garbage like an animal depositing a kill.

    Breathe. Rest your eyes a moment. The spotlights are blinding. Let the tension ooze from your shoulders, and lean against the table. Not facing the dissection. Not facing the thing lying there.

    Breathe. Then open your eyes wearily, as the world has begun to spin. Shuffle over to the first aid box in slow motion. Wrap your wrist over the course of half an hour, your free hand a sluggish thing. Tuck the exposed nerve fibres, yellow and white and too worn out to scream anymore, into the already-staining cotton dressing.

    And at long last, allow the cotton-pink mist to fade from your mind. Not just mind, but your mind. Again.

    Exhale deeply. Finish taping up, clamping down, tying the holes like a fiber-optic cable, gaping arteries and bone sections exposed amidst chunks of half-blushed viscera at the stump. Snip those off with surgical scissors wavering; find yourself shaky at last. The calm of adrenaline is fading. The mists are clearing.

    Don’t face the thing on the dissection table. It isn’t writhing anymore. It isn’t clutching your throat deep in the night, waking you with pain and numbness as you scramble in your sheets and fight to breathe. It isn’t clawing madly at your chest, seeking to clutch and squish your heart between its mad fingers like a god anymore. It isn’t anything at all, now. Just a lump of dead meat.

    Don’t look. Let it just be there, decaying in some old lab room, to be forgotten off the corner of the world.

    Take a deep breath. Don’t pop an ibuprofen here – who knows how long they’ve been expired.

    Take another breath. Another. Another. Wobble out of the room, gaze grey from bloodloss but alive at last. And maybe, maybe, after decontamination and antibiotic regimens and checkups all done by yourself, you can go home.

    Walk to the door. Fumble at the doorknob with your bandaged stump, smearing a layer of crimson onto the brass. Use your other hand, clumsy but better.

    Close the door. Leave the lab behind. Walk, eyes closed, through the hospital corridor. When you open them again, the stale recirculating air of asbestos and at-bay decay remains in your lungs, but the forest and her sea of pines is as far from where you had been as can be.

    We all have to leave something behind sometimes. It’s not always a bad thing.

    The air is pine. The stump at your forearm throbs, puffy and inflamed with the lack of everything that hurt you. At last, your body has figured out what happened. It reacts to the loss.

    You think it feels relieved.

    Breathe. Smile. The woods are alive, a lichen-infested jungle of plush moss and towering trees and vibrant ferns growing, scaling, overlapping one another, growing like wildfire. And you are here with them.

    In this world, away from stagnation, you can move on.

    And so you do.

The coyote is real. I have photos. he rest of the work, thankfully, isn't. Hope you enjoyed!
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