harden your heart, foramina
rating: +7+x

The dog park is full of dogs, and the people who walk them. They are nice dogs, friendly dogs, dogs that everyone likes. And then there’s mine.

I look at my hand. Strangling it are three leashes. At the end of each one, there is a black dog, so wild they could almost be wolves. Their teeth are bared, tongues rolling out like red flags, eyes so glassy I could see my reflection in them. They blur, sometimes turning into one dog with three heads. They look intimidating, and for good reason. The other dog walkers keep their distance, and so do their dogs.


Can I see what you look like under your mask? She asked.
I took off my mask.
Silence, for a moment. Then, it shattered—
You look mean. She was blunt, because we both knew it to be true.
I know. But I’m not. I laugh to break the tension. I bare the whites of my teeth. The mask goes back on: I retract them. It wouldn’t happen today.


One day, something must have set them off. As a dog walker passed by, my dogs snapped at another dog. The next thing I knew, I was dragging them home, my heels digging into the pavement.

Calling them my dogs imply possession, implies that I have a certain degree of control over them. But they are not mine in the true sense of the word. I don’t claim them as mine. I just have to control them.

I keep my balance. I am upright. I do not fall over. I loop the leash around my wrist, closer, tighter.
I win.

The first thing I do when we get home, is to slice off a chunk of my arm and feed the dogs in their steel-reinforced enclosures. After all, I can always grow more. My first priority is to make the dogs behave. And they will behave, at least for the next week.


I've forgotten. I always seemed to forget what I wanted to remember, and remember what I want to forget. My mind has forgotten, but I have not.
It was indescribable. I always seemed to be at a loss for words about it. It itself could not be described or viewed directly, only its effects. So this is what it is: a black hole, characterized only by what it is not. If I try going too close to it, its anti-matter begins to cancel out my entire existence. My sense of self begins to slip away.
So I stay away from it. If it was you, you’d do the same.
This is what I do to it. I harden my heart. I take the weakness, I condense it until it cannot be condensed anymore, and it turns into a black hole. I take the thing that it turned into, and place it in a box inside my heart.
To be taken care of later. Not now. I’d die. Or rather: they’d kill me. They’d see how much they can hurt me, and then they’d tear me apart. And I’d kill them right back.
The worst part about all this is that I’m right.


The dogs whimper, dark eyes so glassy I could see my reflection in them. And for a moment, they are puppies again, hurt and wanting someone to comfort them.

(And for a moment, I am five years old again, tears pouring down my tiny face, too distraught to explain the situation and even myself. And for a moment, I am ten years old again, alone on the playground. And for a moment, I am fifteen years old again, studying the fall four stories down. And for a moment—
Two rows of teeth erupt from the lower half of my face and latch onto my arm. I smile around the pain.

I shoot them a glare, and the dogs settle down for the final time with no objections.


I am at the dog park again. I see people walking their dogs. Nice dogs, friendly dogs, dogs with clothes on, cute dogs.

I close my eyes.

The leash claws its way up my arm, cutting off my circulation. I can always grow another arm. My nerves turn to steel. My resolve freezes over.

Harden your heart, Foramina. Harden your heart.

I open my eyes, and walk into the dog park.

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