BY LAUREN DOSTAL
The glare of sunlight blinds me. "Shut up the curtains! Shut up the curtains!" Outside, children play in the warmth of morning. Their shrieking voices hang weights upon my earlobes. Down… Down… Down…
"Not your time," he says. And I know it. I know it here, in the place where you know things, the thump thumping of my chest beating messages in Morse code. I am none the less unenlightened.
"What are we waiting for?"
"You," he repeats, as he has for days. Better a sign. Better the planetary alignments, stars in proper courses, or even should the horses speak (Not mine, Balaam, but thine).
"Aaaahhhhhhhggghhh!" I cry, hands to temples. "Make the days go by!" But my musings find resonance only in empty halls, the passage of time set firmly in the clicking hands of clocks.
The thing aches and I raise my arm to watch the swelling. Hide it away in darkness! They said. The sun burns, and seeing only makes it worse! And I believed them. I believed them when they said this Ferris Wheel could take me to the moon. Then as I rode I reached the sky arms lifted high. up… Up… UP! Only to be dragged back down to earth to try once more. I circled round and round until I found the circling never stopped. Hide it away in darkness!
So I did.
I locked it away beneath my skin, where no one could ever find it. There I sealed it in. Now where I scratch, it burns, this thing living under my skin.
"Why won't you take my arm? Here! I give it to you! Or if not, my heart! What use is life when this poisoned thing consumes it and you refuse to cut it off?"
Silently he stares, fingers crossed in patient contemplation, eyes caricatured in grey beneath a furrowed brow.
"Please." Now the tears come. Now the hands shake.
"I don't remember," I say, “What life was like before.”
Can he see? Can he see this helpless thing that I have become? I lay my arm on the table between us. I know what he wants. Not amputation but extraction. The table is cold. My arm burns hot where it swells under the light. Silently he leans forward, feeling, prodding. I scream with pain. "Oh God!" I have forgotten. The blade flashes in the light as it plunges deep into my skin. Shocked white, the walls raise up from inside my flesh. Droplets mark the paths of capillaries where they flow into the well he has created. He is searching for it. His grey bristle eyebrows cast a shadow over the pits of his eyes and I see through to his skull, to the bones we all share. I feel him tugging. Then just like a knife slicing through soft butter, it slides out. He holds it glinting in the light. A razor blade, the tiny letters etched upon its side read "drink me". He casts it back into a jar, and when I raise my eyes I see a thousand more lining the wall, filled to overflowing with extracted pasts. I meet his stare, and for once he smiles.
"It is finished."
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Lauren Dostal is a native Floridian writing out of Tampa. Her work has been published in Entropy, Hobart, and Moonchild Magazine. She likes punk rock, dark coffee, and the many scorned women of Greek tragedy. You can follow her on Twitter at @ell_emm_dee