Skin Girl

Drumbeat batters breeze bare-knuckled. Bloody, if it could. Tut-tut-tut transforms the atmosphere into something tormented. Tortured. Just a sliver shy of a scream.

I sway to the sound, skin soaking in its scathe. Absorbing the maim and claim. The tug and tear.

In the thick of the crowd, illuminated by a mix of fire and faint moonlight, a figure fights the drum’s beating. Twists sharp turns to thwart possession. To prevail. A losing game.

Once lured in, that’s it.

Other figures clap, pound flesh till the night seems alive with its own rhythmic pulse, thrumming steadily through the battered air. A grunted chant rumbles in time.

Somewhere, deep in the wood surround, a wolf howls. Tears at night’s skin. A territorial call if I’ve ever heard one. A victorious brag. I grip the skin I’m in. Tame growl into grumbling chant. Return sight to the light bathing those gathered in shades of dark red.

The dancer nearest flame, so deeply red they’re shadow on smoke, throws back their head–theirs and the bear skull that swallows it whole. An echoing, bellicose bellow–growl–silences both flesh and drum beat.

Another deep sound, the wolf.

A last, me.

For now.

Closely, I watch the dancer shed the bear skull. Slide claws as long as fingers from their hands. Keep the grizzled pelt wrapped ’round their wide shoulders, though. For warmth, maybe. The skin in place ’round their meaty waist.

Two figures donning wolf skulls and matching hides separate from the crowd as the lone bear dancer returns to it.

Beats begin their battering blows once more. Less heavy. More lean. Like wolf meat. Night’s pulse picks up in a low thrum, a lower hum. Faintest scream.

I track the bear dancer as they cut through the crowd, one toothy smile at a time. A short laugh or two. My rhythm mirrors theirs. Overtakes it. Sleek. Light. A slow skulk. Steady hunt.

We meet where the edge of the crowd kisses forest fathoms.

Bear Dancer slashes a charming smile across their face, distinctive jaw jutting upward with its self-assured slant as if to display the many scars crisscrossing sensitive skin like trophies. One rather deep cut is still raw. Fresh. I curl my fist.

It’s him.

A grin of my own begins to stretch flesh. Tempt tearing. Bear dancer’s widens in return. Devours his face.

“Hello,” he steps into my sway. “Like tonight?” I nod, grin sharp enough to put Bear Dancer to shame.

“You dance good.” Another growl tamed into something softer. “It’s striking,” I motion to the pelt on his back. “your form.”

“Yes.” He preens, fingering the fur. I swallow fury. “A lucky catch, bear. Usually, they keep to their caves.”

“Ah?” I drag him back to me. “Where’d you get the bear then?”

“Clearing by Slim River.” His voice is proud. “Mama and cub hunting. Hare, probably. I got Mama first in the side with my spear. When she charged, I got her in the head with my handy ax. She clawed, though.” He taps his scarred chin. “A fighter.”

Huntress.” I correct.

“Yes.” Bear Dancer nods, looking grave. “Very fierce. The others threw many spears till she went down. The cub though,” Bear Dancer’s grin returns. “was easy. Little fella. A club to the head.” Bear Dancer swings his arm past my face. “Dead.”

“Dead.” I repeat, dead, stepping back into forest, spiny nettles brushing bare skin. Swirl my hips. Bear dancer follows. “Poor boy.”

“There were two.” He leans close as if revealing a secret. “Cubs. Two of ’em. Always with Mama but not this time. Very odd.” He quirks his head. “Bears don’t usually keep more than one. Too hard to feed. Keep only the strong one…. Wonder where the runt is? The little fella cried out after he was hit. Almost like a scream. Maybe–”

She heard.” I finish with too much gnash. “The sister?” Bear dancer gives me a confused look and I reach for his hands–the ones that were wearing Mama bear’s claws–settling them on my waist.

“Yes.” Bear dancer tightens his hold on me. I lead us further behind branches. Beyond the fire light’s creeping reach. “You know the story?” Now, I quirk my head. Take another backward step. “About the sister cub. That she’s one of us. Child lost from the tribe long ago. Found by bears. Clothed in their skin.”

“I hadn’t heard.” Another step. So close.

“Not from ’round here?” Bear Dancer asks. “Was wondering…. You look familiar but can’t place face.”

Finally. Trees give way to open space. A clearing. Nearby, a watery babble replaces drum beats. Flesh beats. Moonlight overtakes flickering flame.

“It’s not my usual.” I brush Bear Dancer’s hands off me and he tilts his chin. That fresh cut. Shiny red beneath the moon. I flex my fingers. Feel nails sharpen. “Face.”

A swipe of my claw to the head and Bear Dancer is down. For brother.

I’m on him before he knows what hit him, my lithe body now heavier. My skin, fur. Much better. Weight settles on my shoulders–my skull no prop large enough to swallow a head whole. Bear Dancer’s. I stare into his wide eyes, grizzly reflection in their glisten. I can’t smile anymore so a snarl will have to do. Recognize me now?

“S-s-skin-n-w-w-wwalk-ker-r.” He accuses.

No, a growl like a laugh rumbles in my cavernous chest. I told you. Huntress. 

A claw finds purchase in the mark Mama carved so I’d know and tugs. Jaw gone before Bear Dancer can scream. Then, claws like little spears and teeth like ax blades find flesh. Tear. Bite bone, too, creating their own beat, own chant. Rhythm.

And, when the song is done, I toss my head back. ScreamTear the night in two. It’s no victory screech. No brag. Nothing celebatory. It’s a warning. An announcement.

I’m here.

I’m coming.

I’m hungry.

The battle is mine.

****

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*Side note: those last words are coincidentally my first thoughts in the morning…. Weird. ^.^

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Find more of my delightfully disturbing/twisted tales under the Killing It tag~

As always, hope you enjoyed~*

 


Wasteland Girl

Fog thick like honey but not half-so-sweet clogs the air.

Is the air.

Without a respirator, it would coat my throat, crawl down the black hole between my bony clavicles to cloy in my lungs. Convince me to claw at my chest till the pressure had an escape route. Ten routes to be exact.

Our atmosphere was the first to go.

Corroded by uncensored contaminants. Ignited by the bombs. I fell asleep beneath a burning sky, lulled by Mother’s staggered breaths. By Papa’s sniffles. He gave Mother his respirator. Choked before he began to claw–thank god for small favors, we were told.

The water went next.

Rivers ran dry. Oceans evaporated overnight. Brooks boiled in their basins. Tongues licked lake beds for every. last. drop.

                                                               drop.

                                                                             drop.

Some wells survived. Shut up tight before the blasts became white noise, a circadian hum. Burrowed deep into the bowels of bunkers that long-outlived their irradiated occupants.

Mother and I managed to commandeer one. Before marrying Papa and moving to the city, Mother grew up on a farm. Knew how to wield an ax. Cut clean. Came in handy.

She made me handy. In case anyone returned for their missing pieces. Made me hardy. At personal cost, perhaps.

She succumbed to the smog, like Papa. Gave me the respirator she wore when I broke mine. Careless child, Mother said, trading our masks. I ground my teeth. Bit my tongue. Thought I could still taste Papa’s final exhalations on the interior of my new protective gear.

What did that make her, I wondered, for raising a careless child? For misplacing her respirator in the first place? My answer came swift, like the bombs.

It made Mother dead.

Me, alone.

Mean.

I should’ve been nicer.

The farm was a cold, bitter place, Mother told me while teaching me how to wield the ax. Froze things. Windows shut. Truck doors in place. Blood. During slaughter, it became a solid, crimson sheet of ice across the fields. Bright, red slivers into dark trails as far as the eye could see. Like how the sky looks now, she remarked after my first clean swing. Time to colour the fields, followed the next.

Maybe….maybe, I could’ve been nicer if I wasn’t taught to be so hardy. If Mother wasn’t. If Papa were.

This world gives as good as it gets, though.

It got Papa and Mother.

Now, it has me.

Wind whips across the withering wasteland stretched before me, ruffling what few patches of green stubbornly remain, stinging skin. Overhead, clouds a sickly off-white– almost-muddyruddy-brown streak across the sky. On-and-off they’ve spit.

At the moment, acid rain falls in gentle drops across the still plain. Good thing I covered the well earlier. Each drip seems to sizzle upon impact, eroded dirt rising like embers.

In the distance, several shadows. Lumpy, lopsided blobs just peeking over the murky horizon. Further out, ruins rise like knives, jagged and rough but pointy enough to tear through honey-thick fog. Remnants of a church, I believe. Eastern Orthodox according to the slightly domed spikes. Dead spires, Papa rasped not long before the end.


The blobs grow bigger. Become more than vague impressions. A figure with a crutch under one arm. No other arm. Another hobbling on stumps. One dragging itself along. I grip the hilt of my ax, knuckles out. Widen my stance. A baleful breeze tugs at the strings of my Mother’s hand-me-down respirator.

Time to colour the fields.

Deceivingly cool drops graze what daring flesh is exposed. They burn. I don’t wipe them away. Let them slide down skin. Keep my hold tight around Mother’s legacy. Inhale my inheritance. Every bitter particle.

Shadows creep ever nearer. Dingy clouds dye the sky deep red. A sheer sheet of blood.

Time to colour.

My hands heavy with the weight of want. Mother’s. Papa’s. A careless child’s. A suffocating world’s.

Time.

It is not safe here.

That, I promise.

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Living Dead Girl

Past Andromeda, the Milky Way. One arm of a downward spiral–there. Over an asteroid belt. A disparaged god of the Underworld. A sea god without a sea. Another god kicked on their rotund keester. Two hot heads and their harems. Another asteroid belt. Then brothers, HorrorTerror. A god of war. There. Past one lone sentry. Through a corroding atmosphere to blue. Vivid. To green. Alive. There.

Just past the lively green. Beyond less lively, uniform rows of grey, stone and marble etched in never-words –never who they were, never all they were. Never enough. A lone home, tall and still. Don’t want to disturb the neighbors. Sneak a peek through a crack in the curtains, see only dark.

Inside, mattresses are pressed to walls. Black curtains to glass–both window and mirror. Smoke still stains the air from hastily snuffed candles. Day collapsed into night faster than expected. Damn day-light savings saving who exactly? 

Within a ring of salt, a bundle of blankets–quilts, actually. Hand-made. Patchwork. Rough around the edges but holding true. The lump stirs. A pale foot, toenails lacquered an icy, chipping blue, emerges out from under a raggedy edge. Silver threads like comet trails weave themselves in between toes. Tangled, the foot cannot retreat back beneath the safety of its quilted fortress.

A groan. Resigned. Defeated. It echoes as loudly as it can in a room with padded walls. Silvery-blonde separates itself from silvery textile. Eyes deep as the dark space between stars appear next, eyebrows above them furrowed– in frustration, yes, but, also, with the distinct slant of fear. Speckled across the rest of the face is cosmic dust, freckles that fade outward from a nose crooked gently to the left.

With haste, a ghostly pale hands reaches for the unruly threads holding the foot hostage. Tears at empty air–another groan, wearier–before locating its target. This would be easier with a light. But the candles had to go. Light attracts them. Mosquitoes too.

Frantic fingers find frayed, ruthless wardens just when it no longer matters. Clueless moonlight filters into the otherwise darkened space through that overlooked crack in the curtains. With it, a breach in the salt circle is revealed. Obviously made by a struggling limb or two.

Blood younger, the quilted bundle may have jumped to re-seal the breach. Place every pesky grain back into place. Now, though, it knows better. Knows some boundaries, like those at the end of a beloved quilt, once torn, worn, cannot be repaired. No matter how many stars are wished upon.

Should’ve learned to sew. Like Nana told me to. Warned me it’d come in handy.

Warned me.

Now, at the window, a hollowed eye-socket peers in. Breeze–that should not have penetrated solid glass– ruffles the curtains. Blows them aside. The bundle shivers. Frost pricks at the corners of eyes now the darkest things in the room.

Outside, hollow gazes. They outnumber the stones. Swallow them whole.

Swallow me.

It’s an honour, I was told. Banshee wails, still faint hums, begin to rattle glass. Rattle bone. To see, is an honour. To be what I am is a gift. From the universe.

The bundle is shed. Salt kicked aside. A candle rolls into shadow, disappears from existence until a dull thud bounces off eardrums.

Towards the window, wails become unified. One entity. An ever-present scream. Muted in the waking hours. Blood-curdling now. A crack spiderwebs across glass. It will shatter. Soon. If I allow it.

What I was never told, my hands find the battered, vibrating window’s frame, was that there is more than one universe. A necromancer is weeping inside a universe. But, a universe also weeps inside a necromancer. Never stops. You can try to shut it out.

Or–an edge found, a hard shove, splinters fly–

you can let it in~

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Stars are not surrounded by darkness. They’re surrounded by emptiness.