From Beneath Her Skin

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The call's coming from beneath her skin. It's not yet ready to be dead, not ready to be buried and forgotten, grave bell ringing with wild abandon. Louder with each heartbeat, louder with each breath, an electric shriek filling the too-still air—!

She was walking through a park when it began, big and open and public, and now she's cowering in a public restroom: single-occupancy, filthy, soggy paper ringing a piss-streaked toilet. Something's waiting inside the rim, something that stinks like death and gurgles like an empty stomach longing to be filled.

There are moments missing from her awareness. She's not sure how she got here, not sure why she's collapsed on the ground next to the sink's shattered ruins as rusty water dribbles sadly from a hole in the wall; all she remembers is that the park was full of eyes, that everyone was watching her, that everyone could hear the same noise that she can't stop hearing—the screaming in her belly, the dead thing threaded through every inch of her body desperate to escape—they could all hear, they all knew, they were all looking.

A few more moments and they'd have started to come for her.

To pin her down and tear it out.

To take it away from her.

So now she's here, shaking on the floor, her face ruined by snot and tears, sharp-edged porcelain scattered all around and the shitty metal mirror leering down at her from its perch so far above. Safe, safe, safe at last—but the noise! That horrible noise, that accursed fucking thing, waiting inside her all this time as she struggles to keep it in!

And oh, how she's struggled.

All her life she's struggled, she's tried her best, she's fought against it no matter who heard its call, no matter what jagged rocks its siren song drew close to tear at her fragile spirit's hull, no matter who it try and fail to let it out. It's hers, and it's going to stay hers—

Her hands twitch spasmodically, fingertips stained with streaks of red and greenish brown. Everything feels too wet, too soft; the world twists around her like unfired clay. The air is drenched, dripping with putrid oil, each breath smearing her vision a bit more—her eyes hurt, they burn, they won't stay still. She touches her face and it breaks like rotten cheese, opens up as if eagerly welcoming all the rotting glory streaked across it.

A vice closes around her stomach, around her throat; she gags, retches, spews up a golden broth seasoned with slimy green strings and a bubbly saliva afterbirth. It soaks into the concrete, spreads like ink in water until it's all around her, watercolor swirls reaching up the walls to the empty light so far above, a fragile bubble—

She's safe here, in this place, swaddled in her own filth. Nothing can touch her without going through that hideous membrane, without letting her acid permeate their body and eat away at them until they're just another her.

It's the only place she'll ever be safe. She knows that now. She knows what she has to do, with her fingers clutching a sharp porcelain shard, the only hard thing left in this oozing parody of reality, the only thing left that can truly touch her—

She knows what she has to do.

It's her choice, even though it's not a choice at all.

It was never that she didn't want to let it out, never that she didn't want to answer its call; she just couldn't bear to give up that sacred joy—that hellish sorrow—to another. It's always been hers and it always will be, and she'll be damned if she ever lets someone else choose it for her.

The first incision isn't easy.

The next is easier.

Blood joins the bile, fills her bubble of safety with shimmering reds and deep shadowy crimsons; seeps from her face's malformed squishiness and the deep cuts in her wrists. It's sharp, metallic, alive: strong enough to drown out all the other smells, strong enough to drown out everything and anything—

Her entire body tingles as the thing inside her stretches its unbound limbs.

Her vision flickers and fails as it takes its first steps outside her skin.

And finally, finally, the noise inside her fades into silence.