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the gleaner July 17, 2008

Posted by eatnorthamerica in onanistic bullshit.

Uglyskins was like patchwork, stitched together from a hundred different types of skin.

I craned my neck to get a better look at him through the letterboxed window. The orderly fumbled with the key to the grimy door.

“All yours, sir,” he said, eyeing the neat cut of my coat and shoes, sleek against the pitted concrete floor. He stood aside.

I went through the doorway, and the door shut behind me. I looked at the man within. The unforgiving fluorescent light winked on and off and on again.

He had come to the stained soft walls of the cell nameless and silent, and he lay on the unyielding cot, arms and legs stiff in the restraints at his sides. His hands were balled into tense fists; they quivered occasionally, in perfect harmony with the tic of his pale blue eyes. I could not tell his age through the ruin that was his face. He was stitched together from a hundred different beings; I could not tell how many of them were human.

“I’m Doctor Sands,” I said, swallowing, and walked towards him. “What’s your name?”

Closer, he looked like nothing that should have walked on two legs, or four, or eight. The stitches were tighter around his eyes and mouth, but it made them none the prettier. His eyelashes were gone. I could not tell how he might have looked in one skin.

The blue eyes kept blinking. His mouth was slack.

“I’m here to help,” I said, lowering my voice. “Tell me what happened to you.”

Last year, fresh out of my internship, I had seen a man who bathed himself in acid to rid himself of the invisible ants that crept endlessly over his skin. I had thought, for the first time, that a man should have the right to his death.

I had seen men who had performed arson upon themselves, men who had pared their flesh from bone, but I had never seen anything as hideous as him.

Perhaps it was the guilt that made me reach out and put my hand on his. Perhaps it was the warmth of my hand, and my pity, that snapped his livid gaze to mine.

“I ate them all,” he said. “I ate the girl in the red hood, her wolf, the swan boys, the girl with the goose, that giant man. The snow white girl, the rose red child. All of them playing their parts for centuries. Saying the same words over and again. I set them free.”

I turned the names over in my head. For a moment they seemed familiar, and then the feeling was gone.

“Why this?” I asked, and I touched the threads that ran through his hide.

“Someone must remember,” he said. He shook his head, and whimpered, and shook.

I caught sight of a dark mass on the underside of his shoulder, pushing his arm up from the cot.

Something clumped and ugly sprouted from his skin, breaking through a film of blood and pus. It was hard to see in the cell, but in the wavering light it shuddered and parted, like a clot of feathers.



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