Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pushing the Needle Too Far

So, hurrah, my advisor read the chapter last night. This morning, I made the edits she suggested, and sent it out to my committee. Three down, one to go. The next one involves Anne Askew, martyred for being too Protestant for Henry VIII. I expect my dreams of being burned at the stake to continue. Fun times, this academic life.

I did take the afternoon off from the dissertation and finished another piece of flash fiction, one that I have been working on for an amount of time disproportionate to its actual length. Yes, the title is the same as the Indigo Girls song, and yes, I listened to that while writing it. (Alternating with Amanda Palmer's "The Point of it All.")


Pushing the Needle Too Far

            For the past three nights I have dreamt of being sewn into another woman’s skin.

            While not precisely a friend, she’s hardly a stranger, and on occasion I have idly wondered what it would be like to be in her shoes. Yet sharing a skin with her is a bit beyond what I had imagined.

            The needle that pierces her flesh is long, bright silver where it shines through the dark smears of blood. The thread that binds us together is thick and black, and we are held closed with large, clumsy x’s. This seems normal, right, somehow.

            It is your hand that does the sewing.

            You laugh when I tell you about my dream. I try to put it from my mind, but I can feel the phantom tugging of coarse, black thread, feel the pressure of her skin as it stretches over my elbows and ankles. I am just the slightest bit taller than she is.

            I wonder if, in her dreams, she can feel me inside her, not quite fitting.

            People who know us both joke nervously about how similar I am to her, how you must have a type. The half-empty bottle of perfume she left behind is the same scent I wear.

The dreams make my shadow heavier. I feel where it clings to the edges of my skin, sticky like spider silk. It tugs at the boundaries of my body, weighted down by someone else veiling herself in its tenebrous gauze.

            On the fringes of sleep and waking, I hear other conversations. Hers. I feel the words on the inside of my mouth, nearly speak them.

            You give me her favorite novel, something European and erudite. I do not see the point of this. You are here because I am not her, after all. But still, I look for her in the white spaces between the words, seek her among semicolons and adverbs.

            The dreams continue. Every night you bind us together, slipping me inside of her, pulling the thread tight.

            I wake to find blood pinpricked down the backs of my arms. I wash, and am surprised that the underlying skin is unbroken. Perhaps the blood is hers.

            I wonder what she has been dreaming. I wonder if she wakes feeling as if there is a stranger inside of her skin, or with my breath in her lungs.

            When I ask you what you dream, you do not answer. But you look at me as if you are measuring. As if I do not quite fit. And I feel my heart race in her chest.

            The dream comes again. You have hollowed her out, and you slip me into what remains, smoothing her flesh over my bones like a glove. I fit so easily inside her.

            I do not feel the pain, because it is her flesh that you pass the thin, silver needle through, her skin cross-hatched by ragged black x’s.

            But there is pain when I wake. Dull, deep pain, and my skin bears stitches like those that close a rag doll. Blood has soaked the sheets, violent, wet scarlet. My pulse flutters and throbs against the bindings in my skin. I smell perfume through the pain, and it clouds my head until I cannot remember if it is hers or mine.

It doesn’t matter. You are sleeping, blood-splashed, next to me in the bed. On the bedside table, there are scissors, a spool of thick, black thread. Still stained from its employment, a long, sharp needle rests between them. I push it through your skin, blood, bone, heart.

I take up the scissors, and cut myself free.


  1. Wow.
    This short story gave me goosebumps. Great descriptive narrative!
    Thanks for Sharing.
    Love From Canada

  2. really enjoyed this ... made me meditate on different relationships in my life and how we shape each other.


  3. just read it. Loved the ending, especially the last two paragraphs.

    From the first descriptions, I had a little trouble picturing what she was seeing/feeling, but then you caught me, til the end.