4 min read

First Genuine Contact, by Laura DeHaan

Pale grey smoke unfurling on a black background
Photo by Viktor Talashuk / Unsplash

Content warnings

Suicidal ideation. Violence. Intrusive thoughts.

Ever since I was born I have wanted to die.

I don’t like being touched. Skin on skin contact is anathema to me. I don’t even like washing my own face. So a stranger coming into my room at night and sucking on my neck is right out.

I don’t know what reaction this creep was expecting, but he seemed surprised when I hit him in the head with my alarm clock. I like my alarm clock because it’s one of those old-fashioned brass jobbies with the two little bells at the top that go ‘clangclangclangclang’. I like that it uses batteries instead of a cord, because anything that plugs into a wall makes me think of umbilical cords, which I don’t like, and things being plugged into a room make me think the room is a uterus and the plugged-in things are its babies and I don’t like babies because all their communication is skin-to-skin contact and I hate that.

The man hissed at me and I saw his mouth was red and that’s when I noticed this creep had made mebleedand I hate having blood and how it reminds me that I’m alive. So I hit him again with my alarm clock and he turned into mist and went out through the window, which I keep open a crack because my bedroom gets hot at night and it makes me sweat, and sweating reminds me that I have skin.

I cleaned myself up in the bathroom and wrapped my entire neck with gauze so I resembled the woman with the green ribbon, only this ribbon started white and became rusty red. Then I got my portable vacuum, a hand-held model with six different attachments. None of them seemed right for the situation and anyway they would make it harder to hide it under the sheets with me, so I left them off. Then I got back into bed and waited.

As I suspected, once he’d gotten over the shock of someone putting up a fight, he came back. I was pretending to be asleep so my eyes were mostly closed when it happened but I guess he must’ve used the window again, probably thinking to himself, ‘What a stupid girl,’ (I’m not, neither of those), ‘left her window open, she must want me to do it,’ oh yes, it doesn’t take much. I left my alarm clock out of reach, to lull him into complacency, and this time when he bit me (lower, around the collarbone, below the bandage) I rolled over and stabbed him with a boning knife. This time, when he turned into mist, I whipped out my trusty vacuum and sucked him right up. I kept my finger on the trigger while I ran to the kitchen, on the assumption that the constant suction might keep him confused while I turned on the gas range.

You’ve never heard such a howl.

The vacuum was destroyed, of course, and the whole apartment smelled like burnt plastic. I couldn’t get back to sleep so I stayed up the rest of the night reading a book on quantum physics. I don’t understand quantum physics so reading it takes all of my attention and makes me forget that I’m encased in skin.

In the morning I called in sick to work, which they’re used to and so they didn’t give me any hassle about it. I opened all the windows (three) and posted a note to my front door saying yes, I knew there was a smell, I was doing the best I could.

The gauze around my neck was bothering me with its crustiness so I took it off and washed away the blood, trying to touch as little of myself with myself as possible, and saw I had no puncture wounds at all.

Was I to become like him, then? Was I already of his kind?

It bloody figured, didn’t it, that after spending all my life resenting this cage of flesh and rejecting the flesh of others that I was doomed to take nourishment only from skin-to-skin contact; worse than that, piercing the skin, consuming the filth that flowed from it. The thought made me gag, and gagging made me aware of my throat, the bulge of muscles in my neck, and, as always, at the last, the skin that crawled upon it.

I went to the open kitchen window, the only one with any kind of a view, and insufflated the afternoon air. If only I could peel back my skin as easily as open a window!

…but couldn’t I?

I looked at my hands and tried to see the individual atoms that made me be, willing them to vibrate to a different frequency. I was tired of being a consistent wave; I wanted to be particles as well. Be mist, I thought. Be mist.

Let go.

Be free.

A full-body dizziness then, as though every cell had become over-oxygenated. I watched my hands dissolve and the motes of me sparkle in the golden hour’s light.

Be mist. Let go. Be free.

A bursting now, but softly, as with overripe fruit whose insides leak out of the skin. Was this how skin was meant to feel?

In a corner of the ceiling, a spider pondered its web. Before, my body would shudder at the thought of the prickle-tickle of its legs, but now I was mist, as every living creature was mist, if only I could spin fast enough, long enough.

I melded with the spider, felt its small life, and nearly died from ecstasy. A little death, the kind I’d craved since birth.

And couldn’t it last?

Couldn’t it last?

I have a million billion eyes, and as many ways to taste and smell; the very particles you blunder through with your rough shapes are my paradise and home; you breathe me in and the navigation of your cells is ceaseless joy.

I will last as long as you do.

Laura DeHaan

Laura DeHaan (any/all) is a masseuse and crematorium technician in Toronto, Canada. The jobs are remarkably similar, except for the smells.

Website: iaminyoureyebrain.com Twitter: @WritInRooster