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[an error occurred while processing this directive] Outside In: Review by A.L. Sirois

Losing

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Through the Colored Dimensions

The world wanted Greg to be a child, so he stacked his liquor bottles into a pyramid, and through the glass he watched his wife approach, in all the different colors, but none of which could hide the pale of her face.

"Come to bed, Greg."

"You can't tell me what to do. You're not my mom."

She grabbed his arm and he pushed her away.

"Fine, Greg. Just fine. You want to stay here and rot away, you go ahead and rot."

Greg watched her leave through his portals of multi-colored dimensions. Even if he wanted to go after her, he wouldn't know which colored Jennys were real, and which were just illusions.

He decided to go for a walk, and for once he actually acted upon this decision. The moment he stepped outside, he felt as if he'd fallen into one of his whiskey bottles. Everything was wet and sticky and gray. Even with the alcohol tickling his brain, every step was still a burst of jagged pain. He took small, precise steps, like he was just learning to walk. A gust of wind grabbed his (favorite) hat from his (favorite) head, and played keep away. But he let it go. He was tired of games.

"For god's sake, I'm a grown man," he grumbled, with the thunder. He shouldn't have to stay at home all day, moping around, drinking - and getting paid for it! He didn't care what state his back was in, he wanted to go back to work. He wanted it to be like the good ol' days, when things weren't so easy.

At that moment of thought, the rain felt different against his skin. Warmer. If he closed his eyes, he could imagine he was at home, in the shower, getting ready for work. But he didn't imagine this because his skin blistered. Little mountains rose on his hands and spread up his arms. He lifted his shirt and was relieved that he didn't see any there. But then he did, and he wanted to run somewhere, but he didn't know which direction to go. So he stood there, breathing hard and fast. The mountains grew hotter.

He realized they weren't mountains at all. They were volcanoes. The rapid pops were so loud - the sound was almost worse than the pain - he covered his ears and closed his eyes, like he used to do at the fireworks show when he was a boy; when he was afraid the sky was going to catch fire.

It felt as if someone was tugging on his clothes, trying to pull them off. He looked down. There was no one there.

His skin looked bad, like he'd popped a million zits. He took a step forward, and the vibrations sent up from his foot to his torso were enough to set the skin of his arms in motion, which slid off him like loose-fitting gloves, and plopped onto the sidewalk. He leaned down to study the crumpled mass of himself, and his face stretched off his head. It drooped down and looked back up at him. He could have sworn it mouthed Goodbye. The shock and pain forced a scream from between his trembling lips. Blood gushed from his new open face, onto the old wrinkled one. He reached down at touched it and he felt the skin of his back rip apart. Flesh slid out from under his shirt. Flaps of skin trickled down his bare legs, blooming at his feet - a fleshy flower.

He tried to reattach a flap onto his leg and for a moment it stuck to the blood, but the constant flow of the liquid forced the skin back down.

A loud hiss, and he turned his head to spot two cats fighting over his old face. "Let it go!" The felines yanked on either side of the skin, playing with his emotions, stretching his face into a smile, then a frown, then -

"Give it back!" He dashed forward.

The cats split the face in two and ran their separate ways.

Greg went after one. One of his slippers stayed behind. He felt his foot breaking apart with every step, but he couldn't stop now.

His meaty foot slipped on its own juices, and half a moment later, he smashed his head on the ground. His body oozed out in all directions, contaminating the puddles with intoxicated blood.

Pause

When Greg woke up, he was no longer in any pain. In fact, he couldn't even feel the once constant throbbing of his back. At first he assumed it had all been a dream; that he was at home in bed, draped in skin.

But he opened his eyes.

He stood at the front door for a long while. Perhaps hours, he wasn't sure. The rain had stopped but there was still the pitter-patter of his blood. He knew he looked hideous right now. He knew nobody in their right mind (and even those people in their wrong) wouldn't find his appearance repulsive. Even frightening. He would have to do this very carefully.

He rang the doorbell and gripped the doorknob. When he felt Jenny opening the door, he held the knob with all his might. It was difficult with how slippery his blood made it, but he managed.

"Jenny, it's me. Don't open the door. Just talk to me."

"What the hell are you doing now?" She tried more vigorously.

He lost his grip and leapt into a bush. A thorny bush. He knew his body was being gouged by hundreds of tiny needles, but he didn't feel a thing.

"Greg, get out of there. You're drunk."

"I'm not drunk. II have something to tell you. It's important. I want you to know, most importantly, that it doesn't hurt. Not at all."

"God. What did you do?"

"Jenny, don't be scared. It's still me. I'm going to come out now."

He paused, then stepped out into the porch light.

Jenny screamed at first. Then she turned around and vomited onto the already bloody welcome mat.

A Little Thing

The first thing Jenny did when she came to was lock herself in the bathroom. Greg pleaded, begged, he even tried singing to her like he used to do when they were teenagers, but she wouldn't come out. She wouldn't even speak to him.

Unfortunately, due to Greg's new appearance, that left little Franky without a mommy.

Greg had never really paid much attention to the slab of flesh before. He wasn't the one who wanted a child in the first place. In fact, Jenny had gone behind his back and stopped taking the pills without him knowing.

But still, the little thing was his child.

He lifted the crying infant from the crib, and held it out as far as he could, carrying it to Jenny's rocking chair. He set the baby on his lap. It was hard, but he tried not to get too much blood on it.

"I know, I know. I want her too, but she's busy right now being afraid."

The baby kept crying.

"Are you afraid of me?"

The baby kept crying.

"Or are you just scared of the world?"

The baby crawled forward and pressed its head against Greg's chest.

Greg wrapped his arms around Franky and held him close to his heart. "You're not so bad."

(continued)

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