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

Losing

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Blooming Buds

His body yearned for food, but when he ate, he couldn't taste anything. The outer layer of his tongue, where his tastebuds bloomed, was shed with the rest of his skin. After feeding Franky and himself, he knocked on the bathroom door.

"You can't stay in there forever, Jenny. You have eat something. And you have to take care of Franky. You think I'll be able to do it on my own? I'm not fit to be a father, let alone a mother."

He stood there, in near-silence, listening to nothing but the crying of his flesh.

The door squeaked. A single, puffy eye peeked through the slice of bathroom. "What did you do to yourself?"

"I didn't do this. I know I can get really drunk sometimes, but not enough to skin myself alive."

"You're bleeding."

"I'm aware of that. Why don't you join us in the kitchen? I made some sandwiches."

There was a bit more door squeaking, and then they all joined in the kitchen, for their first meal together as a family, ever.

Jenny bit into the blood-soaked bread, and Greg had to turn away out of disgust.

He collected himself, then said, "It's not as bad as it looks really. I don't feel a thing."

"What about when the alcohol wears off?"

He had to contemplate that for a moment. "Somehow, I don't think the pain will ever return. But even if it does, I'm never touching alcohol again. I'm finished with that poison."

Tears dripped from Jenny's chin, onto her sandwich, which she took another bite of.

He looked at his baby, then his wife. "I don't know where I've been. It's as if I've been sleeping for this past year, and I've finally woken up at this moment. I promise you, Jenny. I'll never go to sleep again."

Plunge

It took seven days for Greg to accept Jenny's words as truth: "You're beautiful."

But, finally, he looked deep into her eyes, deeper than he'd ever dared to look, and nodded. "Okay."

She crawled over to the bloody side of the bed and undressed him. She giggled like a schoolgirl, like the first time they did this together. "I love you, Greg."

"I love you."

Everything was going along just fine, when she looked down and noticed the rips. "I'm breaking your scabs."

"Don't stop. It doesn't hurt at all."

"Are you sure?"

He smiled, and they continued.

He loved the way her eyes closed tight, and then opened up wide. He loved her sounds. He loved everything about her at this moment. The only thing he wished, was that he could share in the ecstasy she was feeling. Sure, his body was doing what it was supposed to do. Blood pumped. Muscles flexed. But in terms of physical pleasure, he couldn't feel anything. Of course, he could never tell her that. Her happiness was enough.

And Purge

Defecating was no longer a satisfying experience.

He sat on the toilet and emptied himself of all the waste that lingered in his body, but he didn't feel any relief. He didn't feel the pressure and then the lack of pressure. It was almost frustrating.

He wiped himself, and collected more dried blood than poo. Then he stood and looked at himself in the mirror. "I stopped bleeding."

A pain was born deep within his body at that instant. A pain he had never known before. He collapsed, weak in the knees, and crawled over to the toilet. His fingertips clawed at the toilet bowl and he pulled himself up. He vomited, quietly at first, but the thrust of his abdomen grew stronger and stronger. A noise pounded at his ears. "Hug! Hug! Hug!" He soon realized it was his own voice begging the universe for an embrace. In the beginning, only liquid spewed forth from his wide O of a mouth. But then came the larger chunks. His liver, a kidney. Was that his heart, still beating, spawning ripples in the crimson pool?

"Hug! Hug! Hug!"

He felt hollow.

Then came the uncontrollable sneezing. Each one was an explosion that sent his head rocking forward and back, over and over and over.

It stopped when a hard substance clogged his nasal passages. This substance slithered from the holes, like two pale snakes. He grabbed their heads and pulled. All he knew was at this very moment was that the serpents didn't belong anymore. He yanked at them with raw, skinless hands. The two white strings curled up in the toilet. His head felt lighter and lighter.

The tails of the snakes finally plopped into the water, among the other organs, some still wriggling and twitching as they drowned.

These two white snakes were not two white snakes at all. Greg realized this at closer inspection. And he wondered how he could make such a realization without his brain.

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