The first time, I felt a warning shot in my guts half way down the third aisle of the toy store. Before I could grab dad’s hand and find the exit it was too late. My skin turned translucent. Clothes slid from its slippery surface. I could only stare down at my internal organs. Rows of blonde dolls closed their eyes in horror. Dad pretended not to notice. But I saw his nose wrinkle as the putrid smell. Layers of twisted intestines pulsated along with my heartbeat. The thudding in my ears echoed get out, get out, get out.
Everyone has organs, the adults said. It’s not so different. But their eyes wouldn’t settle on me, darting anywhere but north. Their insides were covered by flesh and cloth. I inhaled their vanilla necks and dewberry torsos. They let their hands do half the talking, My crossed arms twitched with yearning to move like poetry. But their job was only to cover me.
I wrapped myself in thick dark felt. The material held out a few hours before congealing onto my wet innards. ‘Who died?’ a boy shouted from his bike in the park. I pulled my hat lower, shading huge eyeballs that couldn’t be tamed with a blink.
I talked and talked so they would only look at my mouth. Rivers of words flooded the room, leaving no space for questions or close inspection.
My skin started to regrow, coarse and dry. The opposite of a girl. I shut my door.
It started with buds. I plucked them out and threw them on the compost. But in that early morning silence, I ran my fingers over bending bristles of grass on my abdomen and exhaled. A lawn of my own. I folded the black felt suit and tucked it away at the back of the wardrobe. I refused school and turned my torso to the sun. I dozed with my eyes half-open to immerse myself in healing green. Tiny trumpets of colour unfurled and sang to bees and butterflies.
I became beautiful.
That earthy smell followed me. But the creatures knew it takes earth and rot to create life.
Stephanie Hutton is a writer and Clinical Psychologist in the UK who believes in the therapeutic value of short fiction. She has published short-form work online and in print. In 2016 she won the Writers HQ Competition and Bibliophone 1000 Words Heard competition and was shortlisted for the Black Pear Press Short Story Competition and Brighton Prize. She can be found at stephaniehutton.com.
Photo by: Ana Prundaru