Unhinged

A freshly posted #500WordsEveryDay prompt response, just in time for a little Halloween preparation:

Try to fill your lungs with new oxygen. The air is too thick, it’s too hard. A turned key in the ignition of the diesel truck will spit the same air from its exhaust. Drop your jaw a little closer to your chest, try again. A sickly sweet scent fills your nostrils. Feel it rest on the back of your tongue. It’s the rush of air pushed out from a shovel digging into the gardener’s mulch pile, hot from the summer sun. It’s the accidental whiff of porcelain filled with softened fecal matter from a body plagued with flu. Cough. Once, twice more. Get rid of it.

Away from the barn door you entered through, walk closer to the center of the dark open space. Bare-footed, step towards where a floorboard should be and onto a leathery chunk. You’ve crushed the small ribcage of an animal. Convince yourself it must be an animal. Tighten your hip flexor to carefully guide your foot to the left. The sharp angled bone of an elbow under your big toe. Its skin is raised only a millimeter above the bones, sinking into the space where ligaments once occupied. Drop yourself closer to the floor and reach your outstretched fingers towards the body. Squeeze your eyes shut in preparation. Your heart will pump fresh blood to your extremities, causing you to shake slightly. Pretend it’s the stem of a rotting banana pressed against your fingertips. Twisted from its life source, now it’s shriveled and compact. Or the weary straps of a saddle, the lower one that pulls across the belly of a beast. Warm-blooded flesh helped to form microscopic canyons; it’s useless now, no longer able to tame. Make it anything but what you know you are touching right now.

Retreat your elbow towards your stomach. Away from that thing. That mummified pile that was once covered in thin protective hair. Veins were once engorged. Get farther away. Run if you have to. From the quiet heartbeat growing inside the creature. The beat grows louder, bouncing from wall to wall of the barn, surrounding you. The pressure of sledgehammers have starting pounding at your temples. Thump thump, thump thump. They press whatever posts they are aiming for deeper into your skull. Whomp whomp, whomp whomp. Let tiny grenades of sweat roll from your armpits down your oblique muscles. Stop moving, accept the pain. Cover your face with your right hand. Hide. Between your index and middle fingers see that unhinged boards have let narrow slivers of moonlight draw two lines across the dusty floor, marking territory. You’re in no man’s land.

You’ll forget this, until next time.
Because the greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing you he didn’t exist.

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