BY Bryce Emley
It wasn’t the acute bite of pleasure when the blood pooled at the surface, wasn’t the soft release as flesh peeled or the surprising quiet of it all. She wanted to shed the years like a small skin, collect the days like dust beneath her fingernails and drain the memory from her marrow and pour it all into a furnace.
When their faces reddened at the sight of her, clenched hard into despairing lines and cries, she squinted their features into watercolor. They asked her where they went wrong, asked each other where they went wrong, asked her how she could do it to herself, but she knew they were too far away to hear her say that not all pain is wasted, not all death means dying.
They called a priest, and when he came to her she watched them watch him and the leather of his bible was cold on her forehead. She felt his syllables fall like hot rain on her skin when he said This too shall pass. He told them there were no demons that could touch her and that God Himself would cradle her like a chick in His hand. He poured oil on her head and it rolled down along her neck. He called for the evil to come out of her and the whole time she watched them watching him.
When he left it was quiet, but they stayed by her bed.
If they could hear her she would tell them sometimes you have to set the old self on fire and bury the ashes in the backyard.
Bryce Emley has edited several publications, including The Florida Review, H_NGM_N, and 12:51. His writing can be found in NANO Fiction, The Pinch, Yemassee, Orange Quarterly Review, Measure, Pleiades, and other journals and anthologies. In 2012 he received a Pushcart Prize nomination in poetry.