A Self-Portrait of the Author

A miscellaneous human being. They stitched together her skin haphazard from thrift store fabric, and the words she extorts from her mouth are nothing more than the bottled detritus that have fallen off of people far more interesting than her. She’s the type to get accused of missing the forest for the trees, then try to address the grievance through deforestation. You find yourself unable to decide whether her joints or her disposition are more jabbing and angular.

Hollow and aching, she fawns and agitates in equal measure, an antagonistic sycophant desperate for approval but terrified of the people who come close enough to give it. Shame burns her; it is a fire that scorches her veins, a spotlight that shines bright from within and projects her insecurities onto the surrounding walls. It feels like a threat to her survival itself, yet her need to avoid it has done more damage than it ever could have.

She wants so badly to be original, yet is incapable of defining herself as anything other than an amalgam of the media she consumes. She wants so badly to be good enough, but she’ll never be okay with who she is whilst she still feels like scratching her own skin off every time she’s forced to be alone with her thoughts. All she wants is to feel her existence is justified, in a way that it doesn’t feel it justifies itself.

Endless self-deprecation to cover real insecurity, as if awareness of her flaws excuses their omnipresence. Your laughter becomes less sincere with every repetition of the pattern, and after a time you draw away in discomfort once you realize she has a poverty of personality beyond disingenuous self-awareness.

In the end, she is a faded Polaroid picture of a blank wall — instant film framing whitespace.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash


Two weeks and four days into March, they wait. The light from the fire does not stretch far, but it is sufficient to cover everyone that lives in their small town if they huddle close. It gets less warm with every passing moon, but the luminescence stays strong, and it almost blinds them to the eyes that watch them from the dark. It is all that they have until Winter gets what it wants.

There are only a few days left before their calendars will tell them the start of Spring has arrived, but no one wants to be the first to sate the frost’s hunger. So, they sit around the fire, and talk, and share hollow laughter, and wait crooked minutes on crooked hours on crooked days. Someone is bound to work a little too late to notice the dipping of the sun soon.

They all inch a tiny bit closer to the flame. They pretend they do not see the others do the same.

It is her in the end, she realizes. It is her, in a barn, getting lost in her head and only finding her way out when she feels the cool sting of breath on the back of her neck. They will be sad to forget her name, but not enough to wish it was theirs fading from the others’ lips instead. Terror blooms from within at the sight of the setting sun, and it is only the resulting flood of adrenaline that allows her to light a nearby oil lamp before the darkness engulfs her; the lamp bites with cold at the touch, even after the flame begins to flicker, and she grasps onto the handle so hard her knuckles go white.

She stumbles backward as she feels the weight of eyes that never blink. Her back never touches a wall. She shivers, then walks toward where she knows the others are. They could all walk the long path blind.

She walks, and she walks, and she walks. It is a straight line, yet she passes flora she knows she has already seen again, and again, and again. Her heart pounds faster every time she sees it. She convinces herself that she’s wrong, for a while. It lasts until she feels the exhaustion creeping up her legs.

She will find the fire before the last drop of oil lights up and the chill claims her. She will.

Photo by Antti T. Nissinen | CC BY 2.0

Oxygen, Code One

He has a Reputation, but she needs, and she is shaking so hard she can feel herself tearing at the joints. A friend warns her not to seek him, and cries in the nape of her neck as she rips apart her story’s canvas. She spends a week’s worth on one, instead, so she can hope she will not remember in the morning.

(She doesn’t.)

The last penny she held is now fire in her veins, and she finds herself up for auction, closing her eyes as they’re open and trying to pretend it is anything else. He runs his hands down her bones and whispers how hot it is to know that she is flaking away. It has to hurt, so much. So much.

(It does.)

She is clean for three weeks. And then five. And then two. And then one. And then one.

And then one.

Lights, and sirens, and the compassion in their eyes fading away as they see her marks, and the clinic turns clinical. They are very professional, and very professionally take her blood through the scars, and very, very professionally tell her they can’t help with the pain. They write a note of discharge in regret, and come back soon! in invisible ink.

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