SKIN SUIT: a horror story in six parts.
Prior to the dismemberment, C.F. and I affixed rope around Attenborough’s body and tossed the slack over an exposed ceiling beam. We hefted the corpse into the air and knotted the rope. The body hung suspended several feet above ground like a dead cow. I grabbed a pair of sewing scissors and began cutting through Attenborough’s clothing. Next, I removed his sneakers and slipped on a pair of rubber knee boots before snagging a butcher’s apron and fastening it securely around my waist. Lastly, I draped a plastic tarp across the floor and placed a utility bucket over the tarp.
“First things first,” I said, and made a small incision into Attenborough’s anterior jugular vein. A thin trickle of blood emerged, spiralling downward and into the awaiting bucket. C.F. gasped.
“This is going to take a few minutes. Why don’t you help out by cleaning up the mess in the lobby? There are towels and soap in the closet.”
“Sure. I’m on it,” C.F. said. I could see that he was relieved to distance himself from the carnage that was soon to follow.
Two things about butchering, that is, the act of dissecting dead thing for the purposes of consumption: First, once you’ve acquired the skill, you don’t really lose it. I hadn’t held the tools of the trade for some time, but it all came back quickly as though it had never gone away. The second thing—and this was something I was about to discover—is that from a dismemberment perspective, there’s little difference between animal and man. I knew that the removal of the large and small intestines would be the most gruesome aspect of the task ahead and quickly set to work. The stomach, colons, rectum, and liver were easily dislodged with an eight-inch scimitar knife and placed in a second utility bucket. A standard cleaver sufficed for the remainder of the job. Twenty-four sections in all, neatly arranged across the blue tarp long before C.F. had completed his negligible janitorial task.
Upon seeing the body is this new state, C.F. made a hasty retreat to the restroom and vomited, returning minutes later.
“Sorry about that,” he said. “It’s just, well, what now?”
I gazed around the shadowed room at the various boxes, package tape, and other mail provisions at our disposal.
Ultimately we decided against shipping the body parts to random PO boxes across the globe and instead buried the sections in the wooded area behind the Hamptonshire Post Office. It was exhausting work—the earth was cold but, thankfully not frozen—and we completed the grim task before dawn. The intestines—bucket and all—were dumped into nearby Joiner’s Creek and quickly sank
“That’s everything,” C.F. said, wiping sweat from his brow.
We returned to the post office, removing any additional faint traces of blood or guts from the premises. I cleaned my blades and returned them to the tackle box and then walked toward the sorting table carrying package tape and a long strip of plastic. Moments later I carried Attenborough’s skull across the floor toward the office safe. I opened the safe, pushed aside a cash register drawer, and placed the skull inside before quickly shutting the door and rotating the combination.
“What the fuck are you thinking?” C.F. said.
“I’ll deal with the head tomorrow, maybe grind it to powder. Until then, it stays locked in the safe, out of harm’s way.”
“You really think that’s necessary?”
“The dead will not be coming back,” I said, turning suddenly and grasping C.F.’s arms tightly.”
“You’re losing it, Bridger. For Christ’s sake, you killed a man.”
“I’ll do it again if I have to! And again after that. I won’t allow our lives to be jeopardized by working class homophobes and neither should you.”
“I’m sorry,” C.F. said, backing away. “Just…just get rid of the head, okay? No good can come of keeping it around.”
“I already told you I’d deal with it. Listen to me. It’ll be light soon. We need to move his truck. Park it back in his driveway, then lock the doors and throw away the keys.”
“Okay. Okay, sure.”
We returned to C.F.’s flat just before sunrise. I showered and dressed in fresh clothing. C.F. showered and, exhausted, fell quickly asleep. I made toast a coffee but had no appetite, so I returned to the post office to begin the work day.
There was no foul smell lingering in the air. No hint of death or blood. Only the chemical smell of cleaning agents. Feeling a renewed sense of security I switched on the lights and waited for Coleman to arrive with the morning mail delivery. I felt a sudden closeness to C.F. that transcended the physical intimacy of our relationship. He’d seen me at my most savage and had not turned away but had instead descended into the mire with me. I walked toward the back of the office and waved a hand at the dozen odd gnats in my path. I then retrieved a can of Eight O’Clock Coffee from the cupboard and removed the lid from the percolator.
At 10:13 a.m. while sorting the mail I was visited by Shelley Arnquest, adorned in her usual black garb. We didn’t speak for several awkward moments.
“What do you want, Shelley?” I asked.
“A handful of the one-cent issues. Five, if you have them.”
“I’m all out of the penny stamps. Matter of fact, I don’t have any stamps to sell to you.”
“You know, I was ready to believe that you are just a figment of my imagination. Maybe some sort of ethereal consciousness that would steer me along the right path. But if that’s true, why didn’t you prevent me from…”
“From what?” she asked.
“Nothing. Never mind.”
“Have you ever taken anything that wasn’t yours to take?” Shelley asked.
“I don’t really feel like talking to you.”
Shelley stood and stared until I responded.
“You mean like shoplifting?” I asked.
“Well…probably. I’m not sure.”
“It’s not healthy to hold onto things that we’re not meant to keep.”
“I’ll try to keep that in mind.”
“On another topic, I think you should leave early today.”
“Storm coming. If you don’t leave soon, you may never make it home.”
“The skies are clear, Shelley. The sun is shining.”
“I have a riddle for you, Bridger: How are weather forecasts and people both alike?”
“I’m sure I don’t know,” I said flatly, too tired for brainteasers from beyond the grave.
“Both can change without warning, with terrible outcomes.”
“I’ll try to remember that. If you don’t mind, I’m kind of busy here,” I said.
NEXT: Skin Suit concludes.