By Monic Ductan
I dreamed that I baked in a stone hearth. Not bread or cupcakes or cinnamon buns. My own body baked. I was placed on a large roller, similar to those they use at the morgue to transport the bodies. A six-fingered hand slowly rolled me into the hearth. I lay flat on my back, unmoving, like a sticky bun against a cookie sheet.
Though I lay on my back, my toes and knees were turned 180 degrees, like that time you cut off your doll’s legs and glued them back facing the wrong direction.
I welcomed the stove’s warmth. My toes were cold from the breath of winter, but my feet remained outside the hearth. My body was too long for him to close the iron door. I heard the metal sing as he pulled a knife from its block. And then, he began to take me apart at the ankles, so I would fit inside.
I felt the blade against my skin, eating it open. Felt metal against bone. The blade moved back and forth, like a hacksaw against a wood log.
I saw his face as he leaned in to add lighter fluid to the flames. He was a man with long, wooly hair, tanned skin, and a full beard. I saw his crown of thorns, the bloody nail-scarred hand bled onto the can of lighter fluid as he shook his wrist, fueling the fire.
The flames leapt up, took control of my hair and crawled toward my scalp.
The skin of my cheeks melted like thin plastic in a microwave. He began to saw again; and once the bone snapped, he wrenched my ankle, tore flesh from flesh. He started on the other leg. It gave less resistance. Snapped smoother. Quicker.
My face was on fire. The flames crawled in from my forehead and the periphery of my cheeks. I felt his hands against the skin of my severed feet as he picked them up and clunked them down on the rolling pan beside my thigh.
He shut the door.
The heat was so intense that my eyes melted, sat in my skull, pools of muddy gelatin.
As I died, I heard the god say, “She’ll be ready to eat in a little while.”
“A-man,” came the voices of his congregation. I couldn’t see their faces, but I imagined them sitting around the table, preparing for their feast. I heard the voices of my mother, my father, my high school tormentors, my old Sunday school teacher, the psychopath I knew in college, that crazy man from the bayou, his crazier girlfriend, the devil, and you.
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Monic Ductan is a Southern fiction writer and poet from rural Georgia. She has an undergrad degree in English from Georgia State University. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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