“Death Says See You Later”–Flash Fiction by Bond

SEE YOU LATER
S.L. Bond

Death comes to you and he asks you for a cigarette. He says “Can I bum
a cigarette?” and you give him one, you let him hold it in his long
thin fingers. He says “Got a light?” and you’ve got one, and as if in
a dream you move through air as thick as water. You strike the coarse
little wheel with your finger and make a flame appear there. Death
leans in and inhales. Cigarette lit. He leans back. You put your
lighter in your pocket.

Death takes a drag. You watch the white smoke pass through the holes
in his rotten throat. It leaks a little, smoke dribbling out of his
neck and some even out of his eye sockets as he exhales through his
nose.

His nose. Just two holes in his flat face, the rest of it gone. He has
lips left, but barely, just ragged black pieces, and no eyelids,
eyeballs bugging out of sockets, held in place by taut gray tendons.
Death is completely hairless, his head as smooth and round as a baby’s
except for the patches of white skull peaking through.

He can see that you are staring. “Pretty grim, I know,” he jokes.
“Smoking kills, kid.” He winks at you. You flinch.

“No need to be so nervous. It’s not your time yet.”

Whose time is it? He doesn’t say. He just sits next to you on the park
bench, smoking the cigarette you gave him, making small talk.

“Listen,” he says. “You seem pretty hip. What do you think of my
outfit? I’m trying to update my image.”

You look him over. He is dressed like he might be any of your friends:
blue jeans and a dark purple t-shirt, black sneakers, a thick metal
gauge in his one remaining ear.

“Where’s your scythe?” you ask him, the first thing you’ve said.

Taking a drag he shakes his head, explaining as he breathes out: “No
resonance. It’s meant to scare people. Obviously. But you all aren’t
afraid of that stuff anymore. The hood, the costume. Too much drama.
Too gimmicky. You kids are media savvy — what’s a shroud or a cloud of
smoke to you? You see that shit everyday. No. I won’t bore you. If
there’s one thing I refuse to be it’s predictable.”

He bends to put the cigarette out on the ground, tosses it into the
ashtray. A perfect shot. He looks at you.

“No gimmicks for you. No costume. No devil. No evil.” He slings his
backpack over one shoulder, standing up to go.

“No need for it. This,” he says, gesturing with one hand at his normal
clothes, his black backpack just like the one you had in high school.
“This is the scariest costume I could wear for you. Don’t you think?”

You can’t speak but he hears your answer.

Death says: “See you later.”

The Last Time You Dyed Your Hair by S.L. Bond. Forthcoming SFLR

Here is one of the stories that has been accepted for publication and is forthcoming in The Santa Fe Literary Review–look for it in Fall 2010 on SFCC campus.

BIO:
S.L. Bond grew up in Santa Fe and will be studying photography at UNM this fall. She writes about gender and Judaism at her blog, Dear Diaspora (http://deardiaspora.wordpress.com).

THE LAST TIME YOU DYED YOUR HAIR:
ELEGY FOR A GIRLHOOD
S.L. Bond
for EJO

1.
The face stares lifelessly back at me. Afloat in its jar, its skin is puffed and pallid, fat lips parted, a pale moon being disgorged from the green kelp forest of hair. The sick scent of formaldehyde is everywhere, palpable and pressing as thick city smog.

2.
I had called you comrade. I had run messages along spiders’ strings, crisscrossed classrooms, smuggling your scrawled bulletins and sending back my reply. And I had saved samples of your handwriting, this box a museum of our late adolescence, carefully preserved specimens, pinned and precious as butterflies. These are relics of a girlhood now dusted and forgotten, or in my case rejected: shorn off.

3.
The face, truly, is a head, a spherical mass covered with thick, dark hair. Its neck is a stump, sewn shut. Oh face. Its eyelids are swollen closed, puckered in a perpetual kiss, and its dead lips threaten to sing to me, some familiar story we have tried so hard to snuff out.

4.
I miss you in constant, quiet ways, rhythms murmured in the clicking clockwork of my chest. There is a lot of quiet now. I keep my own counsel. Secrets sleep snow-buried in my body, hibernating in joints and limbs, in thin coats across skin, awakened now and again by a lover’s wandering or misplaced finger—

5.
Tearing through dresser drawers, I am hunting the last surviving pieces of women’s clothing. Stray t-shirts, panties, a pair of tights: holdouts, huddled in the darker corners, cockroaches in cotton and lace. I stuff them into trash bags and squeeze out the air as if to suffocate. The knot I tie in the black plastic is a noose. Here I am: the hangman of my former self.

6.
I used to think you were less sensitive, but now I see you were just less sentimental. I was stuck in scrapbooks. You had run scissors around your paper cutout heart, placed it between the pages of some secondhand book like a dried and captured flower. You were long since ready to take it with you.

7.
The head is suspended in thick, sallow liquid, something about the consistency of cold oil. Glass jar, five gallons, so heavy the wooden shelf bows slightly under its weight. The hair is a dense and tangled mass, stained an algal green from death and liquid. The throat: a jagged line of skin, sawed through, a darker gray around the edges. A mess of stitches in thick, coarse string.

8.
And you: twenty now, experienced, you dry off with a dark towel, no longer yearning for evidence. A beautiful young woman now, somehow, all your anger washed out and away, visible once before disappearing, swirling in the basin with the last ever streaks of dye.

9.
The day I decide to change my name is the day I realize every other name I have belongs, first, to a dead girl or woman: Sarah and Lisa and me, the person I used to be. I am sick of your weight, your dreams, your begging whispers. I am sick of your pleas. “Keep me, keep me.” Dead jar babies, your pretty faces saved from rot but not from the grotesque, your own inevitable ugliness. The ground would have been better.

10.
None of us kiss and tell anymore.
We can’t.