The Deceased with Red Skin

[Published in Milk Candy Review:]

At our first meeting, I kneel before you. I offer you my hair, shaved off and tied with a ribbon, a votive for a new beginning. This is how you say it will go:

Firstly, I will have to die. Then, I will have to trust my body to you. You will wash it. You will have prayers and spells in your mouth. You will place me in a marble coffin. You will mark the coffin with red. You will empty my insides and fill me back in with linen. You will coat me with warm resin. You will wrap each one of my fingers in cloth.

All of this will take 70 days: the dying, the emptying, the filling. I do not care for the jars that will hold my organs. So we agree on a cheaper price. You promise the heart will stay in my chest.

There will be a crossing across the water, you explain. A man will steer the boat. At daytime we will be on the ocean, at nighttime we will be in the land of the dead. It will be very hot on this boat. I will find it difficult to breathe. The man will be a God I have not yet met. He will paint my face and hands and feet red. As he paints me, you will give me male pronouns like I had always wanted. You will etch the words on my marble tomb. In the coffin, with my body made hollow, I will start turning from woman to man. The impossible made true in death.

The problem is, you tell me; the change would not last long enough under normal circumstances. With less experienced priests. This world has its rules, as does the afterlife. You cannot break them without a price so this is how it will go:

You will do to me whatever you want in the coffin because I will be neither here nor there, neither male nor female, neither red nor blue, neither dead nor alive, and I will be very scared. You do not tell me just how scared. But you promise that the results will be worth it. No one will question me ever again. No one will have a doubt.

You caress my shaved head and take my gold coins. You say, go to sleep. You say, surrender if possible. You say that I am a bare horizon. You say, know this: in your new body nothing will feel too terrifying, or too beautiful, ever again.

And limb by limb I stretch out this tired self.