I jolt upright in bed at a blaring horn coming from the dock. I curse under my breath as I realize I had overslept. They were bringing a prisoner in today. I hadn't had one in ages, I was beginning to think that the mainland had forgotten about me.

Jumping out of bed, I throw on a pair of shorts and a jacket before heading to the door. The steel barricade creaks open and I step out onto the thick, lush grass that covers the entire island. The sky is grey, the morning sun is almost choked out by the thick, low-hanging clouds. The ocean breeze is fishy and damp, spraying mist on my exposed skin as I look out from the center of the island to the dock, where a ferry had been tied up. The officers had already disembarked and were leading an older woman whose hands were tied toward me. She is practically a skeleton, seemingly malnourished. Her movements are slow and shaky like her joints had rusted over.

"What's the story with this one?" I shout to one of the officers.

He shakes his head and says, "Convicted of murder. She's insane."

"Why do you always give me the loonies?" I ask.

"You know we can't take 'em to a real jail. If the church found out 'bout this, we'd be the ones in prison."

They walk up to me and hand me the rope that tied the woman's hands together, then turn to leave without a word. I knew what had to be done. I tug her inside, closing the heavy door behind us. The crashes of waves against the island were now replaced with the sound of our breathing. We walk through another door and into the long hallway that leads to the prisoner's cells. She stares at the ground. I look straight ahead. When we reach the cell, she enters voluntarily and stood facing the wooden wall. I close the cell door and lock it. A single lantern hanging from the ceiling cast black shadows of the cell bars over the woman like she had been sliced into pieces.

"Dinner is at 6. Not that you have any way to tell time." I say.

The woman turns to me, head tilted, looking me dead in the eye. "Are we trained to be disgusted?" she asks.

Seeing as I had all day to tend to my chores, I decide to humor her. I lean back on the opposite side of the wall. "What? Could you elaborate?"

"Do you know what we are? Every liquid and solid?" she goes on. "Biting Into the armor of the skin, have you ever seen blood spun down to its separate layers? The plasma flowing like gold and the iron-soaked slurry at the bottom like a jewel?"

"Sorry, I can't say I have. Do you bite people often?"

She scowls. "You don't know how it feels to have your hands sink into still warm blood like air, to have it match your flesh and temperature as though it were nothing, to feel the still beating heart and feel the writhing digestive system on your cheek, you do not know love, you do not know intimacy."

Now my careless tone died down. What is this old hag talking about? "You better watch your mouth, or I'll weld this door shut." I snap.

She looks at the ceiling, at a stain that appears to be a patch of mold. "When I dissected a horse only minutes after it had been put down, it felt so warm and loving, it was like delivering a child or birthing it myself, a process so loving that I desperately want to be vivisected, for the joy of feeling such an intimate erotic experience from the first hand."

"Vivisected?" I ask. "That's not a real word."

"Sure it is. A vivisection is a surgery conducted on a living organism to view its internal structure." She spins in a circle with her arms spread out, staring at the ground.

"That's called a dissection," I reply.


I jump back, quickly turning to the door and stepping out. "Just lock them in their cell, and leave," I mutter to myself.

At the end of the hallway, I stop. There's a noise, faint over the beating of my own heart. I hold my breath, feeling my stomach knot. A voice. I turn back toward the cells, but it seems to be surrounding me, with no discernible source. I stand still, waiting to hear it again. It spoke louder this time.

"Within the shit-soaked blood encountered when cutting open a digestive track is a jungle of microorganisms, is the love and care of a trillion beings packed into each and all of us, we are all beautiful. You can never be ugly, you can't escape it. Aim to be as disgusting as you can and prove it true." The voice of the prisoner echoes around me. I spin around, looking for where she could be, but I saw nothing. The hallway is empty. I locked the cell. I definitely locked the cell.

"How did you get out?" I demand, but no one replies. The only sound is the beating of my own heart. The way out into the light is so close, but then I hear her again.

It was as if she is inside of me, inside my very skull. "The fact that I cannot split my head open down the middle and have floral mouth parts bloom from both sides is proof a better world must exist, there must be a way for me to have a split head resembling a blooming flower."

"I can split your head if that's what you want," I speak towards nothing in particular.

"My limbs are so absurdly restricted! My methods of self-expression! I want to feel my bones splitting without the cost of money to put them back together again. I'm sane, but wish I could live a life where I was not."

"You are anything but sane!" I shout down the hallway. Now thoroughly disturbed, I run through the doors at the end of the hallway and into my quarters. I enter my washroom and grip the sink, looking up to see every breathing pore in my skin staring back at me from the mirror.

"Gore upon gore upon filth and shit." I feel a sharp pain in my knuckles and look down. "It is purer and more loving than any marble-stoned persona." They're covered in blood, with tiny fragments of glass sticking out of them. "How could you believe the revolting lie that one cannot be ugly and loving? That one should not STRIVE to be putrid and loving!" I look back up at the mirror and see that it's been shattered, with cracks stemming out from an impact in the center. "We must strive to be a rot that knows of pain and shares empathy, not a golden idol that never cares. We must rot." The room spins. I feel wetness on my shirt, a pressure on my throat. I reach out for the doorway into the bedroom, catching nothing and staggering forward, almost tripping. Stumbling to the closet, I open it and kneel, dizzy as I claw clothes out of the way and find the cold metal of the shotgun. I feed a shell into its underbelly, and pump the forearm, slamming open my door and charging down the hallway once more.

"Have you ever placed your head in an emptied corpse before? You can see out the neck into the world, like a porthole, or a mirror. I want to ballroom dance with the rot and filth. I want to caress the cancer of the world and feel it in turn caress my veins. I yearn to be a deceptive temple of purity and love, and hold putrid, blooming gore-lined innards, only to find the love that was promised I still give. I need to be the ugliest woman on earth!"

I kick open the door, raising the barrel of the shotgun to aim at the woman, but as the door swings open, I freeze. The walls and ceiling had been torn from the rest of the structure as if they were nothing more than a sheet of paper. The salty ocean breeze fills my lungs as I stare at what I assume to be the culprit of this destruction. A spiral of flesh, as tall as a lighthouse, jutting out of the earth like a horn. Its toothy mouth is agape, jaw hanging from a writhing and mangled face that sits atop the meaty pillar. I look down. Bloodied roots spread across the ground like a fungus.
I snap out of my awe when I hear the thud of my shotgun hit the floor. The creature wrings itself to face my direction. Its eyes are massive and full of life. Full of beauty, love, compassion, and empathy. I feel the pain on my knuckles wash away as if they had never been touched. The creature's gaping jaw never once moves as it speaks.

"Do you understand, when I ask if we are trained to be disgusted?"

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