She woke not knowing where she was, who she was, or even what she was. The only thing she could say for sure was how she was. As to that: stiff and sore.
First order of business: Open her eyes.
Her lids felt heavy and stuck together as if they’d been sewn shut. She might have lifted her hand and pried them apart—Did she have hands? She thought she did—but that required the complex act of remembering how to manipulate her fingers. Assuming she had fingers. She thought she did.
In the dark behind her eyelids, she took stock. This was what she knew: She was lying down. She was cold. And she was hungry.
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I never knew you, but I cannot bear the thought of you languishing in the dark, doomed to stare forever at rotting things and the dust of what you were. Down in that stale place, beneath the clink of my shovel, you shed your cocoon of wet muscle and became something else, a luminous pearl inside a coffin shell. You were not meant to be shut away like this—forgotten, wished out of existence, too vital to look on comfortably.
Within your sockets I see the blackness of the grave, as if it leached in and took up residence after your eyelids fell away. Were I to light a candle in you, let it flicker from your hollows, it would not banish the shadows that cling there. The mysteries you have seen—you are smug with them. I cannot look away, hoping some small trace of that blackness will leap from your eyes into mine.
I run my fingers over your cool topography, your cracks and ridges, the indentations behind your jawbone. These are the silent maps of your history, your formation in layers that fused and hardened like the calcium secretions of a clam. I feel the bumps of your teeth, splayed across your face in an upward-curving row. I will not call it a smile. A smile is an act of will, requiring the manipulation of at least a dozen facial muscles. Rot has stripped your will away.
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