The Vibrating Skin

Submitted into Contest #253 in response to: Start your story with a character canceling their plans.... view prompt


Speculative Sad Suspense

This story contains sensitive content

*TRIGGER WARNING* — Story includes representations of poor mental health and self-harm.

        June 6th, 1955

        I met him at the library. That’s where grandmama told me that she could always “snag” one, a good one. Unfortunately, that’s the place where I find a lot of peace, a kind of peace I want to remain undisturbed. Of course he said hello to me, I don’t know why, but it just seemed like fate. An awful, bittersweet fate, like some sweet licorice with a sour aftertaste. The kind that lingers in your mouth, I guess. 

        It stays there. It seeps into your tastebuds, and your body willingly takes it in. An unwanted, but much needed drug. 

        That’s what he was; I hated it. 

        I was reading one of those new novellas, the kind with the neon cover, and all sorts of modern lettering styles, and perfectly printed pages, and that new smell that never gets old somehow. It had been sitting on the little shelf next to the big window, you know which. You used to go there all the time. 

        I don’t know why I forget to take them home. I sit there and find something I like, and I eat away, as though I am some starved kind of fool. It was weird. Something about shivering backs, mad killers, and nails. The usual stuff. 

        The awful silence of the library makes one feel at home, I suppose. 

        And it is in the silence that you sometimes find the loudest parts of your life. 

        Of course, that is where I found the one before him. In school, where one is supposed to be studious, and take little notice of the handsome beings that dominate the little area between both walls in all the hallways. You feel a sort of compression there. The gray paint makes the brighter things easier to see. It’s reminiscent of those cloudy days where you can just hardly see the sun peaking out over everything else. That’s what he was like, and that’s what this one was like. 

        And, yes, I hate it. 

        The incessant desire for silence which succumbs to the human need for love. To talk. To trust. To take and to hold. For childish hugs, and for cuddles. For romantic walks on the beach. For stupid hand-holding. 

        I do not deserve it. 

        Most of us do not deserve it, but I especially do not deserve it. 

        I have done wrong before, who's to say I will not do it again? I must have done wrong, because if I had done right, then I would not have the desire for a second one. The stupid, selfish desire for a second one. 

        Because the hallway sun left me for the hallway moon. That other, astonishing thing. That glorious light that sneaks up on you at night, when you aren’t looking. When you’re being consumed by the pages of a book, or a love that you thought was solely yours. 

        But, the past is the past. 

        The library one asked me to accompany him to the new bistro.

        I said yes. 

        Only my hungry heart knows the reason why. 

        It is much like writing to you. 

I say I hate to speak, to be human, but I do it anyhow. 

                  Much Love, 

                Your sister Jan 


        June 10th, 1955 

        Yes, I know about the marvels of lovemaking, Judy. I know you know that I have experienced it once. Yes, I know you are relishing your honeymoon in Italy. 

        Not all of us are lucky enough to live their lives unquestionably. 

        You know I must question everything. 

        And so, as you must know already, yes,  I have done it again. 

        I canceled on the poor, handsome thing. I took out that little scrap of paper he had written his number on, and I rang him up and informed him that no, I could not accompany him to the bistro. He began to cry, I believe. The lingering of his tears behind the phone was an eerie image in my mind. I imagined them coming down like impenetrable veins, endless reminders of a day that might’ve been. It was questionable, like everything; is it worth that? Am I worth that? 

        He said his wife had passed away years ago, and so I was his most recent venture into the unknown. I said that I was sorry, and that I wished him well. He tried to keep speaking, but I refused to listen any longer. In truth, I guess his story was too similar to my own. 

        The only difference was that my husband did not pass on into  heaven during his sleep. He passed on to another woman instead. 

        I instantly regretted the rejection. 

        It is interesting to see how our own actions come to constrict us like snakes, or deadly vines. I felt truly alone in my little home. The only company was that of the jungle. I imagined it all around the house, an undying consumption machine. Wrapped around the couch, lying limply across the old bed sheets, feasting upon the golden doorknob, the only escape into the world. Everything was green now, as if the world was new again. I could feel, see, sense, some yellow particles surrounding me and flooding the room. It was the essence of silence and loneliness. The epitome of my inner polarity. Like the dust that lingers in true forests and true jungles, the dust you see in the sunlight, the kind that looks like little sparkles. The room was sparkling with indecisiveness. The room was sparkling with disease. I was Eve, but with no Adam. 

        The quiet hum of the television was my forbidden fruit. I had left it on while I was on the phone. I watched the flashing images on the screen, dull and grey, not nearly as colorful as the green horror I had suddenly found myself in, but somehow still egregious, and appetitive. Carnal. 

        There was some new advertising for a new thing. 

        One of those foolish little things only housewives can really relate to, you know. Like a vegetable slicer, or a strange, trendy piece of decorum. Like that patched cat pillow you’ve got. Like that silver, dotted vase I have got my wilting flowers stuck in. 

        It was $5.99. Only $5.99. 

        I recognize the old marketing tricks. Of course that’s how they suck you in, that old “only” trick, because my husband used to be in marketing. I think you remember. 

        Regardless, recognizable or not, the trick worked. I dialed up the number on the screen, and ordered one of those things. If you must know, it is a bodysuit, a tight one, if I may say, which is completely covered in little charcoal plates. With a specially designed remote control, the plates are mechanized to actually vibrate. It is an “exfoliating suit”. I quite like the name. It is a light vibration, and you can hardly feel it. There is a face mask as well, and I ordered that too. It is more of a helmet, of course, with eye holes. The only unsettling thing is the weight of it all. As long as you are lying down, it is not much of a burden. Quite the contrary, actually, as it tends to feel relaxing. 

        The suit came in just yesterday. I did not get the chance to use it until today however, because I had a shift at the hotel. 

        I lied down on the floor of my jungle-ridden house. The grasses could not disturb me, because of course, I was shielded by the comfort of my new suit. From the window, I could see that same familiar yellow light peaking through, and I realized that the greenness of it all was sort of suffocating. I wanted to soak in the sun.

         I know that coals naturally get hot in the heat, especially in a place like California, but that was precisely what I wanted and needed. Just a little warmth, a little shelter from the cold bareness of the house. 

        You would probably understand better than me—the feeling of guilt—but my guess is that you try your best to avoid it, and not indulge in it as much as my greedy self. I am lying here now, outside, writing to you. I have taken the time to dedicate this final letter to you, despite what you have done to me. I can feel the coals beginning to heat up. I can feel my skin burning. 

        It is becoming awfully tight in here. 

        I can smell the summer barbecue, and I can hear whistles, and children laughing and playing. I can see the tallness and vastness of my fence, once again, another barrier to the real world. I can feel the charcoal plates closing in on the tenderness of my heart, and turning it into stone. And yet, the charcoal still vibrates. There’s still a need, a desire, for some sort of love, or comfort, I do not know what. It is hard to get it. Part of me wants it and part of me does not. It is like my vibrating skin. 

        I can feel my body jump and relax, and tense, and that is how I feel when I see a man, like the man I saw at the library, like when I see a man like the one I once had. I am not like you anymore; I cannot feel my body begin to shiver, and my heart begin to quake and pound, and decide that I must leap and feast upon anything I happen to love. I cannot leap anymore. 

        I sit and stare, and watch the things I love walk around, walk past me, or even walk towards me, but I do not leap anymore. 

        And it becomes harder every day. And my skin becomes more solid with every passing hour, and the charcoal, the barriers, tend to close in on me, and I can feel them now. 

        Pressing in on me—laying into me. My vibrating skin will not vibrate any longer. 

        I really, truly, recommend that you get one of these bodysuits, sister. 

        It is becoming difficult to write. My skin is red, I am sure of it. The sun will accompany me in the afterlife. 

        And my husband will accompany you, because you are his moon, of course. 

        And the moon still shines, even in the darkness and silence. 

        I hope you are happy with him. I hope you find this letter somewhere near me, because I do not think I can deliver it now. Never, never allow your skin to vibrate. I envy your willingness. I envy your ability to leap.

        With love, 


June 07, 2024 21:32

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