Tunneling into the Marrow

Tunneling into the Marrow

Bleeding was easy if you could get past the first flush of pain. The Exacto knife slipped into his skin like a single raindrop beading on his eyelashes. Death wasn’t an option so much as a flirtation. If he was in pain anyway, this was an activation of his resolve to punish himself. A ward against real failure. He was careful to keep the droplets from morphing into the carpet. Careful to hide the crusty dress sock of his father’s, the one he used to blot the evidence. He was good at dulling the blade, good at falling into the zone of heartbeats thrumming in the hollows of his skin between vessels and veins.


The third girl, captivated by his scars, stuck next to him on the roller coaster. Bambi, she called herself, batting her eyes, the orbs like morsels of chocolate. A lie, obviously, but he didn’t need people for their truths. Lies were blades that never twisted, that went in, a sting, and then out, an amount of blood he was used to. She tucked her hand under his elbow, begged him to keep it safe as the coaster ratcheted up that first hill. I’m no one’s hero he shouted as they dropped and swung violently to their right, shoulders colliding. In the shadows, between rides, soda cans and corndog wrappers, and shriveled plumes of left-over cotton candy, Bambi held out her arm, her veins blue rivers connecting under a constellation of freckles. Quick, quick, her eyes pulsed. He had never marked anyone else. How could he have known the nausea of intimacy, the lurch of longing, the fight for desire that had attached itself to him, a strangling cape left by his parents’ inattention. Do it, or I’ll scream. Hair screening his eyes, he palmed the knife back into his sweating pockets. She erupted toward him, diminishing the space between them, and he waited for something nameless to happen. Her body flush against his own, a tremble of desire and disgust, the way the leaves must have felt at a good soaking. But her voice is rising sharply in his ear, a shriek just for him, tunneling into a softness, the marrow retracting until she bursts from their burrow, a bulb exploding.


Alone, at the top of the drop, the sky dark, but buzzing with lights across the lake, he gripped the knife, blade thrumming inside, awaiting his flick. A catch of metal chains, a pause, a thrill of horror, before dropping. Speed pushed his shoulders back, wind whipping across his face, his arm, a doll shaken until the knife slipped, flung through the air, a star realigning.


About the Author

Tommy Dean is the author of two flash fiction chapbooks and a full flash collection, Hollows (Alternating Current Press 2022). He lives in Indiana where he currently is the Editor at Fractured Lit and Uncharted Magazine. A recipient of the 2019 Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction, his writing can be found in Best Microfiction 2019, 2020, 2023, Best Small Fictions 2019 and 2022, Laurel Review, and elsewhere. Find him at tommydeanwriter.com and on Twitter @TommyDeanWriter.


Photo by Elle Edwards on Unsplash