By Ryan Matejka
Based on the writing prompt: You get a deep cut for the first time in your life, instead of bone or muscle, you see wires.
Laura fumbled to unlatch the carabiner from her belt loop and separate her apartment key from the half dozen others that dangled from it. Her arms seemed to be shaking independent of her body.
Finally, she found the small brass key among the others and held it out steadily with both hands. The world around the key twisted and distorted, corrupted by the entire bottle of wine that was meant to be shared with Abby and the tears that seemed endless. Makeup ran and smeared down her cheeks as if it was insoluble with such a wretched shell of a woman.
Voices echoed in her head; "How stupid are you? You'll never be good enough for her. No wonder she wants nothing to do with you."
Inside the apartment that she wouldn't let anyone else see sat dirty dishes piled high in the sink, a hill of trash surrounding the bin she'd promised she would take out once a week, and empty liquor bottles that represented every spare penny she'd ever earned. Laura threw her keys onto the floor and dove for the first bottle within reach, sticking her tongue out and hoping for one final drop, but finding none.
"Look at this place. You're pathetic. You're no better than the filth you live in."
With a tormented cry, she threw the glass bottle at the hardwood floor where it shattered into a million fragments and spread out across the apartment. Spotting a bottle across the room with two shots of bourbon still sitting in the bottom, Laura tried to bring herself to her feet, but her legs had lost all motivation, and she slumped back down against the nearby wall. Finding herself completely helpless to go anywhere or do anything, she broke down into a fit of weeping tears, snot, and spit.
"Why is it always like this?" she cried out to her empty apartment.
"Because you're a worthless pile of rubble." The voices in her head echoed back. "You're broken. You're a mess. You let everyone down. You're barely even human."
Laura wrapped her arms around herself and rocked rhythmically back and forth on the floor as she muffled her cries and screams into the arm of her sleeve.
And then, among the tears and the constricting pain in her stomach, came a moment of clarity.
Laura took a deep breath and wiped her eyes and face clean. She propped her left arm up on her knee, held it out in front of her, and slowly began to fold the sleeve up past her elbow, revealing the faded hesitation marks from previous nights that webbed up and across her forearm like broken glass.
She picked up a shard of the broken bottle in her other hand.
"Remember, deeper this time. Don't be so weak. It only takes one good cut and all this will be over"
Laura arched her head back against the wall, shut her eyes, and pictured Abby.
She gently ran the shard up the length of her arm, getting a feel for the path it would take as she put an end to all the pain, guilt, and emptiness that she felt every minute of every day.
Then she cut, long and deep, down her arm. The feeling was both unbearable and euphoric.
She waited, eyes closed, for death to come.
There was no such relief.
After what felt like several minutes, Laura felt no different. She opened her eyes to survey her work out of morbid curiosity, thinking that perhaps she hadn't cut as deeply as she meant to. Strangely, the cut had in fact been deep, but it had stopped bleeding.
Laura dropped the bloody shard to her side, stuck her fingers into the cut, and parted her skin. Rather than muscle and bone, she saw a stream of wires running down her arm in brilliant colors, underneath which were two pale plastic rods shaped like what should have been her radius and ulna bones.
Laura gripped at the layer of warm outer flesh and pulled as hard as she could until it ripped off her hand like a glove.
She no longer felt pain.
She no longer felt anything.
She held her robotic hand in front of her face, turning it this way and that, bending the digits and rotating the wrist.
"You've got no soul."
Laura located what appeared to be the primary wire that ran at the center of the bundle, grabbed it in her human-like hand, and ripped it out.