Unskin Me With Your Neck of Knives
by Graham Tugwell
She woke me.
Her eyes are gold and amber oak, her shoulder rolls along her smile.
Her back to me.
Her hips and spine viola lines— the backless silver of her dress is wet in early dawning light, her shoulder blades are knives aslant, biting back upon her skin like unlipped mouths.
"It's happened to me."
Fingerfuls of hair are lured aside, unspools a curl dyed Cobalt blue.
"I prayed. I asked for this. And all my prayers were answered."
"It happened in the small hours of the night."
From shoulders bared in balustrades and from the fillets of her throat, from the soft spoons of her clavicle—a thistling of steel—a bouquet grown, a garland that is cold and cruel and beautiful—she's been blessed with a neck of knives.
She takes her time in turning and every blade is ice in light; her high and shallow breasts are held in afterthoughts of gauze and her bitten lip is a broken bulb, a heart of rose. She perches on the counter top and cloth is sheer against the fleshy thinness of her waist, the split in silver fabric grins a long mouthful of thigh.
Sighing, she kicks an arc of unshod foot against the wood.
Her tapping heelmeat a teasing thing.
Her voice is wind along a blade, the singing purr of steely lengths languidly unsheathed.
"Oh, I don't mind."
"I'd like it so if you touched them."
She lifts her chin and angles it aside for me, holds that nest of edges there aglistening in the dawn.
"Your fingers... along my knives..."
"Please...do this for me..."
And the thudding scratch of paws upon the garden door and that plunge and high of whining, is a wanting to get in.
From somewhere deep and dark in me my voice is offered up—
"Did you have to give anything?"
She smiles, crinkles the freckled hatchet of her nose, half-hides her eyes in milk and jet.
"Was anything taken?"
"Was anything lost?"
Teeth concealed in pursing lips, she brings her finger to her mouth.
And there she dabs a beauty spot of blood that for eleven seconds shines until the tongue-end creeping slides it down between her teeth.
"Just do this..."
And honey slow she pricks her points with finger pads and dull that metal shiver-thrums. I feel the quiver in my teeth.
"I oiled them."
"I wanted you to see me... glow..."
A noise, some way between a soft word and a softer groan turned over in my throat.
"And we'll be happy now, don't you think?"
Found myself saying. "Happy. We'll be happy."
"And you like them, don't you?"
"I do," I said, my mouth a smile. "I like them. You were made for this. And them for you. How long you wanted the neck of knives."
The silence in the kitchen stretched, become a humming wire in strain and slowly, eyes in amber fire and mouth a toying round of "Ohh" and tongue a flashing pink in passing, she presses down upon the sharp and fingertip is pierced for me— she proudly shows that blood in pulsing—wax in red, a garnet stud.
She leans to me in mantis, and bleeding finger fills my mouth and slow that living skin between my teeth and knuckle tongued I suck the bulb of redness from the tip.
It rolls in me, a writhing.
She pulls away and takes me with her, bites the finger I've just bitten.
Says to me— "Your turn."
And there can be nothing in that space but us and our breath is in each other's mouths and let the dog destroy the door.
And I whisper: "I could lose a fingertip..."
And losing half her eyes in lidding, she says to me: "Or more."
The heel's a whisper against the wood, softly up and softly down and framed there in the husky-must and darkness of my mother's plants—licks of yellow on leaves of green and crumbled soil long needing wet.
And breathing in, she breathed out— and there I see chrysanthemums in chrome unclosing, twists of metal hair unbraiding, shows her stamen blades within her soundless cervical machine.
Now fingers work in collar cloth and with no effort haul me close.
"Touch. Them—" and there can be no argument.
The metal cold— my fingers run her longest knife, feel her heartbeat through her length.
"And it hurts you?"
"Like I'm breathing fire."
Knives slide inwards and outwards slide.
"Fire... swollen... in the heart of me."
And points in passing prick a bead of blood upon a lobe.
And she doesn't flinch—she makes no move— and there are edges to her voice— "Kiss me, then. Kiss the metal of my neck."
"Just to see how sharp I am."
"How sharp the prayers at night have made me."
And I am even closer now—
She smells of grease and powdered things, vanilla dense and smothering, and curve of her from jaw to ear a razor sharpened scimitar that slips a line of lights along and I would lose all fingers on that edge, I'd lacerate a limb for it—
But words are fumbling, futile things.
"I never knew... I never..."
She smiles, and the gap behind her canine black and sways the scissor angles of her hips—softly, dully, hungry into mine, and wide the grin in silver splits and small and red her purring mouth:
"Don't you want to?"
Her eyes are closed with lashes, and pale the dappled blushmeat of her cheeks, and finger strokes the hand I lay upon the counter top.
"Oh... Don't you want to?"
And a thousand times myself is staring back at me from muscle stripped in metal struts and what's that look upon my face? And almost don't I know myself—
My breath has fogged her metal dull, my tongue upon the lung-bleached steel is strawberry in snow—and I am lapping upwards, through the thrushwhite of my breath. The frigid cold takes all wet away and sticking dry my leather length, yet still I have her point to claim—
"Behind my ear. Lick the long one—lick the longest one—"
And so I'm made to move from shoulder hilt to fuller groove, and dragging upwards, slowly up, I prick my tonguemeat on her point, and leave behind a ragged weeping scrap of me—
And she's a sighing angled yawn—her eyes in lurid indolence—
"Tell me I was right to do this."
"Tell me I've been made the perfect thing."
And words I bully past my bleeding tongue – "You've become the perfect thing—and right—you were right, so right to do this"— and words are blunt and thickened things—exhausting—almost, almost worthless—
Again my tongue is put to work: the cold and oil of steel, the smell of her, the scented curl of Cobalt blue across my face, the thud and whine of claws on wood, the darkness of my mother's plants and slow bright of the dawning day and now her hands are clutching things, fit to rip the back off me, and pulling me— holding me against her neck— against those moving, meeting knives—
A breath comes, breaks her lips apart; her eyes are folds of marble white— and I am doing this to her—
"It's taking me away with it."
And short breaths through her clenching teeth are streaked with softly gold unsharpened words.
"I want this..."
And she forces silver flesh to mine, so grins that split, that slink of waist, and night's growth under chin and lip is lost and again I'm pressed against her and now I'm losing slips of skin—I'm shedding ribbons from my tongue—
But I want to— I want to slash my face on her, I long to grate my face away, to stick myself, to be pierced and mounted by the throat of blades.
Her gasps are curled, like tongues of air— "I'll pray."
"I'll pray for you."
"Pray so you may grow one too."
Her lips are fingers in my hair. The steel of her is in my mouth.
That metal tang—the feel of grease between my teeth.
And nails are sinking into me I slice myself in claret clean, ripping raw upon the knives that stab a puncture through my cheek, that rove across the soft rungs of my pliant palate flesh—and pumping from my severed lip, my neck is made to coruscate with glisten-strips of steaming red— my flesh is flayed and made a garland, strung in rags around her neck.
A tooth goes. And another.
And she laughs.
And I want this.
I want this.
I love this.
Graham Tugwell is an Irish writer and performer and the recipient of the College Green Literary Prize 2010. His work has appeared in over fifty journals, including Anobium, The Quotable, Pyrta, THIS Literary Magazine and Poddle. He has lived his whole life in the village where his stories take place. He loves it with a very special kind of hate. His website is grahamtugwell.com
This story originally appeared in issue 2.