Black Petals Issue #102, Winter, 2023

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Editor's Page
BP Artists and Illustrators
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Betterment Day: Fiction by Malik Mandeville
Bridget Magnus: Fiction by Dean Patrick
Cemetery Road: Fiction by Richard Brown
I Quit: Fiction by Michael Stoll
Ivory Tower: Fiction by Aron Reinhold
Letter from a Poison Pen Pal: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Neck of the Woods: Fiction by Harris Coverley
No Angels: Fiction by Kilmo
It's A Dry Heat: Fiction by Roy Dorman
Requited Love: Fiction by Travis Mushanski
Stuck in Transit: Fiction by Michael Woods
Cold Yearning: Flash Fiction by Kat Sandefer
I Married a Zombie: Flash Fiction by M. L. Fortier
Snack Time: Flash Fiction by Zvi A. Sesling
The Boy Who Loved Bolt: Flash Fiction by Ron Capshaw
The Cutting Room: Flash Fiction by Karen Schauber
Dirty Blue Bandana: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Bidee Bodee, Bidee Beaux: Poem by Thomas Fischer
Blood of Whitechapel: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Rotten to the Core: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Seque into Shadows: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Sensitivity to Light: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Boo Hag: Poem by Richard Stevenson
Paranormal Parasites: Poem by Richard Stevenson
Huggin Molly: Poem by Richard Stevenson
In the Morgue of Memory: Poem by Hillary Lyon
Unexpected Culinary Opportunity: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
OI (Oo-ee): Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Plant Eater Gone Carnivorous: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
They Shouldn't Be There: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
The Needle Spins: Poem by Rp Verlaine
Cold: Poem by Rp Verlaine
The Sleepwalker: Poem by Rp Verlaine

Kat Sandefer: Cold Yearning

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Art by W. Jack Savage 2023

Cold Yearning

 

Kat Sandefer

 

 

I had been in the sun for days. My bones were small, brittle torches that baked my flesh. The sand at my back scraped the skin, pulling it deep into the desert. The nights were kind; the animals would run from their shady spots, my body a beacon. They gnawed at my arms and legs, tearing burnt flesh and muscle off to bring to their little homes.

I knew my soul would be stuck until all the flesh was taken. I would bake, praying for the bugs and creatures to leave their sanctuaries to free me from my prison. I would continue to suffer the way that had taken my life from me in the first place.

Then the vultures came, bless them.

When the first bird took my nose, I could still smell the rotting flesh the bird ripped from me. There was a gaping hole in my face that my soul longed to leave through, but I knew I had to be patient. I longed to leave, to get out, to escape the heat that stole the rest of my days. My throat still burned, reminding me of the initial panic of running out of water. I had shaken the bottle over my open mouth to no avail; moist sand had dripped down my throat, causing me to gag. The last drip— not an oasis— was just a continuation of the endless desert I had found myself in.

I had no hat or bandana to cover my face; I started to decompose long before I died. The sun broiled my skin for hours before the cold chill would freeze my sweat on gaping burns. I woke up gasping, my hands stuck to whatever skin I touched. I would rip chunks of dead skin from my arms and chest, my white t-shirt doing nothing but combatting the inevitable.

When I became desperate enough to try and drink from a cactus, my blood stung the burns on my hands. The stabbing pain cut through the slow ache of being baked alive, my blood cooler than my skin. I cut myself deeper, not holding back a feral scream, as I rubbed the cool blood over my arms and my face. Maybe it’ll protect me from the sun, I thought, delirious. Maybe it’ll heal me, and I’ll go home.

I could see my wife on my last day. Even in the heat of the day, stumbling towards a continuing nothingness, I felt a cool peace.

I did not meet my wife when I died. There was no bright light leading my way to heaven, there was only continuation. I stayed embedded in a decomposing flesh prison, waiting to be freed.

I learned quickly that vultures were holy creatures.

They came to separate my mortal vessel from my spirit, giving me a way out. The moment the second bird tore into my eyes, I began to feel peace. It didn’t hurt like I expected it to, but it tickled. It was a breath of a feather, brushing against my bones, cooling the small fires they lit.

Decomposition was an oasis in the distance. There was no relief– the sun was still blazing, and my mouth was barren– but I could see the crystal waters of the afterlife in front of me. 

The thought of after made me think of my wife, who was embalmed and buried hundreds of miles from me. The irony of leaving on this journey to escape her memory just to join her did not escape me.

I wondered how long my wife laid in the dirt, rotting, and waiting to escape the cold, impersonal coffin. I wondered if she craved the feeling of the sun on her bones as I suffered its rays. When the last bird, an archangel, tore the last bit of flesh from my bones with a peck of its beak, I dove into the cold pool of the beyond and waited patiently for my wife to rot.

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Kat Sandefer lives in Tampa, Florida, after receiving her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Butler University. She is doing graduate work in creative writing at the University of South Florida. Her work has appeared in Manuscripts Vol. 86 and 87. Currently, she is working on a novel-length retelling of Hades and Persephone.