I had been
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.
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
came, bless them.
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
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.
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.
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
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
that vultures were holy creatures.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
is working on a novel-length retelling of Hades and Persephone.