Word Count 496 words
Flesh Be Not Proud
(with apologies to John Donne)
by G. Ackman
Proud flesh. She didn’t know why they called it “proud” because it looked anything but proud. It looked angry, malicious, ugly. It was stupid, really. She had been distracted and allowed her mind to wander and she knew better. It was just a nick but she didn’t want to stop chopping firewood and so she let it go until that night. She washed it out and put a bandage on it, of course, but three days later, it was scarlet and swollen. Then came the red striations up and down her leg. Now, her whole leg was swollen, the purple and green skin stretched until it was shiny. She was weak, too weak to gather wood or water today, and that alone could be fatal, although looking at her leg, she was pretty sure she wasn’t going to live long enough to die from hypothermia or dehydration. She had to act, and she had to act quickly.
Recollecting an episode of Little House on the Prairie, she knew she had to do what Caroline had done. They say that art imitates life but in this case, her life depended on imitating art. She sure hoped that what was shown was what really needed to happen. It made sense anyway. And what did she have to lose – besides her life, and she was already pretty sure that was a foregone conclusion.
She hobbled over to the fireplace and added more wood, wanting all the heat she could get. She then hobbled to the shelf and selected the sharpest knife she had, stopping to look at her reflection in its narrow shiny surface. Would she ever see herself again?
The world spun on its axis and she stumbled to her knees, shrieking as the swollen flesh made contact with the ground. Nausea rose and she spent some precious moments fighting a battle with her stomach, then lurched to her feet, still gripping the knife handle and thrust it into the coals of the fire. She sank back on her bed, grateful to do nothing for a moment, and knowing that she would soon have to steel herself for the most incredible thing she had done since the lights went out.
Even after the knife was hot, she still didn’t move. Could she do it? Maybe it would be better to just lie down and let blessed sleep overtake her. A cold nose at her hand reminded her that two lives depended on her. There was no could she – there was only she must. Reaching for the knife, she held it over the hideous swollen appendage that used to be her leg, hesitated for just a moment, then plunged the red-hot knife blade in. Had there been anybody around, her inhuman shriek would surely have caused a stir, but all was silent. She passed out, blessedly, as the seemingly endless river of pus ran out of her leg, followed by a line of clean blood. Now healing could begin.