Promise to meet me at the seventh stream where the waters run away to the sea

“Stop picking.”

My nails, cut so short that the tips of my fingers are red-raw, cease trying to lift away the scabbing at my elbow. I know Mother is waiting for me to say it itches, so I keep quiet.
It doesn’t itch, not really. Instead it is a tightness; my skin feels like there is something underneath, trying to get out.

The lake is cold this time of year. It is deep, but very clear — in the right light you can see flashes of silver, just at the point that the water becomes too dark to clearly make out a sinking stone.

I keep trying to reach the bottom, but I haven’t made it yet. I think I am getting closer, though it’s hard to know, with nothing but a watch on the jetty to tell me how long I can hold my breath.

Mother wishes I would stop swimming, because afterwards my skin gets worse. Huge flakes slough away, revealing flesh that is smooth and firm. The cracks disclose a skin which is not really skin — too cold and too sleek.

Mother slathers on moisturiser after my bath, but it doesn’t do anything other than prolong the process. Then she tells me to stop picking as the skin tightens. It falls off anyway, whether I pick or don’t.

I love the water. And I don’t care about my skin. I’m certain I will reach the bottom of the lake soon, and no one has skin down there.

This piece was first published in the May 2020 edition of Flash Frontier

Photo by C Boyd on Unsplash