078. Cleanse. Zachary Toombs

After that incident, she would lay in bed for a while after the sun rose. Her room became a cave, and her bed a nest. The sheets were the girl’s cocoon, encompassing her in a warm refuge. Light was the plague, and any that spilled through the curtains had to be muffled by a blanket or garment or piece of tape.

She would only eat if the hunger hurt her stomach with its groans. Sometimes, she’d wait until she writhed in a coiling circle upon those sheets. And those sheets, speaking of, were not dirty. They had no stains because those stains would have no source. The girl had nothing within her to exhume, nor anything to spill.

But laying there into the afternoon turned into a race.

A race to the shower.

All the marks that were left—but couldn’t be seen—needed to be removed. The girl, from the inside out, needed to rid herself of the grime that served as pestilence. Wash and scrub and wash and scrub and wash and scrub. Week one of this habit—of showering three or four times in a day—was therapeutic. It calmed her breath, drawing it out like the steam that swirled through the surrounding air.

It made her forget—albeit for a single moment.

But the second week amplified things. There were aspects of her regiment that could be changed: how often she showered, for how long, and most of all the heat. At first, the girl preferred the water cold, because it allowed her to shiver. And shivering meant shedding that filth from her skin—as well as from beneath it.

However, she pivoted into a full one-eighty. If the water was scolding, then the girl could singe those wounds away. She could turn her once tainted skin red. Clean. But as she continued to crank the temperature into oblivion and stand beneath the fiery needles for longer, her skin brought imperfections into advent.

Her skin—and its underlying flesh—started to look different.

That girl she began as through this whole ordeal was unrecognizable—she had vanished. This encouraged her to deface even more, with even greater heat and more drastic measures.

And by the end—by the third week—she was a unique person. A vile, incoherent materialization of disgust. Now, no one would ever linger their eyes.

No one would touch the girl ever again.

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