Skin!, or When Allegories Attack
by Eirik Gumeny
Bobby Birthdaycakes woke one morning to find that he was no longer comfortable in his own skin. He tried cleaning his skin with soaps and sponges, soaking it in pretty perfumes. He tried clothing it with all manner of things, wrapped himself in everything from blankets to bacon. Bobby tried shifting his skin and stretching it, tilted the whole damn thing forty-five degrees, his elbows in his shoulders, to no avail. He tried turning his skin around and wearing it backwards, but the holes of his face ended up on the wrong side of his skull and he walked into a door. He tried flipping it upside down, navigating with his eyeball in his asshole, but, while he avoided doorways and furniture, Bobby just wasn’t cool with the thought of living the rest of his life with his genitals on his head.
This configuring and contorting went on for days, but, no matter what he did, Bobby Birthdaycakes just couldn’t get comfortable in his skin.
So he took it off.
Bobby Birthdaycakes had never been happier.
He could feel the refrigerator vibrating straight through to his spine. The raccoon scritching along the attic tickled the soles of his feet. He could feel everything now: the heat, the cold, the wind, the dust, the sun, the stars. The pain was ridiculous, but the pleasure was even more absurd. Bobby had never felt more alive. He smiled and ran outside into this new and wonderful world, screaming in abject agony with every step he took.
One bright and sunny and painful day, Bobby Birthdaycakes met skinless Sally Sandbags.
Sally was, and had always been, a good girl, albeit more vulnerable to the sins of the flesh than she would have cared for. Try as she might--and try she did, with belts and pills and weird Swedish devices—she had found that she simply could not suppress her urges. And so, after extricating herself from one particularly unpleasant situation those urges had led her into, she had decided to be rid of this vice, once and for all, and flayed all her frivolous fornicative fancies away.
Bobby introduced himself. Sally smiled and shook his hand. They both shuddered, simultaneously, with extraordinary suffering and ecstasy.
Bobby and Sally began dating, spending most of their time hiking, sampling cotton candies from around the globe, and watching crime dramas on television. Sally would always have the murderer pegged before the first commercial break. Bobby would always contend that it was because the shows were written by hacks filling a finite rotation of adjectives into a boilerplate. Sally would always respond by insulting his intelligence. Bobby would always come back with something inflammatory and awful and the two of them would always fight and always immediately and passionately make up and it would always be loud and messy and squishy and their neighbors kind of hated them for it.
Bobby Birthdaycakes and Sally Sandbags were married the following spring. No one showed up to the wedding, as the two of them side-by-side were a little too unsightly for all but the most veteran of surgeons, and they didn’t know any surgeons. But Bobby and Sally were well-liked otherwise, and received thirteen and a half pounds of cards and notes wishing them the best with their new life together. Bobby and Sally were happy with that, happy with everything, really, because they were truly and sincerely in love and their lives were awesome.
Then Sally Sandbags was mauled by carnival folk and died.
Bobby Birthdaycakes spent the next three months crying and sleeping and waking each afternoon to find that he had a pain in his heart, a pain always more amplified than the day before. Day in and day out it got worse, no matter what or who he did. It was some new kind of pain, something deep, unfathomable, and unassociated with any kind of pleasure.
This new pain was so fierce, so overwhelming, that Bobby Birthdaycakes was no longer able to feel the scalding burn of the shower or the rough bristling of his towel. He needed to know what this torment was. He went to the mirror and examined himself, head to toe and everything in between, until he found the source of his anguish.
There was a small Sally-shaped hole in his heart.
So he reached into his chest and tore out his heart.
Bobby Birthdaycakes felt better than he had in years. He could finally get on with his life.
Bobby got a job at a community college and he bought a condo and everything was groovy.
Well, almost everything was groovy.
Bobby took the bus to the community college every day. And every day he sat next to a woman who would point at him and scream. Non-stop. For the entire thirty-seven minute ride. He tried changing seats, but she would find him and sit next to him and point and scream. He tried to talk to her, but she couldn’t hear him over her screaming. Bobby was worried that sooner or later he was going to get kicked off of the bus because of this woman. So he thought about what he could do, tried to come up with some way to get through to her. But Bobby Birthdaycakes found that he couldn’t understand the woman’s fear, that thinking about it, trying to ferret out some kind of a reason for her constant pointing and screaming, caused his brain to throb and hurt. He sat with the woman day after day, trying to reason with her, giving her flowers and chocolates and assorted knick-knacks, but the shouting never abated.
So he broke the woman’s neck.
Bobby Birthdaycakes found murder to be exhilarating. He killed everyone on that bus and everyone on the next three buses after it. He nearly collapsed from the sheer orgasmic glee of it all. Bobby spent the better part of the next six years terrorizing the Midwest. He went from being an anomaly to a headline to the number three most wanted criminal in America to the number two most wanted criminal in the world to a myth and then to a ghost story and then down to an anecdote and then straight on up to the most wanted man in the world after he killed a baker’s dozen of diplomats in Milwaukee. The media dubbed him the Skinless Sociopath, Bobby the Butcher, and, for some reason, Katelyn.
While one might think it would be easy to track a man with no skin, one must also take note that Bobby Birthdaycakes had managed to remove his fucking skin and live, for years without issue. By this point in time, Bobby had taken to skinning his victims and hiding in the pile of corpses, only to wriggle out and shout “Surprise!” before murdering the coroner and dancing a samba with his carcass.
Quite simply, Bobby Birthdaycakes was both a madman and a genius. No one could apprehend him.
Although that really depends on the definition of “no one.”
The ghost of Sally Sandbags had been flipping through the channels one day and come across an expose on the nameless, skinless psychopath. It took her all of four minutes to peg her widowed husband as the killer. Clearly, he was not handling her death well.
Bobby Birthdaycakes was not expecting the ghost of Sally Sandbags. Bobby Birthdaycakes was not expecting anyone. He was in the middle of performing a saucy puppet show to entertain himself, the skin of a recent victim upon each hand. Seeing his dead wife more or less before him, Bobby was overcome with shame, regret, relief, happiness, all at once, a thousand emotions he had forgotten or trained himself not to feel.
Bobby Birthdaycakes tossed the skin-puppets to the side. His knees buckled and he fell to the floor. It hurt. A lot. Bobby was overjoyed at the sensation, as well as in extreme agony. For the first time in years he felt whole. He couldn’t keep himself from crying. Big, salty tears that stung like a motherfucker. He sniffed and snuffled, but he couldn’t stop, the tears streaming down and burning away.
So Bobby Birthdaycakes reached up and pulled out his eyes.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Bobby,” said the ghost of his wife before floating away, possessing the nearest cop, returning, and blowing Bobby’s head off.
And with that final, violent action, Bobby Birthdaycakes and Sally Sandbags were at last reunited. They immediately haunted the shit out of a carnival.
And then they continued to not live, happily ever after.
Eirik Gumeny is the author of the novel Exponential Apocalypse. He once scaled the Empire State Building, only to be murdered by several bi-planes and a pretty girl. He was not happy about it.