Horror Writers Association

MHI: THE WORD FLESHIE by Liam Burke

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Trigger Warning: This piece addresses mental health

The HWA is pleased to launch its Mental Health Initiative, a coordinated roll-out of events, resources, and activities intended to promote positive mental health, foster the concept of hope, and challenge the stigma of mental illness in the horror genre. The initiative, run by the organization’s Wellness Committee, launches in June, and includes the following blog posts from Of Horror and Hope, a downloadable anthology of poems, flash fiction, and personal reflections on mental health by HWA members.

THE WORD FLESHIE
Liam Burke

“You made too many mistakes, Jane,” Peterson said. “You’ll have to run this report again.”

She nodded and smiled, refusing to react to the dripping mass of squirming gray flesh pushing itself from his mouth. It plopped wetly on her desk, and urgently ran for her. Thousands of needle-like feet propelled it forward, sprouting from its frayed-rope body.

She assured Peterson she’d understood, never breaking eye contact or expression as she leaned forward and quickly covered the Word Fleshie with her lunch Tupperware. Peterson, mollified, returned to his office.

Inside the plastic, the Fleshie sought escape, scratching at the container. Jane took deep breaths. She’d built the tools to deal with this in therapy. Her medication helped her reflexes, allowing her to catch Fleshies before they reached her. Allowed her to use those tools.

Once alone, she opened her desk drawer, pulling out a black Sharpie, a thick yellow rubber band, and a restrained Hurtful Fleshie. Its band read: “Why do you even work here?” It was identifiably harmful. She kept it for comparisons.

One hand holding the jostling Tupperware, she wrote Peterson’s words on a new band, and stretched it around her fingers. She took another breath, and picked up the Tupperware.

As the Fleshie screeched and lunged, she snatched it up. She deftly bound it into a ball of needle legs and sticky skin, and placed it next to the Hurtful Fleshie. She held a finger near each. Peterson’s Fleshie ignored her, continuing to struggle. The Hurtful Fleshie snapped viciously.

She nodded. Peterson’s was unpleasant, but harmless.

Jane returned the Hurtful Fleshie, and sighed. She unbound the new Fleshie, shuddering as it scuttled up her body and into her ear. It felt bad, but life did sometimes. She was glad she had the tools to tell the difference.

 

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