She doesn’t flinch as the counterfeits in white aprons — her co-conspirators — arrange the raw seafood on her skin. Pink and white, tuna and squid, their hands drop the squares in circles, sweeping the meat in spirals over her stomach, her breasts, extending down her legs. The men’s hands shake slightly, but they continue the work. She doesn’t squirm even though the meat is icy on her skin.
Nyotaimori is an art, but the counterfeits have been trained. Like other expensive dishes, this one is best served cold. Five years she has waited.
Her eyes lock on the ceiling as they wheel her across a tiled hallway and through the aluminum doors. In the club room, the voices are brash, too loud, already drunk. When the cart comes to a stop, one of the men mutters something and laughter crawls up the walls. She doesn’t close her eyes, but waits for the probing violation, the jabs and explorations with chopsticks as they begin to eat. Layers peel away, and her skin chills.
She becomes a puzzle broken into pieces with nothing beneath. Naked, but motionless. Hiding. These men cannot know. Her faith keeps her still.
Blood pounds inside her head, and after a few minutes she can no longer hear their voices. She remembers though – she remembers the cold eyes of these men, puppets of the regime wearing the masks of the national guard. She remembers when they took her mother – their voices locked behind stupid, empty grins. Her jaw locks as chopsticks poke and prod bare patches of flesh. Her fingers curl when one set of utensils snap tight on an uncovered nipple. There is laughter, but she doesn’t hear. The men are just shapes moving in the periphery. Shadows. Memories.
Her breath comes in small, measured amounts. In and out. Calm. Even naked, lying on the stainless tray beneath the banquet lights, she will not break. She broke before, five years ago, after they found her mother and the others face down in the sewer ditch near the woods.
She thinks of the chefs bound with tight knots and hidden in the scullery. She knows her co-conspirators have shed their aprons and wait behind the hotel. She knows the poison cannot be absorbed through her skin, only the stomach lining of those giggling pigs, and it will work quickly and quietly. She has faith that her mother’s ghost will be sated and her thirst for revenge, quenched.
Aaron Polson is a high school English teacher and freelance writer. He currently resides in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife, two sons, and a tattooed rabbit. His short fiction has appeared in various places, including Reflection’s Edge, GlassFire Magazine, Big Pulp, Johnny America, and Permuted Press’s Monstrous anthology.You can visit him on the web at www.aaronpolson.com.
This story was sponsored by
Camilla d’Errico: A character designer and artist who dances on the tightrope between pop surrealist art and manga inspired graphics. Explore her paintings, characters and comics: Tanpopo, BURN and Helmetgirls.