Short Story
                         Naked
                                         By Chelsea Fallon


 I met a woman once in Provincetown, who had mastered the art of nudity.  
She owned a flat above a bakery and when I went there, it always smelled of
freshly baked bread.  I would go there to meet her, as I did with my other
lovers, but unlike them, she would not let me touch her.

 Our love affair began in a bathroom at a party.  I followed her in.  She
looked at me, languid under heavy mascara, and beckoned me with a finger.  
I expected her to lead me to some private room, but instead she led me
outside, down the road, and into her flat.  I trailed her like an eager dog, too
nervous to walk alongside her.  I followed just behind, watching her full body
swagger with each provocative step.  When she got me inside her flat, she
sat down in a chair, and seated me in one across from her own as she
undressed.

 First, would come the outer layers.  The heavy furs, the hat, the gloves, the
boots.  She shed them slowly, as if she was an orange peeling itself. I sat,
tantalized.

 Next came the shirt which she slowly lifted with arms crossed.  When the
shirt lifted away from her face, her thick, dark hair fell around her like water.  
Her stomach was tight and muscular.  She had a curve to her waist that could
cause car accidents.

 Slowly, she shifted her weight as she slid her skirt out from beneath, never
seeming to leave her seat in the process.  It dropped deftly around her
ankles with a deafening pat.  It might have caused an echo.  I believe that
with every inch that skirt fell, my jaw followed.

 She was now left in her bra and panties, both of matching black lace.  Not
looking at me, she continued to slowly inch out of them, as if it were the most
natural thing in the world for her to undress slowly in that chair, as if she did it
every night.

 A part of me wanted to get her attention, since she seemed to be drifting.  
She truly did seem to think she was alone, it was as if an empty chair sat
before her.  She never glanced my way.

 When she undid her bra strap, her large, heavy breasts seemed to bounce
out from their small enlaced prisons.  They seemed to gasp for breath and
relax, as if they'd been smothered for hours.  I felt myself stiffen, tighten.  I
could barely breathe.  She wiggled out of her underpants, revealing her
taught snatch that was shining with moisture.  I nearly fell out of my chair.

 It seemed time for me to act.  I stood up, making no attempt to conceal my
stiff erection.  I strode toward her, but she shot me a glance of distain that
stopped me cold.  She pointed to the chair, as if she was offended that I had
broken her from her concentration of ignoring my presence.  I sat, wondering
what she would do next.

 She sat back in the chair, leaning back, arching her back dramatically and
reaching behind her neck with both hands. I hear a zipping sound, which took
me a bit by surprise.  What was she wearing back there?  She was stark
naked as far as I could tell at this point, her clothes piled around her ankles
like a dead animals.  For the first time, she made eye contact with me, locking
me there, holding me, trapped.

 She began to pull at whatever it was that she had unzipped on the back of
her neck.  It seemed tight, she showed effort in her face as she yanked.  She
kept her eyes locked on mine.  Finally, she got a good grip, and peeled it out
from around her shoulders.  Her skin.  She was removing her skin.  It seemed
to peel away like a layer of strange plastic, following her collarbone.

 I shot out of my seat and cried out, but only a small sound escaped my lips,
a sound of sympathetic pain.  But she just smiled at me and pointed at the
chair again.

 It must be some trick, I thought.  Some amazing trick.  She had another
layer under there, she must - otherwise this couldn't be happening.

    She pulled and pulled, and the skin came off slowly.  The blood
underneath seemed to stay where it was, for the most part.  A few droplets
escaped around the edges, but where one would expect a massive amount
of fluid to spill out, it seemed to retain itself in some sort of jelly-like
encasement.

    She peeled the skin out and away, down off her breasts.  Underneath,
they were simply large orbs of fat, with only a small pink covering of blood
over them, a sheen.  I was entranced.  My lust for sensuality clashed violently
into a more objective scientific curiosity as I gave up on the reality of the
situation.  It was either a trick or a dream, either way, it was profoundly
interesting.

    Her skin was now rolled up under her exposed breasts. and she pushed it
down further with effort, revealing her stomach muscles, still taught. There
was something about looking directly at her muscles that reminded me of
being in grade school, when we would study pictures of the human body.
Except for her neck and head, she looked like the picture of the person
displaying the muscular structure of the body. I was frozen in place, unable to
move, unable to snap myself out of this trance.

    She stood up and pulled the skin slowly down, unwrapping each arm,
turning the fingers inside out.  Her bloody fingers then pulled it down further,
wincing a bit when it reached her snatch.  Then she proceeded to pull it down
over her thighs, and stripped each leg, yanking her feet out, turning the toes
inside out as well.

    After she completed skinning herself, she looked up at me and grinned.  
She bent over, and heaved the skin up in her bloody hands.  Her feet left
bloody tracks on the floor, which seemed to slowly be pooling in puddles
around them.  With a careless toss, she threw her skin at me, and it struck
me in the face, leaving a streak of blood before it flopped into my lap.  I
immediately stood to shake it off, feeling every heebee and every jeebee run
through me like fire.

    She laughed.  It was the laugh of the picture from the biology textbook of
my past come to life.  Just muscle and veins.  I was about to speak, though I
didn't know just what to say, but then she started pulling the skin off her face.

    This I couldn't take.  This dream, this trick, or whatever it was, was going
too far.  It was becoming nightmarish.  I stood up, intending to run for the
door.

    In two strides, she was over me, her face discarded along with the mop of
flowing thick hair.  Her teeth gleamed as she seemed to smile an even wider
grin.  Again, she pointed to the chair.  Again, I felt all the resolve drain out of
me, and I helplessly fell back into my seat.

    She strode back to her chair, leaving bloody splashes behind her tracks.  
She sat back in the chair, and I watched, horrified, as blood began to drip
down the sides in steady pools.  It was as if it had lost the jelly-like continuity
that it had once had and was now slowly sliding off of her in large globs.  
They splattered on the floor every few seconds, and yet she seemed to take
no notice of them at all.

    Instead, she began to untangle herself of her veins.  She ripped them
away, larger ones and smaller ones alike, as if she was freeing herself of
chains.  She had to contort her body a few different times to successfully free
herself of certain tangles.  Most of them she ripped out section by section,
allowing herself to grapple out pieces from various spots on her body without
having to unwind them or deal with the knots they often seemed to form in
places.  It was, as a whole, a process that made me grit my teeth to watch.  
Each time she severed a vein by yanking it free, a splatter of blood would
spray out with intense force.  She seemed completely to have come to some
strange terms with her ability to do this, and seemed to concentrate on simply
keeping the blood from spraying her in the eyes.  Finally, she seemed to
have freed herself of all of her veins and arteries.  The blood pool around
her feet grew ever larger.

    Then she began to pull her muscles off.  One by one she stripped them,
like ripping meat from bone, which of course, was just what it was.  She
yanked and ripped her shoulder muscles off first, and then reached around
and began on her back.  Every few seconds, a chunk of muscle would plop to
the floor.  I was beyond a healthy curiosity now, and was doing all I could to
keep from puking all over the floor.  I was helpless to leave, helpless to even
turn away.  What was happening in front of me was so surreal that I had to
watch.

    She worked out the muscles from her back and arms and shoulders,
peeling away at the muscles on her hands like she was merely giving herself
a beauty treatment of some kind.  She took care to get every scrap, leaving
behind only blood soaked bones that were quickly drying out, leaving them a
brownish color.  She grinned at me again - it seemed she was only taking her
gaze off of me in order to continue undressing herself, if that's what you
could call this.

    When she got to her stomach, she stood up again.  Taking her abdomen
muscles firmly in her skeleton fingers, she ripped the entire stomach region
off in one swift motion.

    In a mass, a huge cluster of internal organs and intestines came spilling
out all at once onto the floor.  She even ripped off her breasts, letting the
dense fatty tissue and muscle bounce off to the side, sliding a bit in the blood
pool.

    I leaned forward and wretched.  It was the only thing I could do.  I felt
weak, sick, faint.  I couldn't stand if I wanted to, let alone run.  What was
happening?  Why was I not waking up?  Why was the taste of the bile in my
throat and plugging up my nostrils so real seeming?  This was wrong.  All
wrong.  I had come here with something else entirely in mind.  I couldn't take
this.

    And yet she continued.  She worked faster now, ripping muscles off her
legs in larger portions, chucking them to the floor with what seemed like
rage.  Something about the room began to take on a smell too unholy to
describe.  My eyes were watering.  My stomach heaved and my heart
seemed to beat irregularly. I must be insane.

    When she was done, or so I thought, she stood before me, a dripping wet
red skeleton.  She could do nothing but grin, grin, grin, and I think that's what
she would have done anyway, even if she had the face to form an
expression.  I shuddered and shrank in my chair as she stepped toward me.  
Through the splashes, onto the bare floor, where her bones clanked against
the floorboards.

    Suddenly, I felt a rush of energy return.  It was the fight or flight syndrome,
perhaps, that saved me, that snapped me out of the hypnosis she had
locked me in.  And the response certainly wasn't telling me to fight.

    I darted out of my chair and ran for the door.  It seemed to be miles away,
but when I finally reached it, I felt my senses returning.  I grasped the
doorknob and pulled open the door, but before I was able to shut it behind
me I was struck in the back by something heavy.  I turned, and saw a skull
bounce to the floor, then, resting on it's side, it looked up at me, its eyes still
intact, still hers, though without the mascara, without the lashes, and most
frighteningly, alive.  The skull continued to grin up at me before I slammed
the door and ran as fast and as far away from that place as I could.
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