“I dare you to touch it,” Edie said, standing above the rotting carcass.
The sun, centered high between the two of us, cast our shadows on the lifeless body of a cat. Flies buzzed angrily around us as their white crescent shaped offspring dodged in and out of the cavernous space that had once been the stomach and the intestines.
“It smells awful,” I said, backing away from the scene.
“Don’t be a baby,” she said. Edie grabbed my arm and forced me to stay in place. Her green eyes met mine and I could see her freckles darken under the hot Arkansas sun. “I thought you liked me.”
“What does that have to do with touching a dead cat?” I asked.
“If you like me enough, you’d do anything for me.” She released me from her grip to put her hands on her hips. “You do like me, don’t you?” She paused. Of course I liked her. Although Edie could be infuriating at times, there was no bad bone in her body. She always meant the best; at least that’s how I felt.
“Are you serious right now?” I asked her.
“I like you, I like you a lot.”
“Enough to set fire to these trees.”
“What about touching this cat?”
I stood silent, mulling over whether or not she would make me touch it if I said yes. I looked at Edie. Her eyes were bright and full of life, even more than usual. “Edie,” I said.
“I’d touch that cat for you.”
She looked satisfied and smiled. I smiled back.
“Okay,” she said. “Touch it.”
Dread and disgust filled my stomach and I could taste the bile in my throat.
“Go ahead, touch it.”
I took a step forward, pausing for a second or two in hopes that she would call it off and kiss me instead.
“Come on, I don’t have all day.”
I shook my head. I can’t believe this is happening, I thought. I looked back at Edie. I could see her smile and her eyes sparkle in the sun. A feeling of confidence washed over the dread that had been eating at my insides. I can do this for her, I thought. Edie winked.
I grinned sheepishly and looked at the dead cat. Its eyes – or what was left of them – were looking at me. Oh man, I thought. This is disgusting. I inched closer to the carcass and an overwhelming scent of rotting flesh washed my nose green. Something triggered my stomach to pump itself backwards and I felt a torrent make itself up my throat and to relieve this uncomfortable, I opened my mouth to find myself vomiting all over the cat.
“Ohmigod, Clark, that’s really gross,” Edie said.
I felt the red hot liquid pour out of me, and chunks of my partially digested lunch found its way into the pit where the stomach should have been. Ironic, I thought as wiped my mouth with my shirt.
“Are you okay?” Edie asked me.
I quivered. “That,” I paused to retch. “Was unpleasant.”
“You still haven’t touched it.”
She was right; I had not touched the creature. I had thrown up on it, but had not yet poked the soft, decomposing flesh with my finger.
“You really want me to go through with this?” I asked.
“Please Clark? It’d mean so much to me.”
I didn’t understand the symbolism of my defilement for her pleasure.
“What am I getting out of this?”
“Don’t be stupid Clark, you know what this means.” She lifted her skirt, flashing her underwear briefly.
The color of her underwear burned into my retinas. How much I would give to get into her panties, I thought. I felt confidence burning though my body. Forgetting that I had expelled my lunch on to the decaying animal, I knelt down and looked away. Here goes nothing, I thought as I poked the back leg. A chill ran down my spine as my finger touched the body of the dead creature. I felt my heart pumping in my ears; sweat running down my back as my flesh touched the flesh of the formerly living. I withdrew my finger as if I had touched a boiling kettle.
“Okay,” I shouted. “I did it.”
Edie ran over to me, holding her nose.
“I didn’t see it, you had your back turned to me.”
I looked at her, incredulous.
“You didn’t see it?” I stammered.
“No, I saw your arm move, but I didn’t see you touch it.”
“Do you have to see it?” I asked, wiping my finger on the dirt.
“Of course I do.”
“Don’t you trust me?”
“I trust you, I just need to see it.”
I sighed and gathered my wits.
“Are you going to do it or not?”
“Give me a moment,” I said.
Edie stepped back and flashed her underwear once again. The sun, settled high beyond our reach, illuminated her brown hair almost rusty.
“How’s this?” She asked.
I held up my index finger, answering her in silence. I looked at her eager face. Edie seemed to be almost salivating. I poked the back leg once more and visibly shuddered.
“There,” I said. “For the second time.” I looked over at Edie. She furrowed her brows and shook her head.
“That’s not good enough,” she said.
A wind blew through the trees. The leaves shook with tension. Edie’s dress fluttered before giving into gravity, wilting back down, a dead flower.
“What?” I shouted. “But I touched it!”
“It wasn’t enough.”
“I touched it twice!”
“Don’t raise your voice at me,” Edie said, brushing the hair off her face. “You just do what you’re told.”
“Who do you think I am?” I spat.
“Clark, please.” She smoothed out her dress and walked over to me to place her hand on my shoulder. “I know you can do it.” She said and bent down and kissed my ear. “I like you, Clark,” she whispered. Warmth spread through my body and I felt myself become hard.
“This is kind of weird,” she added. “You know, in front of a dead cat.”
“Yeah,” I managed to say, shifting my legs to conceal my hard-on.
“I want you to poke its stomach,” she said, pointing to the carcass covered in viscous liquid that had once been in my stomach.
“It doesn’t have one,” I said.
“Then poke its ribs.”
I sighed. “Edie, you’d better not be toying around with me.”
I inserted my finger into the carcass and felt hot gas escape from the bloated cat. I began to gag. Post-mortem animal juice coated my hand and maggots writhed between the dead flesh and mine. I pulled my finger out, the stench of death forever embedded on my skin. I looked up to see Edie standing over me; her dress pulled up to her hips, standing panty-less, her ass out for the world to see.
Profile: Michael Koh