Fiction from Jenny Wong

Photo: Denis Doukhan

The Remembering Skins

A herd of sheep stampede down a cliffside, all of them staring at the same fixed point in the middle distance. They can’t see me. But I wonder if they can still sense my gaze searching for the hidden seams beneath their fur. Their thin legs bolted to artificial rock. Parched mouths wedged open in permanent thirst. Eyes hollowed out, replaced by the dry gleam of rounded glass. At least they kept their horns.

For our third date, Wesley has chosen the Natural History Museum. “Bighorn sheep – Western Cordillera” unfolds before us. Up above, birds chirp from hidden speakers, little ghosts flitting in the darkness.

“I’m done,” I say.

Wes shrugs, letting go of my hand. “There’s only one exhibit left,” he says, moving onwards, around the corner.

I scurry after him, unwilling to be left alone with sixty dead sheep, naturally posed.

Warm sunlight hits my face. The beat of drums pulses in my chest, deep and tribal, a pounding of taut skins over carved frames.

The path winds through tall grasses. A small piece of an African plain. Blue sky soars overhead.

I almost miss the gap, a hidden place tucked in the savanna.

A creature stares back. His patchy mane thinning, yellow eyes haunted by the memory of firelight. He is cowering, claws clamped into the dirt, lips curled into the shape of a single word…run.

I am seized from behind, yanked away. My legs are heavy branches scraping along the ground. Sound unravels from my throat.

“Geez, don’t freak out,” Wes says, releasing me. We’re back in the lobby, just outside the exit to the “Mammals of the Continents” exhibition. Wes is laughing now, saliva slick and shiny on his teeth. The corners of his mouth remind me of sickles. “They aren’t alive, you know.”

I look away. No, not alive, not anymore, dust coating their plastic lips, stories sewn tight beneath their skins.
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Jenny Wong is a writer, traveler, and occasional business analyst. She resides in the foothills of Alberta, Canada and is currently attempting a sci-fi poetry collection, Brazilian jiu jitsu, and electric skateboarding. Her publications include 3 Elements Literary Review, Grain Magazine, Vallum, NoD Magazine, Sheila-Na-Gig Online, The Stillwater Review and elsewhere.

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