Welcome to your daily guided meditation. Today your goal is to relax. Situate yourself in a comfortable space. Take several deep breaths.

Begin by wrapping your hands around her body, feeling the wings beat beneath your palms. Apply minimal pressure to keep her still. Not too much, not too little. Hold with the same firmness you would apply to a heavy pot you don’t want to drop. 

Gently lay her down on the surface of your workspace. Continue to hold her body with one hand while the other scales the spine. Quickly, but carefully, curl your fingers around her neck, applying the same amount of pressure as earlier. Feel her body stiffen for a moment before she starts to squirm. Listen to the squawk; feel the sound forming in her throat. Focus on the way it crawls up your fingers, hitting each key, and tighten your grip just before it reaches the last one. Right as the crescendo begins, whiten your knuckles and drive your hand down. Feel the staccato crunch from your fingertips to your wrist. Listen for the note that doesn’t come. 


Ready the tall stock pot with water and set it on the portable stove to boil. Once the bubbles begin to rise, softly hook her head so that her body is fully submerged but her eyes can watch you as you work. Don’t set a timer, just wait a few minutes. Practice trusting your intuition. Listen for the way your stomach starts to turn, and your hands start to thrum. You’ll know when the time is right, I promise. 

While you wait, prepare a butcher block and place it on your worktable. Smooth the palm of your right hand over its surface. Skirt each line in the wood with the ridges of your fingers. Once you’ve made sure there aren’t any slivers, take a deep breath. Close your eyes. Feel the air travel through your nose and inflate your stomach. Hold it there until your lower ribs start to ache and your chest clouds, then slowly let the air out. Feel it push past your tongue and out your mouth. Very good. Now open your eyes and take in your surroundings. Notice the wonky table leg propped on a cinderblock, your water bottle teetering on the corner, and the strip of red paint on the surface. Notice the dirt dauber that has begun to circle around the table and the tractor engine you can hear churning in the distance. Acknowledge the existence of these things, the ways they push into your space and clutter your mind. With your next breath, let them go. 

When you think the skin looks pillowy and the water has turned milky, unhook the head. Cradle it in the crook of your hand between your index finger and thumb and lift her body from the water. Take a moment to listen to the drops as they fall back into the pot like the first three chords of Clair de Lune. Now lay her down on the block. Notice how small she is, how still the wings are beneath your hands. Close her eyes with the brush of your fingers for comfort. Now begin to pluck the feathers. Feel the way each strand clings to your skin. Feel it build on your fingers as the wet mound begins to form in the dip of your palms. 

When you can see each bump on her flesh, you’re done. 

Tuck the wings around her body. Hold them there with one hand while you grab the biggest knife you could find in your farmhouse kitchen. Feel the wooden handle dig into your palm. Let it scratch the callouses around the mount of Saturn and sun. Take a deep breath. In for four, out for six. Think about how you wished you had turned the radio on. Maybe classic rock or jazz would be nice right about now. Think about how the wind rustles the tall grass and the cicadas haven’t stopped their chorus for days. Now recenter your mind on the blade. See the way it glints in the early evening sun, the way the beam moves along the blade when you readjust your grip. It’s blinding, isn’t it? 

Grab her head. Stroke the tip of your forefinger down her skull, so small you could crush it with your fist. Watch the way the skin wrinkles from the force. Squeeze the head between your two fingers and pull until the neck is taught. Inflate your belly with air once more as you conduct the knife. As you let the air out, allow your hand to come down, and with one discordant note, sever the head from the body. Watch as it tumbles off the wooden block, each thump hollow and final. Reach for it. Hold it as blood the color of fresh plum juice drips from the throat. Enclose her face in your hand and wring out every drop. Watch it puddle at your feet, a lone bead splattering on the steelhead toe of your boot. 

When you are ready to let go, release her into the bucket you have set aside for scraps, and wipe the red from your hand onto the spare cloth tucked in your back pocket. Push the wooden block with the body still on it to the edge of the table right above the bucket. Pinch the skin between the vent and the breastbone and create a slit with the tip of your knife. Notice the marigold yellow of the fat as you wrench the incision open with your hands. Plunge your hand inside the hole you’ve created and start to pry everything from the inner frame. Scrape it all out. 

Once you have a pile of yellows and purples and grays and blues, pick your knife back up and create a shallow cut on the gizzard and open it to find the shame you’ve been collecting since you were a child. Take your finger and scoop it out onto the dirt by your feet. Grab the hose and spray it clean before setting it to the side. 

After you’ve finished purging the inside of the body, tuck it into a plastic bin to deal with later, and take a moment to go wash your hands in the mudroom. Kick off your dirt-caked construction boots by the welcome mat and try not to touch the sink handle with any part of your hands. Start by rinsing with warm water and watch the residual from the marigolds and plums slide down your wrists and collect in fat globs that ooze from your fingertips. When nothing visible remains, pump a third of a Dial soap bottle into the palm of your hand and begin to uncover a fresh layer of skin, washing your sins away. Watch the suds foam among the friction, their white light pearlescent and scent like squeaky linoleum floors.

When you’re done, dry your hands with a soft cotton towel and feel the fibers across every cracked line of skin. Close your eyes once more and take stock of your body. Feel the tough fabric of your painter’s pants beneath your nails. Listen to the scaling thud as you draw your fingers up from your knee to your thigh. Feel the coolness of the cream tiled floors beneath your feet and flex your toes against the seam of your socks. Feel the gooseflesh begin to form on the back of your arms from the AC vent just above your head. Try not to focus too much on the pulse in your ears and the way it pounds in your hands. Instead, take a moment to breathe just like you did earlier. Ready?

Breathe in. 1. . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4.

Breathe out. 1. . . 2 . . . 3. . . 4 . . . 5 . . . 6. 

Now that you have calmed the body and the mind, slip your shoes back on and head back outside. Take a moment to notice how low the sun has dipped. Listen to the disjointed melodies of the frogs and the crickets that have joined the cicadas. Approach your workspace with a clear head and turn on the construction light you brought out earlier. Place yourself in front of your worktable, feet hip-width apart, and stretch your arms for a moment if needed. 

When you’re ready, reach into the pen to the right of you. Pin the wings beneath your hands and lay her body down onto the clean surface. Stroke the feathers from the spine and stop to curl your hand around her neck. Feel the note crawl forwards toward her mouth, beating in your fist, and right as it reaches Mercury, crush it

Paige Swan

Paige Swan works and studies at Western Washington University where she is majoring in Creative Writing. She spends a majority of her free time writing in desk corners and coffee shops, or imagining what she will write while walking the beach near her house and wandering bookstores. Her cat Waffles is her best friend.
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