Super rough! Too soon for actual critique, but any first thoughts welcome xo

The People Without Skin
The people without skin don’t know they are without skin. They don’t remember the molting, the day they ripped through their old lives.
The people without skin just want to feel better but they don’t know what is wrong with them. They don’t know we can all see their muscles, connective tissues, the food as it slowly dissolves.
The people without skin are never the ones to find their own skin, now hanging in your closet fully intact, a deflated body gently swaying among the dresses.
The day you found the skin it was still warm, iridescent, papery, imprinted with the many imperfections of a body.
The people without skin cannot see what everyone else can see. When you are weeping in the closet, pleading with the skin, the people without skin don’t understand.
But I’m here they say, I’m right here.
When you yank a soul from the underworld, not all of them comes back.
It must have been effortless, the tearing, the wiggling out of the old skin, leaving it there in entryway floor in almost perfect condition.
The people without skin would be so hurt if they knew the truth.
The people without skin don’t know they are without skin, and if you tell them the shock of it could throw them into a tailspin of panic. Like waking a sleepwalker.
The people without skin are desperate for your love. They give you gifts—music boxes and necklaces with I love you written in 100 languages so tiny you need a magnifying glass to see them all.
The people without skin don’t understand why you don’t kiss them back. I’m here they whisper when they find you again asleep in the closet. I’m still here.

7 Comments

  1. Sarah Freligh

    Oh, this is just a delicious premise for a story– people without skin and their lives and limitations. What’s already working for me here are those details that lean on those things, convey all the ways it is to live without skin from the vantage point of those WITH skin: “they cannot see what everyone else can see” and how the PWS are “desperate for your love.” I’m sensing that you’re moving toward an overriding metaphor for PWS, beyond what it means to be “skinless” and that once you do, you’ll know exactly what to keep, what to omit, what to fine tune.

  2. MaxieJane Frazier

    Nancy, I was reading the PWS probably too literally–as ghosts we resurrect by remembering them in the ways that Chelsea’s Myrtle and Kathryn’s characters do when their partners are gone. But to move it metaphorically to the traumatized, the hurt, the version of me when my husband suddenly asked for a divorce, helps me understand where you’re going. I’m looking forward to reading what you make this into.

  3. Catherine Parnell

    Nancy, This line jumped out at me as a possible first line: “When you yank a soul from the underworld, not all of them comes back.” It felt like a springboard. But I confess I’m a classics reader and writer, so I may be shoveling too much on top of this. That said, PWS is a totally delicious angle and the conclusion is a keeper. Thank you!

  4. Mikki Aronoff

    Oh, I’ve been watching too many shows with awful forensic scenes, so I began reading this with people whose skins have literally been peeled back (peeled people – gaaaahhhh!) by others to find out how they died. I was surprised to see that later in the story there’s a (self-induced or genetic, I suppose) metamorphosis going on, and the opportunity to know what their skinless selves would feel like by being able to observe others’ sheddings. LOVE the last line. Something about me wants to have the “When you yank a soul from the underworld” as a first line or a title. I think you are very brave/strong to work with this idea and you have some amazing images going on here. I wonder what it would be like if you cut them into strips and reassembled them into other permutations. You could even have, say, three different versions for one story.

  5. Chelsea Stickle

    Oh wow, I love this, Nancy! The premise is fantastic. I mean, “The people without skin don’t know they are without skin. They don’t remember the molting, the day they ripped through their old lives.
    The people without skin just want to feel better but they don’t know what is wrong with them. They don’t know we can all see their muscles, connective tissues, the food as it slowly dissolves.” Just amazing.

  6. Kathryn Silver-Hajo

    I love the repetition of The people without skin. I think this device works really well without seeming overdone in this particular story. At first I was thinking that the people without skin are simply dead but don’t realize it, but as the story goes on I thought perhaps they are people with something very fundamental missing–like personality or charisma or guts (sorry!) and that as hard as they may try to get the friendship and approval of others, nothing works because there’s a hollowness to them. “They give you gifts—music boxes and necklaces with I love you written in 100 languages so tiny you need a magnifying glass to see them all.”

    So, I agree with Sara that once the metaphor is solidified this is going to be a wonderful, inventive, lyrical piece.

    So great being workshop buddies with you, Nancy!

  7. Suzanne van de Velde

    Nancy — this is gripping and haunting and mysterious. Cool to see the nascent story. The phrases that tugged at me the most:

    – we can all see their muscles, connective tissues, the food as it slowly dissolves.

    – When you are weeping in the closet, pleading with the skin, the people without skin don’t understand.

    I can’t wait to see you spin this into gold!

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