Words by Ellen Cregan
Illustration by Kitty Chrystal

Her back faces the ceiling, unarmoured yet somehow impenetrable. The bones in her spine stand distinct from the rest of her, as if to say, “We’re here, and far tougher than we look.” She sleeps cheek to pillow, hips to protruding bedsprings. Watching her I can feel the swollen springs against my own skin. It doesn’t bother her much, she says—she’d rather feel the suggestion of those metal coils than the empty air against her goose-pimpled night time skin.

Taking her elbow to the hollow beneath her ribcage, she pushes it in to settle herself, a reminder that her body is still soft and vulnerable. She presses on her gut, feeling comfort in its compression. Her flesh becomes one with the bed sheets, and once she has closed her eyes nothing can come between them.

A few times during the night she’ll release her arm from beneath her torso and grasp at the air. Quickly and repetitively she forces blood through her veins and into her fingers, but it always retreats soon after. She never rolls over in her sleep—she once told me her stomach is something she cannot bear to bare.

Childhood forbade me to sleep with my toes dangling over the edge of the bed. Eventually, the feet-eating creatures that lurked below stopped me from sleeping at all. Her monsters are organ eaters. They can tear her body from belly button to collarbone, devouring her pink, limp innards. So she hides with her face in the pillow.

Outside a car alarm goes off, but I hardly notice. Her resting breath is louder to me than any other noise. She murmurs, but I can’t make out what she says, her words muffled by unconsciousness and goose-down. She resumes her rest.

Finally my eyelids begin to sink, begin to heal the red rawness that has plagued them these past few days. I wonder what her words meant, or if they meant anything at all. But it’s not time for these thoughts now.

I’ll have to ask her about them in the morning.