Short Story
                                           By Amanda Leonardi

I’ve always been a weird creature, easily drawn to peculiar, strange things.  
But this time I think I went too far.  It all started when, in a cold winter
afternoon, I went to a museum where there was an exposition of some
modern gothic art.  The museum took place in an old building, and its rooms
were all very large, with dark walls and a blood colored carpet covering the
floor.  Each room contained very few pieces of art, some had three paintings,
some had five.  I was very bored that day, therefore, I didn’t pay too much
attention to almost none of the paintings I saw.

However, after I walked by several halls, I found a very large and dark room,
illuminated only by a faint light that stood right above the only painting in that
hall: it was a painting of a human skull – an oval portrait of a skull, with
nothing else around it but a thin oval frame surrounded by pure darkness,
only darkness.  The faint light barely allow me to notice much the frame, but
the skull was illuminated in such an odd way that it almost looked
supernatural, as if the light came from the skull.  Although, it was late when I
saw that painting, I was already tired and kind of sleepy, so I might be just
seeing things.  Things like a painting looking too much real.

The skull was incredibly realistic and so fantastically beautiful.  I had to keep
staring at it for I know not how long; it might have been minutes, hours, or
even days.  I swear I did not feel the time passing while I admired that
painting.  It was the most vivid and prettiest painting of a skull I’ve ever seen.  
In that dark room, I could almost mistake that painting for a real skull, floating
in the air, were not for the discrete gold oval frame around it, like a golden
cage holding my mind to reality.

Anyway, it was the most beautiful skull I had ever seen in my life – and I work
with some mad artists who paint many skulls all the time, but none was ever
so pretty!  I wondered, then, if Yorick’s famous skull was that pretty.  That was
when a sick thought came to my mind: was my skull like that?  Under my skin
and muscles, did I look like that?  What a grotesque and, yet, magnificent
thing to wonder!  After that second, I just couldn’t get my mind out of the sick
subject!  Why in hell did I have to go to that goddamn museum and see that
amazingly macabre painting?

All of this happened a few months ago.  Since then I’ve been having dreams
about this idea, this mad, sick idea: seeing my own skull.  In the dream I had
earlier tonight, I dreamed that I could actually do it – I saw my face as a skull!  
Skinless, fleshless, bloodless, with no nose, no lips, no cheeks, no ears,
nothing but bones and eyes – I had to keep the eyes so I could see it,
although they looked extremely disturbing in a fleshless skull.  But all that
fleshless look was only above the neck; all the skin and flesh above my neck
had been carefully, surgically removed… had I done all that gruesome act by
myself?  No way, no way in hell that was possible… but, then, again, that was
a dream, a nightmare, in fact, where any mad thing is possible!

Was it a nightmare?  In nightmares, aren’t we supposed to be sad or
scared?  I wasn’t scared at all in that dream!  The whole dream was totally the
opposite of that: there was even some sort of sadist joy, some thrill in my
eyes when I saw them reflected on a large mirror in front of me; my eyes,
huge eyeballs, covered in red veins, surrounded by those bony, white,
fleshless orbits of the skull… In that odd thrill, I saw in my eyes there was
some excitement, some sort of pure feeling of achievement, os conquering
some unknown sick knowledge that I never thought could come from such a
macabre vision.  It was such a realistic dream, therefore, I knew, I felt I had
not done that by myself; I had hired someone, some sick, mad doctor to do
that, and I had paid him a lot of money to turn me into a skull.  Or maybe he
was sicker than I thought, and I paid him with my life just to get this last thrill
before I died.

It was an obsession; I needed that more than people need to breath!  I
needed to see that, I needed to see the real me beneath all this skin and
flesh!  And I remember very well the skull I saw on the dream, every little
detail of it – my skull, it was so perfect, just like the one I saw on that painting,
except for the remaining eyes, it was just like that: completely white, all the
blood had been washed off, it was just beautiful!  Just like a ceramic statue.  I
knew I’d die soon, but at least I’d die knowing what I needed to know, knowing
myself.  That last glimpse was worth the rest of my life!  However, it was just a
dream, wasn’t it?

When I felt I was about to die in the dream – even though, considering the
way I looked I should be already dead, if it were not a dream – I woke up, still
safe and alive in my bed.  Well, alive, not really safe, I’m with myself, and my
obsession, I’m never safe in my own mind.  Now, here I am, awake again, in
the darkness of my room, still alive, but still obsessed just as I was on the
dream.  I fear my mad mind, but I can’t help following its ideas.  I start
wondering then: Can I ever live that sick, horrible and so fascinating dream?  
No matter how disturbing it may sound, I want to, I really do!  I can try it with a
knife, worst case scenario , I’ll just kill myself in the process – at least I’ll die
trying to reach my goal – to see my real face, to know myself, my true self,
somehow.  Isn’t that some of the greatest questions in life? Knowing

Maybe all the greatest answers (like the meaning of life and all) are written in
our own bones, maybe inside our bones, written in blood, and we’ll never
really know it.  Maybe we can only write such answers by using our own
blood, down until the last little drop, so we can never read it.  And now I feel I’
m able to destroy myself, joyfully, in order to find some strange meaning, to
answer questions that hunt my mind; to know myself, I could even die.  I so I
will, I’ll follow my mad mind, I fear it no longer.  Here I go.
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About Amanda Leonardi

Amanda Leonardi, born
in 1991, in Porto Alegre,
Brazil. She is a graduate
student of languages
and literature and writer
of horror short stories
and poetry. An avid
reader of American and
British literature, she
writes since childhood
and has works
published on two
national anthologies and
some websites.