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Salt by Hayden Bennett


It was near the center of town that the earth’s skin first broke. By the green and noseless statue on horseback, a small pocket of ground had burst. The hole—if one could call it that, filled with salt as it was—was the size of a kitchen table, and while no one had seen it happen, the tailor, whose shop was nearby, had heard some terrible sound that night. Some terrible, indescribable sound that left him twisting under cold sheets, hoping either to fall asleep or to wake up, whichever would have him first. He was, of course, very ill while he told all of us this. His skin had already started to stretch, and the discoloration and sores on his stomach could be seen through his half-buttoned shirt. We had gathered together in one of the schoolrooms, huddled tightly and in coats, while he carefully spoke his words, slowly, each syllable falling out of his mouth half-formed, quickly to be swallowed up by the mass of our bodies.
     He died soon after. By the time we had discovered what was left of him, the whole town was in a panic. Salt seemed to be everywhere. When the skin burst, it—or something like it—was there. Some vowed there never was earth below our feet. Just the salt. And what was happening to our forearms, our thighs, was natural, an inevitable return.
     Those of us who wouldn’t listen, who wouldn’t embrace the open and uncloseable wounds, stayed indoors, covered ourselves. The sounds—always at night—became normal. More dull than you would expect, but long, going deeper and coming closer at the same time. There was a kind of appeal—we would go stand at our windows and stay there, hours at a time, watching those who chose to stay outside: the tailor’s shop swallowed up by their fires, the green statue’s metal flesh ripped and thrown to the ground. Faces were unrecognizable; mirrors unusable, most smashed in hysteric fits. And at our window, the faint reflections we saw in the cloudy glass we accepted as something outside, something becoming a part of the landscape, not separate, but far away, dark.
     
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Hayden Bennett is the deputy editor of the online journal Nat. Brut and an intern at the Believer. He lives in Los Angeles where he goes to school and works literary events at Machine Project. To assess his burgeoning web presence, please visit haydenbennett.tumblr.com.