"When people die, it's so cool."
Her mouth was next to my ear now, so the words worked their way inside me along with her warm, moist breath.
"Why's that?" I asked.
She put a finger on her lips as if to seal them.
"No questions," she said. "And don't open your eyes. Ok?"
My nod was as small as her voice.
She took her finger from my lips and placed it on my wrist.
"I wish I had a scalpel. I'd cut it open and look inside. Not the corpse...The lump of death. I'm sure there must be something like that. Something round and squishy, like a softball, with a little hard core of dead nerves. I want to take it out of a dead person and cut it open and look inside. I've always wondered what it's like. Maybe it's all hard, like toothpaste dried up inside the tube. That's it don't you think? No, don't answer. It's squishy on the outside, and the deeper you go inside, the harder it gets. I want to cut open the skin and take out the squishy stuff, use a scalpel and some kind of spatula to get through it, and the closer you get to the centre, the harder the squishy stuff gets, until you reach this core. It's sooo tiny, like a tiny ball bearing, and really hard. It must be like that, don't you think?"
She cleared her throat a few times.
"That's all I think about these days. Must be because I have so much time to kill every day. When you don't have anything to do, your thoughts get really, really far out - so far out you can't follow them to the end."
She took the finger from my wrist and drank down the rest of her cola. I knew the glass was empty from the sound of the ice.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle No.1.
Selected extracts for EE.