Cut by Cut

By Michael Harshbarger

He looks at her. She looks at him. They pass the blade back and forth. It is duller each time it returns.

“We have done this to each other,” he says.
“We most certainly have, Darlin’,” she says.
“Why have we done this to each other?”
“How else would we go about it?”
“I don’t know. Hell, I thought it would be different.”
“Well, that’s what you get for thinking, huh?”

Blood pools endlessly where their feet used to be; much of their lower bodies are already missing. Still they pass the blade back and forth. Each following instructions they have never read, behaving in ways they have forever been taught.

“Why do we continue to do this? Why don’t we stop?” he asks.
“I already told you Darlin’, there ain’t no other way,” she says.
“But we didn’t start out like this did we?”
“I can barely remember,” she says. “What was it we set out to do?”
“Shit, I was counting on you remembering,” he says. “I sure as hell don’t.”
“I’m almost positive it was a good thing, Sweetie,” she says.
“I’m sure you’re probably right,” he says. “It sure doesn’t feel that way, though.”
“No, it doesn’t. But it also doesn’t hurt that much, huh?”
“Nah, not really. More like just numb now, right?” he asks.
“Yeah, Darlin’, I’d say pretty much all the way numb.”

She looks at his eyes. He looks at her eyes. The light within is fading. It has been for as long as they can remember. But, to them, it has mostly been imperceptible. Not so to others. He holds the blade up and looks at it.

“This thing sure is getting old and rusty,” he says.
“Sure is,” she replies.
“Makes it hard to get any purchase.”
“I know what you mean, Darlin’.”
“But we need to work on taking smaller amounts each time,” he says. “That is, if we want to keep this show going.”
“I’d be inclined to agree with you,” she says.
“Well, how do we go about doing that?”
“Doing what, Sweetie?”
“The thing I just asked you about?”
“I don’t really remember you asking me anything.”
“Oh for Christ’s sake,” he says, “take this damn thing.”

Time passes. He looks at her. She looks at him. The blood has taken up the space between their chests and the floor; all that remains of them is above blood-level.

“Why can’t you ever decide what to do?” she asks.
“What are you on about now?” he asks.
“I said why can’t you ever decide what to do?”
“I decide what to do all the time, you just don’t listen.”
“Listening to you was what got us into this mess in the first place.”
“Oh, now, don’t get all sore at me. You had just as much to do with it as I did.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” she says. “I just wish I could remember the jumping off point to all this.”
“You and me both…it sure would be nice to know why we had to go down this road of destruction.”
“Destruction? That’s what you call this? After all this time?”
“You got a better way to describe this shit?” he asks.

“No…I suppose I don’t,” she says.

The last of the blood trickles out. The last of the light escapes their eyes as they begin to close for the last time; everything below is gone. They start to float apart, on a vast sea of blood, forever separated as they succumb to nothingness. But, just as their eyes drift out of contact, he looks at her and she looks at him.

And she winks.


Michael Harshbarger was born in Illinois, and now works and lives in Southern Indiana with his family. He loves to read and likes to try to write. His writing has been featured in the following literary journals or magazines: MUSE, Crab Fat Magazine, Oyster River Pages, and Junto Magazine. Harshbarger also writes about sports for He would like to thank Danielle, Reese, and Josie for existing. To all his friends and family who took the time to read his writing, Harshbarger would like to extend a heartfelt thank you. He believes the answer to any and every question is 42.

Digital Image by Lesley C. Weston

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