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from the December 2012 issue

from “Butterfly Skin”

It is good to kill in winter. Especially if it has snowed overnight, and the ground is covered with a delicate blanket of white. You put the bound naked body on it. The blood from the wounds flows more freely in the cold frosty air, and the warmth of life departs with it. If you are lucky and she does not die too quickly, she will see the solid film of ice cover what was flowing through her veins so recently. Red on white, there is no more beautiful combination than that.

They say freezing to death is like going to sleep. Put her head on your knees, watch as the pupils glaze over, as the eyes close, gently stroke the cooling skin, rouse her occasionally with searing blows of the knife, so that she shudders in pain and returns to life for a moment, catch the final glimmers of consciousness in her eyes, sing a quiet lullaby, touch her forehead like mum did when you were ill as a child and she checked to see if you were feverish. Repeat that gesture all these years later, check, feel the skin getting colder and colder every time, as if the Snow Queen is wafting her breath over her, notice that the blows no longer make her shudder. Then you can cut the ropes, take the gag out of her mouth, sit down beside her and cry, watching as your tears mingle with the blood that is already starting to congeal.

It is good to kill in spring. Especially when the first leaves are opening and the forest you look out at through the window is covered with the delicate green mildew of new life. On days like this it is good to gather fresh branches of pussy willow, full of spring sap, and go down into the deep basement where she is already waiting for you, crucified on ropes between the floor and the ceiling. Take out the gag, let her scream, walk round her a few times, and then strike the first blow. Gradually, shriek after shriek, her thighs, back, stomach and breasts will be covered with a network of weals and a reddish mildew of blood. Then loosen the ropes, put her on her knees, lean down and ask what her name is. It’s very important to know the girl’s name in order to call to her when she’s leaving, to keep her here as long as possible.

They say in China bamboo grows so fast that if you tie a man to the ground, the young shoots pierce right through his body overnight. I wish the spring grass had the same strength, so that the new life and the new death would fuse into one, and the red drops would freeze like flowers on the broad leaves of the snowdrops blossoming in her crotch, on the yellow inflorescences of the dandelions growing up between her breasts that have already been torn open by the thrust of the bitter wormwood. So that she would be lying there, still alive, among all the flowers that have grown though her body, and her final breath would mingle with their spring scent.

It is good to kill in summer. The naked body is at its most natural in summer – most natural and most defenceless. Hammer a dozen pegs into the ground of the yard, bring the weakened girl up out of the basement, tie her down quickly, without giving her a chance to gather her wits, spreading her arms and legs as wide as possible and not forgetting to check the gag properly, because in summer there are people everywhere and there will always be some do-gooder who will hear the screams and knock on the gate in the tall fence and ask what is going on here.

I would like to take him by the hand and lead him over to where the girl is lying naked, like someone on a nudist beach. She knows she is going to die soon. I would like to tell him to squat down and look into her eyes. That is what terror looks like, I would tell him, that is what despair looks like when it condenses so much that you can touch it. Do not be afraid, touch her hand, touch the slippery watering spheres of her eyes. I will give you one of them as a souvenir, if you like.

But if the gag is inserted properly, there will not be any scream, and you will have to look into her eyes alone and listen closely to the shuddering of the body that responds so subtly to each new stroke, each new flourish of the design that you burn into her skin with a magnifying glass. The heat of the sun, so highly concentrated that it can’t help but move her. The flesh chars, the small pink mounds of the nipples darken in front of your eyes, the clitoris can no longer hide in the undergrowth of the hairs that have been shaven off, or in the hood of skin that has been cut away in advance.

Do not forget to wipe the sweat off her forehead, do not let it flood her eyes, let her see the sky, the sun and the green leaves. Have a damp towel ready, remember what mummy used to do for you when you were sick, wipe the sweat off her forehead, look into her eyes, try to find the glimmer of your childhood anguish in them.

It is good to kill in autumn. The blood cannot be seen on the red leaves and the yellow leaves float in the crimson puddles like little toy boats. Tie her to a tree, arm yourself with a set of darts and play at St. Sebastian with her. Remember, a dart lodges best of all in the breasts, and there is no chance at all that it will stick in the forehead.

Leave her tied there overnight, if you like. In the morning you will find her freezing cold, but still alive. Untie her from the tree, take her into the warm basement, take the gag out of the mouth torn by its own silent screams, let her cry a little, feed her the breakfast you have cooked yourself, and then take her tenderly, as if this is your wedding night, and you have been waiting for it for two years. Lick the drops of blood off the marks from your darts, in a certain sense they are Cupid’s arrows too. When you come, tie her up again, take her out into the yard and start all over again from the beginning.

Autumn is a time of slow dying. There is no need to hurry. The leaves will have time to shrivel, the branches of the trees will be denuded, the leaden clouds will drift across the sky. On one chilly rainy night go out into the yard and approach the unconscious body slumped helplessly in the ropes and look to see what is left of the woman you brought here a month ago. If you are lucky, she will survive the daily crucifixion between the branches of the old apple tree, the blows of the darts, the tender, stifling lovemaking in the cellar, your rough tongue licking her fresh wounds. Pick up a lump of soil swollen with rain and rub this mud over her tortured body. We shall all lie in earth like that sooner or later. Look at her one last time, take the gag out of her mouth and hope that the sound of the pouring rain will drown out her final screams. Take a knife and kill her with a few blows, before winter begins.

That’s what my calendar is like. My four seasons. Pictures from an exhibition.

I’d like to write a book like that. A beautiful and bitter book, in which the beauty of nature and the beauty of death would merge into one. But unfortunately I cannot do it, for everything I have said is a lie.

When you kill, you do not think about the seasons of the year. When you kill, you just kill. And there is nothing inside you but horror.

Horror and arousal. 

© Sergey Kuznetsov. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright Andrew Bromfield, 2012. All rights reserved.

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