Issue #83

Summer 2022

the encyclopedic flaying game

by lance olsen

Listen: nobody is born It. Within minutes that changes. There is no way around this fact. The players are sometimes referred to as The Hiders-and-Seekers. The players are sometimes referred to as The It-Looks-Like-Wars or The Belief-Skinned-Beasts. The goal of this game is to run for your life. Learn to sprint. Learn to dodge and roll. Duck. Jump. Pretend to be a stone. A bright orange poppy on the side of the highway. Become the rabbit hound. The knife. Become the first-aid kit or the parachute. Drive your car into a lake. Ride a bus to the end of the line, unable the whole while to work out the schedule. Make up new rules as you go along. Don’t make up new rules as you go along. Eventually you will find yourself standing alone in your stuffy bedroom with a clothes hanger in one hand and your past in the other. Reach up just below your chin. When the time is right, you will detect a zipper. Pull. Due to years of disuse, you may need to marshal WD-40, mineral spirits, resolve, exert unexpected force. Soon, however, your skin will have become a second entity draped beside you. Fold it carefully over the hanger as you would a suit. Place the occupied hanger on the clothes stand that has just appeared in the corner. That one. Yes. (What a surprise.) Now sit on your bed, blood seeping from your muscles, staining your white sheets pink, and say these words: Every building appears sacred when burning. Please come in. If you are a woman, two girls will enter. If a man, two boys. They will both be you and holding hands, one carrying a black velvet bag, one a pair of pliers, the latter of which will be employed gently to fish among your refuse and extract each organ with love and mercy. The yous will employ the former to sack what once helped you palpate and judge. The penultimate will always be your tongue, the last always your eyes. You do not need to thank your deliverers. You do not need to damn them. They have known what you would say if you could from the day you entered the world. Rather, brace yourself. Calm yourself. Relish the disarticulation of your argument. When this round concludes, everyone will change names and a new round begin.

Author Bio


lance olsen is author of more than thirty books of and about experimental fiction, including, most recently, the novels Skin Elegies (Dzanc, 2021) and Always Crashing in the Same Car (FC2, forthcoming 2023). A Guggenheim, Berlin Prize, D.A.A.D., Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, two-time N.E.A., and Pushcart recipient, as well as Fulbright Scholar, he teaches innovative narrative theory and practice at the University of Utah.