In the Belly of the Bear by A.A. Balaskovits

The Golden Key Flash Fiction Open 2017 Honorable Mention, judged by Carmen Maria Machado

She was indigestible – this, a gift from her godmother, the one with whose lips danced around wine cups. The blessing was blurted out because she had no tangible present in hand and could only give words. This girl may be consumed but she will never pass.

It seemed a meaningless gift. Then, when she was older, a bear came upon her sleeping and gulped her whole. The swallowing was quiet, and she did not wake until she was fully in its gut. This is the end, she thought, and waited to disintegrate in the juice. As time passed and the juices bubbled up against her skin no part of her passed. She remained snug and she remained warm and she remained.

Others came through: one, a grandmother with hair falling out in clumps, gasping that she didn’t want to die like this; another, a young boy who cried for his mommy. She could not shush nor comfort, though she laid her hand on his cheek and whispered kindness before his skin bled to his bone. Then, another girl, like her, who grasped her hand and said she would not be alone at the end. They brought their lips together and kept them pressed tight until there was nothing left of the other girl but those two strips of flesh. She balled her hands and beat at the belly, but all she heard was a muffled roar.

Eventually, the body of the bear stopped moving, and she continued to beat her fists against its belly, and though it grumbled, there was no other brought down into its gut. Time was loneliness, and for too long it seemed the bear would not eat again.

It was not until she heard voices, muffled and masculine, that she was renewed with her desire. She punched the belly to wake the bear so that it would eat. When he did not move, she brought her teeth to the slippery lining of the stomach and bit.

How the bear moved then! No matter how much it jumped and scratched at its own body, the girl continued to tear through his stomach, spilling the acidic juice over his organs, and then she took to its grease-fat and skin, tearing it open.

She emerged, covered in blood and slime. It was cold, outside, and colder still were the expressions of two hunters, staring at her wetness. She moved towards them with her hand outstretched, but they shied from her and crossed themselves. When she opened her mouth to speak she dribbled acid onto the ground. The men clutched their axes and hunting knives to their chests and ran from her, screaming the whole way.

She considered running after them, but it was cold and she had no shoes. She returned to her bear and clamored back into the belly to wait out the winter. Then, she would find those men who ran from her, and she would bite them, too.

A.A. Balaskovits is the author of Magic for Unlucky Girls (Santa Fe Writers Project 2017). Her fiction and essays appear in Indiana Review, The Madison Review, The Southeast Review, Gargoyle, Apex Magazine, Shimmer and numerous other magazines and anthologies. She was awarded the New Writers Award from Sequestrum in 2015, her short fiction was named in the top 50 of Wigleaf‘s Very Short Fictions in 2017, and she won the grand prize for the 2015 Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Awards series. She is the co-editor in chief of Cartridge Lit.

What is A.A.’s ideal vision of a post-revolutionary world? “I suppose we are in a post-revolutionary world (there’s been so many, many revolutions), so I am suspecting that there is no end to revolution because we keep fucking it up somewhere along the way and falling into old habits. We often put bandaids across wounds and then those fester and stink. I do like what Donna Haraway says about cyborgs and how they will diffuse and confuse boundaries, especially for work and gender, but I always am reminded of Paul Virilio who wrote that ‘the invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck’. Any grand new idea has consequences. We should pursue them anyway.”

Art — Aleksandra Apocalisse was born in the USSR, from which her family fled when she was only 6 years old. She spent most of my childhood and young adulthood in Brooklyn, New York until she moved to Portland, Oregon in 2015. There, she is living the dream; spending the days outside with my dog, playing in the dirt, hanging out with plants, and expressing her dreams and innermost musings through art. She also loves animals, reading, learning about nature, getting lost in music, and traveling to tropical jungles.

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One Response to In the Belly of the Bear by A.A. Balaskovits

  1. Vanessa says:

    I love how raw and immediate the story is. All my senses were awakened when reading this.

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