's 2013 Horror Write-off:

"CPR Training"

Submitted by C. Lonnquist

CPR Training

The dummies had interchangeable faces. They were limbless torsos in red vests, their heads black plastic with a gaping hole filled with mesh where the face should be.

The faces lay in front of us. Male faces made of tan rubber with a small slot between the lips and holes for the nostrils. A plastic ring behind the faces connected to an empty bag that spilled out behind the ghastly things like a deflated brain,like a collapsed lung.

I stared at the face, its eyes closed, marks etched into the eyes that symbolized eyelashes and looked like stitches Flat and deformed, it rested in front of me on the table,lips slightly agape, ears stretching forward strangely. Bits of frayed rubber trailed from the line where the mask ended and the scalp should have been.

We caroused and joked. We made up names and backstories for them. We placed them over our own faces and stuck fingers out of their mouths. Our humor was gallows-black, and there was nervousness in the laughter.

I watched my colleagues go before me, snapping their faces to the black plastic skulls, shoving the plastic bags into the holes where the brains should have been. We counted compressions, we breathed for them, watching the plastic chests rise and fall as we practiced. I couldn't help but feeling uncomfortable; the hollow, limbless bodies simulating the moments before death, the moments we hoped to extend.

When it was my turn, I knelt next to the dummy and plugged the pegs at the sides of the black head into holes behind the ears, tucking the chin over a jut of more plastic ,fitting the face, tugging the edges to match the hairline.

I pinched the nostrils shut and tipped the head back roughly, pulling down on the chin with my thumb. I rested my ear to the mouth to stare at its chest and look for signs of life that I would not see.

And I scuttled back, because there was something against my ear. Gentle and horrifying as spider-legs waking me from sleep. Soft and petrifying as an unwanted kiss. A quiet brush; a cloying movement of the air, cold and brittle and dead. A voice, whispering only:

let me die