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The Sinner

Marge Simon lives in Ocala, Florida and is married to Bruce Boston. She won the Strange Horizons Readers Choice Award, 2010 the Bram Stoker Award for Poetry, the Rhysling Award and the SFPA Grand Master Award, 2015. She has stories in Chiral Mad 4, You Human, The Beauty of Death, and more. margesimon.com.
May the gods forgive me, for I must have sinned.
It began six months ago when I broke out in great welts all over my body. Every pore of my skin was on fire. This wretched condition finally subsided, but then the skin started peeling off my hands and the soles of my feet.
When I go to work in the fields it is like walking on shards of broken glass. I must not think of that. I have my duties. I am expected to finish all before I may rest. Last night, I stole a pair gloves to keep from shredding my own flesh.
The peeling continues all over my body where the rash was. The new layers on my hands and feet are bright and tender. But it is not a normal color--not the color of our people, and that bothers me. I wear the gloves all the time now.
Today a larger strip loosens from my right arm. I pick at it until it lets go. It's most of the diameter of my arm. I fold it up and put it under my mattress. But first, I notice that the new skin is also dark and mottled like that on my palms and feet. It is as if I'm marked, like a child of an Evil God. Perhaps I am paying for the sins of some relative.
I have been over and over it in my head. What did I do? I just do what I'm told. Taking the prisoners out of their barracks at gunpoint and walking them to the fields where each is made to dig his own grave. When one is finished to my satisfaction, I put a bullet in his temple. I am not even in charge of the women and children, so it's not that troublesome.
This day, the last of my old skin peeled off. I have stored it under my mattress as well. The only part that hasn't yet peeled is my face. Still, it is obvious that I am soon to be wholly marked with the same color skin as our sinful enemy. The shame is too great to bear. Come night, I shall gather my old skin into a bundle, for it is indeed the one thing that I truly own and therefore I may dispose of it as I see fit. I shall take the shovel to dig my grave in the fields. I have the pistol. One bullet will suffice.
May the gods forgive me.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017


In November of 2016, I was afflicted with a horrible case of eczema. The skin of my palms and the soles of my feet began itching and peeling off painfully in layers. I could only hobble around. I saw that my skin had also started to peel in other places. I did get some help from a dermatologist but in the meantime, it was hell. So one morning, I thought, "Why not turn this horror into a story?" So I did, and "The Sinner" was born. What I am trying to say in this little flash fiction is about more serious problems facing our nation and our world. Why can't we all just get along?

- Marge Simon

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