HE TOOK OFF HIS SKIN FOR ME
[Finalist for the Driftless Prize in Fiction]
Is this what you want? he asked, and I said yes, so he took off his skin for me.
He was beautiful, shining red organs and crisp bones. I stepped forward to embrace him. I felt his naked wet muscles against my arms.
This happened just before dinner. He waited at the table, fresh as the new cut of lamb I bought at market that day. I carried our plates over and poured wine and watched his tendons twitch as he moved fork and knife. Each bite he lifted to his mouth was a delicate rumble through arm, hand, and jaw. When he stood to clear the table I wiped the tender blood from his seat before he noticed what his exposed body had left behind.
He hung the skin in a closet, taut on a wire hanger next to suit jackets and ties. Sometimes in the morning, through the slit of my eyes in bed, I saw him lift the skin from the closet and hold it to his frame as if thinking, is this what I feel like wearing today? Is this the correct mood? Then, remembering, he slipped the skin back into the closet and removed a shirt instead.
People commented on his different appearance but they couldn’t quite put a finger on it. Have you lost weight? they’d ask, scratching their chin.
In a way, he’d say. Smiling a red smile at me.
Such a short sentence was unlike him. He loved words, loved using different ones to say the same thing again and again until he was sure he was fully understood. But he either had less to say now, or he felt that he was already saying it.
I had to wash our bed sheets more frequently, once a day if I could. The blankets absorbed the smells of his open body and released them during the day, long after he’d gone to work. I showered a lot more too. At night he held me close and in the morning I peeled away like a sweaty thigh from a hot plastic chair.
Lovemaking was no different. This surprised me, but when I thought about it I realized it was the same, just two people showing each other what they look like without skin.
While he was at work I would check the closet for the skin to make sure he wasn’t sneaking it away. He told me once that he wasn’t having as much luck with clients. I told him they were the wrong clients.
The right ones don’t care, I said. The right ones are good people.
He said we’d run out of money if we only waited for the good people.
I said that was fine with me.
We stopped going out to restaurants or bars and used the savings to heat the house. He got chilled easily and walked around with a blanket on his bare-muscle shoulders, carrying hot cups of tea. He spilled his cup once and got it all over the exposed meat of his leg. He couldn’t hide his tears from me because there was nothing to blink them back.
One night we climbed into bed and the lights were off but I could feel him still looking at me, a feeling I got a lot these days. I sat up. I turned on the light.
What? I asked.
I expected him to go, Nothing, because that’s what he usually said when I asked, What? He liked to keep some things private because I could see everything else.
But he didn’t say, Nothing. He didn’t say anything. He just sat there. I watched the pulse on the side of his neck, a persistent quiver of life. I looked at his groin, I looked at his wrists. Everything was pulsing.
He looked at me, wet vein-netted eyes. He reached for my arm with hot red fingertips. He tugged at my skin.
The story of a man who takes his skin off for his girlfriend, and why it probably wasn’t the best idea…
BEHIND THE SCENES – https://vimeo.com/116467047
Please turn off the lights. Use headphones. Go full screen. It’s worth it.
‘He Took His Skin Off For Me’ is a practical SFX fairytale. No CGI whatsoever. Based on the short story by Maria Hummer it is my grad film from the London Film School. It took myself and producer Fiona Lamptey 2 years, 217 Kickstarter backers and a whole lot of fake blood to pull off. SFX legend Colin Arthur (NeverEnding Story, 2001: A Space Odyssey) helped us achieve the impossible, allowing SFX Supervisor Jen Cardno and her team set a new standard for anatomical practical effects. Actor Sebastian Armesto (Anonymous, Pirates of the Caribbean) spent as long as 8hrs in makeup each day to bring this story to life. Alongside Anna Maguire (Saving Private Ryan, Parade’s End) they both give us something wonderful, horrible and completely unique. I don’t want to tell people what the film should be. Even finding a genre to describe it is difficult. I want people to come to this film just like I came to the original story, completely unprepared.
If I can leave with one pearl of wisdom, though; if you take off your skin just to be with somebody? That’s only ever going to end messy…
Behind the Scenes documentary (23mins) – https://vimeo.com/116467047
Maria Hummer reads her original story – vimeo.com/67548806
Early makeup tests – vimeo.com/67283889
Teaser Trailer (aka deleted scene) – vimeo.com/77898342
Condensed score by Mark Sayfritz – https://soundcloud.com/mark-dog-sayfritz/he-took-his-skin-off-for-me
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ALSO, check out our other recent Sundance film and Vimeo Staff Pick ‘Russian Roulette’ https://vimeo.com/90733535 as well as our previous film ‘Dinner and a Movie’ https://vimeo.com/46071455. You can check out the wonderful writeup about the film by Rob Munday at SotW here – http://www.shortoftheweek.com/2015/01/12/he-took-his-skin-off-for-me/
WINNER: Best Student Film 2015: Short of the Week
WINNER: Best Production: Underwire 2015
WINNER: Audience Award: Toronto After Dark 2014
WINNER: Screentest London 2015 awards
NAMED: 21 best shorts of the 21st century – XFDR
BFI London Film Festival 2014
Palm Springs International Shortfest 2014
Fantastic Fest 2014
London Short Film Festival 2015
Rhode Island International Film Festival 2014
St. Louis International Film Festival 2014
Cinequest International Film Festival 2015
Flickerfest International Short Film Festival 2015
Hollyshorts International Shortfest 2014
Underwire Women’s Film Festival 2014
Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2014
Leeds International Film Festival 2014
Brussels International Short Film Festival 2015
Paris International Fantastic Film Festival 2014 /Thriller! Chiller! Film Festival 2014 / Nitehawk Short Film Festival 2014 /Filmquest 2015 / FEST New Directors | New Films Festival / ComicCon 2015 / Crested Bute 2015 / Stanley Film Festival 2015 / Leiden International Film Festival 2015 / Meme Pas Peur Iternational short film festival 2015 / Horror dog Hotdog Short Film Festival / Golden Anteaters 2015 / British Shorts Film Festival 2015 / Imagine international film festival 2014 / Maryland 2014 / Down The Rabbit Hole Netherlands / Noci Cortin Film Festival 2014 / Knoxville Horror Film Festival 2014
MARIA HUMMER is from Toledo, Ohio, and lives in London. She has worked for an English school in Seoul, a refugee resettlement agency in St. Louis, a taste testing panel in London, and a youth hostel in Budapest. She is currently writing her first novel.
Visit her website at mariahummer.com