The Body (Story by Risa Peris)

I had never seen a body hacked to pieces. I approached stealthily. Like a cat about to pounce on prey. But he was not my prey. This was MS-13’s work. Who else? This was El Salvador.

The cuts were surprisingly clean except where the guts spilled out. I felt the bile rise. Strange. Not even shit and vomit who get a rise out of me. I could see the man’s bones glowing in the black, black night.

The street was empty. Everyone knew to stay indoors until the police cleared the body. I pulled a small, thumb-sized camera out of my pants pocket. It was beyond discrete and emitted no flash. I took pictures of the body. The hacked feet, the legs split at the knee, the hip bones…it was a mess. And then I reached his head that looked reposed, calm, and embalmed. How odd. It was as if the man was ready for death and no pain could shake his welcoming of heaven. I was an Atheist, but I wished all these victims into heaven.

Bone, flesh, blood – I saw a nightmare and could see and hear a mangy, large dog across the street ready to pounce on fresh meat. Could you blame it? Even though it had a broad chest, I could see its rib cage from my distance.

Fuck. I looked at the face again. It was familiar. He had been a new recruit who had escaped Venezuela with his family. I think his family lived on this street. I hurried across the street. My shoes were sticky from the blood. I caught a taxi to the Sheridan. The only decent hotel in the capital. When I got to my room I scrubbed the sole of my shoes and then took a shower and scrubbed the filth of death.

My cell phone rang. “You got a story?” It was my Editor.

“No. Just another hacked body.”

“Not a story if it comes from El Salvador. Maybe Podunk, Iowa. Jesus. Get me something.”

I lost my cool. “Jesus, this whole country is a story.”

“Connect the CIA.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Of course, the CIA was at fault for MS-13 and so was the US Penal system for sending MS-13 back to their home territory. Anybody who could read and had the internet could connect the dots. The US created MS-13 and the US kept sending back asylum seekers because they were afraid of brown. The color of skin. I laid naked on the bed and imagined being hacked. Would I be in repose and accept my fate? Or would I scream like a banshee and yell, “I’m American, I’m American.” Like they were magic words.