courtenay s gray — slack-jawed

When you try, they immortalise the experience in a highly realistic painting. I saw a poster for the gallery pinned to a corkboard at a bar. 

Have you had enough? Did you try to kill yourself? If you’re reading this, you’re still here. So, if you fancy seeing your final moments immortalised, come down to Flat Line Gallery. 

They ask you to compile information from those who found you and saved you. What position were you in? Were you foaming at the mouth? What was the weather like? Did you piss yourself? Every detail is incorporated into the piece. I was on my lunch break one day and decided to stop there. 

Before they let you in, they ask you to show them something that resembles death. I dragged my finger across my neck, and that was seemingly enough as the doors swung right open. 


With snow in my lungs
I devour apple seeds as
an appetiser


There are no lights bar the two softboxes pointing towards the wall where all the paintings reside. One, in particular, is of a man who has shot themself. His jaw hangs down, a rocking boat soaking in its own juices. 

“That was one of the more graphic submissions we’ve had.” 

I turned to see a man in a brown suit with his hands clasped behind his back. 

“Yeah… Can I ask why you started this gallery?” 

“No, you can’t. All you need to know is what is on the posters. Submit if you want to see your experience immortalised, but why this exists is none of your business.” 

“You must have had a reason for this. It makes no sense to me that you would make such a bold statement with this gallery but refuse to talk about it.” 

“Do you question God?” 

“I don’t believe in him.” 

“I pray that he saves you one day.” 

“Isn’t old boy against suicide? If so, then this makes this entire building a sin.” 

He didn’t respond. Turning on his heels, he made his way to the heavy set of double doors in the corner and pushed them open, letting in a panel of light that formed an X across the canvas. Another observer tried to subtly smoke Gauloises, sending wafts of lavender and nicotine my way. For a split second, I felt like I was in the funeral home, leaning over my Grandmother, fixing her for burial. 


Unmasked by his fire —
weapons directed at the
noise in the core void

Ambergris eyes pour 
gelatin into ramen 
bowls of grafted skin


A few weeks later, the newspapers found out, and you can imagine what happened. The concept of suicidal art became the water cooler moment of the century. Every morning show consisted of discussing the ethics behind it. 

“I don’t think it’s right! We shouldn’t be glorifying suicide…” 

“I think it’s important to show what it looks like. It’s not always about taking pills. It’s gruesome. It’s the ultimate revenge on yourself…” 

We all have an opinion on death and what it should be. Some believe that the notion you are alive should make you grateful, even when you find yourself going through the worst of the worst. Every beginning has an end, but we don’t like to talk about it. The goal is to have a pretty death, drifting off into an eternal slumber, dropping the glass of Shiraz all over the cream carpet. 

The more you hide, the louder they shout. Every day, we walk over unmarked graves, stepping over bones and gristle buried with the worms. Flowers die within days of first bloom because you forget to water them, head down, fraying at the cusp of dawn. 


Tipsy on blue moon 
and rye bread I return to 
kissing cherries white 
bathtub sex at cocktail hour — 
he asks me to open wide

COURTENAY S. GRAY is a writer from the North of England. You’ll find her work in an array of journals such as A Thin Slice of Anxiety, Misery Tourism, Expat Press, Red Fez, Hobart, and many more. She will often post on her blog:
Twitter: @courtenaywrites 
Instagram: @courtenaywrites