Festering Love

Daniel gently nudged the front door open, treading as softly as he could. A grin had spread from ear to ear. He had arrived home a moment early, but couldn’t decide if he wanted to knock or sneak inside. He’d chosen the latter, partially because he loved his jokes, but part of him just wanted to spite her for not picking him up at the airport. The fact that his boyish expression was set against a burly masculine figure in army fatigues nearly made him look comical.

He wondered where Alyssa was. She’d always loved gardening, but she announced her pregnancy the day before he left for his last tour. It was the only time he’d seriously considered dereliction of duty.

But, life being what it is, he trudged off into the fields of war. He endured another year of explosions that shook the foundation of the Earth. Daniel watched scores of paper-mache men torn apart.

His family and his humor were all that had kept him sane. Now, nearly manic with the relief of being home, with steps lighter than those of Hermes, he rounded the corner into his kitchen.

Alyssa was at the sink, scrubbing at something. He could hear her whispering to herself. “Oh no, that simply won’t do. No, not at all. Got to get the dirt off, not working, no.”

This wasn’t like her. He had a growing heat settling in the depths of his stomach. He could smell something strange in the air, but what?
“Alyssa?” Daniel called gently, rising to stand. She spun, wide-eyed for an instant, before a blissful smile crept across her face. “Oh, my Danny! You’re home early!” She continued scrubbing.

“Er… no, I’m not…” His intuition was digging into the back of his skull like a pickax. “Do you know what day it is?”

“Why, the twenty-second of February, of course.”

It was June 6th.

“Alyssa, are you ok?” He shuffled closer. He could just barely see into the sink. He took another step and tried not to wretch as his stomach snapped in on itself.

There was a dead child in the sink. Its mottled brown and gray flesh hung from a loose collection of bones. The empty sockets that once held eyes seemed to bore into Daniel.

“I’m afraid little Thomas is taking his bath. Have to get the bugs out. Dirty dirty. Full of bugs.”

“Alyssa, what… what the hell? This… our son…?”
She hoisted the corpse from the sink; he heard a squelching sound as the head lolled from side to side. Vertebra ground against one another as she held it snug against her chest, swaddling the epitome of desecration.

“That will have to do for now. Say hi to daddy!” She shoved the child in his direction.

Reflexively, he caught it, though he immediately wished that he had not. He could feel the rotting muscles sliding across bone like a mass of snakes. Shards of bone jutted out from festering wounds. His thumb mashed into the child’s collapsing side, penetrating its chest cavity. Something that might have once been a lung enveloped his penetrating digit.

Crying out in disgust and fear, Daniel dropped the body. It landed with a splat as its soft head collapsed against the hard floor.

“Alyssa, what in God’s name-” He was cut short by her gorgon stare. Her gaze lingered on him for a long time. For too long. He was suddenly all too aware of the twitching of her eyes, of the burning mania that had fried her mental circuitry.

“You… monster,” she hissed. She dropped to her knees and grabbed a knife from the nearby counter. She raised it high above her head; he was reminded of the way occultists acted just before making a sacrifice.

“What are you doing?” Daniel cried out; she rammed the knife into her forearm, piercing straight through. She screamed, twisting it, back and forth like a makeshift drill.

“Dirty… filthy… got to… get…” She jerked her arm back, removing the knife. It clattered away behind her. Bulges began appearing all over her body, making their way towards the hole in her arm. She didn’t bleed; one by one, thick, white maggots plopped down onto the floor.

Daniel became violently sick as the creatures began picking at the child’s rotting skin, devouring the putrid substance. Alyssa quickly began to look more and more emaciated. As more maggots left her, her skin grew more pale and thin. Her body began to whither before his eyes.

“Filthy… get the bugs out… clean up… no… can’t have this mess…” she groaned, her sandpaper voice barely able to carry to him. It wasn’t long before the insects turned on her, first eating her superficial layers, then driving back inside for the main course.

Daniel’s world spun and his legs gave out. He had just enough awareness to see the corner of the dining room table zooming towards him before he blacked out.

When he came to, he was distinctly aware that he was surrounded by blood. Too much blood. Enough so that Phlegethon would overflow its dark banks.

And he was aware of something beginning to pick at him. Then a few somethings. Then a few dozen… then they were digging in.


The Mistake

The first and last mistake she ever made was having trusted me. I don’t blame her. She didn’t know any better, and besides, I’d probably trust me too. If I could.

But I know better, so I don’t.

I tried to tell her no, but what good would that have done? Could I have explained without frightening her? No. I’m certainly not going to scare an unsuspecting stranger like that, so I kept my comment to myself.

I remember staring at her, jaw gaping at the sight of those brilliant azure eyes. Her porcelain skin, nearly luminescent beneath the halogen bulbs of a local Starbucks, was just a little bit smoother than the coffee she’d handed to me.

Her number was scrawled on the side in black ink. She smiled and asked why I would drink coffee so late at night. I joked that I’d lost track of the time; she suggested we lose track together.

What could I do? Social protocol dictates that a man say yes to a beautiful woman, correct?

I know what you’re thinking, and I tried. I tried my hardest to kill myself, but I failed time and time again. Talk about irony.

I took her back to my apartment- it was safer that way, for everyone else, at least- and she made herself at home as I locked the door and dropped the key under the doormat. She took her shoes off; I did not object. She kissed me; I made no attempt to resist. A proper gentleman always gives a lady what she wants, and on that night, she wanted me.

I wanted to run away, to scream a warning to her, but I could not.

We made love that night. She seemed to enjoy it, though all I could do was monitor the situation. Her gasps and sighs melded together into one long, drawn-out cry. I suppose I made sound as well, though I can hardly pretend to say I was paying attention.

When we’d finished, she fell asleep. I couldn’t wake her up- that would have been too rude. I couldn’t leave because I had no arrangements anywhere else.

I could feel myself growing weary. The coffee hadn’t worked. I apologized in advance, kissed her forehead, and laid down beside her. I didn’t want to, but after five days without rest, my body wouldn’t stay awake any longer. The bittersweet arrest of reality was calling out to me.

I felt my eyelids begin to droop. I tried to focus on remaining awake, but I-

-awoke drenched in blood, as I had expected. I wondered what I’d awake to this time. Rolling over, I found my bed sheet had been made into a noose. Her limp form, as relaxed now as it had been when I’d fallen victim to slumber, was saturated with her own viscous life force.

Her face, a swollen, purple mass of unrecognizable flesh, had been beaten in. Her fingers had been chewed off. I was used to these things. I sighed and prayed that whatever divinity had cursed me so would grant her proportional mercy.

It was a scene that most directors would be proud of. I only wish this had been a movie.

I noticed a window had been broken. Luckily, I was on the eighth floor. Escaping through there would’ve killed me. Unluckily, I didn’t try. Maybe this time, it would’ve killed me.

Maybe I could still try anyway. I shook my head; I’d jumped from higher stories and walked away. If 18 hadn’t killed me, 8 definitely wouldn’t.

The glass had been used to gouge out her eyes. I noticed a coppery taste on my tongue. I wondered what had driven me to do that.

The glass had cut into my hand as well, reopening another old gash.

My feet squelched and plopped through the sodden rug below her. I rifled through the pockets of her jeans, stealing her wallet to buy myself more time. Handprints had been smeared across the walls. They led towards the door.

I could see where I had tried to open the lock. You should thank God for the fact that I failed.

Stepping into the bathroom, I turned the shower on, making sure the water was as hot as it could be. I relished the sensation of my epidermis being burnt away; it was one of the few things that made me smile.

After, I dressed, picked up my one bag (which had narrowly avoided being bled on) and walked to the door.

I turned back with a tear in my eye and whispered, “I’m sorry.”

Observations on Characters- The Concert

In any story, authors and readers alike need strong characters more than they need oxygen. However, there’s a huge distinction between “weak” characters and “cliché” characters- namely in that the cliché character is sometimes perfect.

Most avoid cliché’s, but here’s the catch: some people are exactly as cheesy, played-out and ridiculous as the cliché would lead you to believe. At a concert yesterday, I observed the following:

The Biggest Fan
-This is the type of person who proceeds to tell anyone and everyone in ear shot what they know about the band. Though their information is typically commonplace, they seem intent on talking your ear off until you come to the conclusion that this person is an international authority on the band.

The Drunken Conductor
-This particular genius (who tends to have seats in the front of the theater) will stand up and wave his or her arms frantically, as if they are sitting in their living room rather than in a major venue in front of hundreds or thousands of people. While utterly inconsiderate, most don’t say anything, realizing this person is just having fun and not intentionally blocking everyone’s view.

The Date
-The person who laughs awkwardly at the Biggest Fan and attempts to make conversation, despite clearly knowing nothing, as he or she prays for their significant other to come back and help pull the foot out of his or her mouth.

And, of course, the “I just want to be heard” people
-These people have a tendency to cheer, scream and whistle any time that anything happens, ever. When a song begins or ends, when someone enters or leaves stage, when any reference to anything they know of is made, or when something very predictable but still unusual happens, these people are up on their feet making sure the rest of the crowd sees their excitement.

So keep this in mind; when writing, or reading, about a concert or other such thing, there are ALWAYS these types of people. Having these types of people in a story doesn’t make it cliché- it makes it real. Just don’t overdo it.