She sits at the picnic table in their backyard, chewing on a chicken leg. She knows her husband will not approve; he says she has been getting fat. There he is now, in the window. His eyes are bulging, and his pointy teeth are bared. She bares her teeth back at him, and resumes eating.
She remembers his shirt was red, like the paint on his canvas. He had offered to show her more of his work, wanting her opinion. Then nothing. Red behind her eyes. She awakened in a windowless cell. She tried scratching her way out. Now her fingertips were red. She wondered if he’d paint her.
She’s thirsty. Some water, to rid the taste of him in her mouth. She pauses, the cup halfway to her lips. A noise, under his snoring. She sees his arm, stretching impossibly long, coming from the bedroom. “Where are you?” “What are you doing?” Stretching around her, pulling tighter. And tighter. She drops the glass.
Dinner, the three of them. Mother asks her son-in-law if he ever feels guilty about his past, the mistakes he made, the surgeries when he lost patients. He says nothing but bites his thumb. She hears the crack of bone, sees the blood squirt onto her meatloaf. “I’ll take that as a yes,” Mother says.
In the hornet field green and blue are overwhelmed by brown and yellow. All is drone and bustle. In the hornet field eggs are dangerous. Hatchlings fight with deadly precision. I draw my sword and cross the threshold. I hum their tune and ready myself for battle. They’ll never take me alive.
Sally was awakened by Rene shouting. Frogs were congregating on the window seat. A dream? But Rene’s grip was pulling her out of bed. A giant frog hurtled toward them. She tried to push it away; her hand sank into hot gummy skin. The flesh on her hand melting, she realized this was no dream.
The fiend stands in the corner. Eyes glittering, it can’t be mistaken for an amalgamation of shadows. It comes every night, robbing her sleep, her good dreams, her peace in the daytime hours. She opens her mouth to banish it, but nothing passes her lips. It makes no move. Yet. The creature stares.
“Cut your wrists,” the demon says. “You’re better off dead.” It sounds plausible. He thinks of the loneliness, of how he hates himself, how he won’t be missed. The pain rises over him like an ocean, swallowing him whole. The blood flows; he realizes his mistake as the demon leaves him. But it’s too late.
She wakes to wet dripping on her forehead. Turning on the lamp she sees the brown stain on the ceiling. Though she had gone to bed alone, she feels a stirring next to her on the bed. Her neck cranes. As her eyes meet cold black orbs, she hears her daughter’s screams down the hall.
Elsa paused for a moment to study the items in her suitcase before she spread them out on the bed. A book she had read on the plane, a plastic Walgreens bag, her iPod and accompanying iHome, her wallet (she had tossed her ID out the window of the taxi), the contents of her bank account. She had wanted to travel light. Having worked in a hotel as a young woman, she knew what kind of messes people left behind.
She supposed the money could have gone to her family, but she was hoping it would be a nice tip for the unlucky soul who was going to find a corpse in the bathtub tomorrow morning. Ideally, whoever it was could find a use for everything. Well, almost everything. She wondered if someone could enjoy a dead woman’s iPod.
Speaking of which. There had been a song she wanted to hear while she went about her business—Tori Amos’s cover of “I Don’t Like Mondays.” She herself had no problem with Mondays—in fact it was Thursday—but the tune had been going around in her head for a long time, particularly one phrase.
Elsa stepped into the bathroom. The walls were a soothing pale green. She brushed aside the complimentary shampoo and plugged in her iHome. Humming filled the bathroom, echoing off the walls. “The silicon chip inside her head gets switched to overload…”
She sang along in snatches and whispers as the tub filled with water, removing her clothes. Ah, here it was. “And he can see no reasons/’Cause there are no reasons/What reason do you need to die?”
Returning to her suitcase, she removed the plastic bag with the razor blades. Upon opening the pack of twenty, she took one. Holding it up to the light, she admired the glint of clean steel. It looks sharp, but I better take two, just in case. She left the open package on the bed; no sense being wasteful. Surely someone could use them.
The song had ended. She set it to repeat and sank into the warmth of the bathtub.