434

You wait for your number to be called. In your hand, you grasp a withering white scrap. You don’t know how long you’ve been here, but you do know there were faces here that came before you, and many faces after.

You wait.

There is one window in the room. It opens out onto a brick wall. Earlier you are sure you saw a head bob into a view. A plume of smoke strokes the window frame. Just by watching you can taste it. You blow warm air out of your mouth and it floats in front of you before it dissipates.

You wait.

There is one set of double doors in the room. They swing open with great ease but creak closed. Slowly the wedge of blue light they let in thins to a straight blue line. Pointing straight at you, maybe.

You cross your legs as you wait.

No one is really moving. Stiff backs and even stiffer faces. Fixed smiles, slicked back hair. But the eyes. Their eyes are darting about in their skulls. Scanning. Checking. Watching each other.

You do it too, as you wait.

Watch their hands. Watch the paper tremble. Watch the numbers as they slide and smear. Who’s next really? And does it even matter? They come out and get you when it’s time. Blink and you’ll miss it.

You think you’re still waiting. But when you look down you’re not in the waiting room. You’re strapped to the bed and the only thing you see is the blue light. Not a slither but a blinding sheet of blue.

The last thing you feel is the slip of paper crumbling between your fingers. The last thing you smell is the sweet smell of burning flesh. The last thing you hear, as that sense fades away with the rest-

‘434 is ready. Prepare the host.’

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Musing Monday #3

Retreat.

“His eyes are still open.”

Alex stands with her arms folded, slowly turning Ben’s face away from hers with the heel of her shoe. His head keeps springing back, despite her efforts. A crescent shape dip is forged in his cheek

“He’s just staring up at me, like he would usually do.”

I see all of this from the corner of my eye. I hear all of this as if she is speaking to me from another room. I’ve been like this ever since it happened. Someone romantic might say a piece of me had died with him or something. But I’m not romantic.

“It’s creepy.” She says finally, turning away in disgust.

I know she wants me to look, but I can’t. Outside rain taps on the window and draws me to the underwater scene that is forming below us. The garden is filling up with water very quickly. A pool is collecting around the pile of bodies at the far end.

“Take his arms,” I say, still distracted, “let’s get him out of here so that we can get out of here.”

“What if he’s not dead?” She continues to prod, “What if when I lean down, he jumps up and grabs me?”

She throws her arms around me to make her point, squeezing me playfully. I try not to tense up at her touch.

“He’s definitely dead.” I say bluntly, shrugging off her grasp, “You made sure of that.”

She killed him with the desk fan. A part of me was thankful that I no longer had to listen to its annoying faltering.

She beat him with it until he stopped fighting back. Then just to be sure, she choked him with the electric chord. She didn’t mention that when I came in, though. She just turned to me, blood spattered across her blouse, with tears streaming down her face and her hair in a frenzy. Her eyes were wider than I’d ever seen them before.

“He attacked me,” She stammered.

I did not open my mouth. I stood in the doorway waiting for the words, but for some reason all that came to mind was the sound of Ben turning over in his sleep. The feel of his breath on the back of my neck.

When I did not speak, Alex rushed out of the room. I did not follow her, although I should have. I stepped into the room instead and sat next to Ben. My eyes were fixed on the carpet slowly turning red with his blood. In my mind, the memory of him carrying him on my back kept playing, over and over. The feel of his skin on mine. Something warm inside.

Eventually I untangled the chord from his throat and arranged him properly. On his side, like he was sleeping. I stroked his hair, forgetting that he was dead until my hands were covered in his blood. Then I went into the bathroom and ran the tap. I think I might have cried too, but that could have just been sweat from the never ending heat. Or steam from the boiling hot bath I took. When I came out, Alex was baking. We ate brownies and watched Amelie.