Time got away from me this week, well that and the time visiting the new baby. My daughter came home from the hospital today and everyone is doing great. It’s easy to forget how tiny babies are when they are first born. But then none of this has anything to do with the story below other than to say there isn’t an Indies Unlimited flash fiction story this week from me.
But I did say they would be hit or miss this month so you were warned. You can’t say I didn’t warn you. I am sure I have it in print somewhere and if you remember correctly you did sign the warning in blood. This is a contract you can’t get out of. Wait, sorry…
Before we get into the piece, I want to mention something that I have had in the back of my mind for some time now. For a long time I have had a vision for a certain grouping of stories. The stories from the Murder and Mayhem anthology Wonderland Casino fall well into this vision.
You may not remember the old Twilight Zone and Outer Limits stories (oh come on, how can you not remember those), but they always had a certain vibe to them. The way I have seen the Murder and Mayhem stories from the beginning follow within this vibe, at least in their own special way. Maybe they fit a bit more into the television series The Dark Room, but still that is the spirit within which these stories are written.
This information is not important to the enjoyment of the stories. But it is a bit of background I wanted to share. You can think of it as one of those strange easter eggs given to the special ones who read these stories first. It’s all because you are special to me…
The Junkie’s Breakfast
Mornings were the worst. Gary coughed, snorted, coughed again. Then he scratched his arm, just below his elbow. Needle marks, red and abused lined up at the vein. How long had it been? A week? Two? He lost count.
His body screamed in protest as he fought to rise. The lead weight of tar and smoke residue pushed his chest tight against the bed. He wanted to meld and be one with the blankets but he couldn’t miss work again. Twice last week, and now Derrick was riding him about his lack of commitment.
He stumbled into the kitchen to the refrigerator. Light poured into the room and blasted his eyes when he opened the door, more than he could manage at first. As his eyes adjusted he pushed bottles and cartoons around inside the fridge. His fingers gripped the neck of a bottle and pulled it back into the kitchen’s darkness.
With a quick twist of the cap, he placed the neck to his lips and lost himself to the chilled liquor in the bottle. A few swallows and it was gone. He surged from the hit, gained strength from the biting brew. Gary felt closer to himself as he grabbed another bottle.
On his way to the front door he ran his fingers through his hair and finished the second bottle. The cool liquid churned in his belly and woke his bladder. With a sigh he went to the bathroom and relieved himself.
He stood at the toilet, his member still stretched before him, and urine cascading down in a strong stream; out of the side of his vision he saw the body in the tub beside him. Without breaking the stream he swiveled his gaze to the tub directly. It wasn’t an imagining.
The corpse had been in the pool for some time, the water had gone cold. He pulled one of her arms from the water and disturbed the red mist, a fine separation of the blood and cold water. The slash along her wrist had long since voided of life waters; the cut clean and clear, though puffy with absorption of fluids.
He thought back, his mind fought through clouds of random memories, but he still could not remember who this body once was. He pushed back her sopping hair, opened her face to get a better look, and still could not place her. Work was forgotten. He had a new mystery to solve.
He switched on the hall light and scanned for something spark a memory. Pictures on the wall were a family he didn’t know. A man, a woman (he assumed to be the corpse), and a small boy, he realized that the hall itself was unfamiliar as well. He retraced his steps into the bedroom he woke in, not far from the bathroom.
Moonlight sliced through a split in the window shades, a body outlined on the bed. The bed he had come awake in. Gary took a deep breath in the doorway and placed his hand on the light switch. He flicked the light on, then released the air from his lungs.
The body didn’t move. Its chest did not rise and fall with the breath of life. It remained hidden under a sheet, flat on its back, though oddly like a body on a slab the white sheet covered the body from head to foot.
Gary stood beside the bed with his hand on the sheet. His knuckles turned white as he gripped it tight. The debate raged a war in his mind, should he pull it off? What would he see? A dead body no doubt, but something about the dead carried a weight, a finality he wasn’t sure he wanted to expose. As long as the sheet remained, the body beneath could still be alive.
His brain ached with indecision, his knees shook with the effort of his vigil, but still he could not bring himself to pull the sheet. The thoughts in his mind switched to the bizarre. What if this is a dream and it is me under the sheet? That didn’t hold to the logic that he was in someone’s house he did not know. The details around him were too real, more than just the surreal reality of a drug-induced coma.
Sweat beaded along his forehead. He had to know, the answer plagued him. But he fought the urge, a battle he knew in the end he would lose. His need to see the truth burned at the edges of his mind and drove him past the breaking point. The steak knife buried to the hilt in the man’s chest confirmed the death. The blood had grown sticky and cold, soaked into the sheets around the body. The knife had held the top sheet away from the corpse. It appeared that the man had been naked when he had been stabbed.
Gary dropped the sheet and stumbled out of the room. His mind screamed at him enough, get away. He raced through the kitchen to the garage, in hopes that his car was there. The outer door was shut and there was a car still in the garage.
And then the smell hit him. Exhaust fumes pervaded the air and drifted into the kitchen when he opened the door. Their scent had faded but was still pungent. He hit the button to open the garage door which triggered the overhead light. A woman and a child sat in the front seat of the car, the woman and child from the pictures in the hall.