Edge by Caleb Bristol

Every nightmare is the same; I see a woman standing in my bedroom doorway staring at me with milk white eyes.  Her flesh is beginning to rot and fall off.  My eyes stare into hers as her face begins melt.  Nothing is there but bone as she points at me.  I close my eyes, trying to get the hell out of this dream.  I open my eyes again, sitting upright in bed.  I turn on a light and she is there in my face, screaming, baring her jagged yellow teeth.

I got a phone call from my brother, Al.  I was in bed that morning, nothing to do but think before I had to get up and interview some other jack from the capital.  I groggily answered the phone and, with a deep voice, said, “What do you want?”  Al knew what it was like waking up around me.  He answered back with a boisterous, “Dave!”  Sitting up in bed, I rubbed my face, feeling the five o’clock shadow with my hands.

“What the hell is going on?” I asked with a sneeze to conclude.

“Dave, I can’t get ahold of my wife at home,” he said.  “I’m worried that she’s been out of the house for a while.  She hasn’t returned my phone calls and I’m not able to get back till next week…”  My eyes widened, knowing that Al’s wife had been diagnosed with depression a few years back.

Al’s wife, Sadie, was the nicest person anybody could meet.  Sadie was about five foot and had longer hair than any other woman I’d met.  Then you got to the eyes. They were a dark brown.  I knew this was the woman for Al.  But after they got married, she started to mysteriously become slower day after day.  Then, after Al and I got a drink one night, she was in the bathroom preparing to slit her wrists.  Al found her in the bathroom, with her bloodied hands in the sink turning the water a dark red.  He yelled to me to call the doctor.  She was taken to the mental hospital that night, and we didn’t see her again for five months.

“…Dave,” Al said with a worried tone.  “Can you please go to my house and see if she’s alright?  When she leaves, she usually locks the house, but there’s an extra key underneath the door mat.”  I agreed to go over and hung up the phone.  I got ready to leave and looked around, beginning to smell roses.

It took me twenty minutes to get to Al and Sadie’s house.  I looked at the house’s big white face and then at its blue trim.  There were two stories of “fun” for adult entertainment and after-parties.  In the front was a lush garden that Sadie had tended before she was depressed.  There were flowers everywhere, in and out.  Magnolias were Sadie’s preferred flower and they were covering every inch of the house.

I walked in, and looked around, hearing nothing.  There was a faint odor from the kitchen.  “What is that smell?” I asked myself.  Walking into the kitchen, I noticed the oven door was open.  Turning off the gas and closing the oven door, I knew that she had probably done this intentionally.  “Sadie?” I asked.  Somehow, my feet led me up the stairs.  “Hey, Al wanted me to check on you,” I said.  Then there was a door slightly opened in front of me.

The walls were strewn with black velvet and photos of Al and Sadie, smiling.  In the middle of the bedroom, there was a coffee table with a flower vase in the middle, leaving a ring of water around it.  Walking towards the window, I opened it for air and then looked down at the bed.  I didn’t touch the sheets, which were stained with skin oil. Beneath the sheets was Sadie in jeans and her blouse; water stained the bed and her clothes.  I was frightened of her features, and wondered how long it had been since she had died; she must’ve been alone at the time of her death.

Her face was beginning to get wrinkled and the eyes were staring back into mine as she lay there, as if someone had surprised her.  The skin was faded and yellow, reminding me of decaying fish skin.

Pulling up a chair, I sat down next to the bed.  Staring back at the bloodshot eyes with courage, I decided to say, “Look at you!  You must’ve had a good day.”  Her mouth was smiling as if agreeing with me.  “Good,” I said, rubbing my hands together.  The noise of traffic drifted through her window.  I poked my head out and watched small crowds of people walk past each other.  “Today is a beautiful day, isn’t it?” I asked the corpse.  Her lifeless body was lying still on the bed.  I sound like a lunatic, I thought while pacing around the room.  Dear God what if I am going mad?  Humming to myself I looked down at the body again.  It was lying there and staring at me. It started to scare me.

I heard thunder off in the distance and took a closer look around the house.  A breeze passed me as I walked out the bedroom door.  Closing the door behind me, I listened to the sounds of the old house.  Then I heard a loud boom come from the room and opened the door to see the rain coming through the window, soaking her clothes.  I ran to close the window, seeing the rain had stained bed.  I looked back at her, and saw something different about her.  Same clothes, I thought.  I slowly walked around the bed, keeping an eye out for any sudden movements.  Same face.  What was wrong here?  I flicked the bedframe with my pointer finger and heard a small ringing sound.

For a few hours I walked around the room and looked outside, seeing the rain pouring down.  My brain couldn’t concentrate with the smell and I needed to do something with the body.  Running back downstairs to look for a phone, my search came to a dead end; there was a phone in the kitchen, but the cord was cut.  Sighing with frustration, I sat down on the kitchen chair thinking about what drove Sadie into killing herself.   Was it frustration?  Was it the mild depression?  The answer was somewhere around here.

I walked around the kitchen, hearing the floor squeak below me, the sounds of my feet: tap, tap, tap, along the floor.  I was thinking hard, too hard.  So far, I had nothing to think about, and the room was beginning to get cold.  Again? I thought.  Walking back up the stairs, I saw the door was open.  I walked to close the door and looked over at the bed.  The whole room suddenly smelled of roses.  Picking up the vase to move it to the bed stand, and I look to see that the places where it rained had dried up.  How have I been here? I thought to myself.  I looked down at the body.  “Dear God,” I said.

Her body was getting thinner as the hours passed.  The eyes had closed and her face had destroyed the features that were there before.  I immediately ran out of the house, seeing that it was the morning and one of the neighbors was getting ready for work.  I ran to him asking him if I could borrow his phone.

I called Al.  Al was about to get on a plane back home, and I told him.  Al hung up and I didn’t get a call back from him until he came back home.

The body was hauled away and had been given a proper burial a few weeks after.  Al didn’t talk to me before or after the funeral.  After the funeral, I went back home.  Lighting a lamp, I walked around my house to see if everything was still in its place.  Then I started to smell roses.  I traced the smell to the front door and had opened it.  I looked around seeing nothing but a rose and a note at my doorstep.  I picked up the rose and opened the note.  It said, “Thank You.”

Categories: Fiction, Issue 1 - Fall 2011, Periodicals | Leave a comment

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