I understand that she’s not my wife. Not Anymore. I really, honestly understand that. But- she still is, ya know. Not in a delusional, I-can’t-let-her-go kind of way, but in a real, physical sense. That is her. Her body. Flesh and bone.
This disease may have robbed her of the many things that made her the woman I loved- her gentle smile, her sarcastic wit, her over-active emotional sensitivity, her saucer-like, chocolate brown eyes, the luxurious auburn locks, the way the flat of her tummy smells when she undresses after work to change into her “comfy clothes”.
No. This drooling, snarling, rotting, stinking beast before me is not my wife. That chewed off stump of a tongue wagging insider her mouth behind rotting teeth will never long to taste my mouth again. Those sickly, yellowed orbs, un-seeing, loosely set into her diseased skull will never look into my eyes with the same insatiable hunger, burning with desire and passion fueled by lust or love or alcohol (though they will certainly look at me with another kind of hunger. Predatory. Feral. Longing for a wet, fleshy embrace that I would not walk away from. Not human, anyway).
Yes even in death she still longs to taste my flesh. Even in death. I think I’ll be sick.
No. This hell creature before is not the woman I love. She will not shed tears after making love. She will not smile at me endearingly and rumple my crazy “bed head” hair in the morning (“Hey, stop that! I worked all night on that hair do!”). She will no longer laugh at my asinine, child-like antics or my charming, self-deprecating jokes. No longer squeal with delight when I bring home Starbucks Classic Coffee ice cream nor glare at me when I stumble in late from tossing bags and drinking cheap tappers down at Bud’s with Mark, Brad and Van.
A deep, exhausted, chest-collapsing sigh blows out between my teeth. My head rolls back and then slumps between my knees, resting on my palms. I do not cry. This is not my wife. I press the palms of my hands to my eyes. Brilliant white comets and a gay rainbow of fireworks erupt behind my eyes. I’m trying to push it all in. I let it All fade to black.
I have a head ache. One of those stress-tension headaches that starts in your neck and shoulders and settles into the base of your skull. A grinding, relentless headache. I realize I’ve been sleeping. Not for long. Never sleep for long any more. I roll my head back, tendons creak, neck crackles. What I wouldn’t do for some ibuprofen. Or a bed. Or a massage. My god, how can anyone sleep like that. I guess we do a lot of things that aren’t possible these days, don’t we? Terrible things, sometimes. Things that would certainly cause scream-inducing nightmares if you could sleep long enough and soundly enough to dream.
I look across the garage, dark save for a bare, sixty watt bulb suspended from the ceiling in a trouble light at the far end.
This is not my wife.
This is not my wife.
This is not my wife.
This is not my wife. There is no cure for this sickness that causes the dead to rise. To feast upon the flesh of the living. No cure for the insanity that drives the unread, in packs, to slaughter their neighbors and friends. To rip the flesh from the bones of their loved ones. Their children.
And then I do cry. Not like you’d think. Just a part of me cries. In the first days, there was deep, terrible, agonizing grief that would wrack me with uncontrollable sobs for hours, crying and sobbing until my eyes burned and snot covered my face and hands. No. Not anymore. My heart still breaks. Over and over and over and over against the inside for my hollow and empty chest, yet only a single, lonely tear traces a path through the dirt along my dirty cheek. It rolls down the cheek, along the jaw, to the chin. And then it drops down and “splats” onto my dirty shoe.
I look down at the pistol between my feet. Still not sure what I’m really going to do with it, although we really both already know, don’t we?
I look up again at the creature (not my wife) chained to the far wall of the garage. As if sensing that I’m looking at her (it) the moans intensify into hungry groans. Just like out of a George Romero movie, I think to myself. The hair on her head is matted and patchy, thick and dirty and stinking with dirt, vomit and congealed blood, crawling with insects. A gaping hole in her left cheek exposes more rotting teeth. Open, wet wounds on her right cheek, her forehead, chin, on her naked chest and belly (the smell of her flat belly as she undresses after work to change into her “comfy clothes”), shoulders, arms, legs- all oozing that stinking, brackish, yellow/green/white pus. The skin hangs from ragged holes in her flesh. Her groans intensify, her hunger growing.
Her rotting teeth clack together as she strains against her bonds. Teeth clacking together, now snapping at me from across the dimly lit gloom. That lust returns to those sickly yellow, blinded eyes. The hungry moans turn to groaning and growling, throaty, demonic sounds. She snaps at me with her clackety rotting teeth again and again, thrashing now against the chains that bind her. Her rotten wrists strain against the metal cuffs, tearing into diseased flesh, chunks peeling away to expose diseased bone beneath, bloodless, black bile. She strains harder, thrashing now, snapping still, with that wicked mouth. Her increased activity raises a stench in the garage of decomposing flesh and raw sewage and feces and vomit and she snaps her filthy mouth and retches into the air. Thrashing and thrashing, now screeches from the groans of hunger.
For a moment I see her as the woman I love, rather than a monster. She’s there. I can see her. Through rotting, diseased flesh, through the insane lust that causes her to thrash and snap even through that horrendous stench that now fills the garage. I see the woman I love, standing there shackled to the wall, filthy, once luxurious hair whipping back and forth as she thrashes again against her shackles, steel cutting into decayed flesh. Eyes, once a deep, arresting brown now yellow and sickly, wild, un-seeing, yet seething with rage and hunger, dart around her prison. Her graceful neck, now riddled with sores and infection, chords standing out like cables as she fights and thrashes. The firm curves of her breasts now sagging and wrinkled, mottled blue black flesh. Stomach torn open (I can almost smell her, undressing after work…), festering with sores, viscera bulging and writhing as she strains and snaps.
And yet I see her in there. Can you understand that? I can see her, dammit! Though she thrashes chaotically and lunges and snaps and bleeds some foul black bile, though her flesh tears and falls to the concrete floor in sickening, ragged chunks as she struggles, though her eyes are murder and her mouth longs for nothing but to sink its rotting, diseased teeth into my flesh and tear me asunder, though pus and bile spew from her every open wound, her rotten teeth still clacking, teeth snapping, snapping, SNAPPING!
And just then, something falls to the oily concrete floor at her feet, something small. I could barely hear the sound of it hitting the concrete over her thrashing and wailing, I can’t imagine what she could have heard, but she is suddenly quiet and seems to be looking at the floor near her feet. Surely she cannot see, but-
The suddenness of her stillness is haunting after the terrible thrashing and wailing. What is more terrifying is how serene and calm and- well…human, she suddenly seems. Her head tilts to one side and then to the other and as her shadow follows I see what has fallen to the floor. It is a tooth. One of her rotting teeth. She has clacked her jaws together so hard that she has broken a tooth off and it is this tooth that has suddenly drawn her entire attention in a way I did not believe possible.
I am again unnerved by her apparent serene, even contemplative stance. She seems suddenly aware of herself, of her surroundings. Her head wags back and for, back and forth, as if sampling some scent on the breeze. Her sightless eyes appear to look down her arms towards her shackled wrist, and then down to her feet. She seems to look around the dimly-lit garage as if seeing it for the first time, as if in awe.
And then she looks at me. I’m still sure she can’t see anything with those dead, yellow eyes, but I swear she’s looking at me, staring at me. I can see her teeth come together and I can see, through the hole in her cheek that she’s trying to probe the hole from her missing tooth with the stump of her tongue, can see her lips straining, her tongue wagging. She looks off, seemingly distracted by her efforts. Sickening as this is, it is remarkably human-like behavior and my heart suddenly breaks all over again and I miss her, I miss her so much.
She gives up the fruitless probing of her teeth with her ruined tongue and she’s looking at me again. A low moan escapes her ruined lips and it seems her hunger has turned to sadness, though this all must be my imagination, fueled by sleeplessness and pain and loss. And even as I struggle with this absurdity her face slackens further, her body gives up against the chains and she hangs there, spent, looking as worn as I and I swear, a single yellow, watery tear streaks down her ruined cheek from the corner of one diseased, sunken, yellow eye.
I can bear it no longer.
The flash and bang of the gunshot blinds me and deafens me.
That was not my wife.
That was not my wife.
That was not my wife.
ePidemICTURE 33: The Hand & The Head
6 years ago