Thursday, September 11, 2008


(photo courtesy of Reid Hawkins)

(start at the beginning)

Part Three

Sylvia could feel the damp residue clinging around her eyes from where she splashed her face and she imagined that her husband wasn't going to be happy about her appearance. He was probably already fuming over her abrupt departure earlier, though the thought of his concerns never entered her head as she fled from the roll in her belly and the ominous pressure of the shadows over their table. None of it mattered now because this night was over. The man that she married could wallow in his own slop for all she cared. She was leaving as fast as humanly possible.

She wiped at the wetness as if pushing away tears and once her vision came back to her, she was suddenly aware of the quiet in the room. Although the room had been far from full, she couldn't imagine that everyone had decided to leave at the same time. Besides, wouldn't other customers have arrived, seeing the notoriety of the place. Perhaps her husband's source wasn't as reliable as he imagined, at least when it came to suggesting restaurants.

The darkness of the room brought back the reason that she fled and she suddenly felt goosebumps rise up on her arms, though the room was far from cold. Something wasn't right and an uneasiness washed over her as she traversed the floor to her table. The broad light, that made the setting seem like a stage revealed only empty space and silence, so quiet that Sylvia heard the short gasp that burst from her lips. She was getting scared and there was no mistaking it, the restaurant was now vacant. For a moment she imagined that her husband was behind it all, that he'd set up some surprise party and all of her friends would jump out of the shadows to request the smile that came from the humor of a good joke. But there was no reason for such an occasion; no birthday or anniversary, no childhood acquaintances that she'd care to meet, and on top of it all, her husband didn't have the imagination to pull off such a blunder. No, this wasn't planned and she definitely wasn't in on the joke.

Sweat began to pour from the moist area beneath her arms as she wandered over to the front door. For the second time that evening, she had a frantic urge to escape into the night, push out into the cool night air and breath again. She realized that this muted pounding of fear, or panic, that was thrumming inside her right then was so heart-achingly familiar she thought that tears really would spring from her eyes. This need for flight had become second nature for her, a synthetic sheathing that encompassed her entire life, so natural that she forgot to name it. She'd grown a new skin the moment that she married that man and it buffered against all the sane feelings of walking right out the door. She swallowed a bitter lying pill that caused her to accept the curse of insanity, to live in a world that refused to give perspective to her heart, to make her believe all the terrible atrocities accepted and done to her name, to stiffen herrself in a thoughtless way against the leaden weight of a vicious and oppressing hand. The life that she knew, the society that held her sway, all of it but most distressingly, her unholy union, was horrendous!

Yeah, she should escape. She should walk right out that door. So that's what she did.

But the door was locked.

Her entire soul groaned. This was a test, that's the only way that she could deal with it. She'd always passed all of her exams and in order for her soul to come out sane was to harden herself to this task. Which wasn't so easy by the way, the locked door pushing her weakening mind toward some shadowy wormhole.

A sound came from a the kitchen making her turn abruptly, the tension in her shoulders flaring hot white. It sounded like someone may have dropped a metal spatula, a mundane occurrence in any normal culinary establishment but not here. It was more like the lightning slash of a knife that horror movies always tried to simulate. She suddenly felt like a young Jamie Lee Curtis, praying that she would make it through the night without some b-actor lopping her head off.

What could she do? Even though the audience screamed from their seats in rejected agony, there was really only one course of action left to her. She slowly walked over to the double-hinged swinging plastic door that led to the kitchen, each step raising her heart rate. She tried to peer through the circular plexi-glass window just above her eyesight, creeping up onto her tiptoes, but all she could see was fuzzy light, no movement. She pushed the door open so slowly that it seemed to take an eternity, every second lasting longer than the one before. It was no cliché, fear made every moment last forever. Yet, she didn't make a sound and once the door was open she could hear voices. She was sure that one of them was the waiter and her heart surge, though she didn't understand why? Because her sleuthing skills were second to none?

Then she could make out some of what they were saying.

“ him...should go back.”

“She must be out of the bath...can't afford mistakes.”

“...well done yeah.”

Laughter, lots of people were laughing.

“...go get her then.”

Sylvia's mind was racing. What the hell was going on? Where was her godforsaken husband? She was going to kill the sonofabitch but then it all began to dawn on her. She shouldn't be there. She just had to get out no matter what, her stupid husband be damned.

She heard footsteps coming toward her from the direction of the voices. She slid back out of the brightly lit room, still trying not to make a sound and turned quickly to go. Maybe there was a window in the bathroom that would let her out of this nightmare but she never made it back to that dank place. Instead, she walked straight into a fat man and for a brief instance relief flooded through her, although the feel of her husband had never given her such relief before. It was strange all right but the sense of joy that surged like electric current with the familiarity of her arms wrapped around him soon began to wane. Something wasn't quite right and a nagging truth seemed to hover in the back of her mind.

Then she looked up into the horrible face of the man who'd stared luridly at her when they entered the restaurant. He was definitely smiling at her with an evil smile now, so her initial instincts regarding his nature were absolutely true...and in his hand was a glistening butcher knife.

Sylvia was shoved gruffly by her nemesis into the kitchen. The man insisted on holding the knife to her throat the entire time like he was some natural villain. It actually felt hopelessly surreal to her and the jostling that caused the edge of the blade to push at her larynx was like a jagged little prank. Her senses became heightened and her body hummed. She felt weirdly serene like the knife had already released her, her second skin writhing on the floor behind, trailing from an opened vein. When they finally reached the others, she'd completely shed the burden of her existence and was lighter than ever.

Everyone was there, which was hardly surprising but the scene was almost a mockery to her eyes, though in the end it was exactly what she expected. The familiar aroma when they first arrived that evening, the sickness that overcame her, the well-known looks on the faces of the other patrons; it all told the same story. Here was the man she married, til death do they part, laid out like full course meal. He wasn't quite dead yet but they'd pinned down his limbs so that he couldn't move and stuffed his mouth with...what is that...oh my god!

Sylvia almost laughed out loud and some of the wicked faces hovering over her husband faltered. But Sylvia wasn't looking at them. She had noticed that her husband's eyes, such a soft steel blue, still had life in them. They were desperately pleading for her to do something and Sylvia began to search her inner strength for some means of escape, if that was humanly possible.

“I found her trying to escape.”

The dumbass holding the knife to her throat had such a flare for the absurd, didn't he?

The waiter stood forth.

“Well, now that everyone is accounted for, I think that we can finally get under way with th evening's festivities.”

One of the thin older women actually nodded her head and licked her lips for chrissakes! This was getting way out of hand. Sylvia tried to pull out of her captor's grasp but he held her tight.

“Whoa, Nelly.”

These guys were a riot. Sylvia was bubbling inside and she could feel an enormous strength building deep within her. She sensed it surging forth, like an alternate identity, super-hero style.

The woman who licked her lips leaned forward and ripped open her husband's shirt to reveal his patchy chest.

“Let her watch.”

His eyes widened dramatically and Sylvia yelped...well, it was actually a burst of laughter that she could finally no longer keep within her. She was losing it all right and they all leaned from her, except for the idiot who held her. She was a loose wheel, wobbling with crazy symmetry that was making everything that they planned fall out of sync. But the strength...the strength was coming forth also and for a brief instance, her husband saw it too and hope glimmered in his eyes.

The final straw, the one that was her ultimate saving grace was the thought of her husband lying on some cheap and tawdry bed with a lithe woman, thinking that he was the king of the world just because he had spooped. Sylvia could clearly see the woman's hand rubbing that same chest hair that stood nakedly forth in the kitchen of a restaurant down an alley that no one could really find, sizing him up for this very moment. She used him for his body in the same way that he had used her's...consumption.

Yep, that's the way that it must've occurred and Sylvia was convinced of it. It was that very vision that brought out the strength within her, a strength that she'd always felt but never had to use. One day, it would always come one day when absolutely necessary. Now, when the chef stepped forward sharpening a long carving knife, Sylvia finally released it.


Her voice was absolute power and everyone shuddered backwards from the force of it, even the beef that clutched her from behind stumbled. Her husband felt it too and it widened his eyes more than ever. She shocked him. She shocked the lot of them and then she was free, yanking herself from the bear paws that grabbed at her. They all stopped as she stepped forward and leaned toward her husband. The light in his eyes flashed hope once again. Was it possible that she could save him? Then he looked into her eyes, really looked and saw deep into her heart. Fear sprang forth abruptly once again in the soft sky beneath his puffy eyelids but it was even bigger than fear, it was panic...such an intimate panic that it caused a smile to creep over Sylvia's lips. It was he who was trapped after all.

She turned and looked at all of them, their ashen faces that didn't know what to make of her. Finally she stopped on the one who looked just like her husband, ultimately it was he who would understand. It was wicked, what had painted her face.

“I got dibs.”

The End

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