Stained

Let's start this out right.

A short horror-fiction piece written about a year ago, for a Fiction course. Very sexual, for anyone reading this.

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I live alone in a small suburb of New York, surrounded by privileged white families that wear cashmere and mothers who keep their children on leashes during walks around the spiraling streets and cul-de-sacs with names like “Apple Way” and “Sunshine Court”. I comb black hair to the front of my scalp in an attempt to camouflage a withering hairline and the most expensive suit in my closet was bought for my Uncle’s funeral three years ago and was never stained with tears. My home on Woodland Drive is no different from the other dull models that fill the neighborhood, aside from one or two unruly bushes that curtsy onto the stone walkway. I do not watch children play through a break in the curtain of my bedroom window and there is no smeared, red attempt at escape on the inside of my front door.

While a degree in business did not shoot me to the top of the corporate latter, I did accept a customary position as a bookstore manager and have spent the last twelve years taking in the semisweet aroma of paper, ink and glue, and the last eleven pretending it is my priority. During that first year I met Gloria, a delicate looking girl who spent hours filing leather spines in the Horror section. Gloria was fresh, with a Bachelor’s and an interest in the macabre that fascinated me.

Although we barely spoke at work, we often watched documentaries together, squeezed side by side on the small leather couch in my muted living room, caught in our curiosities of the dead more than we were in each other; sometimes she told me her fantasies, when images of fleshy rot and severed limbs began to bore us. This was routine, until our relationship became sexual and tiny Gloria would beg me to hurt her. While reluctant at first, that year became a date-rape blur of blackouts and leather; Gloria would take the bus, hiring a leather corset beneath a cotton dress, and slink into my front door just after midnight, a look of business on her porcelain face.

I’d close my eyes and reach upwards, struggling through a tangle of thick hair until I met warm skin, then tracing the curve from her shoulders to her neck until I found my destination right below her jaw line. It became familiar, with two grooves that developed with time in the places where my thumbs rested each night.

The first few times began with a light push, the anxiety of thwarting her breath draining the strength from my fingertips. But the lack of pressure would turn her attention to me, and she would ungrip her thighs from my sides just long enough to cover my hands with her small ones, pressing my thumbs heard against her trachea. In these moments, Gloria was no longer delicate; she loomed over me, forcing what little I had to offer inside of her while I struggled to take it all away.

One evening, after three bottles of Shiraz and a struggle to the bedroom, my kitchen was dressed in maroon, two wine glasses stained at the stems and left abandoned on the counter. It began with the usual haze of teeth and nails, an impression of Gloria’s incisors left behind as she tore away from my bicep. We continued with accustomed force until Gloria suddenly stopped, quickly detaching herself; the abrupt crashing of our wave startled me, and for a moment I found myself thrusting upward, but only into the thick air of the bedroom.

“Get on top of me”, she managed between gasps.

As I quickly sat up she was already next to me, shoving me to the side of the damp bed with excited hips. I swung myself on top of her and looked down; her broad lips were coated in sweat and two strands of hair lay plastered across the top one like a mustache. I brushed them behind her ear as she grabbed my wrist and I tumbled inside of her, cradling my weight between my left arm and the stained sheets. My fingers found her neck and she closed her eyes, wrapping her legs around my back in approval. I had never handled her from above, and the power I was given in this position worried me.

Slowly I began to squeeze, careful to balance the majority of my strength in the opposing hand.

“Tighter!” she moaned, bear-clawing my chest.

My abs trembled and so did the arm that propped me up. My legs remained outstretched and slightly spread as I rocked in and out of the small space between her thighs. Gloria lifted her chin towards the ceiling and tightened the muscles that surrounded me, so I gripped her tighter until I felt her struggling to swallow beneath my palm. She choked out a small “yes” as I quickened my pace and leaned my face down into the puddle of sweat between her breasts. Slowly my left arm had began to shake, giving out under the pressure I had put on it, but I didn’t notice; my eyes were blurred with the salt that ran into them and my own deep pants crowded my ears. I dove into the odor of Gloria’s skin, my brain becoming hazed with sweat and spice.

It was in those next three minutes, when my own weight switched to the hand that I had clasped around her neck and I put the world on mute just so I could get off, that my life would begin to change. As I was preoccupied with the friction between Gloria’s legs, I mistook for pleasure the desperate heaves for air and scratches left on my back that broke skin.

After I finished I lay in a slump, my right cheek against her left breast. It took a few deep breaths of my own before I realized her chest was not rising and falling as mine did.

“Gloria?” I whispered.

Maybe she didn’t hear me.

I said her name a few more times, slowly, loudly, wondering if she had fallen asleep, although I knew she had not. I stayed there, one hundred and seventy pounds of dead weight suffocating her small frame, for several minutes, until I rolled off of her body and onto the bed beside her, my own blood inking trails into the pillowcase.

I did not look at her until I stood up, the chill of the oak floor stinging my bare feet. I moved to the farthest corner of the room before turning around to face the bed, as if I was going to be looking some very dangerous animal directly in the eye.

Gloria was not asleep. She lay with her arms spread out at her sides as a sacrifice of herself, and her eyes remained open and were suddenly too large for her skull. I stared at them until I was sure she was not going to blink.

Her red cheeks were now flushed to a dark purple and her mouth hung open to expose a dark slug that used to be her tongue, and had died trying to escape from between her lips.

I stood, frozen, trying not to move or blink or let my own breath be heard, certain that someone would hear me and come running to my bedroom, finding me exposed and still erect standing over a very naked and very dead Gloria.

I waited for the tsunami of panic to come hurdling down on me – it was surely the next step in these situations. I replayed the previous moments in my head as I waited, mentally scolding myself for my gluttony that had now left my girlfriend inanimate and me with a serious problem. These thoughts repeated in my mind, but the panic never came. Soon I found myself annoyed by her death rather than  upset; she left me with the need for an alibi, among other things that required immediate care to avoid my own possible demise.

In death, Gloria resembled some of the victims we had read about and seen pictures of: her green eyes were stuck in place with a look of permanent surprise, exaggerated by their bloating from her sockets. Her last view must have been of the ceiling, and the brown outline of a water stain that crept out from a corner of the molding. As I moved closer to the bed the only human feeling I cradled was sadness, but not at what I had done. Gloria was a pretty, young girl who had died beneath a stained ceiling and the sweat of an older man, choked to death in his carelessness and need for orgasm. I felt bad for her.

I threw on my boxers and a white t-shirt, not concerned about the open wounds on my back that would seep into the cotton. I did not bother to dress Gloria before I slid my hands beneath her, one at the middle of her back and one under her buttocks. She was already beginning to stiffen and I had to turn sideways in the doorway, so her legs would not catch on the frame. I struggled with her down the stairs and to the kitchen, planning only with each step. I laid her directly on the grey tile, not worried about a mess with no blood. I then scanned the room, hoping a plan would spring to life in front of me. I noticed the wine glasses first, standing just as we had left them hours before. I suddenly grew anxious, grabbing them by the stems, and flew to the sink, furiously scrubbing Gloria’s lipstick from the rim and her fingerprints from the rest of the glass.

I opened the cabinet beneath the sink and ran my hands through a mess of chemicals and paper towels until my fingers found a box of extra-large trash bags. Without the grace of an experienced murderer I placed one of the bags over her head, pulling it down to her navel; I pulled another over her feet, meeting the top of the first bag in the middle. I stood over Gloria, considering my work, before moving her to the basement. In most documentaries we had watched, it seemed the most popular place for the temporary storage of a body. As far as I knew, only Gloria and I knew of our relationship – I do not think an interest in whips and leather collars is something to be advertised.

Gloria remained in a far corner of the basement for several days, before I spread her over the grassy knolls of my New York suburb, using the first real prayer of my lifetime on the hope that this would make her harder to find. Officers did eventually come by with questions, but only because we had worked together; others had seen us putting books on shelves side by side but no one ever suspected that she kept my company each night.

I keep my fingers crossed each time the doorbell rings, but I am always left alone with memory of her smell and the scars on my back.

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2 Comments

Filed under Writing

2 responses to “Stained

  1. My sister and I were talking the other day about how different genres of writing have their own sets of basic parameters that fans are comfortable within, and non-fans may not quite understand. I’m not so familiar with the genre of horror on the page, though I’ve been interested in films like “The Ring” and others like it that creep me out and scare me in a way that I sort of like. (Is like the right word? 🙂 )

    Having been honest about that, I’ll just give you my basic impressions as a reader and hope I’m not missing something: Throughout your story I still see those vivid individual details that you use so well, though here they don’t seem to come together yet to make your scenes move in a cohesive rhythm. I think that’s only about the need for revision. You just need to go through this story to check for spelling and make sure you’ve used the best words and wording for what you want to say — you know, get under your story’s hood and work on it’s engine to bring in that poetic flow that a good story needs. (Even if it’s a rough poetic flow that you’re going after.) The revision process, in itself, will do wonders.

    Your characters felt like shadows of people who I don’t know and I feel distant from. Though I don’t think characters need to be likeable to be interesting, I have to feel like I know something important about them emotionally, maybe a glimpse of the emotional secrets they hide. The man reads like a person who may have a personality disorder, but the friction that would cause in his life is missing from your story, so I feel I may be wrong about that. (A character can have tons of backstory that isn’t itemized on the page, even though you can still make it add up to the same history in the reader’s mind.) Maybe some conversation between your characters, or even the man and the police, would have helped me.

    When your story ended, I found that I’d been waiting for a climax. For me, his discovering that he had killed her seemed to be telegraphed so early on (and he was so blasé about it) that I assumed something else would be brought into the mix — some emotion, realization or event — a monkey wrench that throws him for a loop.

    Well, I guess that’s enough from me for now. I think it’s wonderful that you’re posting stories and asking for feedback. Where would we be as writers without feedback from readers? If you want to ask me any questions about my reactions, please feel free.

  2. Re,

    Great feedback on this one, and I totally agree – this was another that I wrote about 2 years ago, so I decided to throw it in a post to see what others thought. (I should probably post something more recent, to show where my writing has gone since then. I do have some past entries with novel excerpts, which I’ll be showing more of soon.) There are chunks of this story that I enjoy, but you’re right, it is far too distant. It needs something for my readers to grab onto, to make them feel some sort of way about the main character. As soon as I realize a direction in which I want to move him, it will be revised and thrown in there somewhere. Thanks again. 🙂

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