the grudge

July 28, 2009 at 2:55 am Leave a comment

Killing her seemed like a reasonable thing to do. He closed his eyes and imagined various torture sequences, all of them ending in scenes of such utter depravity that he couldn’t help but chuckle.

He sat up, the brown walls of his room greeting him. The clock on his VCR read 2 am. He felt restless. It occurred to him that he could, if he wanted to, walk to her hotel, do the deed and be back home in time to wash up for work. If he really wanted to.

He really wanted to.

Feet slid into runners, hand reached for keys. He collected the knife on the way out. The stark summer night clung moistly to his skin. The streets were empty, mostly, aside from the occasional drunk. Their eyes as he passed them reminded him of forgotten tombstones. He wondered what his eyes looked like.

The hotel clerk was young, red-haired, and barely polite. “It’s late,” he said, “Is she expecting you?”

“It’s early actually,” he’d retorted, “and no she’s not expecting me. But she’ll see me anyway.”

There was an awkward silence as the clerk weighed his options. Finally, he picked up the phone. Dialed her extension.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. P—, for disturbing you…” he began.

She didn’t mention the time. It was disarming, he had to admit, the way she stood there, a look of desperate gratitude etched into her ageing face.

“Don’t cry, mother,” he pleaded. But it was too late. She cried into his shoulder, pulled him closer in search of an embrace. He gently pushed her away.

She invited him in, apologized nervously for the unmade bed, asked him if he would like to sit down. The bathroom. He told her he would be right back.

The cold water trickled down the sink toward its dark center. The water went from transparent to pink to red, then turned black. She called his name, asked if he was alright — he’d been in there so long. Did he want her to order something to drink perhaps, or maybe he was hungry? He blinked. The water was clear again.

His long slender fingers pressed against the sink’s spotless enamel until the skin underneath his nails blanched. The sink cracked and crumbled like stale birthday cake, littered the floor. He reached for the door knob but it broke off in his hand and clanged to the ground.

“Let me out,” he cried. But his voice sounded strange, inhuman. Like a zipper opening and closing. He tried again but what came out was a squeal, like a dog whose tail had been stepped on.

He decided that he was asleep. This comforted him. He settled in the bathtub, rested his head against the wall, waited for his mother to wake him. She would wake him. A mosquito landed on his knee. He flicked it away. The mosquito came back, landed on his hand, stared up at him with familiar eyes.

“Why do you want to kill me?” it said. It sounded just like his mother. He blinked. He wasn’t in the bathroom at all. His mother lay in a pool of blood at his feet. From her stomach protruded a knife-handle. His knife-handle. Her eyes glowed like dying embers. “Why?”

“Because you never loved me,” he sighed. It occurred to him that he sounded like a cliché. He hated sounding like a cliché. But it was too late for self-pity. He had other things to think about. Like that he was feeling nauseous.

The hotel clerk sounded unconvinced. “You stabbed her?”

“Yes, and she needs help. Medical attention.” He tried to sound scared, tried to convey a sense of urgency. It wasn’t working.

He dropped the receiver and headed for the door. It was only a matter of time before they’d stop him. He walked down the stairs into the lobby. The hotel clerk was casually conversing with a newly arrived customer. Had the clerk even bothered to call the police? An ambulance? No matter; he’d done what he could.

He made it home without incident. No one seemed to notice his blood-stained hands and shirt. No one seemed to care. They would come for him tomorrow, surely. But the next day no one came. Nor the day after that.

He began to wonder if he’d dreamed it all. A bad dream. Maybe that’s all it was. No one was hurt. Heck, maybe his mother hadn’t even called him a few days before all of this to tell him she was in town and would he meet her at her hotel. It was the first time they’d spoken in ten years. Maybe they hadn’t spoken at all.

The next day an obituary appeared in the paper. It was his mother’s. No mention of how she died. No mention of him either.

He became terrified of leaving the apartment, of the phone ringing, of the phone not ringing, of being alone in the dark, of walking outside in the light surrounded by the incessant insect-like hum of the city.  He thought of turning himself in but became terrified of police stations.

He no longer slept. And when he did, the night filled with images of giant red mosquitoes perched on his bloodied hands. They stared at him with his mother’s glowing eyes, asking him incessantly why. He was too terrified to reply.


Entry filed under: Fiction.

A walk down memory lane my life in South Africa

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