Julie still has many of her things packed in the boxes by the door. Only her bare essentials for day to day life are out and about the apartment. Her mementos have just had to wait. We’re both really busy with school and work right now, and haven’t had the time to allocate them amongst my own belongings just yet. We should get to them sooner or later. There’s plenty of time.
I’ve never been so happy as I’ve been these last few days since Julie moved in. It just made so much sense. We are in love. I’m certain of it. Her long brown hair, the soft white skin, the frame of her body that is a thrill with every touch. Now so close to me that all I need is to roll over in bed and she is there. It’s such a comforting feeling.
To have her here, sitting casually around the place, in a chair by the window where she likes to read. She’ll lounge there for hours in her bathrobe in the morning while I sit at the desk across the room working. She’s as quiet as a mouse, knows that I need to concentrate on my work. The most I’ll hear from her is the flip of a page or the clearing of her throat. But that does not distract me any more than the traffic out the window or a breeze whipping down the avenue does.
We make love all the time. It is amazing how much better sex can be when it is not sporadic. We are learning so much about each other. How she likes to be kissed on the back of her neck, how I like it when she presses down in my back with her fingers. And so much more than that. The level of pleasure is a constant increase each evening above and beyond the last.
It is going to be wonderful for her to be here. To get to learn her every move and idea and part of her soul. To share and learn form each other. Together here in this shared life. Forever.
Things are settling down between us. We have been slowly growing more and more used to each other being there in the apartment. Growing accustomed to each others whole lives, and schedules, and little quirks. I’m learning and coming to see things about her that were I hadn’t seen before.
It was Julie’s turn to cook tonight. I sat on the couch and watched the news while she was busy in the other room. Slowly I could sense some strange, nasty odor. At first it was only the merest of smells, barely on the rim of my notice. But it got stronger quickly. First I thought it might be some dank smell from the couch itself, perhaps a piece of moldy food or an ancient bit of fish that had slipped between the cushions was finally making itself known. But it was too strong to be that. I realized that it was whatever Julie was busy frying in the kitchenette behind me. I wrinkled my nose at it. It was horrible. A smell of rancid, muddy decay of some vile and wicked substance.
I asked Julie what she was cooking, glancing back her way behind me. She didn’t answer. Probably couldn’t hear me over the sound of the hissing food. I turned fully around in my chair, and was about to ask her again, but stopped as I saw her busy over the stove shaking the frying pan vigorously. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. She hadn’t liked the fish I made a few nights before—I could tell from how she picked at it. She had been kind enough to keep quiet though. I felt that I should try to be as good.
I walked over to the window and opened it wide. It was cold outside, a brisk winter evening. I took a few breaths of clear air as I stood there for a second before walking back to the couch. The open window did a little good. But that smell still was strong.
She brought dinner to the small table and called me from where I sat. I walked over very precariously to eat. Down in front of my chair was a strange concoction, like nothing I had ever seen before. I can’t even really describe what it was. It leaked a small puddle of velvet ooze on the plate that congealed as I watched it.
I tried my best to get through the smell that was ten times worse now as the thing was on the plate in front of me. But the taste was just as bad. Even worse. I nearly wretched the moment it hit my lips. Julie didn’t seem to notice. I tried blocking my nose so I wouldn’t taste it as I chewed, but the constitution of the thing was horrible, like moldy porridge with bones.
Julie was inhaling her portion of it with vigor. She looked up at me. A little of the velvet ooze was dripping down the side of her chin in a slow trickle. She smiled, taking the napkin and smearing it across her chin in a sick trail, and went on eating, chewing loudly, the crunching sound making me shiver to the bone.
I tried to get through the whole meal. I really did. But in the end I just had to quit after a few bites. I told her that I wasn’t hungry, wasn’t feeling well, that I was going to go lay down. Which I did. I only got up now in the middle of the night, Julie still asleep in the other room, to eat some leftover rigatoni from a few days ago. As I did I saw that horrible food that I had left on my plate in a Tupperware container on the shelf. The see through plastic sides were smeared velvet.
She has tried to cook that thing again a few times. I wouldn’t eat it, told her that it just didn’t suit me that much. It didn’t seem to bother her. I just cook myself something small when she wants it. She calls it some odd name that I can’t pronounce, don’t really want to know anyway. Russian, maybe. Perhaps Chinese.
Still, I can’t eat well with that in the room. The smell is unbearable. I always finish my food quickly and then take a shower right away, leaving the window open in the kitchen to give the air time to ventilate.
Julie voice has been getting raspy. She wheezes heavily all the time, especially when she’s sleeping. She says she’s fine. But I’m getting worried. She is seeming to get paler these days. And thinner. She was never large, but it is odd how much skinnier she is now. She eats well, though. And I have never caught her being sick, even as I have recently been trying to, listening at the bathroom door for any sounds of heaving. So thankfully she isn’t bulimic, but I don’t know what it is. All I can do is try to keep an eye out for whatever it is that is doing this to her. I love her.
I am starting to get worried. Julie has almost no meat left to her at all. Her ribs jut out from her chest like a cage of steel. Her hips are gone, leaving her pelvis showing ugly from her legs. Her once rounded face is a skull now. Her eyes are getting very deep into her brow, that juts out like a helmet. They look out like two menacing little weasel eyes. It is hard to see her smile. Her face turns into a demonic death mask, her thin lips baring her teeth that are getting crooked and black.
Her skin is barely visible. Sometimes when I look at her from the right angle to the light, I almost can see the cartilage, bones and veins underneath. She is losing color fast. I don’t see how she can be alive like that.
We don’t talk anymore. I can’t understand her. Every time I say something to her she smiles and speaks, yet all that comes out is a wheezing, whispering type of sound that I cannot understand. I gave up last week. Now we only communicate through gestures if at all. That voice sounds so deathlike.
But she’s alive, just as alive as ever. She walks and talks just as enthusiastically as she always did. Never gets winded from exertion or is frail at all. And she is still eating all the time. And always that horrible food. She never bothers to cook anything else other than that globular mass of filth these days. I can’t even be in the room when she makes it. The kitchen smells of it all the time now. I try to be out of the apartment altogether when she eats, and rarely go into the kitchen at all.
And it’s always on her breath. It is so hard to make love to her now. A chore. Every time I kiss her and taste her mouth I want to cringe into a little ball. I can barely bring myself to touch her, doing nothing more than the barest minimum of lovemaking. I try to be gentle, worrying that with any move of real passion that I would break her ever thinning body in two. But she is getting more active and animated. She literally bounced off the bed when she thrusts, grunting and rasping in what I can only guess is pleasure as she does not stop. She writhes her skeleton of a body on the bed below me moaning in a way that makes me want to run away. But I stay.
Even sleeping next to her and her cancerous wheezing voice is getting to me. But I have to endure all this. I love Julie, with all my heart, and I have to be patient. She would do no less for me, I am sure.
Her skin is completely see through now. Only around her lips and her hair can I see even the slightest hint of it. I can see the flesh of her underneath within the soft white haze that is left of her color, the cartilage and bones that stick out through the already thin layer of muscle that is barely there. Her eyes are two expressionless white orbs that bounce around on her head aimlessly, as the color of her irises has drained as well. I can see the veins in her arms and neck and elsewhere quite clearly, I can watch them pump blood from her heart, thankfully still hidden from me. If I look close enough I can even see the blood pulse to the muscle in a wash, feeding nutrients throughout her body as she flexes and relaxes.
She’s eating other things now. Little wiry black things. Covered in a thick oily sauce of some kind. It smells like vomit. She makes herself a whole plate of them, heaped together like rotten french fries. She picks them up one at a time and drops them into her mouth from above, and I can see the whole process of swallowing. I do not want to.
She comes to me at night. And I cannot refuse. Making love to her goes beyond a chore now. I try to keep my eyes closed the whole time, and I can try to pretend that she is not what she is, but I cannot help but look from time to time. When I look she is below me writhing in place more than ever before, yelling and screaming with a harpy wail. Her muscles expand and contract under me. I can see the blood rushing around in her body as her heart beats faster and faster, washing over her cheeks, where her skin would turn red with delight if not invisible. The small collection of muscle tissue that are her breasts tensed and stiff. I have to turn away and cry. She thinks it’s out of pleasure.
We made love last night. Now she sits at the window behind me while I write this down. She is always quieter the day after, being happy and satiated. But her rasping wheezing breath is so loud that I can barely concentrate. I want to scream. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. But I still love her. I do.
She doesn’t have skin anymore. It dissolved. When she touches me I feel the grainy textured tendons and muscles, the bones of her fingertips. Sometimes she faces me for a long time before I even realize she is smiling at me. It makes me cringe.
Her hair has fallen out too. One day it was all gone, clogged into the shower sink. It was the only thing she had left that had not changed yet. But without skin to hold the follicles in, it fell out, baring her cracked and stained skull.
She doesn’t bleed. All her veins and muscles are dry and stiff. She sounds like grinding rock and leather when she moves.
Her eyes have gone completely milk white. I can only see her pupils if I look real hard underneath the dried out glaze. Sometimes it’s hard for me to realize she’s looking at me.
I will not watch her eat anymore. I don’t want to see what it is that she makes and eats. The food all smells putrid. The apartment reeks of sickness all the time. Sometimes the food squeals in pain.
And still we make love. I am nearly sick the whole time. She is rough and coarse, and rips at my skin with friction. But her grip is strong and won’t let me stop sometimes. It’s horrible. But it’s all I have anymore. I don’t want to talk about it.
She’s getting new skin. I can tell. At first I thought that it would be good for to get new skin. That it would be better. But it is a sick thing, her new skin. It is gray, and stiff, bulbous at places. Her forehead has a giant welt on the left. And there are warts all over. She smells horrible.
She has claws now. Twisted little shards of callused skin at the end of each of her fingers. They rip into me, leaving scratches.
Her voice has turned into something high pitched and evil. It cackles at claws at my ears as she sits at the window reading. I think it’s supposed to be a laugh. And her breathing is a low moan at all times. Excited and raspy in bed. She claws at my back there and has gotten more animated, more strong.
The other day she ate something I can’t even think about. I could hear it screaming and yelling from the bedroom where I was resting. I do not want to know what it was. But she ate it. There was a loud sound of cracking bones from the kitchen. And afterward she walked through the doorway and looked down at me, smiling.
I work really late into the night, so I can fall asleep on the couch out here in the living room. It’s too small for me, but I cannot sleep well with Julie grunting and groaning all the time, and the breathing makes me want to die.
She comes and gets me me when she wants to make love. I can’t fight her off.
Her meals are always screaming now. I hide in the bathroom, run the water in the sink and the shower, and turn on the overhead fan. I can still hear them. They are loud and very frightened. And sound very large. I barely eat at all anymore.
After her meals she still has its blood smeared all over her. Her skin is thick as steel scales now. Her head is malformed, large bumps and contusions litter her. Velvet ooze leaks from many places in her forehead. Her eyes are white and dead orbs in her face. Her mouth is crooked and deformed from the wicked teeth that jut out precariously. She looks insane. And she looks at me. Smiling.
She makes me make love to her now. Doesn’t even bother to try to coax me. She is stronger than I am. She holds me on top of her and in her and digs her claws into my back, my head, and forces my face down to her sickly breasts and makes me kiss them, run my tongue along the ooze and scales that taste like ashes and acidic mud. I want to retch. I nearly do. I wonder in the back of my mind whether she would even notice.
And after she looks at me again. Smiling. I do not like it. She looks hungry.
* * *
I don’t have long now. I can hear Julie’s in the kitchen, belching and screaming things that I wish I didn’t understand. I know it won’t be long now.
Last night was painful. She gashed open my side with her hand. White lightning coursed up my spine. And it bled terribly. I wanted to stop, because every move of my body sent another rush of pain through me, but Julie seemed not to have even noticed it had happened. She kept going on, and on, and simply would not stop. I blacked out before she finished.
And when I awoke it was much later, the sun was nearly up, the calm morning rays of dawn hit the wall across from the window. The gash in my side had not been bandaged, and dried blood was everywhere on the bed. I felt very weak. Behind me I could hear Julie moaning and screeching. I turned over to look at her. She was fast asleep. And there was blood on her lips. My blood.
So I ran into the bathroom and slammed the door behind me. I bandaged my wound as best as I could, and then passed out from weakness. A few hours later I could hear Julie’s thudding steps walking around in the apartment. She made some evil noises. The door didn’t have a lock, so I pressed my back against it to keep it closed. I heard her stand outside the door and tensed. She tried the knob. It twisted back and forth as she tried to open it. I put all my weight into keeping it closed. Soon enough she gave up with a grunt, and walked away. I knew she would be back.
All day I’ve been in and out of consciousness, hiding in here. It will do no good. I’m too weak to keep her out. She was only curious before.
She’s back at the door now, turning the knob, pushing against it, screeching and howling out there. I’m bracing myself as well as I can, sitting on the floor with my back on the door and straining my legs against the sink. But I don’t have anywhere close to enough strength to keep her out.
You must understand. I just couldn’t leave. I love her. Through all the pain and ugly things that she is, I always did. Still do. I couldn’t leave her. I wish to God I could, but I just couldn’t. She’s all I have in this world. My one true love. Deep down, I know she still loves me too. I couldn’t stand to be with out her. To be alone.
The door’s cracking now. The upper part of it bends every time she pushes. Little splinters are falling on me. I have very little time left now. I wish it had never come to this. She won’t be kept out long.
A.T. Sayre has been writing in some form or other for over three quarters of his life. From plays to poems, screenplays and teleplays to prose, he has tried his hand at pretty much every form imaginable. Recently he has come back to his first love, short stories. His most recent publications have been in Abstract Jam, The Scarlet Leaf Review, Literally Stories, and Phantaxis.
You can find links to each of these on the fiction page of his personal website at www.atsayre.com/fiction.
Raised in New Hampshire, he lives in Brooklyn and likes to read in coffeehouses.