's 2013 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by Christopher Wolf

I want to give you a sense of how small the room was.

I could easily tell you the dimensions, but that wouldn't suffice. I would much rather say the room was entirely claustrophobic... a rigid, tight space never meant to be inhabited for longer than it took to put a meal on the stove.

The cabinets with their mostly bare interiors and cracked, flaking white paint, lined the walls at head-height. This further restricted the space, as a wall of identical boxes staring one in the face tends to create a feeling of a second, inner wall that prevents one from moving in any position save for striaght of spine, arms at sides.

It gave the impression of being inside a large mouth, its white teeth ready to close upon one's head.

Still, for whatever reason, we had put a table at the center of this non-room. Thin and worn, this pale wooden island within a puddle had been the bane of my existence since its appearance.

I say "we" put it there, but you know full well it was her.

No matter how many times I caught my toes on that thing, no matter how often I backed my chair out only to strike the oven door with a jarring CLANK... no matter how much I threatened to remove that damned useless relic... her response was the same.

A smirk. A roll of the eyes. A shake of the head as she'd turn and leave the room.

I felt like a bear, wary of the razor-toothed TRAP set for me, every time I attempted to retrieve even a bowl of cereal.

So I was already more than uncomfortable when I found myself sitting across from HIM at my four-legged wooden albatross.

"So you're back."

I started the conversation with a statement rather than a question. I knew that this unforseen and annoying reunion would progress whether I participated or not.

"Yeah," he settled in his seat, as best he could, "Yeah, yeah. I... I had to come by, you know? At least once..."

He was rain-soaked across his lengths, and to his depths. In that moment, the remaining hair on his head almost seemed comical. Like some two-dimentional, painted-on touch applied to a very unfunny clown.

"She doesn't even talk about you, you know."

As I had anticipated, silence fell into place behind my expertly placed barb. I leaned back in my chair, mentally catching it before contact with the surface behind me. I could feel my face go smug, that look of hooded eyes and upturned mouth... it was an expression that came naturally to me.

"I guess she wouldn't." He cast his eyes to his hand, muddied and scratched from what must've been a harrowing journey that night.

I hadn't even noticed it was storming until a crack of thunder brought me out of the novel I had been reading. After a matter of seconds, a knock at the door had drawn my from my chair, my Merlot, and had me cursing God himself as I made my way to the front door.

Now, here he was.

What did she ever see in him? Some timid little sliver of a man, probably as skinny and slouched in his pants as he appeared sitting before me.

"She's not here, is she?"

"No. She's gone to the city. She won't be back for days."

Upon hearing this, he met my gaze once more. If he expected some sort of show of sympathy... a tilt of the head or a cluck of the tongue, even a softness in my eyes... he did not find it.

"You went to a lot of trouble, coming out tonight. Funny you should miss her. Why, had you been a few hours earlier... a little more fleet of foot... you'd be sitting across from her right now."

I smiled.

He pursed his pale, mealy lips and whimpered.

"Can you give her a message for me?" He asked, his voice coming out in a certain sort of begging noise I'd only heard from dogs.

"Of course."

He thought for a moment, rubbing his shoulder absently and looking about the room as if searching for someone with at least one half of a brain to lend him some insight.

"The message." I insisted.



"I don't know. I don't know what to say to her, it's been so long."

"Well, you've had all that time to think, correct? Time to form your thoughts, to consider and reconsider past events several times over..."

"Yes, but..."

"Come, now. Out with it. I'm sure you already know what to say."

I felt a bit like the boy's father. I call him "boy" when in fact I very well knew we were the same age. It was one of the first things she'd told me about him - how we were the same age, and yet I was clearly a man while he'd remained a child in the decades he'd known her.

"Tell her I'm sorry about how it ended. That... if I could go back and change it, I would. Leaving was the biggest mistake I ever made, and I'd do anything to get her back..."


I pushed back my chair and stood, a clear signal.

"I'll tell it to her exactly as you've told me."

I would tell her nothing.

"Thanks! I hope she understands!"

He smiled at me, and I felt no greater desire than to strike him. He seemed to have that general look about him - the ruddy, bedraggled appearance of some glassy-eyed tramp who forces his horrid appearance upon you in order to beg some pitance. Some mockery of what a man should be, who no more deserves charity than a boot on the neck.

He stood, and though he shook, I was proud of my ability to resist offering him any sort of assistance. Instead, I placed my hand to his back, feeling his pathetic, curved vertibrae through his threadbare jacket, and ushered him toward the door.

"Farewell, friend," I struck him on the back simply to hear the jarring of his bones, "I do hope this storm gives you a moment's rest before your trip is through."

"Might I stay?"

The dreaded question.

"Ohhh, I don't know," I shook my head, stroked my chin, and wasted no energy considering the proposition, "We've only the one bedroom, and I'd hate to see you on the couch. It's only that she likes things so neat, you know. Everything in it's place, and God help me if a stray stain is discovered."

"Right, right..." he stood in the open doorway and, as a final imposition, waited there for full moments, staring out into the sheets of rain.

"Off you go!"

A necessary shove, and a slam of the door. I did not spare a second before switching off the porch light.

When she returned, I would give her a spectacularly boring account of that week. Nothing will have happened, nothing out of sorts, and certainly not a visit from her first love.

If there was one thing that played upon my mind, one question that would pop in now and again before her return... and I'm not saying it bothered me all that much... it would have to be the image of him unthinkingly stroking his shoulder.

Then again, he seemed the type that did many things unthinkingly.

I wonder if he knew. If he could feel the arm was gone. If, by massaging the rotten, gaping shoulder, he was trying to bring it to my attention in order to gain my empathy.

Frankly, if the face hadn't done it... that thin-lipped, pale face with skull poking through paper-thin flesh... if I hadn't immediately offered him my sympathies at the sight of the matted, wet hair clinging to his otherwise bare skull cap, then the arm was surely nothing I that would tug at my heart strings.

I have no idea what she ever saw in him.

Even as I had once stood over him, knife in hand and blood spilling from so many brand new orifices in his awkward, lanky form... I felt nothing for him. No sense of what made him any different from a dog.

He'd left her house that night over some meaningless spat, and I'd overheard through a cracked window. It was one which had previously been for viewing only. How clever I was, to use this to my advantage. To remove the boy and take his woman just because I felt like I might want her... a fancy toy you only notice while another child is playing with it.

It was obvious now that he'd never even seen my face, and as far as he knew the hand of God himself had struck him down that night. I wouldn't necessarily disagree, mind you.

No, she would know nothing of his visit once the clots of mud and discarded flesh were cleaned from the white tile floor.

Ha ha! God help me if a stray stain is discovered!