By Alex Severin
They call me all of these things, as if, somehow, I am not here any more, as if I, James, were somewhere else, out of earshot.
They all do it - my so-called friends, family, and the army of do-gooders that have sprang up around me like weeds and are just as welcome.
But I am still alive inside this shell. I still inhabit this husk they speak of.
My mind is pin-sharp - sharper than it ever was. My remaining senses are keener. Sounds are crystal-clear and amplified. My vision is 20/20. My sense of smell is like a bloodhound.
And I can still feel. I feel each blow from their pity-dripping words like a fist in my face. I can feel every moist-eyed stare and sorrowful look, every resigned sigh. I wish I could rise from this chair and slap all of those looks off their faces.
They seem to think I am deaf and blind, treat me as though I am retarded. That reminds me of a stupid thing we used to do to each other as kids - hey, say this fast...
We would roll about on the ground in fits of laughter making mongoloid noises at each other, bending our hands at the wrist and clamping them to out chests, sticking out tongues into the lower left of our lips. There but for the grace of God we went. Until now.
But the only thing that has changed about me is that I am unable to move, unable to communicate. I am still the same James inside here, still the same man they all claim to love and respect so damn much.
They are oblivious to the rage in my eyes. They can not see the anger that oozes out of my every pore. I hate each and every one of them for their blindness. If they would only look me in the eye, they would see.
I'm not a baby!
I'm not an idiot!
Hello! I'm over here!
I curse and rant at them from the confines of my skull, venom dripping from the sharp point of my tongue but the only sounds I can make are ridiculous guttural grunts. I remain silent now; any noise I make only reinforces their assumption that I am brain dead and magnifies the horror and the pity I can see reflected in their irises.
But there are fleeting moments when I am left alone and I cherish them. They are few and far between but I am as happy as I will ever be now when I am here by myself.
Suzie always adored me and she's a permanent fixture in my apartment now. I know she loves this, this situation. She revels the fact that she is my keeper now, that she has to wash me and dress me and change my catheter and my colostomy bag. She gets off on the power that she has over me now. She enjoys it. She is glad that this happened to me. She enjoys playing wife and mother and nursemaid. This suits her just fine. And I hate her for it. And I hate her for the things she does to me behind closed doors when there is no audience to spectate her martyrdom.
Occasionally she runs errands and leaves me alone her for a short while. Before she goes she wheels me over to the window and pats me on the head like an old dog.
Wipe that self-satisfied smirk off your face, bitch.
Shut the door behind you. Careful it doesn't hit that fat ass of yours on the way out.
Oh, and don't come back now, y'hear?
By the window looking at her.
Each time I see her I can almost feel the warmth from the light that I know must shine out from my eyes.
I saw her before all of this happened but never really paid her much attention. But now, now, she is my obsession. Now she is my life. She is my first waking thought. She is the last thing I think about at night. She is every other thought in between.
Before, she was not attractive to me - not at all - but now, now she is a goddess. She is everything a woman should be. She is a vision of imperfect and flawed beauty. And that fact - her flaws and her imperfections - are what makes her the ultimate specimen of womanhood.
I know that she knows she is nothing special to look at. I also know that there is nothing false about this woman, nothing fake or plastic; she rarely even wears make up. And I know that she would never suspect she was the center of a man's universe, my universe, the stuff of my desires. She never closes her curtains, never even crosses her mind to - she would never have the conceit to think that anybody would want to spy on her. This is what makes her such a delight to watch; this woman is unaffected and natural. She is the essence of all that is woman, and all that a woman should be.
She is right across the street. Yards away. So close. I am Tantalus stuck in the waters of Hades, tormented by this feast of ripened fruit, ready to be plucked from the vine and devoured...but always just out of reach.
And here she is again. Right on cue. Perfect timing.
She enters her apartment and kicks off her shoes, leaves them where they fall. Shrugs off her coat and leaves it where it lies on the floor behind her. She heads for the bedroom and undresses as she goes, scattering her garments about the place.
The shower in her en suite bathroom is directly opposite the door which she never closes. I can see the setting sun glinting on the clear glass shower stall illuminating her wet skin.
I watch her in fascination as she lathers up her firm skin and luxuriates in the touch of her own hands on her body.
I wonder what her skin smells like; lavender and roses, I fancy. I inhale deeply as if I can smell her scent in the air around me. My God, if only.
As I watch her I wonder what she would have thought of me if we had met before this. I'm sure she would have been quite taken with me. I know I would not have had the slightest interest in her. She would have been far too plain to be afforded the privilege of draping herself around my arm. A girl like that would have ruined my reputation.
And what would she think now? I'm sure I would see the same pity in her eyes that I see from my friends and family and complete strangers. I know I would see the same horror. I know I would see the same I'm-so-glad-it's-not-me looks that no one can hide and every one thinks I haven't enough sense left to interpret.
Would she think about what it would be like to have sex with me now? Would she wonder what it would feel like to make love to a shell, a husk, a vegetable? Do they all think about that? I know that when I happened across somebody like me before, I would look at them and wonder that very thing. Human nature. I remember the look in their eyes too - the same look that stares back at me when I catch a glimpse in a mirror or a reflective surface - fury and bitterness.
And what if I had been different then? What if I had stopped for one second some day as she and I passed each other down in the street? What if I had talked to her a moment and got to know her? Got to know somebody? Anybody?
Where are all my flesh-covered trinkets now? Where has all the eye-candy gone? Where are they? They are gone. Moved on. What use am I to them these days? No use. What could I possibly do for them now? Nothing.
My own insincerity and former fatuousness bother me now. Yeah, a bit too late, I know. I wish I had fallen in love. I wish I had somebody with me now to look after me, somebody who loves me and would never leave me.
But I have Suzie.
Suzie's love for me got twisted up inside her. Her nurse act is her revenge for so many years of unrequited love and ridicule. I know how many times she overheard me talking about her to the others. I know how many cutting remarks she absorbed. I know each and every mocking laugh I aimed at her, and she caught them all. She wears so many scars I gave to her. I know all of this because she tells me. And she knows that I can hear her. She knows I am in here. She knows that I am not the shell she has told everybody that I am. She knows everything.
All of this is payback and I know that I deserve each and every one of the little tortures she hands out to me. I know what I did to her now. And although I despise her, I know I deserve her abuses. I can see the Devil shining in her eyes, the satisfaction in her cruel smile when she wheels me over to the window before she leaves, shuts the door behind her then comes back in and closes the curtains in front of me so that I can't see her. To me this is the ultimate cruelty, to take from me the only moments of joy I have left in my life.
Sometimes I want her to rob me of my sanity but my nature compels me to fight on, fight against it. Sometimes I will myself to die, to just cease to be, to become nothing. But the husk is strong. The shell is resilient. And what lies inside them is purgatory.
This is all my fault. My unfortunate accident was my comeuppance from God, the Devil, whoever, whatever, for my cruelty and my vanity and my excesses.
I made the bed I now lie in, I am chained to, nailed to like a cross to bear for my sins.
(Alex Severin is widely published on the Web including Fangoria, The Dream People, Short, Scary Tales, Suspect Thoughts, Ophelia's Muse, House of Pain, Bloodfetish, Brutal Tales and Death Grip, & Horror Quarterly to name just a few. Alex's work has appeared in various anthologies and magazines including Peep Show #1 & 2, Chaotic Order #15 & Chaotic Order #16, Cthulhu Sex magazine #14, Femmes de la Brume, ChimeraWorld, Chim & Her, Spidered Web, Ghostbreakers, Scary Holiday Tales to Make You Scream, Hell Hath No Fury. She was co-author of BoyFistGirlSuck, the controversial collaborative collection of deviant erotica with Hertzan Chimera. You can review more of her work at www.alexseverin.com.)
© Alex Severin 2003 (Revised 2004)
Labels: Alex Severin, Fiction