No 102. The last house on the street, separated by thick woodland to the left and an old tin shed to the right. Most of the neighbourhood stayed away. They knew the Talbot’s. Arthur Talbot was a cantankerous old fool who chased the kids off his land with his shotgun or threatened them in the street with a baseball bat come Halloween. His wife seemed less of a problem, but she hardly left the house and seemed genuinely scared of her husband. No one could blame her.
She stood in the kitchen looking out into the garden. She really must fix that gaping hole she told herself. The day looked cold and a pale sun cast silvery threads across the makeshift grave. Pouring water into two China blue cups, she added milk, then placed them on a small wooden tray.
‘Here we go.’ Handing her husband his cup of tea, she shook her head when he flat out ignored her. ‘You and these films.’ She should be used to his moods by now.
Frank had an obsession with westerns. They bored her to death.
‘I have got a bag of sweets and some fruit for the children later.’ She got up and rifled through a dusk covered plastic bag on the sideboard. ‘Look, lollipops, chews, some fizzy bottles too.’
Frank said nothing.
At midnight, Marjorie locked the door. It had been a quiet night. Disappointing.
The letterbox rattling interrupted her train of thought. No one could be out there now. Surely. Not at this time.
Opening the door, she peered out into the dark.
She couldn’t remember a night when the dark felt this impenetrable. There was a moving denseness to it. She put her hand out and the cold curled itself around her wrist.
She squinted. She could make out the wooden gate at the end of the path, the outline of their old car on the drive.
The gate squealed. Marjorie shuddered. Called out a tentative ‘hello.’
No one answered. She called Frank. He didn’t answer either. How could he just ignore her she fumed.
The gate closed with a soft thud.
The mist above the trees seemed to be getting worse, thicker and more opaque. It seemed to billow like the thick smoke from a industrial fire.
Her heart leapt in her chest as a figure loomed ahead.
‘Frank. Frank, please.’
Marjorie looked into the hall and back out at the emerging figure. She felt sick. She wanted to close the door. Instead, clung with grey knuckes to the door frame.
He limped towards her. Took her in his arms. His breath felt so cold, like deadly razor cuts on her skin.
Her heart chattered in her chest.
There was a dreadful smell of rotting meat.
Half-formed memories flooded her mind.
‘Why are you out here, Frank?’
He smiled at her. A toothy smile in black oily lips.
The corner of a thought fluttered into her head. Like a fragment of a film or the tip of a birds wings.
What was it? What am I trying to remember?
Without knowing why, she looked down at her hands. Frank stared back at her.
Maggots burrowed into a deep hole in her palm and her skin hung off in layers like torn strips of paper mache.
The shock of what she saw made her fall against the door.
Her legs felt weak.
Frank turned and walked away. A knowing grin curled at the corners of his broken lips.
Marjorie sank to the floor, crying tears that would always remain unshed.
Her hands were not the hands she remembered.
Those hands had been alive.
She had been….
© Copyright Henrietta M Ross.
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