IN THE LIGHT
Published in Daily Frights 2012
Pill Hill Press, November 2012
They made love on the sofa first, the bed after.
They had met that night in a congested, sweaty nightclub; his eyes were two different shades of green and he spoke with an indistinct accent. When she asked where he was from, he ignored her, which she found cocky and inexplicably alluring. Now, drifting out of a brief, intoxicated slumber, she tried to recall if she’d asked him to wear a condom.
Thick curtains covered the only window in the room; tenuous blue light filtered inside and a sliver of illumination from a nearby streetlight fell across his eyelids. She watched him sleep, wondering what she’d found attractive about him in the club. He was missing three fingers on his left hand, and his skin had a peculiar plasticine quality that repulsed her now. His lips, which only hours before had been pressed against her flesh, looked bloated and ashy. Even his body possessed an unnatural, disproportionate quality, as if his arms and legs had been taken from two different men and affixed to a third torso.
She shivered at the thought, suddenly eager to dress and leave without waking him. They would likely never meet again. She hadn’t offered her phone number or address—not even her last name. And she was grateful for it now; sober, he gave her the creeps.
She pushed the covers away. He stirred.
The hairs on her neck stiffened, and she froze. When he didn’t wake, she tried again, moving carefully so as not to disturb him. On her feet, she knelt beside the bed and collected her underwear, dress, purse, and high heels. Her heart hammered against her ribs like a caged animal; her aversion to the stranger intensified with every passing second.
She had reached the bedroom door when something in the light caught her eye; a shadow, she assured herself.
But upon closer inspection, she saw that it was not a shadow, but stitches.His eyelids had been stitched on.A scream caught in her throat; disgust and terror consumed her, and she fled without bothering to close the door. She dressed in the stairwell and caught a taxi to her apartment; along the way she recalled his oddities: disparate eyes, burnished skin, missing fingers. She thought about his limbs, how his arms seemed too long for his body, his legs too short, as if he were pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle of human extremities.
By the afternoon, her encounter felt like a bad dream, the product of too many vodka and tonics. Her inebriated paranoia had caused her to imagine those disconcerting flaws, she decided, and tried to push the evening from her mind.
Two weeks later, she missed her period.Three days after that, he knocked on her door.“I had only intended to take a few fingers to complete my hand,” he said and placed the deformed appendage on her belly. “But now, you’ll give me so much more.”