Tag Archives: dead

Bugs

The first thing that people used to ask about were the bugs.

“I’m really sorry for that. I was born without a sense of smell.”

“Oh,” they always said. “But don’t you notice the bugs?”

The bugs. Everywhere. Of course I saw them, the way they followed me. Flies, mostly, but many others too.

It’s not that I didn’t want to shower. My mother too made me shower every day, she just never explained why. Nobody told me why. They all assumed I knew and rather than tell me that I smelled bad and how to fix it, they concluded that I was handicapped and thus just stupid or dirty or crazy.

In 22 years nobody told me that. For 22 years everybody assumed I was scary and creepy and stayed away from me. Continue reading

“Don’t ever let them in.”

I am terrified of the dark. My grandmother, on the other hand, had an affinity for the dark. She loved and enjoyed the dark so much that most windows in her house were walled shut and the few that remained were, except for rare occasions like family visits, blacked out with several layers of black curtains.

It was only when I was about 16 that I realized that those two, her love and my fear of the dark, were connected.

When I was small I was, supposedly, very hyperactive. My mother never managed to control me and my father only did so on those rare occasions when he threatened me with punishments. But I loved my grandparents and, as my parents, said, I always behave right when my grandmother was around. Accordingly my parents dropped me many times at my grandmother’s place so that they themselves could have a calm weekend.

I was 8 years old when she died. At that time I was already scared of the dark – except, of course, when my grandparents were around.

Those eight years I stayed many times over. I remember vividly how I played with my grandfather and uncle Owen in the darkness. We had our special games, like a noise-based version of hide and seek which only worked when the house was particularly quiet and my grandfather taught me how to carve wood into spoons and flutes with just my sense of touch.

I remember their faces exactly – the way their faces were lightly visible in the dark but their eyes always penetrated even through the thickest curtains of darkness with a black pupil surrounded by a bright white that seemed to glow from inside.

My grandmother was always working around the house – cooking and baking for me, cleaning or tidying or preparing the beds for the night. The room always felt warmer when she was there and so, usually, i asked my grandfather and uncle Owen to play with me in the room that she was in.

Those weekends I never missed the light. Even my dreams were, often, just noises and smells and textures and shapes – never colors or visible objects. Still today I can navigate perfectly in the dark. And still today I can see very well in the dark and around my 16th year of life I concluded that my strong vision at night was the cause for my paralyzing fear of the dark.

The fear had been there as long as I remember and on most nights I slept with a nightlight. On those weekends with my grandmother the darkness had never been a problem. Cuddled up to her warm body I never felt fear and I never minded the figures that seemed to stand in the room, all around my bed.

They only came with the darkness. Never when there was a slight flicker of light, just with the absolute blackness of a night in a room without windows.

My grandmother called them the ‘Outcasts.’ She said that they were family and friends, former close ones, that wanted to return from the other side. She taught me again and again that I should never let them return.

I remember the way she said it. We were lying in the bed, my head cuddled up to the warmth of her shoulder. Somewhere behind me my grandfather was snoring and when I turned I could see his face glowing in the darkness, with his white skin it was even more visible than that of my grandmother.

“You can see the difference in their faces,” she said. “Their faces are darker. But if you really want to make sure then you have to look at their eyes. If their eyes are as black as their face or even darker then they are on the wrong side; they are dead and and they should stay that way no matter how much you miss them.”

“So they can’t come?”

“They can’t come unless you allow them to come.”

“What if I let them in?”

“Don’t ever let them in.”

Black on black, but I still saw them as clear as a pencil line pressed hard on a piece of paper, the type of pencil line that doesn’t just color the paper but rather pushes itself into the paper.

That night my grandmother fell asleep quickly but I, in the safety of her arms and with my grandfather behind me, watched the figures. They were gesturing and moving, voiced words and sometimes fought against one another; they pushed each other to the side and backwards, fighting for a spot on the borderline to life.

I saw their figures and I recognized their sizes and hairstyles, often I even thought I knew which clothes they were wearing. I never asked my grandmother about that, but for myself I concluded those were the ways they looked in the moment that they stepped from life to death.

With my grandmother I was safe. But without her the nights were terror. They came closer and they seemed more energetic, more violent, more likely to break through that barrier. Maybe they were closer because I was closer to letting them in, half out of fear and half out of curiosity.

The nightlight was my savior, but in those nights when my parents forgot to plug the light in there was no salvation. They stood above me with their dark figures pressed into the darkness and those eyes so dark that they seemed to extend deeper into space; as if they were hollow.

With 16 I tried to cure myself off my fear by “shock therapy.” I threw myself into one dark night after the other but rather than improve the situation got worse.

There was one figure particularly pushy. A smaller one with wild, curly hair and the darkest eyes of them all. I always knew who she was. She had only been there since I was 8.

The conclusions of my 16th year made too much sense to be overturned. I gave up my defense and accepted my fear and eternal dependence on nightlights. When I moved to university I even chose an apartment with a street lamp outside so that the light would certainly come through my window and keep the figures at bay.

With 23 I learned the truth about my fear.

I was at my mother’s place. We were at our second bottle of wine and a soothing melancholy, the type that you can see in a French actress’s eyes, had enriched the air. Somehow we came to speak about my grandmother.

“I miss her,” my mother said.

“Me too,” I said. “Sometimes I still dream of her cookies and when I wake up I can nearly taste the vanilla.”

“Oh,” she said. “Your grandfather loved those.”

“Did he? I don’t remember him eating any?”

My mother laughed.

“You were probably too young to remember that.”

“Not really. I remember playing with him.”

“Oh, you do?”

“Yeah. I played with him all the time.”

“Really, you remember that?”

“Of course.”

“Wow,” she said. “I’m really happy for that.”

“Me too.”

“I always thought you wouldn’t remember him because you were so young.”

I took a sip from my glass and let the bitterness fade from my mouth.

“I don’t remember going to his funeral.”

“Of course not,” she said. “We left you with a friend and went alone.”

“What? Why?”

“We thought you wouldn’t understand it. You were just 2 when your grandfather and uncle Owen had their accident.”

When I was 16 I thought I was scared of the figures standing at the borderline to our world.

Since I’m 23 I know that I’m not actually scared of those figures at the borderline. I’m scared and wondering how many others were allowed back inside.

Born Dead

On my sixteenth birthday, just after I had blown out the candles on a fairy cake, my mother told me that I was born dead.

“I’m so happy that you made it,” she said.

I pulled the fork out of my mouth.

“What?”

“Oh,” she said. “I guess we never told you. If not for aunt Kirah you wouldn’t even have made it through your first day.”

Aunt Kirah. Nurse Kirah.

My mother’s contractions started in her lunch break, two months early. She was at the hospital twenty minutes later and another hour after that she pushed my head out of her body.

Like most babies, I didn’t breathe. The doctor gave me a light slap, like for all babies. Another light slap, like for some babies. Then a stronger slap. Continue reading

“We went for grandpa.”

It’s now been two months since his father died. We had been to the funeral and I knew that losing his father must have been painful. Still he just held our son’s hand and sat there silently. No tears, no sadness on his face. Just a calm face with a hint of concern. A few times he looked down to Ian and nodded to himself.

We watched as they closed the casket and walked in the first row when they carried it out to the grave. They lowered it inside. There was another speech. I threw a flower and my husband and son threw soil.

On the way back he didn’t say a single word.

Josue had never been the type to show his emotions but he had been close to his father, closer than any other father-son pair I can think of. They had spent many weekends on camping trips and their “men tours.”

Of course it all makes sense now.

I wanted to give him the space he needed. For a week I waited for him to make a move, for him to let his grieve out. Then I asked how he felt.

He never screamed at me before, at least not like that. Not with so much anger. Continue reading

Tickling Skin

It started with the tickling. I was always careful to wrap my arms and legs in the blanket. It’s something that I’ve been doing more or less unconsciously since I was a child. I can’t sleep if my body is not wrapped like an egyptian mummy, with only the face free for breathing.

I noticed the tickling a while ago. There was nothing I could see or hear, there was no reason to assume it was anything more than a problem in my brain. My feet and lower legs were wrapped in the blanket and still they tickled, like a soft air blowing against the skin.

I mean, of course I roll around at night. I never wake up as perfectly wrapped as I fall asleep. But for some reason my feet always used to stay under the blanket. My arms or even back was sometimes exposed, but my feet always needed the warmth and comfort and maybe safety of the blanket.

And I didn’t use to wake up in the middle of the night, at least not for that; not for a twitching in my toes. It felt as if needles had poked me while I was asleep. Continue reading

I Just Want to Live Alone

I want to say this right away: I’m in my office now. I think I’m safe.

I shouldn’t have waited. That was my mistake; that’s the one thing that really is my fault. I shouldn’t have waited; I should have run while I still could; while things were still normal and sane.

I used to like my roommate. He was the artsy type, cheerful, always up for a beer. I don’t know what changed along the way, or when exactly he changed.

I first noticed it when his girlfriend moved in. The first days he was cheerful, then, after their first big fight, Martin began to act servile, submissive even.

She called herself Amaya but I was never sure whether that was her real name. On the letters that arrived for her there were at least three, maybe four different variations of the spelling and some altogether different names. She was somewhere from Asia, that was really everything I knew, and that she liked chocolate.

Either way, around the time Amaya moved in everything changed. It could also have been the job and visa trouble Martin had, or maybe just the winter weather; he became a different person.

Since then I lived in solitude. I paid my share of the apartment, but being in the living room or kitchen or even just to stay for long in the bathroom made me feel uncomfortable, as if I wasn’t quite welcome. They weren’t even in the living room that much – they too just stayed in their room – it was more that the apartment itself, the rooms with the wooden floors, bare white walls and mélange of furniture began to feel threatening.

Around that time my social life died. I can’t really blame my roommates for that, but the constant sense of discomfort, the shallow sleep and the feeling that somehow I was sinking into a black hole; the social part of my self was slowly slipping away. Work and the internet filled the place where once friends had been.

Apart from gray and stiff colleagues the only people that stayed in my life were Martin and Amaya. I thought I could sit it out; wait for the last six months of our contract to finish and then quickly find a new place and become a new and healthy person again. I shouldn’t have waited.

It seemed cute at first – they fought at night and in the morning Martin brought Amaya breakfast to say sorry. That day I left with a smile when I went to work.

When I came home Amaya was again – or still – in their room. Martin cooked and brought her food. At night I heard them shouting.

A week went by before I saw Amaya again. She looked sick and exhausted. Our conversation consisted just of “You okay?” and “Yeah.”

The next days she seemed happier, although the color didn’t really return to her face. I saw both of them occasionally in the living room where they were watching movies on their laptops. That seemed to be their only entertainment, the only thing I saw them doing at all. There was no artsy soul left in Martin; for Amaya I wasn’t even sure if there had ever been one.

My main connection with them was their noise; the way they were seemingly unable to keep any movie or piece of music at a sane volume; not to speak of their constant shouting. Whenever I asked them to be more considerate Martin said “sorry,” turned it down and – after I turned around but before I had even left the room – turned it up again.

They fought a lot. And after every long and loud nightly fight Martin brought Amaya breakfast and dinner for a few days. I hated the sheepish expression he had while carrying the food to their bedroom.

I lost track of my roommates. I forgot when I last saw them; I forgot even when I heard them last or what they were fighting about – although, for the hearing part, the guess “last night” and “something about love” would probably have been the right guesses for most days.

At some point our trash rotation system broke down. I stopped cooking and soon stopped feeling responsible for trash that I was sure wasn’t mine – and they just didn’t care. The kitchen began to smell of old fish, then of rotting fish, then of rotting fish and meat; the smell broke through the closed door, made the living room unbearable and finally invaded our bedrooms. The bathroom with its strong vent and moist air was the only refuge.

They had many fights, Martin loudly and Amaya with a weak voice that at some point always broke into crying. Often he cried too. I didn’t dare to interrupt their fights; twice I brought the trash bags with their nearly liquid contents out myself; then I took the passive-aggressive way of “please bring the trash out” text messages instead.

At some point the fights got shorter, then stopped. When Martin proudly told me that they were engaged I offered a celebration beer – but he refused and went out alone. I sent my congratulations to Amaya by text. She replied late at night with a simple “thx.”

From then on I didn’t see Amaya at all. It might seem strange in retrospect, but at the time I didn’t notice it. I barely ever saw her anyway and our encounters were usually so brief and so meaningless that my mind didn’t bother to remember them.

They only watched movies from then on. Occasionally I thought I heard them speaking between the movie dialogue – but I’m not really sure of that. I gave up and stopped complaining about the noise; I was just happy that the fights had stopped. I slept badly with the movie soundtracks blasting through the wall, but at least, without the fights, I slept.

I really can’t tell whether it’s been two or three months since I last talked to either of them. It’s not that I didn’t try – I definitely did on the few occasions that I saw Martin coming out of the kitchen with two large plates of food in his hands, but he just ignored me, squeezed past me and disappeared in their room.

He began to do weird stuff, as if he was trying to make me get angry or even more uncomfortable. He move furniture to strange places, turned the washing machine or microwave off while I was using it; used my kitchen utensils and even my toothbrush and left thick crusts of smelly brown or red stuff on the brush. No matter how many times I asked him to stop – first politely, then angry, then loudly – he never even responded. Instead he just continued whatever he was doing – usually to cook pieces of fish or large slobs of meat; to burn them a dark black in what used to be my nonstick pan.

The smell began to grow worse. I stopped eating even bread at home; I stopped actually being at home for anything but sleeping. When I signed up for a gym I told my colleagues I wanted to get fit for the summer; the truth is that I just wanted a clean shower.

Every day the same routine: Sleep; buy a croissant on the way to work; shower in the gym; work; eat lunch – sometimes alone, sometimes with colleagues; work; work overtime; eat a sandwich for dinner; sit in the office to video chat with family or waste time online; finally go home and try not to gag while falling asleep.

I was happy when the notice period came. I sent Martin an email and he replied that he would send the email off – his first words to me in months. Three days later I asked how it went; he replied that out message was too late and that we had to pay another month but then “it will end.”

That night I heard Martin leave the house. There were no tears rolling down my cheeks, but inside I cried at the prospect of being in that apartment for another three months. I had a drink to help me fall asleep, then a second and a third and I’m not sure how many after that. I never felt so lonely in my life. Lonely and drunk enough to fantasize about the pretty girl Amaya I met for the first time months ago. Lonely enough to think it a good idea to say “hello” to her.

After all, it’s not like we had any fights or anything. Amaya was quiet, but somewhat nice, most of the time. We just had lost track of each other, right?

The smell should have been a warning. People who live in such smell can’t be good people. My drunk mind told itself that it was okay, that it was probably just Martin’s messiness, dirty plates and they forgot too often to bring the trash out. I laughed at myself when I realized that I too was living in that smell; that I too couldn’t be a good person.

The loud movie dialogue told me Amaya was home. I knocked on the door to their room. No response.

I knocked louder and, when still no response came, finally banged on the door. There was a sound; I took it to mean that I could come in.

The door handle was sticky; the door hard to move.

When I pushed the door open a suffocating smell hit my face; like the burnt and moldy slobs of meat in the kitchen combined with the week-old rotting fish and topped off with old diarrhea.

It was nauseating; sickening; I had to take a step back to keep my dinner in my body. Still I felt the urge to say hello, to at least have some social interaction for the day.

I finally got myself to push the door further open and step inside the room. The thick curtains were drawn; illuminated by just the light of her laptop screen I saw Amaya’s shape on the bed. She was at least three or four times bigger than I remembered her.

“Hey.” I said and stepped inside; my foot hit some sticky mass. I suppressed the urge to run just like the one to vomit. Some fusion of alcohol and loneliness drove me forward; drove me to say “hello” again.

The floor was covered in dirty plates; trash bags; piles of rotting food; and so was the bed on Martin’s side. On Amaya’s side the trash was piled on her body, right on the ripped blanket.

Only at the foot of the bed I realized that the ripped cloth on her stomach wasn’t cloth. Her skin had ballooned and ripped open all through the middle. The rotting food wasn’t on her; it was spilling out of her; through a thick layer of a crusted, brown and red mass.

I left the door open for the police.

While running to the office the image of her bloated body refused to leave my mind. She must have been dead for months. I had seen pictures of bloated corpses, but none like hers.

Then, just when I arrived at the office, my memories clicked into place.

Dead for months. Still he always carried two plates.


This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.