The other half
He stared out from behind the glass of the small frame, the picture taken 22 years ago as he stood on a beach, the sea behind him beneath a cloudless sky. She wanted to feel emotion at his passing, wanted to shed a tear, but she couldn’t. He hadn’t been a bad husband, and he certainly hadn’t been good, but then neither had she. Yet he had seemed to treat her as though she wasn’t really there. She had been someone he could fall back on when he had nothing else. He had had many affairs, but she always forgave him.
It had come to the point where he would simply tell her he had been with another woman. He didn’t fear any repercussions from her because he knew she would forgive him. He had exploited this for many years, using her reliability to get away with anything. Perhaps it was because she needed him as much as he needed her. The word ‘doormat’ often sprang to mind. If that was what she was to him, then so be it. At one point she had thought he may be right. If she could put up with his playing away and drunken mood swings, then there must be something wrong with her if she stayed. What was it that she didn’t have that made him look elsewhere for affection? Again, if she could not provide contentment for him, then that of course must prove that there was indeed something wrong with her. This provided the reason for her forgiveness. It was a case of, if I cannot provide you with what you are looking for, then I forgive you for looking for it elsewhere.
Yet, at the back of her mind, suppressed by this train of thought, was her conscience telling her: ‘Sandra, how long is this going to go on? Tell me you’re not living in denial. He’s using you as a base. Off he goes to work all day as head of his car insurance agency, coming back for his tea, then going back out to nowhere you’ve ever been with his rich mates and getting drunk and getting up to all sorts while you’re sat in here watching your soaps and waiting for him to come in so you can make him a cup of tea in the false notion he actually cares about you. You provide him with his food, mother him, and believe that one day he’ll change. You know very well he’s not going to change. Is he suddenly one day going to stop his philandering, buy a huge bunch of roses, and declare his undying love, and never even glance at another woman? You’ve more chance of walking on Mars’.
This seed of doubt eventually grew to overpower the notion of reservation she had harboured for many years. It is the reason she had killed him. She had poisoned his food, and finished the job with one of his rusty saws he kept in the garage for the rare occasions he actually bothered to decorate. Perhaps it was desperation borne of insanity. Her tolerance over the years had slowly eroded away any normal thoughts she used to have, and brought with it a type of neuroses that eventually led her to let him ingest the poison. Why she had to saw him half, she couldn’t really answer. She thought it was incase he woke up. Maybe she hadn’t put enough poison in. If he found out, then she guessed he wouldn’t be too happy about it.
Her hands were still filthy with soil, having buried him in the garden. The garden had never properly been maintained. Occasionally an old lawn mower would be taken out of the garage and taken over it, but the weeds always grew back. Now though, in amongst the undergrowth was a large patch of soil. Using a rusty spade, she had surprised herself with her strength at digging, especially at 59. There were no witnesses, the nearest neighbour being all of 50 metres away around the curve of a country lane that led into the town, and eventually the city of Exeter.
Silence hung in the air, omnipresent, his absence noted by the very atmosphere, and altered accordingly. Walking out into the kitchen, she looked down at the place where she had used the saw, where his innards had spilt, where she found it hard to saw through his spine, where the blood carpeted the tiles, and seeped into every orifice and cavity in the kitchen. It was all gone now, mopped and soaked up with towels and his clothes, but still there hung in the air the odour of blood, and the tiles would never be as yellow as they used to be. They now held a tint of ground in crimson. Out in the back garden, the air was cold, blowing the weeds slightly and chilling her bones as though the angry ghost of her husband was standing beside her.
She wondered whether or not to put a cross where he lay, some sort of final gesture to seal the fact that he had truly gone. When she put her hands in her pockets, she felt, then pulled out his reading glasses that he had been wearing when the effects of the poison had truly taken hold. She had taken them off in the kitchen before she used the saw. She walked across and placed them on the mound of soil, beneath which his corpse now lay. The glass in the spectacles reflected the sky and the clouds, as though showing her where his soul had departed to. Beyond the clouds, into other worlds beyond. She turned and walked back into the house, closing it behind her, feeling the heavy silence descend upon her, and surround her like morning mist in a countryside valley.
Hours later, with the sky black as pitch, with no moon or stars to pierce the dark clouds above, Sandra decided that she would make a hot mug of tea and take it to bed. The house felt empty, and to a certain degree, colder than normal. Perhaps it was because winter was drawing in, and the darkness crept across the land earlier each day, bringing with it a coldness that would cloak her and penetrate every bone. It meant that the bed covers at this point were an attractive proposition, that, and a large mug of tea.
With the bedside lamp on, casting her and the bed in bright yellow from the pale lampshade, Sandra read her dog-eared paperback romance novel, about a king’s daughter obliged to marry a squire, whilst she secretly receives gifts and love letters from a secret admirer. After around half an hour, the mug empty on the bedside table, she put the paperback down after discovering who the admirer was. It was the gardener. She switched off the light and settled down, her mind surprisingly relaxed after what she had done. Perhaps it was the huge weight off her mind, the part of her psyche that worried and fretted over her husband, dying along with him. She also noticed the silence. It had never been this quiet before. There was no wind, and no nocturnal animals to pierce the atmosphere audibly. It was as though time itself had stopped in this area, and was perhaps deciding whether or not to stop her heart beating, as she had done to her husband, but soon there came a bang from somewhere that sounded close, and she wondered if she had been in some sort of half conscious state. Did I hear a bang or was it the remnants of a dream?
The bang came again, like a door closing. It sounded like the back door, leading into the garden. Had Sandra looked out of the window with a large powerful beamed torch, and trained it on her husband’s grave, she would have saw a gaping hole. Moments later, she heard a soft, barely audible sliding sound that changed to a rougher, coarser sound upon contact with carpet. Sandra wasn’t afraid, just confused, her mind trying desperately to work out what it could be, and she remembered that she hadn’t locked the back door, her mind elsewhere. Perhaps it was an intruding cat, or a fox from the fields. What else could it be? It crawled slowly along the hallway, leaving behind a trail of soil and slivers of flesh. Sandra realised that whatever it was, was coming up the stairs.
Slowly but surely, the sound amplified in the stillness, it climbed the stairs. It took a few minutes to reach the top, and it continued to draw closer, the dragging sound increasingly louder. In the pitch black of the bedroom, Sandra heard the door open, a slight squeaking sound came from the hinges. She had always meant to put a drop of oil on it, but most of the time, her mind never came close to even thinking about it. Nervously fumbling for the bedside lamp switch, she turned it on, and could not comprehend what was in the doorway at first, something that crawled towards her, with a gaunt, white face and white, sunken eyes. The top half of her husband dragged itself slowly towards the bed, a rasping breathing issuing from its damaged lungs. Sandra was so frozen with fear, her vocal chords refused to work, her eyes wide and staring, like a rabbit caught in headlights. He disappeared from view at the foot of the bed, but then a hand appeared, grabbing at the duvet. It hauled itself up, and slowly crawled towards her, its white face cast even brighter under the glare of the light.
Sandra did not know that he could not die. That he was immortal. His trysts and rendezvous that Sandra knew of, but not about, had resulted in a certain pact, that he, and several of his colleagues had achieved. Quincy, a name he had given himself, because he never liked Colin, had been part of that well known network of individuals called the freemasons. It was basically an excuse for a lads-together type of club, involving those members of society that had done well for themselves financially. What could they do other than talk about how rich they are? If it was to be a club, or society, then within it there must be some sort of common purpose, rather than simply being in the bracket of high earners. They came up with spirituality, the seeking of some form of light. So they would perform rituals and ceremonies exclusive only to them, and try and keep themselves covert and secretive, perhaps because they may be ashamed of what they were doing. Why would a high earner, manager of a successful company, dress up in a gown and wig, and sing and chant like a true believer, when if they were to do the same in front of their wives, they would die of embarrassment?
Quincy used to be like that. He used to be a member of the inner circle. He was basically as high as you could get, but became rather disillusioned with those of the outer circle, inviting people to come along to their meetings. The initiation became easier, and more people got to know of them, wanting to be part of something exclusive. Their members grew, and the whole meaning of the organization became diluted. Quincy and a few other members of the inner circle who were of like mind, decided enough was enough. They were allowing too many people in.
It was the last straw when they allowed the owner of two shops dealing in second-hand goods to join. Quincy and his colleagues decided to form a separate sect of their own. A kind of cult within a cult. They pursued the true meaning of what was initially set out at the forming of the fellowship, only pursued it much deeper, not only seeking out a pure light that would purge them of all their sins, but also looking into the side of magic that is often unnoticed. Grouping together as much material about unseen forces from across the world together, and forming the parts they thought might have some significance, they formed their own rituals and incantations. They didn’t know exactly what they where doing, simply using the occasions they were together for the telling of tales of debauchery as well as for consummation of beverages, and the performing of rituals about which they had scant knowledge. They did not realise that the forces they were dealing with, were very real, and if misused, very dangerous.
However, they had managed, somehow, to obtain a certain energy, an energy that required a certain sacrifice. Their deaths. The prize was too great to ignore. The fact that they had to die in order for it work was very off putting. It took only one of them to believe it, and follow it through. He had taken a lethal concoction of tablets, and waited to be reborn as an immortal. It took several hours, and the others had retired to a lounge where they drank, convinced that it was a wake, wondering how they were going to explain his death to those concerned, when he appeared in the doorway, hardly looking much different. To prove he was immortal, somebody later shot him in the heart. He got up, and there was no pain. This remained exclusive only to this sect, the other freemasons were happy to pursue their ideals, blissfully unaware of what had been discovered. They all commited suicide, exchanging their life energy for another that guaranteed them immortality. Of course it was not as simple as that. In order for it to be sustained, and to keep from showing the signs of decay, he needed to regularly drink copious amounts of blood, and to worship the deity that had given them this gift at certain times.
They all got together once a week at a country estate for a feast of blood drinking and worship. One of them had links with the meat industry, and was therefore able to supply them with cattle upon which to gorge. If one of these meetings was missed, then the deity had warned that it would take the preservation property of the endowment away, which meant they would walk the earth in a decaying state, eventually ending up as a walking skeleton. Quincy was afraid because he knew he needed to get to one of these meetings, so he could do nothing else but reach forward to Sandra and say, in a rasping whisper: