Porcelain Skin

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Daddy - (slightly graphic death scene)

The room is immaculate like always. He’s been a bit of a neat freak all my life, but when you step into my father’s office, the pristine order of the room is nearly suffocating. I would avoid this room at all cost for fear of leaving a fingerprint where it’s not wanted. I only enter the room today at my mother’s request.

The silence that has settled itself among the room is like that of a white blanket descending upon a naked bed. Light flutters across the aging, yet stainless, carpet, alighting the room in a deceitful tranquility. An invisible sensation ghosts its way across my skin as I become aware of the only thing that’s not normaljust that one piece of furniture that’s not positioned correctly: a liquor bottle lying on its side, giving the carpet its first blemish. And then I shift my gaze up from the floor, and the plate of food that my mother had asked me to give him falls from my fingers. It lands with a thud as the carpet softens the crash.

Panic turns the room into a vacuum, sucking the air from my lungs. It’s like a punch to the gut that leaves me spinning, and for a moment I can’t move. It doesn’t matter that all my oxygen has been pulled from me because I can’t breathe anyway. Everything has frozen in place, and yet I feel like I’m on a merry-go-round. My stomach threatens to release my dinner, but I block the sensation as my senses return to me. I’m swaying in place, my vision wavering as I frantically take in my surroundings.

My attention diverts from the pool of blood gathering on his desk only to find myself eye-to-eye with my father’s hazel gaze.

“Daddy?” I whimper as I take a timid, staggering step forward. I can’t walk straight; the adrenaline coursing through my limbs is throwing me off balance. I feel numb.

The horror flashing in his gaze is a warning, but I ignore it. My eyes dance back and forth between his and the crimson staining his hands and desk.

“Daddy,” I choke as I reach his side and grab onto his shoulder.

I fight back tears as the gurgling coming from his throat worsens. He’s drowning in his own fluids, and though my mind can barely tolerate the scene before me, I can’t tear my eyes away.

I wipe my face viciously as a sob erupts from the depths of my core. I’m nearly hysterical as I grab for him, but he keeps pushing me away. The alarm staggering around in his wild gaze is a sure indication that he never wanted me to see this. His last moments of life are spent in a panic. Panic that I ruined his peaceful end. Panic that I’m a first-hand witness to his weakened state. Panic that he wasn’t able to complete the task before getting caught.

I’m not thinking clearly when I grab for his throat, trying to keep him from bleeding out. It’s no use. My fingers are slippery against his warm, sticky skin, and he’s batting my hand away from him in an attempt to push me back. When he pulls away from my touch, my fingers fall loosely to my side.

Too much time has passed already and there’s no sealing the wound. The life is escaping him at a rapid speed and I’m fighting with every ounce of strength I have to keep it from leaving his body.

For a brief moment, when his focus meets mine, I feel a trace of regret melt from him and fight flickers across his features. But it’s already too late. I can see him losing his own battle as his attempts to keep me away become weaker.

“Please. Please. Please..." I sob desperately over and over. “I’ll be better. Don’t leave me. Daddy, please don’t leave me. P-please.” My throat is closing in around my words, making it difficult to speak. My lungs are growing ragged with the struggle to earn his forgiveness and change his mind. To make him want to live. To make him want me. My opportunity is dying with him, and soon, any chance at showing him my love and appreciation will be lost.

With one last wave of energy my father lifts his hand towards me, but he’s not focused; he doesn’t even know what he’s doing. It’s as if his mind knows I shouldn’t be witnessing this, but his body has lost the ability to force me to leave. Somewhere inside his thought process, he’s lost the will to care.

“Get out!” he wheezes forcefully, and my chest constricts. Even in his last moments, he’s pushing me away.

With his very last breath, he denied me.

I can feel my heart crumple at the realization that I’ve lost him. Even before his soul left his body, he had already given up. Given up on himself. Given up on me. I wasn’t even worth the fight, or the effort of acknowledging my pleas for forgiveness. He didn’t care that my heart would be eternally broken. He didn’t care that with those two simple words he had destroyed my ability to live freely. I would forever be trapped in my own guilt. My life would be a perennial fight for acceptance, and yet, even the most convincing person wouldn’t succeed in making me feel accepted.

My father had turned me into an outcast.

He pushes me away from him and then drops his hand painfully to the tabletop. I hear the crunch as his bones slam against the bloodstained wood. I know I’ve lost when his body slumps forward onto his desk. His face is turned towards me and I watch the life in his eyes draining... draining... drained.

He’s gone.

The feelings swirling inside me are surreal. I feel like I’m floating through a nightmare of which I have no escape. The man I’ve grown up with my entire life is no longer a man. All that lies in front of me now is a vessel. His spirit is gone. The life that once coursed through his veins is slowing coming to an end. The heart that once pumped and strived to live so that I could be happy has lost its will to continue. It fought for him until the end, but even a strong heart can’t function without fuel. And now all that fuel lies pooling around my father’s lifeless body, dripping into the once flawless carpet.

My gaze follows a droplet as it creates a fresh stain on the floor. That stain will never be removed, just like the memory that this moment has seared into my mind will never be removed. Time can heal hurt and lessen pain, but it will never erase the horrors of what my eyes absorbed in this moment.

I’ve been watching the last remnants of my father leave his body as I stand almost in a trance. As his heart slowed down, the blood pulsing from his torn throat eased until nothing remained. And then, suddenly, my body realizes what has just happened. I break out of my daze as it clicks in my brain that I am standing in a room completely alone. The body in front of me is no longer my father. Just a corpse.

Just a corpse.

A corpse.

With that realization, my lungs gain back their strength and I release a blood-curdling scream as I crumple to my knees. I’m trembling and convulsing as tears seep in and blend with the drops of blood on the floorpermanent reminders of what was lost. I can’t take a full breath, but the hoarse sobs roaring from my insides don’t care. They don’t need oxygen. Somehow they just keep forcing out wretched screams.

I keep wailing, and somewhere in the background, I’m aware of commotion around me. I can hear someone gasp as they mumble, “Oh, God. Oh, God. No,” over and over, and I know my mother has just stepped foot into the same nightmare I’m toppling around in.

A pair of hands reach for me, pulling me out of the ball I’ve rolled myself into on the floor. I’m being dragged out of the room as I continue to murmur incoherent apologies into my fist. I’m soaked as grief escapes my tear ducts and blends with the sweat coating my skin. I’m trembling with cold, but my body is a raging furnace.

I’m pulled into a soft embrace as I moan into my mother’s shoulder. I can feel her trembling beneath me as her own heartache takes over her body. We stay huddled together until my mother pulls away. I can sense the focus behind her weary eyes as she leads me to the staircase and pushes gently on my shoulder to sit. She’s trying to be strong, using every ounce of energy to hold herself together.

I watch with unseeing eyes as she quickly finds her phone and dials 911. Somehow I lose all sense of time. I can’t tell if it’s been hours or minutes by the time the ambulance arrives. They make quick work of snapping photos and loading the body onto a gurney before rolling him to the waiting truck.

My mother and I are both questioned, and I am surprisingly coherent enough to give them the information they need. When I begin to ramble, my mother calmly asks them to leave, wrapping her arms around my quivering shoulders.

“Baby, we’re going to be okay. We’re going to be okay,” she murmurs, holding my face between her hands.

The strength behind her words is astounding, but I can see the tears glistening in her grief-stricken eyes, and her voice becomes quieter and more hoarse with each word. She pulls in a shaky lungful of air before dropping her arms and walking quickly to her bedroom. She doesn’t want me to witness her weakness.

Even when her whole world has crumbled around her, she thinks of me first.

I stand up on faltering legs and slowly glide to the bathroom. I have to pass my father’s study, and I force my thoughts away from the emptiness that lies behind the door.

I stumble into the bathroom and instantly release my dinner into the toilet. Even when I have nothing left inside to give up, my stomach keeps pushing and contracting, trying to rid me of the memories as well, but it’s a wasted effort. They will never be eradicated. I force my eyes not to focus on the stains of blood coating my fingers as they grip the rim of the toilet. The blood has dried into a crumbly layer, revealing the crimson stains beneath.

It’s amazing how something that used to flow freely can have the life evaporated from it within minutes, leaving it a shriveled, dried-up memory.

I lower the toilet seat cover and drape my body over it as all my energy drains from my limbs. I close my eyes briefly, but I’m immediately bombarded with images of blood gushing from the hole in my father’s throat, and his panicked expression begging me to leave. With renewed energy, I force myself off the floor, eager to remove the reminder of my father from my hands.

I pull myself up to the sink and vigorously scrub at my fingers, hoping that as each speck of blood is removed it will also remove the images that are on repeat in my mind. I scrub all the way up to my elbows for several minutes before feeling like I’ve done all that I can do. I shake the water off my fingers as I reach for a towel and my eyes catch my reflection in the mirror.

There, around my neck, is a distinct imprint of my father’s handthe red stamp of life. I gasp loudly and my stomach rolls with a new vigor to purge the memories from me.

In his attempts to push me away, he had missed his target. His hand had landed around my neck, but I hadn’t even noticed at the time.

Now as I stare at the printa perfect replica of my father’s strong handI nearly lose all sense of sanity. The very place my father chose to release his life on his own body is the place he imprinted the very last of himself on mine. Now, my neck will forever hold the badge of rejection and the symbol of my father’s weakness.

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