Like most people I think it’s easiest to forget the pain if I keep my head down and blinders on. Stay busy, stay sharp and keep distracted. If I keep myself overwhelmed, forever struggling to keep my head above water, I may not have to deal with the guilt. I won’t have to think about the suffering I caused her, or rather, the suffering I should have prevented.
It’s the quiet moments that I’m learning to hate. In the positive space between distractions something will catch my attention, some sound or smell, and I’m brought back to the night it all began. Like a fender-bender, bang, I’m jolted back to the night Beth became something else, something other than my wife, and everything changed.
I’m struggling against shadows that wrap around my limbs, pin me against the wall and swallow my screams so the sound is faint and impotent. A whisper buried in black waves of oily mist. My muscles ache from the strain and my throat is raw. I can barely see her through the blur of tears. I don’t know how long I’ve struggled, how long I’ve had to watch the slow, artistic dissection of the one person I’ve ever loved. The one person who ever forgave me when I screwed up and gave me the strength to be more than I thought I could be.
A thin blanket of the black mist pins her to the flat surface of the obelisk and insectile things with fat, glistening bodies push shards of sharpened black rock into her yielding body. I don’t know the part of her brain that registers the real world has been switched off, that her consciousness has been put on pause, so I think the slack expression and mute eyes means she is dead. I think the insects are mutilating her needlessly over the course of hours and, to my shame, I grow numb. I sag against the shadows and the world goes dark.
I wake to the smell of sizzling fat and blink at the crust in my eyes until Beth, or what remains of her, swims into focus. A faint blob that resolves itself into a pile of coal black, shimmering rocks, between which runs veins of flesh. Heat radiates from the pile in waves and the flesh bubbles, chunks of the rock growing soft and globular. The insects are gone but the shadows sense that I am awake, tighten and draw me spread-eagle against the wall. The pull is smooth and irresistible but not unsympathetic, as if the darkness understands my grief and restrains me with a gentle, tidal force.
In a haze I watch her melt away and the rocks that had pierced her flesh drop to the floor and wobble like beads of mercury. They quiver in the heat and begin moving, rolling tentatively towards one another, guided by some dark law of attraction. Wherever two blobs of molten rock meet they are deformed by pressure and surface tension until something gives way and they merge into a soft glassy ball. Again and again these beads fuse until they form a single, massive ball that shakes like malevolent jello.
There are no eyes but I know that I become the focus of the thing. It begins rolling towards me and, as it advances, I see it’s surface growing harder. Inch by inch it shrinks and grows more dense until it is the size of an eggplant and it stops by my foot. Emotionally I am depleted and I don't think I have any remaining strength until it rolls onto my foot, molds around my leg and begins to climb. The shadows tighten their hold as I fight, kicking and thrashing, croaking in fear. The glob is hot and burns me as it climbs, leaving my clothes smoking and by skin blistered. It stops, settles into a position laying flat against my chest and begins to dig.
She’s forgiven me a thousand times but I haven’t forgiven myself. Maybe I never will. We both know that we have to make the best of it and even in my blackest moments I like to kid that she’ll always be close to my heart. It’s corny, I know, but it makes me feel better and sometimes it even makes her laugh.