Francine is remembering something, looking at his broken, dead body at her feet. She’s trying to feel something other than revulsion at this form. There is no pity, but beneath it all, there are memories, tugging at her.
People like him, she’s thinking, they always think they are the worst of all, they have nothing to fear because they are the very worst. They don’t think there’s any other monsters in the cupboard or underneath the bed.
She’s covered in his blood and she wants to wash herself, but there will be time for that. She’s remembering washing herself once before, once before when guilt might have marred her skin and permeated her like some horrible sign of Cain. She’s remembering what she’s tried all these years to forget.
And she’s wondering why she needed, or wanted to forget at all. Because, of course, she thinks, this is what was necessary. I had to remember it. I had to re-birth it, to be able to do this.
She’s the sort of girl who always does what needs to be done, after all. That’s her essential element, that’s her, down to the bone, and no trauma or programming could stop that.
Remembering Christine, her childhood best friend. Letting herself remember, for the first time in years, letting it all in. As though in forgetting she wiped the slate clean. It wasn’t clean, just like dirty, nasty Christine wasn’t clean. Not her, not her at all. The Cineteens, her and Christine, inseparable. Christine, remembering Christine.
Her best, best friend. Remembering Christine with Francine’s boyfriend Carter, finding them that day. Christine’s long limbs akimbo, pulling him to her, into her, her darker skin flushed, her body convulsing with joy and sex and lust. Dirty, nasty Christine, showing herself for her true ugliness, her true self. And then seeing Francine seeing them, and all the tears and begging afterwards. All her pleas to be forgiven, for them to still be friends.
Stupid girl, how could that ever be? Looking at him now, there’s a true symmetry to all of it, she thinks, because how can love grow from that? Might as well have believed she could actually forgive Christine. Some people just had no idea…no idea at all.
Because she remembers weeks later, seeing Christine on the outskirts of town, walking the long way home from the bus where she’d just come back from seeing Carter again. Seeing her alone, and talking to her, seeing an opportunity she hadn’t even thought about in any conscious way, but acting on instinct. And Christine’s pathetic, horrible neediness and gratitude and willingness to just go for a walk, go for a walk with her friend through the nearby forest land, down to the creek.
She didn’t see it coming, couldn’t really, and in truth neither did Francine till it happened. A rock bashed against a young woman’s head, and the surprise at how it sounded as the skull cracked, and the amount of blood that gushed, then that weird feeling falling on top of her, her hands around her throat, straddling her like a lover, like Carter had straddled her, but with a very different primal intent indeed. Watching her friend’s eyes literally pop open and almost out of their sockets as the last struggling breath left her. Then knowing she was dead, knowing she was dead.
She remembers thinking they lied when they said you could see a soul departing a dying body. There was nothing, just recognition, then dull lifeless nothing. Francine didn’t believe in souls.
We’re just electricity in our heads, like the electricity in this monster’s rooms, making up sensations for us as we stumble blind through life. Well, she wasn’t blind, she’d never really be blind again.
She probably hadn’t been blind since Christine, because she surely saw things clearly then when she needed.
She hates remembering this – she’s spent years forgetting it, and building a new life, so far away. Not that she was caught, not that anyone knew but her. Because Francine has always been practical and she saw clearly and dispassionately what was needed – then and now. And back then she was still angry, still hurt, by her faithless friend. She’d give her the death she deserved and they’d find a narrative for it that she deserved too.
Remembering taking branches from trees and shoving them, shoving them in and up between her friends legs, tearing her panties off, raping her with forest wood. They’d think a sick pervert had gotten her. They’d never think her friend would do this, not something like this.
And they never did.
Just like they’d never think she could have done this, this bleeding freak at her feet. Downstairs was enough torture equipment and what might be taken as bondage gear to tell a very different, and quite compelling story. And no one knew she had been here, she was kidnapped after all. She’d just turn up in her life again, and say she had to go away unexpectedly, and no-one would ask, no-one would think to look.
Sometime someone would smell the truth here, and someone would find him, but that would be a long time hence, and they’d think he was part of some freakish sex thing gone wrong that’s all. Just a nothing, the nothing he deserved.
She pours the broth down the waste disposal, and looks at the chicken. Perhaps she can leave that in the freezer. It seems a shame to waste good food. She bundles it up in plastic wrap and takes it to the freezer. Inside she sees slabs of steak, also wrapped, with something written on them. She takes one out and looks at it. The name ‘Imogen’ is on the wrap.
She knows what that means.
She turns and looks at him. In many ways, it’s like the forest wood rape of Christine, it’s the details that secure the narrative. Just like it’s the herbs and the balance that makes the perfect recipe, the perfect food.
She remembers the programming where her own thighs were sliced and cooked, and instinctively touches herself between the legs, assuring herself she is still whole. He’s obviously a cannibal. His intent was very clear now and she understands her sense of threat was very, very real. So she takes the knife and goes to him, tearing open his trousers and seeing the flaccid, dead skin beneath. Along one thigh she proceeds to cut.
Sometime later she’s wrapping up the steaks to freeze as well. The final touch. They’ll think a cannibal killed him, and that perhaps he was a cannibal too. Well, that would be right, or maybe they’ll think he was one of those freaks who offered himself up to be eaten. She’d read once there were people like that, it was most extraordinary.
She looks at the steaks in her hands, considering. Perhaps he should be eaten, perhaps that’s what he deserves. She places all but one in the freezer and then puts this last one aside. After she’s showered and dressed herself in some of the clothes he had hanging for her in the room, in anticipation of when she was there of her own free will, she knows she will take the last steak with her, slipping out into the night with a trophy to remind her of the hell she has endured and bested at his hands.
On the way home she’s even smiling to herself, thinking about what she will cook to accompany it. She’s thinking some roasted eggplant, and old-fashioned mashed potatoes. She thinks she knows how he will taste. He was a cruel man who confused love with pain and possession with choice: a small, mean-spirited, nasty man.
Fine food, fit for her table of hate. He’d have the flavour of spite.
(c) Helen M Valentina 2015, All Rights Reserved