Splish, Splash, Sploo

Submitted into Contest #232 in response to: Set your story during polar night.... view prompt

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This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Here it is again, the piss end of golden hour. The sun hovers four degrees below the horizon, soon to break free from the relative brightness of civil twilight. Do you know the difference between all the kinds of half-darkness? I do. I can tell you. That might just take my mind off this thing I need to do, but my body is like a soft, untamed animal, stopped dead in its tracks in the snow like in concrete.

There’s the civil, like I just said, in case you missed it. In that kind of light, blood appears a dark maroon colour, nearly brown, diarrhoea of the veins. I look down, swallow. The spots start at my feet, holding themselves on the surface of the snow, and then, as they grow heavier towards the house, carving deeper and deeper grooves in the whiteness. So she didn’t bleed too heavily to begin with, but as she stumbled forward, the boot stamps grow larger, more elongated; she’d started dragging her feet. Then another blow from behind, and a fallen snow angel with broken wings. I see the head and belly wounds clearly, the top one bright and fresh, the bottom one, well, not so much. I swallow. She’s losing it now. The rude impact of the ground, cushioned only lightly by the ankle-deep snow, jolts the liquids in her, like a glass full of water on a stormy ship. When I was a child, I could remember everything, whether it had happened or not. Now, I only remember things that have happened to other people.

The second type of twilight is nautical. The darkness progresses as the sun falls, falls further, from six to twelve degrees below the line of sight, which in this flat rigid world is everywhere I turn. It’s called nautical because the stars are twinkly enough for sailors to be able to make them out, but the horizon remains so stark the heavenly bodies can be pitted against it for directions. I have begun my ascent to the house. She didn’t walk up the stairs, she crawled. She’d given up holding onto her belly halfway up. I can tell because of the smell, and the volume, the dripping. Dear god, or whatever else there might be, because why would this place even need a god if so little is alive to watch over, and that which is can be deleted so easily, with such primitive tools. The knife is in my pocket, a kitchen knife with a plastic handle. When I was young, I had memories of murders so gruesome they could make a grown man faint in an instant. But now, I only remember real things, things right in front of my eyes that burn images on the insides of the eyelids.

Finally, before the night falls, there’s astronomical twilight. The sky lights up in a million fibre-optic blips, messages from the past blinking their way down to Earth. I have the key to the house, and so I turn the key in the lock. In these dark conditions, blood becomes black, like coca-cola, but not so fizzy, and definitely not as sweet, so perhaps this is a bad comparison. I hope she died on the other side of the door, crawled like a fox into her hole and gave up there, so that this it it, no more mess, just in the hall. Lo and behold, she did. I often hope they’d died quickly and stayed put, and the lord if such shall be my judge will forgive me, for this is a small offense: that hope I cannot shake. And sometimes I think it’s a merciful hope, a hope to shorten suffering, mine and theirs.

I grope for the light switch on the wall with the hand that hadn’t held the knife. It lay far, far from the red trail leading to the house. No wonder they couldn’t find it. But a blood hound, a recollector of foreign memories, like me, knows exactly where to look, where in the frenzy of footsteps to find the DNA they will need, they will want to establish facts and punish perpetrators. The light is on, I swallow. No vomiting. It pushes the clean-up too far outside of nature, a mass of things that shouldn’t be seen outside of the body, suddenly all mixed together. A human offal hotpot. Dry heaving, that’s fine, no lunch, better safe than sorry.

It has been exactly fifteen 24-hour increments — not days, mind you, they’re no days — since the sun last rose around here. It teases all the way into golden hour, dawning, dawning, and down, back again like a ball that hadn’t been kicked hard enough to roll through the goal marker of the horizon. These words, dawn and dusk and twilight, I can see how they can mean beautiful things to people. How they can mark time in a way that makes sense to god’s creatures, those who live by the rhythm of light and dark. How they can bring drama, hope, joy, melancholy. But to us here, creatures with no god, creatures that shouldn’t even be here, because we’re not designed for this, those words mean little, because they never happen truly, never fully realise themselves in this long, long night. Twenty more increments to go before the fiery ball tries hard enough for us to see.

I have come, I have seen, I will conquer. I’ll start on the inside, as always, and work my way back out. The porch light I find the switch for turns out far too dim, so I will bring a spotlight from my car, designed for these occasions specifically, for the polar night’s many twilights. I’ve put on my bodysuit already, but forgot the mask in the car. Hence the retching, from the smell. I’ll get my brushes, my sprays, my paper. When people ask me what it’s like, they think it’s scientific, and therefore also magical, a blend of mastery and mystery. But how could it possibly be glamorous to clean, I think though I don’t ask them. I’d hate to appear rude. On dates, at first I tell girls I’m a cleaner, just to test them, and their faces drop. But if I tell the truth and nothing but the truth, the full works, blood and sweat, sometimes tears, they light up, like I’m a live episode of a true crime series. That must be very exciting, to see all these places up close.

Tomorrow, I will return the knife to the police. I’ll apologise to them with all the words I have prepared: I’d forgotten to wear my gloves when I picked it up, I will be sorry for contaminating the evidence, I will promise to call next time without touching, and they’ll shake their heads. There are some things I won’t mention, things I knew about her, things that aren’t relevant now because she’s been annulled, things that aren’t relevant because what has once happened cannot unhappen. When I was young, I used to remember things that didn’t happen at all, but now I know how to make them.

January 12, 2024 14:17

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1 comment

Claire Trbovic
22:46 Jan 13, 2024

Chilling. Really enjoyed the subtle structure using the explanation of twilight types and the MC’s reference to remembering. Looking forward to reading more of your pieces.


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