I wrote this short story while I was still a student in college, around fall of 2009. This story was part of my end-of-semester portfolio submission, so no one outside of my classmates have ever seen this story… until now. I have made corrections as the years have past but I kept the overall story the same. I didn’t like this story that much when I first wrote it, however, it has grown on me. I hope you enjoy it.
We Are Alone
I bent forward with a match in hand, steadily guiding the flame towards its unseen companion. The wick ignited and the light pushed back the darkness to the furthest corners of the dining room. My hands felt their way down my blazer as my fingers clasped closed the top two buttons. My hands crept toward my neck making sure the tie was not crooked, and lastly they tugged at my cuffs for any unnecessary creases. My feet, as if trained by a wraith, stealthily tip-toed around the table where my wine glass was in place ready to accept my every command. The chair creaked in anger as I sat down, gouging into the wood floor with fervent resistance as I pulled it closer to the table.
“Ah, at last. We are alone,” I whispered. “I have waited so long for you. It was an exhausting search, one that threatened to test the very fabric of my patience, but I have at last found you. If only I had thought to look at the closer stores. The owner thought he could hide you from me, my love, but I… I persuaded him to reveal your location to me. And in that instant I knew we were meant to be. It was, as they say, destiny.”
My hand caressed the bottle’s smooth glass inching closer to the label. My fingertips slid gently across the label cataloguing every bump and roughened area, comparing it to past bottles that had shared this table with me. With each area I passed, my neurons sent luscious jolts of nostalgia up my arms and into my spine where my body surrendered to the quiver.
Alas, without proper notice, the air around us began to shudder as if shards of ice were about to precipitate. The hairs on my neck tugged at my flesh. My ears picked up the maladroit footsteps of some intruder, a thief looking to steal my treasure.
“Again…?! This needs to end! Alex! Every damn night,” she shrieked. My lips immediately warped into a smirk as I tried to hide a chuckle.
“Why?” I whispered.
“Why…? Did you forget: we have two kids who depend on us and I alone can’t support this family.” I looked up at her with the wine glass in my hand.
As my wrist floated, it made the glass gyrate creating a gentle swirl which released a pleasant aroma that saturated my nose. The wine approached my lips and they opened in eager anticipation. Upon contact with my lips, the wine sent every one of my neurons into blissful overload. Tingling erupted from my jaw and sent a cascade of pleasure throughout my body as I swallowed a deluge of wine. As the last beads of wine sank into my gastric crypt, my lungs exhaled and rejoiced in an audible sigh. I returned to glare at the cutpurse that now had a scowl on her face.
“This…” I pointed to my glass as I cleared my throat, “is harmless. Besides, why would I stop? I love this. It would be to deny the very feelings that make me human. Every time I indulge, it is like discovering hidden treasure, mounds of gold, loot – booty.”
“And what is that supposed to mean?!” she retorted sharply.
“Must I truly spell it out for you? I dare not say it aloud for the children might be eavesdropping.”
“I work two jobs now because of your harmless habit.”
“Custom,” I interrupted. “Habit makes it sound insipid and tawdry.” Her eyes – once a beautiful shade of amber – slowly transformed into tiny, bituminous pieces of coal.
“I barely have the energy to tuck the kids into bed at night, not to mention attend to your desires. You’ve been slowly bleeding dry our savings and soon… we’ll have nothing left. Alex, you have to think about the kids. On some days, Allie and Brian go to school without lunch money!”
“I do consider our children, my dear. They have been gaining a bit of unhealthy weight, haven’t they? A missed meal would do them well.” The words tumbled out of my mouth and struck the chord of disdain within the cutpurse. My eyes gravitated towards her eyes and an icy paralysis spread throughout me. Her gelatin masses threatened to escape their sockets, beads of sweat leaped from her face while her skin began to roil. Her metamorphosis was accompanied by unnatural muscle growth and commensurate vasculature. Any semblance of a thief was now gone. What stood before me was a primeval fiend that seethed with rage. Fear slithered from the farthest depths of my gut, permeating every cell of my existence and I, as the air before me, began to quiver as if about to precipitate.
“You PIG!” The sound to tendons and sinews rippled through the now-palpable air as the beast’s legs primed to pounce. Her words had only arrived at my ears when I noticed her claws grow longer with each exaggerated moment. I thought I had time to shield myself but the savage claws were upon me faster than I anticipated. Rage slashed and clawed at my face. The force of the claws made the chair sunder, scornfully delivering splinters into my underside; the chair’s final act of defiance.
The fiend insisted on wasting no time continuing her assault. I had no response to her mounting my chest and releasing a fusillade of punches and scratches. My arms were pinned under the mass of her body unable to protect my face. It was at that point that I knew the beast had to be stopped.
My lungs propelled a roar of anger throughout the house as I drove my chest into her and tossed her aside. I scrambled to pick myself up taking notice of the numbness that had begun to radiate across my face. Without delay, I pushed my wife away with all the force I could muster. A mixture of surprise and fear tore my eyes open allowing them to frantically search the battleground.
“What are you doing, Claire?” I screamed. Claire’s feral screech drowned out my query and she lunged at me again. This time I had prepared myself for the second attack, responding by twisting my upper body and curling my hand into a fist. My muscles propelled the clenched fist to intercept Claire’s face, the impact – a resounding crunch. Her body was hurled back stumbling to regain balance.
Like a geyser, my rage swelled and erupted in an uncontrollable torrent. My feet gripped the ground pushing me closer to Claire. I leapt onto her confused form and wrestled her to wood floor. I firmly positioned my body over her chest, pinning her to the floor while the palms and fingers of my hands coiled themselves around her throat.
“Look at what your selfishness has wrought! All I wanted was to be alone but you couldn’t show restraint. Do you realize how petty your concerns are? You will not separate us!” All the muscles in my body tensed. All the muscles of my hands and arms began to fill with fury instigating them to grip tighter around Claire’s throat. She began to writhe and squirm in pain as she struggled, in vain, to gasp for air. Slowly, Claire’s face began to take on a blue hue; her eyes began to bulge out her head as if to create new passages for air. A small growl sequestered from my mouth as Claire steadily ceased her struggle. Her eyes darted from left to right looking for salvation and then… they met my eyes. My body locked like one caught in a hypnotic trance. I suddenly became overwhelmed with icy fear looking down at the dying fiend I called my wife. The events that had transpired that evening began to flicker before my eyes.
“No.” I whispered. “For wine? No… I can’t do this. It is only wine.” My hands heard the pleas of my mind and gently released their grip. The blue color began to fade and Claire finally drew in a breath of air.
“I… I don’t know… what happened, I lost control. I’m… so sorry.” Tears flooded my eyes and my body succumbed to hysteria. I slowly began to stand and Claire scurried towards the table. I extended my hand in an effort to console her but she whimpered and recoiled further away.
I turned to face the cursed bottle of wine on the table but it had vanished. Footsteps drew nearer calling my attention to my right side. My vision remained blurred as I caught a glimpse of a tiny person wielding the wine bottle – a little leaguer prepared to hit a home run. My hands raced towards my face but were beaten by a bone-shattering crash.
I opened my eyes to a pale white ceiling and rhythmic beeping. Confusion had soaked itself deep into my mind trying to find a reasonable explanation as to my current predicament. I frantically sat up looking around hoping to see my family but was greeted by a gang of machines and strange tubes sticking out of my body. A discontented groan escaped my mouth. The clatter of footsteps could be heard beyond the door and one set seemed to scrape ever closer. Without warning, a disheveled male nurse staggered into my opalescent room with a tray of what appeared to be food.
“Mornin’, Alex. It’s good to see you awake.”
“How long have I been here?”
“About 5 days. You’re really lucky you have a thick skull, otherwise you might have never woken up,” the male nurse said in an exaggerated chuckle. “The doctor told me that you need to be put on a strict diet…”
“Diet?! What diet?”
“The doctor felt that you had a bit of extra weight, which might lead to complications during surgery, so your rations have been…”
“Shut up! You’re giving me a headache. Just hand it over and leave me in peace.”
“Oh, I almost forgot.” The nurse lurched over to the far end of the room where a slender, beige box sat atop a window sill. He grabbed it and lobbed it into my lap. “That was left here by one rather unsavory woman. She insisted that I overdose you on that morphine you’re hooked up to. When I told her I couldn’t, she came back a few hours later with this. Said it was ‘the perfect gift’ for you.”
As the nurse turned, I extended my hand and barked: “Wait! What complications arose during my surgery?” But it was too late. The nurse had hobbled out of the room leaving me to gaze upon the gift.
I lifted the top open to reach inside. My fingertips felt a cylindrical glass shape with a label bearing all the ridges of familiarity. Electrical impulses seized my brain slowly revealing to me the horrors that left me in the hospital bed. Nausea coated my stomach, coaxing me to wretch, and my skin began to crawl with an icy sting. I extracted the bottle from the box and I saw a bloody grooved dent in the bottle. The cork rested firmly in the neck hiding the now-spoiled liquid inside. Even as I held this once great joy in my hands, I could not muster a smile. The joy I once had was now gone, trapped inside the glass prison. A tear escaped my eye tenderly placing itself on the label of the bottle. I remembered everything. I remembered the rage that boiled inside, the gluttony, the exhilaration I felt every time I sipped from a wine glass, the searing pain of feral claws. I remembered all the money I spent, all the meals that my children missed, all the distress my wife felt when she begged me to stop. Before I could break out into an uncontrollable hysteria, the palms and fingers of my hands coiled around the neck of the bottle.
“We are alone.”