The Beast, Pt. 89 (Chapter 22a)

No, really. What are you doing down there?”

The voice is feminine, but not soft, not high. Mezzo-soprano, slightly concerned, slightly amused. There’s something alien in it, something familiar. A voice I haven’t heard in ages but that I used to hear all the time. A voice that sends neurons in my brain grown dusty from disuse twitching and groping, zombies searching for something to grab a hold of.

I look up and she’s standing over me, head tilted to the side, and I swear I can feel her eyes on me, can see the closed mouth smile on her face, can see the dimples in her cheeks, the curve of her nose, the errant hairs that dangled in front of her eyes no matter what coiffure she chose to adopt.

I can’t really, though. There’s a white veil in the way. White gloves covering hands that could never sit still unless they were being held. A white gown smoothing out her body, turning it from warm flesh into cold sculpture.

“Oh, fuck me.”

Her head tilts to the other side and the veil moves with it, showing more of her than I’ve ever seen before. Fair skin, pink lips, and that smile. “Uh,” she says, dragging the sound out like a singer holding a note.

I let my head hit the floor again. My muscles go slack I don’t even care what happens to me at this point. “Whatever you’re going to do, just do it.”

She sniffs, shifts her weight to her rear foot, crosses her arms. I’ve never seen the Lady in White move like this before. I’ve never seen her move at all. I’ve never seen her skin. Just stillness. Just nothing.

“Wow. I’m definitely insulted, but I can’t decide if it’s because you lost interest in me that quickly or if it’s because you think I’m that easy.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard her talk before, either. I pick my head up, push myself up onto my elbows, push myself to at least sit. Confusion has cut through the apathy and the indifference. “Wait, what?”

“You said, ‘Oh, fuck me,’ and then I didn’t say anything, and then you… You know what? Forget it. It was a joke.”

“But you don’t joke.”

“What?”

“You don’t even talk.”

The Lady in White is silent. We stare at each other. My eyes narrow to slit. Apathy given way to confusion given way to suspicion. “Who are you?”

“Okay, seriously.” she says. “What’s wrong?” She leans down, and she’s not so tall as she used to be, not so thin, not so skeletal, like maybe there’s a person, a real person, underneath that veil.

And then she reaches out her hand, fingers gently spread apart from each other, and it’s coming right for me, and I scream “Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!” and I try to jump back, but I slam against a wall, and there’s nowhere for me to go, and it’s back to trembling.

Her hand stops in mid-air. It lingers there for a moment before the fingers curl in on itself, like a flower blooming in reverse. “___. You’re scaring me,” she says. And there really is fear in her voice. There really is concern. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting that.

My eyes drift down and pick out a spot on the carpet, lock on it, refuse to move. I mumble something that sound like “I’m sorry,” and the Lady in White says softly, “It’s okay.”

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