My sixth sense kicked in. I leaned toward the balcony, all the while, realizing I was not alone. A clammy, cold hand on my arm – and there I was: hot, lightly coated with sweat.
“I thought you were dead,” I gasped.
“I am,” he said. A blue mist rose up. It smelled of spearmint and marigolds.
The ocean crashed in its customary, troublesome way, a dozen surfers cutting the curls in formation, one after another. The sun setting, then re-setting itself. Shadows flitted across the moon. The face I saw reflected there was not reassuring. The lips I saw were upturning, mimicking a smile yet in reality exposing an existential truth in a frightening leer, and they were all too familiar - the lips, the smile, and the existential truth.
His hand was cold metal. Beads of perspiration skittered about like mercury dropped from above. Mad silver hematitic globules tumbled in the deep center of my mind until my inner eye shone like polished chrome under the brightest, most evil false promise, most tantalizing of full moons.
You are the hard edge of my consciousness. You are the soft lips of my heart. You are the love of my life who goes away the instant I break myself from my dream and open my eyes. I hate you for that. You always go away. When will you realize it hurts me?
The eyes were liquid mercury. The pupils were swimming, now drowning in pinpoints of darkness.
Scent of marigolds, mint shifting down to tones of lilac and burned geranium.
Blue haze. My eyes swimming in tears. Sharp crystals stabbing the place behind my eyes where tears forget to originate.
“I thought you were dead,” I repeated.
“Yes.” His voice was rough gravel. “Of course. You killed me.”
Thigh muscles responded by tensing, and the small of my back trembling, heart surging hard. My face, however, was another story.
I knew I had to defend myself.
Pivoting quickly on my thin spike heels, I grabbed the nearest loose thing within reach. It was a length of iron rebar used to reinforce concrete. It had been left behind by workers.
As hard as I could, I plunged it into the middle of the hideous liquid metal eye that refused to stop staring at me. The expanse of metal met no resistance. The horror. No bounds. I felt vomit surge into the back of my throat. In spite of the nausea, I pulled the metal out of his eye, held it over my head, flexed my biceps and cracked it down on his head with all the strength I could muster. His slimy green-gray skin split open. It had a sickening sheen, and ungodly luster.
“Go away,” I said. I did not recognize my own voice. “Stay away. Just stay far, far away.”
“I can’t,” he said. The large pores of his face opened up, while the skin took on the appearance of putty. He had not even flinched when I hit him as hard as I could with my piece of iron.
“You could at least have the decency to hit me with your body. You could at least respect me enough to touch me,” he said. “You bitch.”
Tears streamed down my face.
He laughed. The voice was somewhere between a rasp and a laugh; he held his hand to his head as though he suffered from the kind of paralyzing grief that takes one to the outer bounds of decency, not to mention life.
“You won’t touch me. You wouldn’t dare,” he said. “If you did, it would take us back to the beginning.”
Cold mercury, so heavy a liquid that it penetrates the pores, invades the skin, blood vessels, and leaves unfortunate ones utterly mad. The heart paralysis was almost instantaneous. My lungs and throat filled with cold, sticky, sour honey.
With difficulty, I inhaled. My voice was thick with mucous. The whispers were obscene.
“You killed me.”
“You’ve got it backwards.”
His eyes receded. They were cold, silver marbles. I collapsed on the floor. The moon and its awkward, smirking leer swirled around the blue fog.
The last thing I remembered was the scent of carnations.
I awakened to the pink glow of dawn. I was in the bed next to the sheer curtains in front of the French doors that opened to a balcony overlooking the
With a start, I sat bolt upright in my bed. I remembered.
I looked down. Next to my bed was another shoebox filled with $100 bills.