The other half
He stared out from behind the glass of a small frame, the picture taken 22 years ago as he stood on a beach, the sea behind him beneath a cloudless sky. She wanted to feel emotion at his passing, wanted to shed a tear, but couldn’t. He hadn’t been a bad husband, and he certainly hadn’t been good, but then neither had she. Yet he had seemed to treat her as though she wasn’t really there. She had been someone he could fall back on when he had nothing else.
He had had many affairs, but she always forgave him. It had come to the point where he would simply tell her he had been with another woman. He didn’t fear any repercussions from her because he knew she would forgive him. He had exploited this for many years, using her reliability to get away with anything.
Perhaps it was because she needed him as much as he needed her. The word ‘doormat’ often sprang to mind. If that was what she was to him, then so be it. At one point she had thought he may be right. If she could put up with his playing away and drunken mood swings, then there must be something wrong with her if she stayed. What was it that she didn’t have that made him look elsewhere for affection?
Again, if she could not provide contentment for him, then that of course must prove that there was indeed something wrong with her. This provided the reason for her forgiveness. It was a case of, if I cannot provide you with what you are looking for, then I forgive you for looking for it elsewhere. Yet, at the back of her mind, suppressed by this train of thought, was her conscience telling her: ‘Sandra, how long is this going to go on? Tell me you’re not living in denial. He’s using you as a base. Off he goes to work all day as head of his car insurance agency, coming back for his tea, then going back out to nowhere you’ve ever been with his rich mates, drinking and getting up to all sorts while you’re sat in here watching your soaps and waiting for him to come in so you can make him a cup of tea in the false notion he actually cares about you. You provide him with his food, mother him, and believe that one day he’ll change. You know very well he’s not going to change.
Is he suddenly one day going to stop his philandering, buy a huge bunch of roses and declare his undying love, and never even glance at another woman? You’ve more chance of walking on Mars. This seed of doubt eventually grew to overpower the notion of reservation she had harboured for many years.
It is the reason she had killed him.
She had poisoned his food, and finished the job with one of his rusty saws he kept in the garage for the rare occasions he actually bothered to decorate.
Perhaps it was desperation borne of insanity. Her tolerance over the years had slowly eroded away any normal thoughts she used to have, and brought with it a type of neuroses that eventually led her to let him ingest the poison.
Why she had to saw him in half, she couldn’t really answer. Maybe it was in case he woke up. Perhaps she hadn’t put enough poison in. If he found out, then she guessed he wouldn’t be too happy about it.
Her hands were still filthy with soil, having buried him in the garden which had never properly been maintained. Occasionally an old lawn mower would be taken out of the garage and taken over it, but the weeds always grew back. Now though, in amongst the undergrowth was a large patch of soil.
Using a rusty spade, she had surprised herself with her strength at digging, especially at 59. There were no witnesses, the nearest neighbour being all of 50 metres away around the curve of a country lane that led into the town, and eventually the town of Lynswood.
Silence hung in the air, omnipresent, his absence noted by the very atmosphere, and altered accordingly. Walking out into the kitchen, she looked down at the place where she had used the saw, where his innards had spilt, where she found it hard to saw through his spine, where the blood carpeted the tiles, and seeped into every orifice and cavity in the kitchen. It was all gone now, mopped and soaked up with towels and his clothes, but still there hung in the air the odour of blood, and the tiles would never be as yellow as they used to be. They now held a tint of ground-in crimson.
Out in the back garden, the air was cold, blowing the weeds slightly and chilling her bones as though the angry ghost of her husband was standing beside her. She wondered whether or not to put a cross where he lay, some sort of final gesture to seal the fact that he had truly gone. When she put her hands in her pockets, she felt, then pulled out his reading glasses that he had been wearing when the effects of the poison had truly taken hold. She had taken them off in the kitchen before using the saw.
Sandra placed them on the mound of soil, beneath which his corpse now lay. The glass in the spectacles reflected the sky and the clouds, as though showing her where his soul had departed to. Beyond the clouds, into other worlds.
She turned and walked back into the house, feeling the heavy silence descend upon her, and surround her like morning mist in a countryside valley.
Hours later, with the sky black as pitch, with no moon or stars to pierce the dark clouds above, Sandra decided that she would make a hot mug of tea and take it to bed. The house felt empty, and to a certain degree, colder than normal. Perhaps it was because winter was drawing in, and the darkness crept across the land earlier each day, bringing with it a coldness that would cloak her and penetrate every bone. It meant that the bed covers at this point were an attractive proposition. That, and a large mug of tea.
With the bedside lamp on, casting her and the bed in bright yellow from a pale lampshade, Sandra read her dog-eared paperback romance novel, about a king’s daughter obliged to marry a squire, whilst she secretly receives gifts and love letters from a secret admirer.
After around half an hour, the mug empty on the bedside table, she put the paperback down after discovering who the admirer was. It was the gardener. She switched off the light and settled down, her mind surprisingly relaxed after what she had done. Perhaps it was the huge weight off her mind, the part of her psyche that worried and fretted over her husband, dying along with him. She also noticed the silence. It had never been this quiet before. There was no wind, and no nocturnal animals to pierce the atmosphere audibly. It was as though time itself had stopped in this area, and was perhaps deciding whether or not to stop her heart beating, as she had done to her husband, but soon there came a bang from somewhere that sounded close, and she wondered if she had been in some sort of half-conscious state. Did I hear a bang or was it the remnants of a dream?
The bang came again, like a door closing. It was real, and sounded like the back door, leading into the garden.
Had Sandra looked out of the window with a large powerful torch, and trained it on her husband’s grave, she would have saw a gaping hole.
Moments later, she heard a soft, barely audible sliding sound that changed to a rougher, coarser sound upon contact with carpet. Sandra wasn’t afraid, just confused, her mind trying desperately to work out what it could be, and she remembered that she hadn’t locked the back door, her mind elsewhere. Perhaps it was an intruding cat, or fox from the fields. What else could it be? It crawled slowly along the hallway, leaving behind a trail of soil and slivers of flesh. Sandra realised that whatever it was, was coming up the stairs. It took a few minutes to reach the top, and continued to draw closer, the dragging sound increasingly louder.
In the pitch black of the bedroom, Sandra heard the door open, a slight squeaking sound came from the hinges. She had always meant to put a drop of oil on it, but most of the time, her mind never came close to even thinking about it. Nervously fumbling for the bedside lamp switch, she turned it on, and could not comprehend what was in the doorway at first, something that crawled towards her, with a gaunt, white face and white, sunken eyes. The top half of her husband dragged itself slowly towards the bed, a rasping breathing issuing from its damaged lungs. Sandra was so frozen with fear, her vocal chords refused to work, her eyes wide and staring, like a rabbit caught in headlights. He disappeared from view at the foot of the bed, but then a hand appeared, grabbing at the duvet. It hauled itself up, and slowly crawled towards her, its white face cast even brighter under the glare of the light.
Sandra did not know that he could not die. That he was immortal. His trysts and rendezvous that Sandra knew of, but not about, had resulted in a certain pact, that he, and several of his colleagues had achieved. Quincy, a name he had given himself, because he never liked Colin, had been part of a group, or secret society congregation.
There were several such societies of varying sizes, each with their own regulations and rules, but this one he was a part of there was only eight members, so they could hardly call themselves a society, more a club, or group.
Yet, unlike the others, they were so secret that they didn’t even give themselves a name. Most secret societies are not really secret at all, because by even giving themselves a name, they announce their existence.
This was a group only eight people knew about, and for a new member to come into the fray they would be secretly investigated and vetted that they could then be given morsels of information, and if they seemed keen to know more, if their interest was piqued, then they were asked to join, and so far, all had said yes.
Most societies have some sort of common interest, or aim. Or simply escaping from the real world to indulge in riches, wine and crackers and to discuss affluence and how to make more of it. This society was certainly in that bracket, but with the inclusion that their main aim was immortality. All members would research throughout history with however means, and perform the different methods and techniques that have been used to try and attain it, be it voodoo rituals, alchemic mixtures of all sorts of ingredients, or simply trying out their own spells and methods. They would philosophise, debate, and gave serious thought to cryonics, preserving themselves to be woken up in the future.
All of them took it seriously, and none of them could ever really answer the question as to whether or not they really were immortal. They believed they were, and yet by the same token had their doubts. Maybe, just maybe, I’m not immortal.
So the experiments continued, the spells, the rituals, until their founder and the one who owned the golf club whose meetings rooms they met in each week, eighty-four year-old George Laurence, decided enough was enough. He needed to know, and because he was the eldest member, and took several tablets every day, and always had in his diary a doctors or hospital appointment, he thought he would find out whether or not he was immortal.
So, at one meeting, with all members present, George persuaded somebody to shoot him in the chest.
They were very reluctant at first, but George thought that if he shot himself in the head, and he was immortal, he would have to live for eternity with half a head. At least if he shot himself in the heart, and he came back, that would guarantee it had worked.
So with much debate and musings, the time came. He said his goodbyes to them all in case he didn’t come back, and all raised a glass to him.
They sat in a circle with George in the middle having taken off his blazer and opening his white shirt. A housing and policy development officer pressed the barrel of a Colt .38 to his chest where he guessed the heart was located, right against his sternum, and pulled the trigger, sending him crashing back from the wooden chair he was sat on.
He had lain, sprawled on his back, unmoving, a bloody hole in his chest, an even bigger one on the exit wound, his heart practically having disintegrated, lying in increasing wet crimson.
For a while, there was silence. They all secretly guessed that he had gone, and wasn’t coming back.
Until he slowly raised his head and smiled.
Of all the experiments and rituals they had performed over the years, none of them knew which one had worked, which one had given them the opportunity to be immortal, and they all knew there was one task left to do before they embraced immortality.
They had to die.
In order to come back as normal as possible, without any blemishes they needed to commit suicide without leaving any marks, so decided on strangulation. At least those marks were not immediately obvious, and they didn’t know if they would remain or heal.
So they fashioned a noose, and took it in turns to hang themselves, and the nameless secret society continued to meet.
For three years, Quincy had been immortal, and had not aged a second, so now Sandra had thought she had killed and buried him, but here he was, white, gaunt, dishevelled, smeared with soil, bits of which, as well as blood, had trailed behind him, and his upper-half crawled across the bed to a wide-eyed Sandra who was about to scream. He reached out his hand towards her and said in a rasping whisper: