by David Steffen
We used to be so close. What happened between us, Gloria? Is it because I died? I would never have thought our marriage was so superficial. For Christ’s sake, we’d been married for eighteen years! And now you won’t even talk to me, won’t even look at me. I’d never even believed in reincarnation, but here I am. I guess reincarnation believed in me.
I know I’ve changed. You pass by and I watch you, unblinking, hoping for even a split second of eye contact. After being ignored for so long, even that small acknowledgment of my existence would be amazing. But, no, you keep walking. As always.
You look so close, yet we are separated by compressed infinity. The entrance on top of my prison is open, always enticing me, but outside I cannot breathe and a terrible gravity holds me down.
I push towards you again, but the invisible barrier holds me back. You still don’t look at me, but you approach me and rain flakes of disgusting nourishment down upon me. And I grudgingly gobble them up, resentful of my betraying hunger.
Breakfast passes in silence as you read your newspaper and I watch. If only I could read it too, but the headlines are distorted into nonsense shapes, like a reflection in a funhouse mirror.
Soon you leave for work, and I have nothing to do until you return. My new life is so empty when I’m alone. Is this how you felt when deadlines loomed and I had to work overtime, my presence only evident by my incoming paychecks?
I return to my abode and marvel for the hundredth time at the beauty of its façade. It is a cruel trick, but one which I allow myself to fall for time and again. The outside is wondrous, a rainbow of colors: my castle, my home, promising even greater splendor and luxury inside. But once across the threshold, the lie is revealed. The inside is colorless, featureless, nothing but a hollow shell, the discarded skin of a mythical beast. Yet it is my only refuge from the light. In here I can forget what I’ve become for a time, and can remember happier times.
My favorite memories are our trips together, once every year, a different location every time. Backpacking across Europe, volunteering in South Africa. My favorite trip was Australia, and diving by the Great Barrier Reef. The vibrant colors, the lush wildlife, all existing there as it had long before people ever came across it. How I longed to be one of those fish, living there forever in an underwater wonderland with you.
I float in the dark and remember until I can stand it no more, and I retreat from my castle. But it is equally dark outside. Has the sun already set? You should have been home long before now. I hope you didn’t get in a car accident on your way home.
I wait and wait until I feel I will die from the anticipation. Finally, I see the door from the garage open and you come in, alive and well, thank God! And you’re… with someone. A man. And… you’re holding hands.
Gloria, what are you doing, bringing a man into my house? But I suppose it’s not my house anymore, and you are free to do what you like. I don’t even know how long it’s been since I died. Maybe you waited a respectful amount of time. I can’t bring myself to look away as you kiss him, long and wet.
I grow agitated as I watch the kiss go on and on and I work myself into a froth, spinning round and round in my confinement. I spiral up and up and I escape. I try to run to you, to shout to you, but the poison air and crushing gravity assault me, leaving me pathetically stranded, barely able to move.
I succeed in interrupting your kiss, and you scoop me up in your hands—oh the ecstasy of your touch, the feel of your skin against mine—and then you dump me unceremoniously into my prison without a word.
You wash your hands, and then you grab him by the shirt and pull him along after you, toward the bedroom, our brief but intimate encounter already forgotten. I am thankful, at least, that I don’t have to watch what happens next.
“I love you, Gloria,” I try to say, but there is no sound, only bubbles rising before my eyes.
* * *
About the Author
David Steffen is the editor of Diabolical Plots and the co-founder and administrator of The Submission Grinder. His work has been published in very nice places like Escape Pod, Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Podcastle, among others. The rumors that he is the pupal stage of some kind of dog-cloud hybrid are exaggerations at best.