In Plain Sight – A Short Story

People are oblivious. In my case, it was a good thing. As long as I kept up the normal routine, no one noticed that Marty had disappeared. Even after the sale sign went up in front of the house, the neighbors weren’t suspicious. “Where y’all headed?” they would ask. “Moving closer to the in-laws now that they’re getting up in years,” I’d answer. And that would be the end of it.

The human body has 206 bones, 79 organs, as well as muscle, connective tissue, and fat. Marty was a big man so he took a long time to dispose of. I started by draining the five liters of blood. It was a struggle to prop him up in the bathtub, but I’m a strong woman and the adrenaline was still pumping at that point. My hand shook as I severed the femoral artery.

After that, I separated the limbs and the head with my sharpest knife and wrapped them up in the freezer. That left the torso with it’s mass of organs and fat. I put my oven and my largest stock pots to work, cooking up a stew that fed the dogs for weeks. Still, nobody was missing Marty.

I kept the window washing business going all by myself. Sure it took a little longer now that I was doing it alone but I managed to keep our clients satisfied. “Where’s your other half?” someone would occasionally ask. “He’s off on another job,” I’d answer. And that would be the end of it.

Each time I went out —to work, to the supermarket, to grab lunch at McDonald’s, a small bag would go into the public trash can. That way, I disposed of a few of Marty’s bones at a time. They were dry and well wrapped so that no one would ever discover them in amongst the rest of the landfill debris.

It’s funny how fast I was able to recover our finances now that Marty wasn’t drinking away all our income. I was able to sell all the frivolous items he’d bought over the years too. The big screen TVs, the stereo equipment and the overpriced, underpowered “classic” Mustang he’d bought to restore. Even I knew the 90’s were a bad decade for Mustangs.

It took a full year. But it was time well spent. I slowly put everything in my name. It was easier than you might think. Even selling the house, I told the realtor my husband had to go on ahead to care for his sick parents and he’d left it all to me. It turns out you can have your contracts signed electronically which meant I could sign an approximate version of Marty’s signature for him. Nobody raised an eyebrow.

When it was done, I hauled all the furniture to an auctioneer and sold it for whatever I could. I packed the dogs and my clothes in the back of my old Jeep and drove west, not knowing where we’d land but knowing anywhere was better than here.

People are oblivious. No one ever noticed the bruises on my legs or the burn marks on my arms. Or how I kept my hair over one blackened eye or the other. For twenty years, I wished that someone would pay attention but no one ever did. Lucky for me, no one decided to start now.

Budapest

A short story by Meg Sorick.

I tasted blood. I was on my knees, my eye was swelling shut but at least I was alone. Somehow –and the how was really fuzzy– I had managed to fight off my attacker. The block was quiet and dark except for the street lights at regular intervals. I had been in that dark space between two of them when I was struck from behind. Some preternatural sense had made me move at the last minute so that the blow didn’t find its mark, probably saving my life.

I pulled myself to my feet, abandoned my errand and hurried back to the apartment we’d rented for the month. “Let’s live abroad,” my husband had said. “We’ll never get this chance again,” he’d insisted. “You will love Budapest,” he’d promised. “I can work on my book and you can indulge yourself in history,” he’d tempted.

Julian had a way of convincing me that all his ideas were mine, too. So that when things didn’t go as planned I could share the blame. I kept looking over my shoulder as I ran, terrified that the attacker would return. I never should’ve gone out alone this late at night.

Julian had been tapping away at his keyboard all evening while I read quietly on the other end of the narrow sofa. Without looking up, he said, “Cara, I’m out of cigarettes. Get me some, would you?” It wasn’t really a request. The ‘would you’ was just a polite afterthought. He knew I would go. Most of the time it was just easier to acquiesce rather than bear his brooding if I refused his wishes. Tonight however, I had resisted.

“But Julian, it’s nearly midnight. Nothing will be open,” I reasoned.

“Try the Lado,” he suggested. “They’re open late.”

“You must be joking,” I laughed mirthlessly. “That’s seven blocks away.”

“But Cara,” he pouted. “I’m on a roll. The words are flowing effortlessly tonight. Please don’t make me beg you. You do care about me don’t you?”

Internally I rolled my eyes. I had fallen in love with the quintessential temperamental artist. Tall and gaunt, but roguishly handsome, a brilliant conversationalist, educated, cultured and absolutely the most frustrating and childish creature I’d ever known. He had enchanted me, romanced me, made me lose all sense and reason, and married me six weeks after we’d first met. Our days were certainly numbered. But tonight, I thought… tonight I would accede to his wishes once again and tomorrow I would make plans to leave.

I arrived at the door breathless, my heart thundering in my chest. Perhaps he would come to his senses when he saw my injuries. Surely he’d agree that Budapest was a mistake. With shaking hands, I inserted the key into the lock on the outer door of the apartment building. Tears of relief spilled over as I closed the door behind me and leaned back against it.

I climbed the three flights of stairs and stumbled, weeping, into the apartment. Julian stood and came over to me. I collapsed into his arms as he held them out to me. “There, there, Cara. There, there…”

“Julian,” I sobbed. “We have to get out of here. I can’t spend another night in this place.”

“Cara,” he said, holding my face between his hands. “We aren’t going anywhere.” He grasped me by the shoulders and spun me around. From the darkened bedroom a figure stepped forward. Julian shoved me toward him and snarled, “Now, be a good girl and let the man finish his work.”

Preserved

To a man of nobility, of wealth and fame
The beauty from a far off kingdom, came

With charm and grace, her lord enchanted
The seeds of love’s compulsion planted

He sought to win her favor day and night
She refused his advances, try as he might

Bestowed upon her diamonds, rubies, pearls
But nothing moved the heart of the obstinate girl

But her resistance only stoked his fires
Finally unable to restrain his desires

He devised and schemed to spirit her away
Prepared a hidden tower for her to stay

But his passion was fierce and he lost control
In his fevered frenzy, her life he stole

Despair and grief, keening ragged breath
He determined to possess her e’en in death

So her blood he drained, replaced with wax
Laid on furs, draped in silk, sealed ‘neath glass

And thus he conferred upon her immortality
That he might preserve her for all eternity

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This poem was inspired by this illustration by Harry Clarke for ‘Morella’ by Edgar Allen Poe in Tales of Mystery and Imagination. And partially by the short story Miss Henrietta Stralson by the infamous Marquis de Sade.