Those Hideous Smiles

It’s night and I’m inside an impossibly expensive house.  The house is on stilts because it’s on the side of a mountain.  Why I’m inside the house is unclear but there I am anyway and I’m looking for something but I have no idea what.  To clarify:  It’s not that I know I’m there to find something but I don’t know what it is, it’s that I’m there and I have no idea why I’m there, but I’m holding a flashlight and it just sort of feels like the reason I’m there is to discover something.  The flashlight turns out to be a good thing because there doesn’t appear to be any power in the house.  As I go from room to room, there is an increasing sense of dread growing in my mind and I begin to feel certain that I’m there not to find something but to find someone, or at least to make sure no one is in the house.

As I look through the various rooms of the house, I see several pictures showing two women – one black, one white – who appear to be deliriously happy in every picture.  Obnoxiously happy.  Disgustingly happy.  As I look at each new picture of the women it becomes obvious that they’re a couple and that they’re so happy because they’re deeply in love with one another.

I move into the dining room and I see several glass cabinets that are supposed to be housing the silverware and the good china but they’re completely destroyed and anything that was inside them was destroyed at the same time they were.  The dining-room table is upturned and it’s at this point that I know in my heart, with absolute certainty, that the reason I’m there is because I’ve been chosen to discover something horrible.  Something profane.  Almost as though God randomly drew my name from a hat, plucked me out of whatever life I was leading up to that point and put me in this wretched house with no memory of where I’d just been and only a vague idea as to why I was here.

The dining room leads me into the kitchen and I know that the kitchen is the last place on earth I want to be but I have no choice in the matter.  My feet won’t stop carrying me forward, though my mind is screaming at them to just knock it the fuck off.  My flashlight scans the kitchen and the first thing I notice is a small television sitting on a counter at the far end of the room.  The television is on and the screen shows an empty chair in front of a table.  The camera is unmoving, the picture unchanging…it isn’t a program the monitor is displaying, it’s showing another room somewhere, maybe in the house, maybe half a world away.  As I walk further into the room, I look into the sink and am immediately confronted by the appalling sight and smell of rotting meat.  I’m the first person to be in this room in several weeks, if not months.  Then my mind goes black.

There’s someone in the kitchen with me.

I whirl around with the flashlight, casting light in every direction.  I can’t see anyone, but they’re there.  I can feel them behind me but when I turn around there’s no one.  When I reach back behind me, there’s no one.  As I desperately search the room, the television catches my eye again and now there’s someone on the screen.  At first glance he appears to be talking to someone but as soon as I notice him, he stops for just a moment before speaking again.  I step toward the screen to get a closer look and to see if I can turn up the volume to hear what he’s saying, and as I step closer, he begins to gesture wildly and his talking has turned into screaming and it’s obvious, though I can’t hear a word he’s saying that I’m the person he’s been talking to.  And as soon as I realize that, I no longer need to turn the sound up, because I know what he’s trying to tell me.  He’s telling me to run.  He’s telling me to get out of there as fast as my legs will carry me, but it’s too late.  She’s here.

I turn around and just entering the room, where I’d entered moments earlier, is the white woman from all the pictures.  She’s hunched over like an animal, completely naked, and half covered in dirt.  She’s smiling at me just as she is in her pictures, and she takes a step toward me, awkward and stumbling.  As she moves toward me, my eyes go down to her legs, which seem to be bruised and purple.  She snarls at me and takes another step and I notice her complexion lightens toward the top of her body to a pale, almost translucent white.

My mind is now shrieking commands to tear ass out of the room but I can’t.  I want to run but my body refuses to move.  She reaches for me with a noise in her throat that isn’t human and, instead of running, I take a swing and my fist connects with her face and I feel her jaw dislocate on contact, spinning her head around to an obscene degree.  The sound that comes out of her is almost a laugh and she lunges back at me, moving quicker than before.  My hands instinctively go to her throat and as I squeeze I feel it partially collapse, which is when I realize the notion of killing her is absurd because she’s already dead.  This is when I feel a glacially cold hand wrap itself around my neck and send my entire body hurling back into the kitchen wall.

I look up and the black girl from the pictures is leering at me with the same nauseating smile and both women start toward me again with obvious intent.  Still knocked on my ass, I raise my right leg and send my foot into the right knee of the white woman, with a horrible crunch.  This sends her to the floor but the look on her face suggests she hasn’t even noticed.  The black woman reaches down for my throat and I swing my flashlight into her skull as hard as I can, knocking her away and to the side of me.  I get to my feet just as the white woman does, apparently unaffected by her injury.  I grab her hair and send her flying back into her friend, knocking both of them to the ground, and I run from the kitchen back into the dining room and continue through to the living room, where the black woman is waiting for me with that hideous smile on her face.  She throws herself at me with a screech that turns my blood to ice and, remembering being grabbed from behind in the kitchen, I jump to the left, destroying the coffee table on impact, as the two women collide.  For a moment their attentions turn away from me and each instantly begins trying to tear the other apart.

It’s obvious that both women are dead, but as I watch them claw at one another I notice that the injuries I’ve given both of them are gone.  I’m not dealing with zombies, I’m dealing with ghosts.  And with that revelation comes another:  They killed each other.  Something went horribly, horribly wrong and the love they had for each other had turned to hatred and they fought and somehow they killed each other in the process.

Once again, I get back on my feet and the noise I make in doing so brings their hateful attention right back to me and then I have one last revelation: As much as they hate each other, there is only one thing in the world they hate more, and that is me.  My living presence, interrupting their nightly pantomime of double homicide, is the only thing in all of creation more offensive to them than each other and now they’re both turning to me to deal with that.

I reach down and grab a broken leg from the ruined coffee table and use it to cave in the black woman’s skull which, again, goes unnoticed.  We fight for several minutes, but there’s ultimately only one way this is going to end.  The injuries I give them may as well never have happened and if I succeed in throwing one of them off of me, out of the room, they come running back in, completely unhurt and with a renewed strength.  My injuries, meanwhile, aren’t going anywhere and I’m starting to get tired and worse, I’m scared out of my mind.

In a moment of weakness, I stumble backward and the white woman grabs my throat and pulls me in close with her icy hand, her eyes burning holes into mine.  She screams, not like a person, not like an animal, not like any living thing in this world, and I begin to scream too.  I am now terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought and I know there’s only one way out of this house quickly enough to escape these horrible, dead bitches and that’s through the window.

I manage to push the white woman off of me and I grab for the black woman and shove her aside and I take a step toward the nearest window.  I know that jumping out the window means dying but it’s the only way to escape the nightmare of what’s going on inside this house.  Both women shriek their hideous, dead shrieks and I begin to run.

As I plummet to freedom, I see the rotting corpses of two, long-dead women rushing into view, mocking me with their stark, hollow eyes and those hideous smiles.

About

Tim Hatch lives in a secret volcano headquarters somewhere in the South Pacific, where he controls the world economy and writes confessional poetry about his disappointing childhood.

His poetry has been published in MungBeing, East Jasmine Review, The Pacific Review, The Vehicle, Touch: The Journal Of Healing, Apeiron Review, and he is the recipient of the 2014 Felix Valdez Award.

He finds writing about himself in the third person to be an overtly seductive invitation to tell lies.

He once captured a French Eagle at Talavera.

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