His hands wet with her blood, he stood up to look at the carnage at his feet. Her body lay at the bottom of the stairs, her once creamy-white skin, was red with blood. Her face was contorted in pain, and she stared condemningly at her murderer.
“Don’t look at me like that Martha,” he said gruffly. Her lifeless body remained poised.
“When, I say don’t look at me like that. Damn it Martha, you will listen,” he shouted, slamming his boot into her face, sending a bone crunching noise through the house.
A quiet tapping started to sound, on the roof, growing louder as every second passed. He looked out of the window to see that it was pouring down with rain.
“Do you remember our first kiss, Martha?” he turned back to her bloodied body.
“Come on now, how can you not remember. It was a night just like tonight. Remember, I took you out to the pictures, but my car broke down, so I had to walk you back home in the pouring rain,” he began to laugh heartily “Do you remember, when you started to cry because you’re new shoes, got muddy and I promised I’d buy you another pair. And what did I do the next day, Martha? I bought you a new pair of shoes, just as I promised. But you Martha, you don’t keep you’re promises, do you? You promised me you’d always love me,”
He walked through the dark hall, to the front door. A white suitcase laid waiting.
“And then I find you with this. You were trying to leave me, weren’t you Martha. After all the love I gave you, after everything I did for you. Thirty one years we’ve been married, and now you want to leave. It doesn’t work like that.”
He picked up a small box that lay on top of the suitcase, and pulled out a cigarette. He lit it and took a long, slow drag.
“Till death do us part,” he repeated over and over again whilst staring out the window. Before long he had finished his cigarette, he turned back to her mangled body.
The sound of a horn beeping outside made him jump and he turned to see the lights of a truck streaming through the window.
“Martha, it looks like we have visitors. You’re not looking you best tonight, maybe its best if you wait in the bathroom, just till they leave. Come on now.”
He walked stiffly towards her, and hoisted her twisted body around his shoulders. Slowly, he dragged her to their downstairs bathroom. It was a small room, with flowered wallpaper and a vase of pink potpourri on the windowsill. He placed her body down carefully on the toilet seat. Her neck slumped to one side, and her legs twisted the wrong way.
“There’s a good girl, Martha. You stay here and I’ll go see who is outside.”
He shut the door behind himself and walked through the hall. The door knocked.
“I’m coming,” he shouted, whilst slipping on some blood that had fallen on the floor as he dragged Martha’s body to the bathroom. He ripped off his red checked shirt, threw it on the floor and used his foot to mop up the blood. When he was finished he took the shirt, put it in the dirty laundry basket and pulled out an old blue one.
The banging on the door started again.
“I said I’m coming,” he growled as he slipped on the shirt.
He pulled the door open so hard the hinges creaked. Standing in front of him was a man and a woman both drenched to their skin. They pulled their jackets up tight around their faces; their hair was stringy and stuck to their skin.
“May we come in sir?” the man said shaking with cold.
“I don’t know who you are,” he replied
“Oh I am sorry. Please excuse me. It’s just that we’re getting soaked out here.”
“I can see that.”
“Right…um… I’m Philip, this is Jane and we’re from the Holy Hearts Church, and we’ve come to pick up Martha, she’s supposed to be coming on a retreat with us this weekend. I’m sure she’s told you all about it,” the man said.
He stood there for a second or two just staring at the man and woman in front of him.
“You’d better come in,” he said after a while. They stepped inside the house, still huddled together.
He shut the door behind them, “Can I fix you anything to drink?”
“No thanks. We’ll just pick up Martha and then be on our way,” Jane replied. She was a frail thing, and her skin was almost translucent.
“Well I need a drink. Just take a seat and I’ll go and call Martha,” he said ushering them into the dingy lounge that smelt of old wood and dead animals.
They sat down, uncomfortably staring at the deer heads that hung from the walls, whilst he went into the kitchen to pour a double whisky. His head was spinning, when he had asked Martha where she was going she said she was leaving. No, she hadn’t said where she was going, but he assumed that she meant she was leaving him. He poured himself another drink and thought back to what happened earlier that evening. After she said she was leaving, he left the room, went downstairs to the porch and picked up the spade he usually used to kill armadillo’s that wandered onto his yard. He took the spade upstairs, saw Martha packing her suitcase and hit her over the head. She fell to the floor instantly.
The man came into the kitchen.
“Excuse me Sir,” he began “Jane and I were just wondering how much longer Martha was going to be, we have to pick up one other church member tonight.”
“I just remembered, Martha’s already left,” he said “She packed her suitcase earlier and said that she was going to stop off at her sisters for night before heading off to that retreat thing. It must have slipped my mind. I’ve been so busy working on the ranch all day.”
“Oh,” the man said surprised “Well, that’s just fine with me. We’ll be on our way now. Thanks for the shelter.”
He showed them to the door. Jane’s eyes darted everywhere.
“I don’t mean to appear rude sir, but if Martha was going to her sister’s wouldn’t she have needed her suitcase,” Jane said
“Of course she would have,” he said dryly
“But isn’t that Martha’s suitcase by the door,” she said recognising Martha’s suitcase from a previous retreat they had been on together.
He looked, and she was right, there, by the door was Martha’s white suitcase.
“Yes well…” he began thinking quickly “…not that it’s any of your business, but Martha’s suitcase gave way when she put her clothes in it, so she took mine instead. Now if you wouldn’t mind hurrying up, it’s late and I’d like to get some sleep.”
“Of course,” the man said pulling Jane.
“Actually, do you mind if I use you’re bathroom before I leave. It’s a long way to the next ladies house.” Jane asked
“Yes, I do mind, the toilet here is broken, the only thing I got is a potty and the grass outside, and I sure as hell ain’t cleaning up the potty after you, so off you go. Out!” he bellowed, opening up the door and almost throwing the man and woman out.
He slammed the door and fell to the floor placing his head in his hands.
“Stupid Bitch,” he said.
“You stupid bitch Martha,” he shouted again.
He stood up too fast for his stiff joints causing a little pain in his knee, but he ignored it and headed for the bathroom.
He swung open the door; Martha’s body had fallen to the floor. Pulling her up he began to shout.
“It’s all your fault Martha. You told me you were leaving why didn’t you just tell me where you were going, you STUPID bitch.” Holding her shoulders he hurled her body into the wall sending her broken neck swinging.
“Why? Martha Why?”
He dropped her body and picked up a leg in each hand. Using them he began to drag her body through the hall and then up the stairs. Her head banged each step as he pulled her.
Their bedroom was at the top of the stairs, it was a plainly decorated room. An old double bed stood in the middle, a chest of drawers rested on one wall and on the windowsill was another vase of potpourri. He placed her body on the bed and began to sob.
“I’m sorry,” he began stroking her face “Let me get you a towel.”
He walked out of the bedroom into the bathroom and picked up a pink towel. Walking back to the bedroom he began to hum some church song that Martha always sung around the house whilst doing the daily chores. But he stopped when he entered the bedroom. He dropped the pink towel and slowly walked forward. The flowered sheets were stained with blood, there was even a body print but there was no body.
“Martha…Martha where are you?”
He lifted up the sheets.
He got confused sometimes maybe he had placed her under the sheets not on it. But no…her body wasn’t there.
“Martha,” he called again getting agitated.
There was no reply.
Next to the pool of blood on the floor lay the spade he used to kill Martha. He picked it up. Where was she? Where did her body go? He frantically began rummaging through the cupboard even going so far as looking in the tiny drawers that Martha kept her trinkets in. Next he went towards the bathroom but as he did so he noticed bloody footsteps. These weren’t the footsteps of a boot (like he was wearing) but the footsteps of a bare foot. He followed them out of the room and to the top of the stairs. It was dark at the bottom of the stairs but he adjusted his glasses and strained his eyes. In the middle of the darkness he could just make out a patch that was darker than the rest. Each step creaked as he began down them and he could feel the slipperiness of the blood under his feet.
Two steps from the bottom he reached for the light switch on the wall. The light flickered and sent a dim glow through the hall exposing the twisted body that lay at the bottom of the stairs.
“Martha. How did you….?”
His head began to spin; the stairs seemed to be moving faster and faster, with the damp wallpaper, the rotten wooden floorboards and Martha’s body whizzing past him. He placed a hand on the banister, missing it a few times before he finally grabbed it and closed his eyes. He took a deep breath and opened them again but when he looked the body was gone. His eyes darted from wall to wall and he took a step forwards. Looking towards the left he could see the end of the corridor and the door to the downstairs bathroom where he had dumped Martha’s body earlier.
“I’m over here,” said a drowned voice from the right of him.
He picked up the spade, which was resting against the hallway table leg, held it in his arms as if it were a baseball bat and began walking towards the voice. In front of him was the door to the sitting room, he approached it and looked in. Everything was as he left it so he turned and headed for the kitchen. He strained his ears to see if he could hear any movement but there was no noise other than the gas fire of the hob cooking his dinner.
“Martha?” he called.
He was standing at the doorframe now but before he got a chance to peer inside something or somebody rushed him. The spade dropped in the struggle and he was forced to lash out with his bare hands instead. More bone crunching noises were sent through the house. Finally he managed to grab and pull the thing away. It was Martha or what was left of her. Her feet faced behind her and one of her arms hung longer than the other; it was dislocated. But what struck him the most was Martha’s face. Using her free arm she reached for her broken neck and pulled her head to face him, her face was infested with open wounds and blood fell from her eyes like stained tears.
Shocked, he threw her as hard as he could towards the cooker. The pan was thrown from the fire leaving a spray of burned bolognaise on the floor and her face slammed the cooker top. She began to sizzle and the smell of burning flesh swarmed the room. He stared at his wife’s body slumped across the cooker and watched in disgust as she slowly got up and turned to him. Her face was completely destroyed on one side. Charred flesh hung from her cheeks exposing her teeth.
“If you can’t take the heat then get out of the kitchen!” she screamed.
She picked up a butcher knife and ran towards him. He could hear the clicking as bone on bone rubbed together in her joints, he put his arms out to stop her but it was too late. The knife had already punctured his chest. He put his hands down to the knife but she pulled it out and stabbed him again and again until he lost count. Eventually she stopped and stepped back to examine her masterpiece. She began to laugh a shrill laugh that echoed around the kitchen. He stumbled out into the hall and began to make his way towards the front door. She carried on laughing as he reached for the handle and stepped out into the pouring rain.
“Help,” he cried, but it was little more than a whisper.
He fell down the porch steps and could feel the sharp gravel beneath his face.
“Help,” he repeated.
The pain was immeasurable but he reached out his hand and began clawing the ground to try and pull himself forward.
“You can’t escape me,” Martha’s shrill voice said from just behind him “You will never escape me.”
He felt an intense pain as she stabbed the knife in his back. She pulled out the knife and he could feel his organs giving out inside him. There was too much pain. His eyelids began to grow heavy and before long they closed completely sending him into a state of unconsciousness.
He opened his eyes again. His hands wet with her blood, he stood up to look at the carnage at his feet. Her body lay at the bottom of the stairs, her once creamy-white skin, was red with blood. Her face was contorted in pain, and she stared condemningly at her murderer
“What?” he said patting his chest. There were no wounds on him, he looked in the mirror and turned. No knife, in his back, either.
“What’s happening to me?” he said putting his hands on his unshaven face.
Lightning struck and he looked down again, Martha’s body was once again gone.
Panic stricken, he began to scream but abruptly stopped when he felt intense pain in his stomach. He looked down again to see two small poles protruding from his stomach.
“Knitting needles,” her cracked voice said to him “You will NEVER leave husband. You’re mine forever,” and again Martha began to laugh.
Martha stared out the window observing the jagged movements of the patients on the grass below. Some were muttering to themselves whilst others stared blankly at nothing in particular. She noticed one in particular kicking and punching the air violently. Two nurses dressed in white headed over to him, the one on the left held a large needle.
“Poor man,” she said softly.
She turned to observe the room looking at everything and nothing so she wouldn’t have to look at the body on the bed. The room was white and sterile looking, only the floor had a touch of colour, if you could call a washed out grey a colour. She stared at the white walls for a moment longer before tearing her eyes away and looking at her husband. He lay strapped to a metal bed in the middle of the room. Dressed in an all-in-one white suit his arms had been tied to his body to stop him hurting himself. His mouth moved with words unspoken and he stared towards the door in front of him. Martha came closer and looked in his eyes; they were the eyes of a frightened child. She gently fixed his hair and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
The door knocked and without waiting for a reply a frail woman with brown hair and sorrowful eyes walked in.
“Hello….” she looked down at the clipboard in her arms “….Mrs. Partridge, is that correct?”
“Just call me Martha.”
The woman smiled “I’m Doctor Jane Callahan. I’ve come to talk to you about your husband’s condition.”
“Well I’m sorry but you’re husband has severe psychosis.”
“What does that mean? Will he ever be normal again?”
“I’m sorry Martha. You’re husband has lost all contact with reality and had reverted to living inside his mind. Think of it as living inside a dream and I’m afraid to say that he has the worst case I have ever encountered. He will never recover.”
Martha began to sob. “But he looks so scared. Isn’t there anything you can do?”
“We will keep him here to monitor his progress and ensure he doesn’t harm anyone but other than that, no. There is no magic pill for this disorder. Although I’d advise you to talk to him, play his favourite songs, that sort of thing. It may help to ease his mind.”
The doctor smiled and apologised again. “I’ll leave you with him”
“Thanks” Martha said.
She looked towards her husband.
“It’s not real” she whispered in his ear “Wherever you are, it’s not real. Please come back to me”