Between the Sheets

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: 'The Odd Ones'
A guilty man buries his regrets deep within a forest, where it is discovered by a wandering fox. (for RaeBlair's 1000 words contest)

Submitted: May 06, 2016

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Submitted: May 06, 2016

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Between the Sheets

 

(prompt picture for contest)

 

The man in the coffee and jam-stained pyjamas walks in the twilight of the forest. He stops once he finds a secluded spot deep in the heart, veiled in the undergrowth by woodland trees and dense shrubs. He scans the area and strikes the dirt with his shovel. The ground is soft and his hands determined, and with welling eyes he digs a hole. He pulls the root of his sleepless nights from beneath the displaced dirt, tosses it into the hole and buries it. Then he rushes back to his car and drives away.

 

***

 

The forest remains undisturbed until morning, when a hunting fox hears a cry. Being a mother, she cannot ignore it. With her ears pointed upward and head tilted, she listens for the source of the sound. She arrives at a spot where the cries are loudest and she scratches at the mud. Her claws scrape against a hard and hollow surface, a bit like those containers the tall hairless predators use to protect their food, though this is much smaller. She digs harder, nudges it, pushes it with her paw.

It bursts open and hits the fox on her nose. She lets out a yelp, quite cross that this lousy contraption deceived her into thinking it needed help, and runs away to find her children.

 

***

 

Out from the uncovered briefcase, a bedsheet rises. Birthed from a foundation of touch and intimacy, of anger and sorrow and fear and curiosity and guilt and lust, it stumbles from the hole and, exhausted, collapses onto a bed of autumn leaves. The wretched birds are screaming above and she, at least she thinks she is a she, is afraid. They are so loud and close yet unreachable, and appear so mighty in the sky, thick with feathers and strong with beak and claw, and her but a diaphanous sheet. She thinks if she could but swoop up she could smother them in her grasp.

The lurid sunlight pokes through the trees and directs her to a rutted path narrowed by levees of leaf, branch and stone. She follows this path until she happens upon a small fox. The fox is alone and fragile, and there is a sense of compassion inside her. She is not sure where this feeling has come from, whether it was weaved into her seams or absorbed from the warmth of another, but there is a conflicting feeling that tells her she is light and agile, and could creep up behind that little fox without it ever detecting her. And so her form advances and her corners curl inward and in one ravenous gulp she swallows the creature. It satiates almost immediately, but at the same time she is inflicted with a pang of guilt that disturbs her core. She continues on, with remorse for the fox and a sudden hatred towards the creator of this appetite she has been burdened with.

She cuts through the edge of the forest and meets a road. The road is familiar to her and somehow she knows to proceed left. There is a promise of vengeance that way.

There is a breeze on her face, and she lifts up her hand to stroke it. Oh! She has a hand, and a face! That certainly wasn’t there before. It’s silken and fine, the flesh still woven, but embossed is the print of a woman. Despite it being an illusion, these attributes bring her a most pleasant joy.

But the wind is an obstacle, for she is still but a bedsheet.

After some time and tribulation, she arrives at an overgrown plain.

Caravans scattered with no design make fortress here, each rusted and bound by weed and thistle. She meanders around them for a while, peeking her new face into the windows: here, a woman in a running suit wearing earphones and drinking a glass of orange juice; here, an old man bending down to give his dog a bowl of food; and here, a mother and child snug on a sofa bed with a thick quilt over them. These scenes loosen a thread near her eye. She longs to be in each scenario, locked for eternity in these sublime and tranquil moments. But her lower corners fold forward and she heads on.

She stops and looks up. This caravan holds no scene. Its windows are blocked and the caravan is a distant grey. She lets out a sigh and climbs the precariously mossy steps. She stretches out her newfound arm that connects to a shoulder and that to a swollen chest and that up to the tip of her head and down to her tailbone where the sheet spirals down and opens up. She grips the metal handle and opens the caravan door.

A man is sitting on an empty mattress. There are broken glasses, fragments of china and two burnt pieces of toast strewn on the floor. The door shuts behind her and the room goes dark but for the thin strips of light peering through the blinds and reflecting upon the gold-rimmed oval mirror. Her form, now fully formed, disgusts her, and she has to turn away.

The air is stifling, and she feels herself suffocating. Though, she is not entirely sure whether this is due to the lack of fresh air or the man sitting in front of her.

His presence fills her with rage. She thinks back to the fox, and how easy it would be to smother this man in all the torment and rejection he has projected onto her. But there is an unquenchable urge, so vehemently persistent she must fulfil it. And so she asks:

“Why?”

The man looks up, his face the quintessence of grief.

“You came back,” he replies.

“You abandoned me.”

“I had to. I couldn’t bear it. You reminded me of too much.”

She looks down at him and feels something like pity course through her.

“But we had good times. Didn’t we?”

He stands, letting the tumbler in his hand slip from grasp and crash to the floor, soaking the muddy carpet with a puddle of whisky.

He leans closer to her. Smiles.

“Of course we did. But the shame, the regret, was unbearable.”

“Was it so wrong?”

The anger inside turns to something else. She doesn’t much like it. It is uncomfortable and makes her body numb. But there is another part of her that wants it to consume her, and so she touches his face. The sensation overwhelms, and she lets out a soft moan.

“Tell me it was wrong. Tell me this is wrong.”

She looks in the mirror once more. This time, her form does not disgust her.

He kisses her cheek.

On the touch, she feels the contrasting parts that form her body combine: the anger and sorrow into compassion, the fear and curiosity into excitement, and the guilt and the lust into love.

She cradles him in her arms.

“Don’t bury me again. I need you, like a bed needs a sheet.”

 

 


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