The Apartment Is Cold And

by Elise Oddity

11:00 am. The apartment is cold and the bedroom windows are open half-way from the afternoon before. Light moves with the shifting of the curtains, the modest blue cotton; it's being sucked out against the screen and blown back out again. Outside, the screen and frame are abound with flies of all sizes that have been buzzing loudly to each other, a constant grating. A few have discovered how to get inside and crawl over the walls, the sullied linen, the skin.

Only in that room are there noticeable differences – anywhere else it's only the picture frames that have been turned over so they face the wall, little things out of place or disappeared. And yet soon the neighbours will be banging on door number 17 with their fists, and then the landlady, and then the police. Then a flurry of officials, detectives, whatever their official titles are – pictures will be taken and spread out on white tables like a macabre college art show.

None of this will look out of place on the evening news.

In the kitchen, a refrigerator door is gently closed, and a pair of slippered feet make their way into the carpeted hallway and stop. He would like to feel like every moment was deliberate, full of poise, but in reality he's shaking so badly he has to lean against the wall to hold himself up. The majority of his morning was spent in the bathroom, purging and cleaning himself up again (though the mirror, too, is now facing the wall). His shoulders droop slightly under the weight of the bag he carries.

There, on the floor in front of him, is the cross he ripped from his mother's throat the night before (if he looked, would there still be that narrow pink line on her neck where is pressed so tight?). Fake gold; it's jewellery in the shape of an instrument of torture, to remind you to turn the other cheek. He can still imagine her anxious fingers clutching it, rubbing it whenever things started to turn.

They tried to prevent this.

"This is the way things are, honey. Why are you so intent on changing us? We're your family. Please don't lock yourself up in your room like that, please…"

It was fine until his Father started taking away his books, his pencils, and his Mother hung a rosary on his door, booked him weekly sessions with the pastor, and they both kept him away from…

And his mind fails him here, because he knows it was not their fault. His thoughts start to blur and a thick shudder rises from inside of him; he clutches his mouth and braces himself, but his stomach is empty. Bile singes the back of his throat and slides back down, burning, making his eyes water up and spill. Enough. This was the word his mind keeps spitting out, at the outside world as well as that foreign part of his mind that was – and still is – slowly wrapping around and smothering him. If he closes his eyes he can almost see it, the tendrils, the thorns, the indurate knots; all of them are the colour of storm clouds. Enough! He's done it, it is over, and he isn't going to take a second glance until he has the right amount of distance to do so.

Exhale, now. This feels so final.

He slams the bedroom door shut. A few moments later, the clock in the kitchen changes to 11:09 and he slips out of apartment 17, heading for the fire exit at the end of the dimly-lit hall. The bedroom is left empty with the bodies, the flies, the curtains being sucked to the screen and blown out again, and the soft breathing of the younger boy asleep against the closet, clutching his mother's dead hand.