Hang In There

The woman was walking fast in the hallway, her dress dancing around her like the sails of a boat stuck in a storm.

The room of his office was open and she hurried in it without hesitation. In front of her, near the window, was a girl floating mid-air, a notch around her neck. Her face was swollen and bruised, blood was dripping from her lip. One, two, one, two… the woman started to count the beat as the drops would fall in a hypnotic rhythm, marking the time with awful, fatal precision. Every half a second, the blood would splash on the soiled dress that used to be white. And coming out from the fabric, two feet turning blue were pointing towards the floor, longing for its touch. They were only a few inches away and yet, they couldn't have been further from the sensation of the ground beneath their skin.

The woman flinched, not able to hide her disgust. She wanted to turn away, to look somewhere else but with an unhealthy curiosity, she stared, her eyes locked on the rotting girl's face. One of her eyes was closed, the skin around it darkened by bruises and shadows. Her eyelid was swollen and a small amount of thick pus was leaking from the corner. The woman was picturing a wasp biting her on the eye, just there in the middle, as the venom would expand slowly through the veins. The other eye was still open, its naturally brown color was hidden by a whitish film, the symbol of death, the end of the show. And yet, the eyelashes were flickering… and on the other side of this white curtain, the pupil seemed to widen… Probably the woman was hallucinating. Probably, the black pupil was not following her gaze.

'She's not dead you know.'

The woman jumped, her heart racing, surprised by this male voice. She turned to the right, facing her husband. Her balding, skinny husband who was sitting on a chair too big for him. He looked exhausted, even though he was sitting tall and straight in his wrinkled clothes. This man, her husband, refused to show any trace of weakness, even in front of her. Mostly in front of her.

'Come downstairs with me. You need to eat...I have prepared dinner.'

He looked at her above his rectangular glasses.

'I can't, I need to work.' he said coldly.

His desk was a fancy furniture made of an expensive wood, still shining after more than thirty years. It was the size of a single bed and yet, it barely could contain the amount of papers and piles of books on top of it.

This scene looked familiar, except for the un-dead girl, hanging from the ceiling. The woman thought of all those previous nights where she would enter his office. Everytime a new, creepy creature would welcome her. Most of the time it was a kind of animal, with too many horns or multiple tongues. Once it was a child who had arms instead of legs, and another time it was a simple flower with each of her petals holding an eye full of divine wisdom. She understood the importance of his work. As a linguist, he had to solve some of the ancient curses, and he wouldn't sleep if the malediction was still on. But she would still try to come and persuade him to spend time with them, with her… She would use love, anger or simply passion, but nothing seemed to work. Their arguments would always end with a heavy 'no' from his part and loud tears from hers. Tonight shouldn't be any different.

The woman took one step towards her husband. Tonight, she wore the beautiful red dress that made her look like royalty.

The woman took another step, struggling to keep her face straight and unreadable. Tonight she will dare and will face him dauntlessly.

The woman finally bent over, taking slowly the paper, small and square, from her husband's hand. Tonight he was staring at her cautiously.

The woman used all her courage to hold his gaze and from between her breasts, she grabbed a lighter and lit the paper on fire. Her hands started to shake, but she was still looking at her husband, until he closed his eyes, resigned.

In between her fingers, the paper was turning brown and black, then from the middle, a thin whitish film started to grow like ashes. From there, curvy scribbles began to rewrite themselves down.

She tried again, but the paper wouldn't burn. Eventually, it started to change colors and rewrite itself faster and faster, until her husband's voice came through.

'Enough!' He didn't shout nor did he scream. Hell, he didn't even open his eyes.

'Don't play games with the unknown. You will only get hurt.'

Tears started to come out from her eyes. The woman was scared and she felt hurt from her husband's words. She felt ignorant and lonely, as if she could never reach him out, he wouldn't let her.

Out of despair, this time, she tore the paper in pieces, but the scribbles kept

rewriting themselves on every surface, creating half a dozen notes of nonsense. Her husband reopened his eyes, and for the first time after months, she saw him smile. It was a smile of mockery that on top of the rest made her feel humiliated.

Who would have known that pride was the winner? That pride would overcome the fear of something inexplicable, as well as the sadness of a broken heart and years of despair, longing for something she could no longer have.

With pride then, she threw the paper in her mouth and swallowed it all at once. The woman would have liked to say that she enjoyed the look of complete shock on her husband's face. But that would be a lie. She didn't enjoy it as there was nothing to enjoy. Her husband turned back to become his old self and it is as cold as ice that he whispered:

' I told you, you would get hurt.'

He then returned to his work, analysing a small and square paper full of curvy scribbles. Her husband looked exhausted, writing down complex formulas.

'Don't worry, it is only momentarily. I will solve it, as always. We'll only have to wait for dinner.'

The woman didn't understand his comment. She wanted to ask him more, but couldn't talk. Her husband was back to his task and she turned away, resigned.

One last time, with an unhealthy curiosity, she wanted to look back at the rotting girl with a notch around her neck. The color of the dress was now red, too red. And inside of it, it wasn't a girl anymore that was facing her, but the woman herself. One of her eyes was closed and swollen, and the other one open. It was naturally blue. The pupil seemed to follow her every step.

An elegant woman in a beautiful red dress entered the room in a hurry. She stopped to look at her. Her face winced from disgust.

'You are not dead you know.'

It was her husband's voice. The woman was stuck, mid-air, her body was aching, swollen and she was feeling blood dripping from her lip. A mucus was forming and leaking from one of her eyes. The other one was open, and all she could do was relive, again and again, her last minutes before the curse.