Aleea Davidson’s Picture Choice:
Title: Wither Part 7
It was a beautiful old church. Built in the early 1800’s it boasted large doors hand crafted and ornately carved out of wood turned chocolate and caramel coloured with age. Stained glass windows that had been painstakingly restored when Mara was a young girl glowed eerily in the dark, cracks marring their once pristine surfaces.
Glen led her around the side to a back door hidden by overgrown bushes teeming with hungry mosquitoes. The smell of damp cement and mold growing in crevasses and corners of a tiny alcove tickled her nose, creating an urge to sneeze. Dried tear tracks on her face left her skin stiff and sticky. She felt brittle, fragile and cold all over, but Glen’s arm around her was a warm anchor, grounding her to the earth as he ushered them inside.
The moldy scent deepened, layered with the faint scents of candle wax and the lemon oil used to clean the simple wooden pews for decades. It was dark and chilly inside, empty and stale. She couldn’t remember the last time services were held here, and the echo of their shuffling footsteps made her suspect anything of value or use had been stripped away long ago.
Glen led her across the room and through yet another doorway. Dim light from a small window weakly illuminated a skinny cot with a blanket folded neatly at its end. Two milk crates stacked one atop the other sat to the right, serving as a bedside table with several candles and what appeared to be books resting on the surface.
He let go of her and immediately the shivers struck, making her teeth chatter alarmingly loud in the otherwise thick silence. The scratch of a match was followed by a burst of sulphur stink and the flare of warm, golden light that he set to one of the candles. The flame hissed and sputtered, as if the wick had absorbed the damp that hung in the air.
Running a hand through his hair, looking around the room, Glen spoke, his voice a quiet rasp that betrayed his uncertainty. “It’s not much, but we can stay here for a little while until the craziness settles down out there.” He gestured vaguely, and Mara wondered if he was speaking about the rioting or about what might be happening surrounding the butcher’s suicide. Had anyone even heard the gunshot over all the other noise? Would anyone even care?
He cleared his throat and shifted in place, stuffing his hands deep into his pockets and hunching his shoulders inward. He looked as uncertain and wary as she felt. Waves of sickness twisted her stomach into a knot.
“Is this your...place? I mean, do you live here?”
He shook his head. “It’s just a place I stumbled across one day. No one comes here anymore. I’ve used it a few times to stay out of sight when the government men were on the lookout for UV Tolerant guinea pigs.”
“Why did he do it?” Her abrupt topic change didn’t seem to surprise or confuse Glen. He crossed the small distance he’d put between them and instantly reached for her, rubbing the tops of her arms briskly yet gently as she began to babble. “He just shot himself, right in the head. No warning, no explanation, no...nothing. Who does that?”
“Someone who’s given up, who thinks there’s nothing left, that’s who.”
“I don’t even...” Mara choked, shaking her head, her words cumbersome and inadequate. She couldn’t find an articulate way to express her confusion or her revulsion.
“Don’t,” Glen said, his hands curving around her biceps, giving her a sharp, jarring shake. “Don’t think about it. Push it out of your mind, Mara. He was sick. He was dying. Do you understand? Desperate people at the end of their emotional rope do desperate things.”
She managed to nod though it came with a stuttered sob. “It’s all so...fucked up.”
In the dim light, she watched the corner of Glen’s mouth lift in a humourless, wry curve. “Welcome to the world we live in, nymph. We are without a doubt smack dab in the middle of epically fucked up.” He drew her close, and she fell into him, pressing tight to the warmth he offered, starved for the comfort. She heard him whisper hush, but he didn’t need to. Her tears fell hot and silent, soaking his shirt where his heart beat a steady, reassuring rhythm against her cheek.
In a few minutes she would rally, get her backbone back, stand up and face the music. She was stronger than this—she had to be stronger than this.
In a few minutes, she told herself, giving Glen more of her weight, burrowing closer. In just a few minutes…
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Aleea lives in her imagination most of the time. It's an interesting place to be... Occasionally she can be coaxed out to chat on Twitter, though she finds it akin to torture to stick to that absurd 140 character limit. (@Aleeab4u)