“Mum, are you there?”
Mary held the phone against her ear. Her daughter’s voice plucked at every one of her highly strung nerves.
Mary took a deep breath and squeezed her eyes shut.
“Yes, I’m here.”
“Where did you go?”
“Nowhere. I’ve always been here.”
“So what do you think? Should I do it or not?”
“Sweetheart, you’ve asked me this a million times and just like the other million times, I shall answer the same answer that I’ve already answered a million times! It’s up to you. It’s your life, you’re an adult now. It’s your decision to make, okay? Now, I’m really sorry, but I’m going to have to go.”
“I love you lots.”
“I love you lots too. Bye-bye.”
Mary gritted her teeth. Her children had left home, why was she still making their decisions for them? She removed the battery from her mobile phone, no-one else was going to steal away her time. No-one at all.
The front door was next, her expensive heels clacked against the equally expensive wooden flooring. She locked the door and barred it, then stepped up onto her tiptoes and looked out through the spyhole. The fish-eye view of the street was empty. It was her own perfect equation – no cars plus no people equals no interruptions.
She was home alone, her husband was out at work, doing whatever it was he did to bring in money. She’d tried more than once to listen to him as he explained what his job entailed, but before he’d even taken his first breath she’d be lost in her own thoughts. For 24 years they had been husband and wife and she thought she was doing pretty well still managing to be in the same room as him. He claimed he still loved her just as much as he did when they had first got together and it appeared to be true. He insisted on spending their evenings together, either alone with him or at one of their ‘mutual’ friends. The routine was always the same in each situation: drink wine, listen to inane chatter, bed, then a drunken fumble and fuck. No matter how much you love someone, there always comes a time when enough is enough.
Mary wasn’t unhappy and she knew it, but she also knew that something was missing. Her happiest memory of recent times had been her daughter leaving for university. Both her husband and daughter had been in floods of tears and neither had understood why she had not been joining in their display of emotion. Her husband had watched her suspiciously as she had just waved it off, a faint smile on her face. One day soon after, he had asked if she was having an affair, she had laughed so hard she made herself sick. He didn’t ask her again.
She turned and there it was, facing her, at the far end of the hall. The warped door that led to the basement, the door that only she had a key for (he’d never even asked what was behind it). It didn’t belong in this expensively decorated hallway, it belonged somewhere else, somewhere dark, wet and dank. She felt a shudder of excitement run through her. She took a step forward and had to place her hand against the wall to steady herself. Her legs had suddenly become weak. Was it excitement or fear? ‘Both’ she thought as she forced her shaking legs to carry her down the hall.
The key was out, ready in her hand and already slipping into the lock before she had realised what it was that she was doing. The door silently swung open, revealing a set of wooden stairs that led down into darkness. Flakes of faded paint, disturbed by her movements, floated down like snowflakes. A warm, damp gust of air rushed up to meet her, making the thin dress she wore flutter gently. Her lips parted and she opened her mouth, breathing in as much air as she could manage. She could smell and taste the stink of it from up here, it made her gag but it felt so good. She wanted to take more air into her than was physically possible. She wanted to breathe in the scent until her lungs burst inside her chest.
With a hand resting upon the door frame she kicked off her shoes. They clattered across the floor and skidded to a stop, one resting on top of the other a few feet away.
A single drop of sweat ran down her face only to be caught by her tongue.
“Ready or not, here I come.”
The stairs were old, the wood beneath her bare feet was splintered and threatened to puncture her soft skin. Mary didn’t notice, her breath was quickening and her body had begun to tingle. She couldn’t take her eyes away from the darkness that waited for her at the bottom of the stairs. She stroked her fingertips against the wall as she descended, she didn’t notice the insects that ran over her naked skin.
At last her bare feet were on the final step. She stepped down. The floor of the basement was submerged in an oily, cold fluid that was deep enough to lose her toes in. In the darkness before her something moved, it was just a change in the air, but she felt it. Her presence was known. Her fingers searched for light and suddenly the darkness vanished. A small room lay before her. A light bulb swung gently from a cord that hung from the ceiling. Shadows danced under the moving light. In the centre of the room was a rotting table, it was the only piece of furniture. The walls were dark, grey and covered in rotting plaster.
Mary waited. Seconds evolved into minutes.
A smile formed on her wet lips when she saw something move in the shadows on the far side of the table. Inch by slow inch, the shape moved towards the light. Out from behind the table it came, an undulating mass of flesh and fat that rose no higher than her waist. The sweaty grey skin that held it together was almost translucent. Mary stepped into the room to meet it, her bare feet slapping against the wet floor. The mass had no eyes yet it turned as if to watch her.
Mary held out her hand, palm down and pressed gently into the cold mass. It responded by pushing its boneless form back up against her. She felt its weight against her leg and her dress stuck to its mucus-covered skin. It quivered and rubbed itself rhythmically against her. Mary squeezed her eyes shut and enjoyed the sensation, wondering if it would go any further today. She hoped that it would. She knew it could reach higher, on more than one occasion she had felt the cold, wet skin tenderly press against her lips and chin as if in a kiss. She was disappointed when she felt it slide over her feet and move behind her. She wanted to turn and look but quelled the urge.
Her body shook in anticipation, her dress clung to her skin. She wanted to open herself up and let her insides pour out, to make room for it to live inside of her. To be a mother and a host to the mass. She wanted to spread herself wide and let it clean her of all that was unneeded, throw away all it didn’t want. She wanted to give up who she was and all that she had built. To forget everything. No more responsibilities, no more husband, children or cares. No more gossip or work. Only endless bliss.
She felt it before seeing it. It was against her other leg now, circling her. Slowly the creature worked its way around until it was back in front of her. She watched it and it in turn watched her. Mary’s breasts rose and fell with each shuddering breath she took. Sweat ran down her face. Her eyes sparkled, her cheeks were flushed. The beast heaved as if sighing and Mary smiled. She knew that if it could it would be smiling back.