6.03 / March 2011



At night, when I finally fall asleep, exhausted with stress, scenes unfurl in black and white. I see her hand on his knee at the dinner party, laughing. I don’t miss the smirk that slips across her face as she closes the door on her way out of the apartment. She hums a tune while washing dishes, and I have no idea what it is. Her answers are the same: nothing, nobody.

Floating in the room, the shadows hug the muted walls of our apartment, the heavy moon a flash of blindness whenever the hot breath of the clinking heater pushes the drapes apart. My eyes are clamped shut against it all. But maybe that’s the idea. Turning away from it all. Trying not to look at what is right in front of me. Her laughter in the hallway, away from me, her eyes darting to the corners of every room, pushing her autumn tresses back behind her ears. She makes time for me, we hold hands at the dinner table, chewing the pasta, downing the thick wine. She comes to me in the night, the darkness, her arms wrapping around me, pulling me to her, under, and in. She makes me weak.

IF YOU DECIDE TO GO TO WORK, proceed to [4]



I feign a sickness. The more she wants me out of the house, her eyes squinting, hand on her hip, cocked, eyes ablaze, the worse I get. I vomit into the toilet out of spite. She avoids me, her phone buzzing on the kitchen table, nicking the faded wood, dancing next to the plate of dried yellow egg yolks, remnants of toast, lipstick kiss on the white porcelain cup. I barely hear her when she leaves.

“I’m going out, be back later.”

The door slams shut before I can get off the bed. No offer to stop by the drug store, no Tums, no Pepto-Bismol, no run to the grocery for chamomile tea, wildflower honey. There is no sweetness in this departure. It is panic. Anger. Maybe I’m already dead.

IF YOU DECIDE TO SLEEP, proceed to [4]



I pull on battered jeans, and a soft, grey t-shirt that she’s tossed over the back of the kitchen chair. It was mine, it had been, now it is hers, or maybe not. Discarded. Maybe it is mine again. A black sweatshirt over that, and then a leather coat, my boots tugged on, and I’m tipping over, leaning towards the sharp edge of the bureau, struggling to keep my balance, the corner calling to my eye, begging it to gouge itself out, knowing that it has seen enough.

Outside, the taxi is pulling away, two heads close together. I chase it down. It slows at the corner, and turns right. I dash across the parking lot, a sharp pain in my side, cutting it off, and it veers to the left. Darting across the traffic, the northbound bus belches smoke. I slap it on the ass, eating its exhaust. Across the street, the blur of yellow comes to a halt at the stop sign trembling in the wind. I accelerate, heat rushing over my ribcage, a trapped bird banging around inside, pecking at the muscle, wanting to escape. A wink of green, and it turns right, as I sprint across the lawn, jumping over the low-slung cast iron, my boot catching, and I’m reaching out in front of the cab, lights rushing over me as my knees hit the road, tearing through the denim, tires screaming. In my head, I’m screaming. Back in our apartment, I’m pulling her hair from behind, flesh against flesh, her neck bared to me, lips curled back, eyes glassy, and she’s screaming, “Yes.”

Metal on my arm, my chest, pressure, splitting, a heavy weight settling on my legs. Car doors open, footsteps. There is a bell jingling, I’m getting my wings, a door bangs against a wall, light spilling over me from the supermercado, voices. Something shatters on the sidewalk, small circles of orange roll under the cab, my eyes open, boots, voices, a radio cackles. There is a hand on my neck, fingers, ohmygod, the smell of menthol, lemons.

She is whispering in my ear. Right back, I said.



There was very little sleep last night, her sandalwood perfume drifting to me, the indentation on her bare shoulder not quite teeth marks. I’m not sure when she came in. Somehow I’d made myself sick, really sick, a fever running across my forehead, my feeble pale body drenched in sweat. I had been wrapped in panic, betrayal a hammer pushing nails into my temples, while I tried to find air to breathe.

Leaving her at the kitchen table in nothing but a t-shirt, an old grey v-neck of mine, her cleavage disappearing into the soft fabric, her fingers tapping on the table, I can hardly do it. I open my mouth to speak, and snap it shut. It’s all been said before. She looks up, eyes like saucers, then away to the window. The bare tree branches are like arthritic fingers, skeletal, aching.

I’m a trusting soul, it’s in my nature, so I can’t believe it. I’m the nice guy, no motorcycle, no tattoos, no drinking problem. She’ll have to rub it in my face.

I’m dead to the world, riding the subway into the city, bodies bumping against me, jostling my thoughts. My eyes are rimmed with blood, so I hide behind tinted lenses, drifting off again.

When I round the corner of the cube farm, to my cubicle of grey, the phone is already ringing, so I snatch it up.


“Sorry, wrong number,” she says.

The voice says. The woman. A gasp of breath, her hand reaching up to cover her mouth, his lips on the small of her back. Why the call? She wants me to know. She wants me to leave, to confront her. She can’t do it on her own.




The day is nothing but an echo. It is eternity, and it is one long exhale. Back into the cold, car horns, a filmstrip running by, a key inserted, and the cage opens. The kitchen table has become a turnstile. It is where we come and go. I sit. The glass is full, and then it is empty. Amber reflects the light, and then warms my gut. I stare at the door, until it slips away, blurs into a cornfield, husks slapping at my face, the leaves nipping at my bare arms, dusk sliding over the sky, gunmetal turning into the bruises left behind.

“Honey, honey…”

I sit up. The apartment is dark now, a rustling from the bedroom. I stumble towards the sounds. Drawers are opening, hangers clanging, a silhouette passing in front of the windows, and then nothing. Silence.

I click on the bedside lamp, and she lies on the bed naked. I click on the bedside lamp, and the room is empty.

I click on the bedside lamp to an empty dresser, unhinged.

I click on the bedside lamp, and she stands still, caught.

I click,

I don’t.

She isn’t here. She never really was.



I don’t give her the chance. I strike first. I have four pairs of jeans, three flannels, six Polo’s, one pair of tennis shoes, twelve balled up pairs of socks, a cigar box full of cash, a pack of condoms. No underwear. No books. No hesitation. I stuff it all in an old leather bag, a doctor’s bag that my grandfather left me. I piss on the bed, the thread count no longer an issue. I stomp on her vinyl records, turning them into splinters. I take her photo albums, dump them in the bathtub, douse them in lighter fluid, and drop a match on top. I take a pair of scissors and cut out the crotch of every pair of her panties.

I leave my keys on the kitchen table.


Richard Thomas is the author of the neo-noir thriller, Transubstantiate. He was the winner of the 2009 ChiZine "Enter the World of Filaria" contest. His work is forthcoming or published in such publications as Shivers VI (Cemetery Dance) with Stephen King and Peter Straub, Murky Depths, Pear Noir!, Word Riot, 3:AM Magazine, Dogmatika, Vain and Opium. He also writes for The Nervous Breakdown and is pursuing his MFA at Murray State University. For more information visit http://www.transubstantiate.net or http://www.whatdoesnotkillme.com.
6.03 / March 2011