There are many ways of creating terror within a story just as there are dozens of methods to kill a man. Some are merely more creative and delicious than others. I have a particular penchant for using weapons (in wiring of course!) that no one else might think of such as epoxy guns, impeach wrenches. Imagine the tasty creations of blood and gore. The mind is a terrible thing to waste after all.
We’re counting down to the release of The Animal and this story is particularly satisfying. This is said tongue in cheek of course. Please enjoy the horrific stylings of Majanka Verstaete.
THE COLOR OF ELEPHANTS
“Daddy, are elephants blue? Chris says elephants are blue,” Milly asked. Her long, blonde curls bounced up and down when she jerked her head back and gestured at her brother. At four years old, she was small for her age, resembling an oversized porcelain doll more than an actual child.
“Of course elephants are blue!” Chris shouted from the kitchen table. He was one year older than Milly, which made him believe he was right about everything.
A lot of people complimented him on his children, saying they looked like two little angels. Well, angels or not, they made his head hurt.
“Elephants are gray, not blue,” he said. “But you can color them any color you want.” He looked to his wife for support, but she was too busy stirring up spaghetti to mind the kids.
The wife. The kids. From afar, they looked like the perfect family. He’d married a blonde woman, always had a thing for blondes. He hadn’t quite deciphered that having a wife meant having another person with a personality around at all times. Sometimes her personality annoyed him. Scratch sometimes. Every day. Like now, for example. She was so focused on the spaghetti she couldn’t even mind the brats.
Meanwhile, he wanted to concentrate on the newspaper and read the news for today. He spent hours upon hours cooped up in a cramped office surrounded by thirty people suffering in similar circumstances, each of them a nameless work-robot for a major corporation. His wife ignoring him reminded him of his status in life. Nameless work-robot. Now he had become a nameless nanny.
“Can I color it pink?” Milly was going through her pink-phase. Last week, she had colored half the wall of the living room pink before his wife noticed and stopped her. He didn’t know why it took Deborah – the wife’s name – so long to notice their daughter had ruined her precious living room wallpaper. Considering she was a housewife, which meant she took care of the kids, handled chores and made dinner, he figured she could at least make sure the kids weren’t tearing the house apart.
“Didn’t I just say you could color it any color you want?” He tried to keep his voice even, although it physically pained him. His stomach ached, and not thanks to the delicious smell of Deborah’s food. He felt like an animal, trapped in a cage, trapped in a life he had designed.
He often wondered why life was so predictable. Why he had to go to work, had to get a job, had to work to support the wife and the brats. Was that all there was to it? In comparison, his days as a lonely student slumping from one bar to another, and trying to hook up with random girls, seemed to hold so much promise. He was always dead broke, always begging beers, but each day had provided a different challenge. Could he seduce the blonde one? How about the redhead?
Now his challenges existed of not killing the brats before bedtime, reading his newspaper without getting distracted, and trying to seduce the wife –a fruitless task that succeeded once a month at most, and even then she sighed and groaned as if she didn’t owe this to him, as if he didn’t give her enough that she owed to at least have the decency to want him.
He thought that if only she was more compliant, less reluctant to be physical with him, he’d be able to cope with it all. With the brats and their stupid nagging about elephants and their color. With the boring hours wasted behind a computer screen. But with Deborah acting toward him like Russia acted toward America during the Cold War, it all became too much.
Chris and Milly were arguing. Now that they had figured out an elephant was gray – seriously, how stupid were they that they didn’t know that? – they both wanted to get the
gray crayon. Milly bawled her eyes out.
He willed himself to stay calm, to swallow the storm load of curse words building up in his throat.
“Mark, can’t you keep an eye on them for one second!” Deborah rose her voice, her entitlement obvious from her pose: hands on hips, eyebrows furrowed. She looked old and withered, like a decaying flower, the best parts of her life long gone.
She reminded him of himself in that moment. She was lost too, forgotten, pushed back, both of them forty-something years old. They wouldn’t become presidents. They wouldn’t save the world, not like they’d whispered on the first night they’d spend together, both of them environmentally-savvy, both of them idealistic enough to believe that they could change things, both enthusiastic they’d make the world a better place. He gave up his living in bars lifestyle and became more responsible. She stopped hanging out with other guys and they became an item. It was exciting back then. New and fresh, both of them filled with so much potential.
Here they were now, ten years and two kids later, and neither of them had reached their potential, had even achieved part of it. They were dead flowers, rooted in their lives and their customs. It was tragic. She was tragic.
He got up and put the newspaper away. His nerves were on edge, and it was only thanks to his steel will that he didn’t yell at the little nuisances.
They took everything away from him. They took his youth, his chance at becoming more – Mark, why do you work so much? Shouldn’t you be home more often to spend time with the kids? – His chance at being someone else – Mark, you should marry Deborah because she’s pregnant, words sprouted to him by his mother when he told her his girlfriend was with child.
Deborah wanted children. He wanted a life of his own. Yet he had given in to her cravings, and it had ruined his life. He was a cardboard figure now, a man who lived not for himself but for his offspring, a decorative item in the large story of life.
The lion inside of him roared, angry at him being cast out of the spotlight. Even in his wife’s mind, he no longer was the center of the universe – Chris and Milly were.
He snapped the crayon out of Chris’s hands. “Now shut up, both of you.” He was surprised at how controlled he sounded. Like he was still in control. Like he had been in control during the last few months.
They were going to fire him. His boss had told him that a few weeks ago. Not that he didn’t work hard, not that he didn’t show up on time, but times were tough and financially, the firm couldn’t cope with that many employees. So they would fire him, not Ricky, the clerk who just started last month or Dina the secretary who only worked there for six months. No, him. The man who’d spend the last ten years of his life working to make their company thrive.
When his boss had told him, something broke inside his mind. The lion roared for the first time. Sweat dripped down his forehead, tick, tick, tick, like a waterfall dripping down in the jungle. He had balled his fists, clenched his teeth, willed himself to stay calm. He sent the roaring lion away, had nodded and left, leaving his boss dumbfounded. Most employees complained when they got laid off. Mark knew that if he opened his mouth in that moment, he’d end up killing someone.
He’d always had the lion in him, a part of him that rose up whenever he got mad. Lately, that became more and more often. Then he started shaking and he wanted to hurt things, people. Bad.
“But Daddy…” Milly started protesting.
“I said put it away. Dinner will be ready soon.”
The kids nagged and whined, and Milly cried again – what a stupid little crybaby.
He wanted to hurt them. Make them stop nagging. Why were they even complaining? He was a good dad, he listened to their woes and contracted when they told him their silly stories of what happened in kindergarten. On a good day, he even sat down and colored with them.
No, if anyone could nag and complain, it was him. He had to give up everything for them. And did he get any thanks in return? No.
He hadn’t told Deborah yet about him being fired. If she knew, she’d freak out. She might even blame him, accuse him of being lazy – like she had a dozen times before – or of being good for nothing. Then she’d break down and cry about how her life was ruined, which in retrospect was her own damn fault and had nothing to do with him.
Usually he could block out her cries and ignore her whining, but the last time she had one of her episodes – when he’d forgotten to pick up the kids from school – and accused him of things, he felt his inner-animal jump against the cage he had constructed. The lion hurled itself at the bars, bit them with his teeth. The lion morphed into a wolf and howled at the moon, begging to be let free.
He had gone out then, had decided to leave Deborah alone because he had no idea what he’d do if he didn’t leave her right then and there. If he stayed, he wouldn’t have been able to control the animal.
Even though he left, he still couldn’t control it. The rage burled within him like a firestorm, a tornado. His heart beat loud in his ears, the blood raced through his veins.
He had killed someone then.
Mmm…all kinds of murderous thoughts in my head.
Kisses and slaughterous desires…