Wayne paced, stopped, opened the window, snapped on the television, lounged briefly in his recliner, and then jumped up and paced some more.
Glancing at his watch every five minutes, Wayne's restlessness carried him past the six o'clock news and into the old sitcoms. Murphy Brown's escapades did little to lighten Wayne's mood. But, by the time Roseanne told her third one-liner, about the same time as the sun slid behind Mount Moriah, Wayne lay nodding in his recliner. Thirty minutes later, while his soft snores and rigorously grinding teeth punctuated the quick responses of Rescue 911, a huge dark shadow filled the softly lit living room and then floated away.
Wayne mumbled in his precarious slumber. The shadow swooped again as the Wrenge soared closer in the indigo sky looking for a landing site.
The porch roof next door, with rough shingles for good footing, gave the Wrenge a perfectly unobstructed position.
Stationing herself where her shadow cast a visible stain on the Michael's living room carpet, the Wrenge folded her great wings protectively around herself and dozed peacefully in the cool autumn air.
Twisting and moaning in his uneasy slumber, Wayne suddenly bolted into consciousness. He sensed, rather than saw, the shadowy mark by the window. Shivering from the cold, rancid night air wafting through the open window Wayne felt his testicles tightening and the little hairs on the back of his neck stiffening. An incredible rush of aloneness swept him and a dull ache in his chest reminded him to breathe. Eery music wafted softly from the television. The remote lay three yards in front of him, on the coffee table. He longed to reach over and switch off that dreadful music but his limbs ached – they were also numb with inexplicable fear and refused to cooperate.
His jaw felt like he had been kicked in the face by a horse.
The room was dark.
Bluish light from the television did little to dispel the suffocating blackness that swelled with each cautious breath.
As his eyes grew accustomed to the murk they were drawn to the grayish patch of carpet just ahead. It looked more like a deep hole than a shadow. The oval shape yawned and stretched like a giant mouth ready to take a bite.
As Wayne worked to steady his breathing and try to rationalize his fear --
(just your guilty conscience at work)
-- the ever darkening shadow began to boil and twitch. Its edges rolled inward, like a waterfall of ink, while the center bubbled and frothed like liquid tar.
(Just a dream -- the music, the stench -- just my guilty conscience at work. I'll wake up soon.)
From the center of the churning darkness a delicate form rose. Faintly iridescent, it sucked in light as it glowed dark blue, violet, finally pale pink. Wayne heard a sucking-pop as the pink shape moved out of its inky pool.
The features stabilized into Elizabeth's face.
(Now I know this is a dream.)
Daintily, Elizabeth's pink, naked body stepped forward. Her smiling face was beautiful, unlined and glowing -- her body soft and round.
She looks just as she did on our honeymoon, Wayne thought.
His limbs felt heavy and his jaw throbbed. The television fell silent but he sensed it watching him with its single blue eye.
Elizabeth's rosebud lips parted.
"Blood," she whispered raising a graceful arm and pointing to Wayne.
Electrified by the sudden sound, Wayne's teeth involuntarily clamped shut: biting down hard on his tongue. The salty taste of blood gagged him as his eyes filled with tears and blurred his vision. Inert limbs suddenly reanimated -- flinging him out of the chair.
He was face to face with his dead wife's wraith.
Elizabeth's pointing finger dabbed briefly at the trickle of blood on Wayne's lip. Her touch was icy and damp like a slug inching across his mouth.
Sweat seeped from Wayne's pores.
A mottled purple tongue flicked from her mouth as the Elizabeth-thing licked his blood from her finger.
Wayne felt her fetid breath on his neck -- smelled the stink of decay, and, although he caught only a brief glimpse, he was sure he had seen festering worm holes and maggots on her dank purple tongue.
He could feel his gorge rising and clamped his teeth together. Fresh pain throbbed in his torn tongue and aching jaw.
The salty taste of his own blood and the pain in his mouth brought anger.
This was when the reality of Wayne's situation blossomed in his brain.
(Who in the hell does she think she is . . .)
Wayne's arm came up. Hand clenched into a fist. "Listen you . . ."
"Bone," the Elizabeth-thing whispered as she reached out a small pink hand and tore off Wayne's upraised arm at the shoulder.
For a dream this pain is awfully fierce, Wayne thought.
The cauliflower knob of bone on the end of the severed arm that Elizabeth clutched looked dreadfully real. So did the bloody empty socket on his right shoulder.
In a swooning haze, Wayne heard the raucous grating of his own teeth -- smelled the sickening odor of his blood and felt the sting of tears in his eyes.
With primal fear he watched Elizabeth peel back the flesh from his severed arm and tear out the bone -- it gleamed with a pink hue as Elizabeth's small hands stripped flesh away. Again his neck and chin were washed in the revolting stink of her breath as her rosebud mouth yawned exceptionally wide and chomped blackened teeth onto the nub of bone. The bone
broke with a distinct cracking sound leaving a sharp-looking, splintered fragment in Elizabeth's hands: hands spattered with droplets of maroon blood and orange bits of flesh and broken blood vessels.
"Tears," it whispered, touching Wayne's cheeks and lapping gory fingers with that worm-riddled tongue.
Fear mushroomed from Wayne's broken body when he saw that rosebud mouth moving toward him.
(She's going to kiss me.)
His scream was swallowed by her cavernous mouth clamping over his lips. A jolt, like electricity, coursed through his body as the bone splinter pierced his heart. With the last of his comprehension, Wayne felt his soul, or his essence – perhaps it was his tumultuous fear, sucked from his body like a modified abortion.
"Fears," the Elizabeth-metamorphosis whispered as she stepped back from the dead husk of Wayne Michaels and reentered the roiling shadow.
Rejuvenated, the Wrenge drifted silently through the indigo skies over Memphis. ~~~ Continued . . .