Chimaera by Steven Bruce

Her slender fingers brushed the palm of his hand.
+++ ‘Your hands are rough,’ she said, kissing them.
+++ ‘Oh, thanks,’ he said.
+++ ‘They’re still my favourite part of you.’
+++ ‘What, my hands?’
+++ ‘Yeah,’ she said, sitting up on the couch. ‘I had a scary dream last night.’
+++ ‘Oh?’ he said, staring at the nicotine-stained ceiling.
+++ ‘Yeah, I was at my mother’s grave—’
+++ ‘That is scary,’ he said.
+++ ‘No, that’s not the scary part,’ she said. ‘When I left her grave there was a gaunt man, standing on the path. He was pale and sweaty, and his eyes bulged milky-red. He was trying to speak, but his mouth was full of something. It sounded like humming. And then he was looking behind me. When I turned around, there was this huge lion, standing there. Well, it wasn’t a lion,’ she said.
+++ ‘What was it then?’
+++ ‘It had a lion’s head, but its body was, well, something else.’
+++ ‘Holy shit,’ he said. ‘Then what?’
+++ ‘The lion bit into my leg and I woke up.’

He pulled away from her, got up from the couch, walked out of the living room. She reached over and picked his phone up from the coffee table. She skimmed through his messages.
+++ ‘What the fuck are you doing?’ he said, snatching the phone.
+++ ‘I was checking the time.’
+++ ‘What, in my messages? You’re full of shit,’ he said, shaking his head.
+++ ‘Do you have something to hide?’ she said to him.
He grabbed hold of her hair and pushed the corner of the phone into her temple.
+++ ‘After everything you’ve put me through,’ he said, twisting the phone.
He pulled her up from the couch and smashed her through the coffee table.
+++ ‘Fucking look what you’ve made me do,’ he said.
He punched a hole in the door. She got up from the broken glass and hobbled over to him.
+++ ‘I’m sorry,’ she said. ‘I never—’
+++ ‘Oh, you’re sorry. Always fucking sorry. Well, no, not anymore. You can fuck off to your bullshit family. See if they’ll cope with you,’ he said, pacing the room.

She peeped out from the window net. A young couple were looking at a house for sale across the road.
+++ ‘Looks like we’ll have new neighbours soon,’ she said.
+++ ‘I’m going out,’ he said, putting on his jacket.
+++ ‘Where?’
The front door slammed shut.

She hobbled into the bathroom. Her bare feet left behind small crescents of blood on the cream carpet. She popped an olanzapine tablet from its packet and swallowed it with water from the tap. The front door opened.
+++ ‘I forgot my wallet,’ he called out.
She came out of the bathroom and smiled at him.
+++ ‘You want me to make something to eat?’ she asked him.
+++ ‘I’ll go to the chippy if you want?’
+++ ‘Yes, please,’ she said. ‘Get my usual. Oh, and a pineapple ring.’

She walked through to the living room and noticed his phone amongst the coffee table debris. She picked it up and read the last message.
+++ If you can get away tonight I’ll make it worth your while xx. It was from Lisa.
She bounced the phone off the wall and put her hands over her face.

He came in through the front door holding a white plastic bag.
+++ ‘They didn’t have fish cakes, so I got you a fish,’ he said, going into the kitchen.
+++ ‘It’s okay.’
He came into the front room holding a bread knife.
+++ ‘You want some bread cutting?’
+++ ‘I’m not hungry,’ she said. ‘Who’s Lisa?’
+++ ‘What?’ he said, looking over at his phone. ‘Have you stopped taking your pills?’
He bent over to pick his phone up from the floor.
+++ ‘Crazy bitch,’ he said.
There was a bronze stag ornament on top of the fireplace. She picked it up and bashed it off the back of his head. He hit the floor. His body shook and scratched the carpet. And then he was still.

Her slender fingers brushed the palm of his hand.
+++ ‘Your hands are rough,’ she said, kissing them.
She hobbled into the bathroom and tossed his hands into the bathtub, on top of his chopped up body.

A seascape painting hung askew on the wall, above the bathtub. She sat on the toilet seat, with a bottle of gin, and stared at the painting. The sound of waves scraping the shore echoed in the bathroom. Blood crawled out from the bathtub. It trickled up over the white tiles and made its way across the wall, towards the painting. The waves became deafening.
+++ ‘I’m sorry, Eric,’ she said, pushing tablets into her mouth.
She cracked open the gin and started guzzling it down. The bathroom door swung open. The young couple came in.
+++ ‘Please, please help me, I didn’t mean to do it, it was an accident,’ she said, jumping up off the toilet seat. The couple stared at the bathtub.
+++ ‘Oh, beautiful taps,’ said the young girl.
+++ ‘Well, if the taps are beautiful we should move in immediately,’ the young man said.
+++ ‘Fucking look at me.’
The couple walked out of the bathroom and closed the door.
+++ ‘Wait, don’t leave me here,’ she said, chasing after them.
The couple had vanished. She rushed back into the bathroom. The Bathtub was empty.
+++ ‘Eric? Eric?’ she called out.
She moved out into the hallway and stood at the bottom of the staircase. Something jumped across the landing.
+++ ‘Eric?’ she said, stepping on the stairs. ‘Eric?’ she said again, moving further up the stairs.
The pale, sweaty man swung his head over the bannister. She couldn’t move. He crawled onto the stairs. His eyes bulged in her direction. His mouth ripped open, a swarm of bees gushed out. She stumbled backwards and landed on the floor. A hot breath licked the back of her neck. She turned around and was face-to-face with the chimaera. She scampered into the living room and shut the door behind her. Her eyes darted around the living room and stopped at the coffee table. It was in perfect condition. She slumped to the floor, covered her face with her hands, and wept.
+++ ‘Lisa?’
She lowered her hands. Eric was sitting on the couch.
+++ ‘Come and lay down,’ he said.

Her slender fingers brushed the palm of his hand.


Steven Bruce is the author of Thrown Up and co-author of Dark Matter 8. His work has featured in Picaroon Poetry, Building Bridges, No Tribal Dance, Forword, and the Black Light Engine Room Literary Magazine.

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