Sickness – by Nick Murray
Todays tale comes from in-house. This is a story by our very own Annexe Editor, Nick Murray. (The illustration is his too.)
The sickness had left her emaciated. Before, she had been made plump and ruddy by the joys of life, always outside feeling the sunshine trickle through orchard leaves. Very quickly she became a sagging mass of skin and sores. The energy had left her bones and on its way, took the fullness of her body with it.
It took some time for her skin to shrink away. Rolls became folds became wrinkles. Then, as she lay motionless in her bed, skin became paper. It stretched taut over her brittle form, threatening to split and expose treacle slow blood to her greying sheets. A dark flaking blotch showed that that very meeting had occurred once before. A storm of anger, the kind of emotional outburst she could rarely draw up the energy to execute, made her fling her limbs out in all directions. The rebellion against her immobility was enough to open a gash on her side. The little blood that oozed out did so unhurriedly. Through the fog of pain, she watched it crawl down the gutters of her ribcage. It took all of twenty three minutes for enough to reach the bedsheet without drying on the way. The crust that formed, unevenly bisecting her torso, itched incessantly and the power required to command her arm was long gone. She tried to roll to one side, to press the irritation into the mattress. The first feeble movement pulled the wound open and thrust a cold sliver of fear through her spine. She was reduced to dry, hacking sobs.
Occasionally her mind would slip into fevered hallucinations. At first these were terrifying. Images of high school bullies as demons, fire scuttling across the walls. She beat her head on the dull brass of the bed frame to try to expel the visions. The one feeble tap she managed before sinking back down was a hollow effort.
Soon, the fight gone from her body, she just watched. The visions became the only variation in her claustrophobic world. She would watch the flames lick the corner of the duvet. She watched them spread, engulfing first her feet, then her legs, then her body. It was with mild curiosity that she wondered just how she knew what burning skin looked like, all blistered and peeling. She had never seen real, all-consuming, fire before the sickness, so how her mind could recreate it was a mystery.
Sickness is from an upcoming collection, set to be released in September.
For more about Nick Murray you can go here and to find out about his previous short story collection First Sketches, you can click here.
Alternatively you can read his shouts into the darkness over on twitter @TerraTrouve.
Image: Caryatid After Modigliani
Block Print, 2011