by Sarah Musnicky
She knew it was over long before he ever did. The decision was made when the thrumming began in her bones, sparking something in the blood that desired to spill free. Every molecule in her body screamed in unison, begging for release but all she could do was sit in the Zen garden outside her rental in complete silence.
The sōzu broke the tension every few seconds. It was keeping her grounded in the moment. Her mind, however, had other plans.
She needed to pull the trigger. And the longer she waited, the more the agony of prolonging would claw its way out of her stomach. If the shoe were on the other foot, she knew Duncan would not afford her the same level of courtesy. No, that wasn’t something he did. Not unless it served him.
Her fingers ached from clenching. Everything ached. This feeling was altogether quite unpleasant. Whatever this was, an episode threatening to come or, perhaps, even indigestion, she didn’t care for it. The sooner she purged it from her system, the better.
Whipping out her phone, her fingers moved on autopilot. Duncan’s number popped up on the screen.
Simple. Quick. Vague, yet direct enough given how things had been going to warn him in advance. None of what they were going to talk about was going to be a surprise. She was sure of it.
His response: “K.”
“You’re being unreasonable.”
Duncan looked down at her with that close lipped smile of his. Thin lips pressed inward. Arms crossed. It was half-past eleven at night and both were freezing their asses off in the middle of the park, but he had insisted on somewhere public. Her counter was that it needed to be late. Late enough that no one could see them. Not even the most procrastinating dog walker. Now, their eyes were engaged in silent war.
There was no winning to be had here.
“Look,” She said. “I don’t see a reason for us to keep doing whatever this is that we’re doing. And I’m just not happy.”
“You won’t even talk about why.” His voice raised. His voice always raised when he was upset.
The thrumming from earlier had steadily grown throughout the day and had settled itself in her stomach. Pain throbbed between her shoulder blades. They really did need to wrap this up. Whatever episode was coming on was guaranteed to be nasty.
“I have talked to you. Consistently. You haven’t listened. And I’m tired, Duncan.”
Closing her eyes, she stuck her hands as deeply as they’d go in her pockets. Dull bass tones rang in her ears, almost in time with the throbbing in her skull. She was cutting it close. She needed to go now. Without thinking, she stood up, which threw Duncan off-balance. This wasn’t her smartest move of the night and she realized it as soon as she looked at the blankness of his face.
“So, this is what you really want to do, huh?”
He grabbed her, and that was when it began. Adrenaline kicked in as pain splintered through her body. All she could do was let it happen. The thrumming hum crescendoed in her mind. It was all she could hear. Not the sound of Duncan’s agonized screams before he pushed her away. Nor the sound of flesh tearing as her back flayed open before surrounding her in a swarm of plumage. All she could register was that hum and the sweet release of surrender as she gave into the call.
Then there was nothing. Nothing but the certainty that things were finally over, and that she could finally be herself again.
Sarah Musnicky is the co-owner and current Editor-in-Chief for Nightmarish Conjurings, where she works hard to promote the writers’ voices in today’s horrorscape. When she’s not shifting between managing NC and her day job, she is plotting new stories or bugging her cat, Jupiter. You can visit her website www.nightmarishconjurings.com or catch her on Twitter at @SarahMusnicky.