Big adult diapers. The broken moan that rose and fell into scarily long silences. That far away look in the eyes. He didn’t like being in the room with her any more – that didn’t feel like Charlotte.
It was like one of these vegetarian steaks as far as he could see – fine up to a point, but then you hit the uncanny valley.
She would says things now that Charlotte would never have said. How had he forgotten that he was old? Her – she had helped him work that magic. When she went away the magic went away to.
No one likes to fall back on themselves if they don’t have to. He didn’t like to. He liked what she had made him into; what she had made him mean. What did he mean now that the essential part of her seemed to be no more?
Most of the time it did just seem like a wail, but there were those days when he sat there and thought on it for a long time that it struck him that she might just be trying to tell him something.
His own family line terminated early, without much fuss. Dad stroked out when the car failed to start one cold Wisconsin morning. He was blue when they found him.
His mother died on the journey from the top of the department store stairs to the bottom.
Both of them were 55 and both of them died on a Wednesday. He felt like it was almost certainly going to be his fate.
Charlotte had dropped into a state where age seemed irrelevant. Some days he felt like she was pressed up so tight against the door to her afterlife that she was the one keeping herself from passing on. Other days he felt like something else was anchoring her here.
Not everyone who passes over makes a clean getaway – there are things that wait between.
The room smelt sickly sweet, and there seemed to be a constant pooling of thick gelatinous fluid on the taut surface of the plastic sheet on the bed. The doctors were still running tests on it, but so far they couldn’t tell him anything about what was going on.
He tried to avoid touching her. He held his breath when he went in to deal with her. He squinted when he looked at her. He enjoyed nothing of her. No one ever said his name Henry anymore. People called him Mr Went.
He missed her. Went.
How long had it been since he had touched someone and someone had touched him back? He had touched himself, but that was an empty meaningless thing. A chemical thing.
It was the first time that he had touched her in a long time. Her skin felt hard, immovable. He tapped at her, and the sound surprised him. A Hollow ringing noise. A deep moaning sound rising up from somewhere. He heard a click, like the sound of a palmetto shell hitting a tiled floor..
Was that a crack? Was that smoke seeping out of her? Something touched him.
He placed his hands on the bed, touched the tide that seeped out of her, and felt his skin burn. This room had become something else, just as Charlotte had become something else. As the shell that Charlotte had become cracked open, and he found himself falling into the blackness of a dark that seemed to know no bounds, he felt teeth tear at him in his descent.
Henry screamed. It only stopped when the teeth tore the last morsel of flesh from him, and there was no more of him to continue falling.