The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief Part 3
by Shane Migliavacca
The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief Chapter Three Anne (II)
Anne sat in darkness. Where was she? She tried to focus in the murky blackness around her. It was the living room, she thought. She was sitting on the couch, but there was something off about the room. A strange odor hung in the air. One that seemed familiar, yet she couldn’t place it. Looking down, Anne could see the floor was a mess. Some of dad’s old records lie shattered at her feet. Books were scattered all around.
Anne tried to move but her body felt numb, asleep. She watched as a beam of light appeared on one of the walls. Slowly growing in size till it covered the entire wall. The wall’s surface looked brunt. The wallpaper charred, was peeling off in large chunks. One section of the wall was untouched by fire. The wallpaper merely yellowed from smoke. Anne could make out movement there. A rippling effect as many small things started to gather there. Despite the distance Anne could see them clearly and in detail. The things, there was no other word to describe them, had vaguely human heads, attached to insect like bodies. The scurried about, crawling over one another. These “bugs” started turning on one another. One devouring the other. All happily singing as they did so.
Soon their words were drowned out by another sound. Louder. Terrifying. Something was being dragged across the floor. Again, Anne tried to move. But her body remained motionless. The only part of her she could move was her head.
Frantic, Anne looked from side to side. The sound was coming closer and closer. There! A shape moving in the hallway. It was just outside the room. As it drew nearer, Anne could see more and more of it clearly. Something almost resembling a human. Its limbs hung at odd angles. The head tilted wrong. The face was covered in shadows. But the eyes glowed yellow in the darkness. Animal eyes. A misshapen arm reached out toward her.
She started at the wall. The room was dark, save for the moon light coming through the window. How long had she been here? Sitting on the couch. Anne had come into the living room after having some hot chocolate. She’d just wanted to sit and relax a bit. Mom had gone to bed, leaving her alone downstairs.
Anne stood. Her body could move again. Had it been a dream? She didn’t feel like she’d been sleeping. Had to be though. That couldn’t have happened. Not unless she’d been hallucinating.
All the lights were off. It appeared she was all alone downstairs. Luke was nowhere to be seen. Probably upstairs sleeping on Anne’s bed, waiting for her.
She felt her way to the stairs in the blackness of night. Anne lived so many years in this house, she knew where everything was. Even in the darkness. Feeling like a child trying to sneak a peek at her Christmas presents, she tiptoed upstairs. Not wanting to wake her mother. She’d have to explain how she fell asleep on the couch.
Anne flipped on her bedroom light. As predicted, Luke was waiting there for her. Curled up on her bed. He raised his head, sleepily looking at her.
“You know the drill.” Anne pointed to the floor. “Scoot.” She made a waving motion with her hands. The dog jumped down from the bed with a sigh. “Not like you won’t be back up here the second I fall asleep.”
Anne pulled her blankets back. She was quite used to waking up in the morning pushed to one side of the bed or the other. With Luke stretched out behind her. She sat on the edge of the bed. Sitting on the nightstand was the picture of her dad. Anne smiled. “I miss you.”
She get’s up to turn off the light. Pausing she looks at her bedroom door. Thinking about what happened downstairs sends a shudder through Anne’s body. Clicking the lock on the doorknob, she turns off the light and goes to bed.
The next day at work, Anne stands in the Halloween aisle. She straightened up some of the decorations. People picked through them all the time. Never putting them back in the proper place. This wasn’t her area, but it made for a good cover. Anne wanted to get some idea of a costume for the Halloween party. Save-Mart had a fairly large selection, which made it even harder to choose. Further down the aisle, a mother was telling her two kids to pick out their costumes. The brother and sister couldn’t have been any older than seven or eight. They giggled and teased each another as the mother tried to hurry them along.
All three were smiling. Clearly having a good time. Anne turned away. Bitterness welling up inside her chest. It threatened to overtake her sometimes. Seeing other people happy. Being with the ones they loved. Anne wanted to go to them. Shake them. Tell them to enjoy every minute of it. Savor every second. Because before they knew it, that joy, that happiness would be gone. She didn’t though. Instead, choking down the bitter taste in her mouth.
Anne pushed it from her thoughts. Turning back to the costumes. A plastic wolf mask caught her eye. It had large ears on top and a long snout. The mask ended after the snout. Allowing the wearer’s mouth to be visible. She took the mask from it’s hook. Running her fingers over the mask’s surface.
This is the one.
The Big Bad Wolf. All she needed was a Little Red Riding Hood. She’d just seen a costume of that before. An idea came to her. Taking a Red Riding Hood costume. Anne looked at the picture on the front of the package. It showed a sexy blonde woman wearing it. Her gaze went back to the wolf mask.
What if the wolf ate the girl?
Perfect. Anne liked that idea.
Taking the costume and the mask with her. She’d purchase them later. For now, she’d stick them in the backroom. As she leaves the aisle, Anne nearly collides with an older woman. Jumping back, stumbling into a display of jack o' lanterns. Knocking some of them on the floor in the process. Rolling across the linoleum flooring in every direction.
“Shit!” Anne drops the costume and mask on the floor. She looks at the old woman. “Didn’t see you there, Miss Beal.”
Miss Beal stood with her arms behind her back. Her long silver hair rested on her broad shoulders. She wore large glasses. The right lens was colored black. Hiding the eye. Miss Beal stood a head taller than Anne. The old woman was an intimidating presence. Anne swallowed hard as the woman’s one eye cut into her.
“Sorry.” Anne knelt down, picking up her costume.
“Still your tongue girl.” The old woman held up a wrinkled hand. Her eye flickered to the package in Anne’s hand. “You should know better young woman. Celebrating such a pagan holiday. He already has his eyes on you.”
Miss Beal put one of her weathered hands on Anne’s head. Revulsion spread through her body from the old woman’s touch. But she felt unable to move
“His gaze is upon you.” Her hand runs through Anne’s hair. Letting it trail down the side of her face. Stopping at Anne’s eyes. The old woman gently closes Anne’s eyes. Holding Anne’s face with her hand.
“His Gaze is upon you child!”
She took her hand away. Anne’s eyes fluttered open, not sure what she’d see.
Miss Beal stood there. Hands together in front of her. She bent down. The old woman’s face close to Anne’s. The old woman’s breath smelled like rotted meat. Her voice took a hushed tone. “His gaze is upon you.”
Anne knelt there. Unsure what to do or say to the old woman. Miss Beal for her part, just shook her head in disgust, before walking away. Anne watched her go. What had just happened? Anne felt like the world had just turned inside out.
Her face reddened as she noticed people staring at her. Standing she forced an unconformable smile. She’d intended to pick up the fallen jack o' lanterns, but now, shaken, she slunk off. Hoping none of her co-workers had seen what had just occurred. happened.
Anne felt sick. Her head and face felt dirty from the old woman’s touch. Why hadn’t she done something? Told the old bag off. Or got up and walked away. Instead she let Miss Beal touch her like that. Why did she keep saying that?
His gaze is upon you.
Anne stumbled into the break room. Much to her relief it was empty. She stuffed the costume into her locker. Then went into the bathroom. Splashing ice cold water on her face.
Damn old woman. Miss Beal was well known around town for her weird behavior. Stopping people on the sidewalk and trying to make them repent their sinful ways. Or protesting in front of the movie theater. Telling movie goers that they’d go to hell for watching the “Devil’s images” as she called them. The old woman had been arrested at least a couple of times for harassment. As Anne stared at her reflection in the mirror, she couldn’t help but feel a bit bad for the old woman. What did she have? She’d never married. Her family was most likely all passed. She ran the local thrift store. That was about it. Besides going to church. All alone like that. It’s no wonder Miss Beal had gone a little… Crazy.
She splashed some more cold water on her face. Anne wanted to dunk her head under the faucet. To wash it away. The old woman’s touch. That was stupid though. It wasn’t like she could catch the woman’s insanity. Anne had some all her own. Besides, she couldn't go back to work with her hair soaking wet.
Anne noticed her hands were shaking.
Pull it together.
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