Darkness, Blanket of My Eyes

Darkness my blanket, tied close by the one I love.

Beyond my blindfold, outside this abandoned Chevron station, I hear movement.

Gasping, slapping, moist flesh—fwap, fwap—a squeal. Silence.

Neighborhood children playing with a pig. Yes, that’s it. Not something screaming, dying. Just kids playing outside the sliding glass doors. They must be with my husband, Jerry. Slapping a piglet’s belly like a drum. Joy squeals. Pig and kids and Jerry, their cries overlapping.

Ripping, popping, dislocated joints—pruhck, pruhck—torn membranes. Grinding incisors, chewing.

November already? Jerry must’ve made another faux turkey for our Thanksgiving dinner, tying carrots for bones, shaping “meat” from tofu. So dedicated, Jerry. Slightly sardonic, teasing my experiment with vegetarianism. But always supportive. We’d make great dads, I’ve always said so.

How long since I’ve seen him? Days since he tied the blindfold… Weeks? Since that first night at Chevron. Stopped en route to a party, paying for gas, the power went out. Eerie green lights rippled through the starless sky. All that screaming. Me hyperventilating, weak-kneed, collapsing against a drink cooler behind the snack shelves. Jerry ripped the sleeve off his shirt to make me a blindfold. A darkness blanket, like when he’d pull the covers up during scary movies so I wouldn’t have to see the gore.

Just breathe slow, he told me. Leave the blindfold on, wait until he says its safe. He promised he’d figure out what was happening and come back. The last thing I saw, his soft brown eyes.

Now he’s returning with Thanksgiving dinner! We’ll have a banquet on the linoleum, surrounded by empty drink bottles. It’s always a surprise, what soda flavor I get when reaching into the cooler. Without power, everything is warm. Especially my dirty corner, across the gas station, in front of the locked restroom. Stench of pee overpowering. And something besides excrement… something decaying. Did snacks go bad? Do they sell meat at Chevron?

Lapping, slurping, semi-solids sucked up—leuop, leuop—inside now. Approaching from my dirty corner.

Good ol’ Jerry, so dependable. He must’ve brought our portable wet vacuum to clean my mess, hoovering layers of poorly digested Cheez-Its and Slim Jims squirted from my beleaguered bowels. Kind of him, not to complain about the smell. He doesn’t tease me when it’s important. Embarrassing, messy. Hard to imagine the state of my clothes… no washing machine inside the gas station. Just filth.

Sometimes, I wish I hadn’t listened to him.  Wish I’d summoned the courage to go with him. Wish I’d uncovered my eyes during those first days, before it became impossible to imagine what I’d see. Before any thought of removing my blindfold made me want to vomit—

Mistake, mistake, a mistake, panic, bludgeoning, breaking. No! I don’t have to think about that inside my darkness blanket. Think Jerry. That’s Jerry I hear, helping me clean. Soon he’ll say my name, tell me everything’s okay.

While he was away, I inventoried Chevron by touch, organizing assets around my cooler. A hundred liters of drink, flavors unknown. Twice that many snack bags, contents unknown. Cups, straws, napkins. A fire extinguisher. I’m proud; I think he will be, too.

Clicking, clacking, claws on linoleum, scratching—tictic, tictic, skrr—drawing closer. Rounding the isle.

Huh… why would Jerry wear his Halloween costume? Jurassic Park is his favorite movie. Last year, he built an elaborate raptor suit. Claws that click on hard floor, iconic from the kitchen scene, perfectly captured. I’d recognize that sound anywhere. But now? Maybe it snowed outside and the sidewalks are icy. Sensible, having claws for traction. Like microspikes you slip over your shoes for climbing mountains or taking out the garbage. I’ll buy him those for Christmas. Must be heavy, lugging the entire raptor costume around. I hear its tail dragging, scattering empty bottles. Just around the corner.

Hissing, clicking, whistles through teeth, tongue whispering beyond words—sistuc, sistuc nomenim pietry—spindly arms on either side of me, boxing me in. Foul breath leaned close.

Damnit Jerry, this is no time for intimacy! Weeks apart can give couples a powerful hunger, but I want to gaze into your soft brown eyes next time we make love. I still want you. Even here, filthy and surrounded by waste. I’ll remove the blindfold, all you have to do is say my name, tell me it’s safe. That’s your responsibility. Only way I could be expected to know it’s you. Everything blurred, together bled. Price of my darkness blanket. We played with blindfolds back home. This isn’t that.

Rasping, rumbling, grunts of need, chest vibrating—chchch, chchch—air stirring near my groin. I reach down and wedge my clenched fist between my legs; a defense, a trap.

Surging, slimy tentacles penetrate my fist, shove my fingers apart.

Not Jerry. Not kids. Not pig. Something else, something bad.

Adrenaline burns away my comforting illusions. Nothing is normal. Fight now, fight everything. I clench my fist, trapping slimy genitals. The creature shrieks and writhes.

Smashing, screaming, my fire extinguisher shattering bone, pounding—ctunk, ctunk, die fucking die!—bashing and bashing. Rank copper, warm fluid coating the body beneath my hands.

Rage and disgust, overpowering fear. I drag the limp body by its genitals. To my dirty corner, deeper. Through the poorly digested Slim Jim’s, toward the locked restroom door. Over a different body, my foot squishing tentacles. Another, treading fingers. Has this happened before? How many times?

Where is Jerry?

 Cautiously, I peak beneath the blindfold. Piled bodies, tentacles. Beneath, half-covered, a human face. Soft brown eyes. Eyes that can’t be there. Eyes that aren’t there. nnnnnnnn. I didn’t see them. Didn’t see anything.

I yank the blindfold painfully tight; recede into dark oblivion.

Sloshing, shuffling, I retreat to my cooler and uncap a drink—sst, sst—flavor at random. Orange soda.

Not my favorite, but Jerry likes it. He’ll be back soon. I’ll just wait here, listening, wrapped in my darkness blanket. Maybe next time he’ll say my name, tell me everything’s okay.