The smell of the place was putrid, rotting meat and formaldehyde, along with the coppery scent of blood.
Michelle's first reaction was to turn her face way from the breeze carrying that awful smell, as her mind began to struggle through the haze of drugs into consciousness. When she finally managed to crack her eyes open, she was greeted with a bare bulb hanging from a dirty concrete ceiling, rather than the expected sight of her bedroom. Michelle’s confusion at this strange sight was dulled by the fading, yet still pervasive fog of sedatives clouding her brain. She attempted to sit up, but all that she accomplished was a weak wriggle of her back muscles as she pushed up against the ropes (?) holding her down to the table.
A face appeared at the edge of her vision, the surgical mask stretched across it stained with old blood. A shaved head shone in the glare of the bulb, the pale flesh almost luminescent. Glassy, slightly manic eyes stared down from above the mask.
“You’re awake! Wonderful! I’ve been waiting for hours. I thought about waking you up, but you seemed so worn out that I just didn’t have the heart to deprive you of your rest. After all, today is going to be a rather busy day for you!”
Michelle opened her mouth to speak, but only managed a harsh gurgle. The confusion was rapidly turning to panic. How had she gotten here? The last thing she remembered she had been going to the post office while Greg looked after the baby… “Oh, don’t try to talk! You’ll only manage to hurt your throat. You don’t want to irritate what’s left of your vocal cords, do you?” What was left? What had happened to her?
“A shame about that by the way, but I couldn’t have you thanking me too loudly, now could I? I mean, the last several people I helped were so loud. The neighbors raised such a fuss; even called the cops! Said I was a crazed madman. They said I was a killer! The nerve of it! Slandering a good Samaritan’s name like that…”
As the man chattered on, he was also moving around the room, though she couldn’t see what he was doing. A clattering noise and some clinking only made her more panicked. She tried to sit up again, and though she could muster more of an effort this time, her attempts were again fruitless. She could barely move her head, and the straps holding her down, (a surgical table?) made it so she could only stare at the ceiling and the walls to her side. What she saw there only made her more terrified. Photographs taped to the wall, scenes of torture and carnage that had been highlighted on the nightly news for weeks.
“…I mean, a photographer would want to see the world through a lens right? So I was helping him! And he was grateful! If he wasn’t grateful, why would he be screaming with joy?”
The man, apparently finished with his task, moved behind her head and set something down with a harsh click. Glass on metal. Other objects rattled loudly on the surface.
“But enough about my past works. I don’t want to brag. Bragging is for the prideful, and the Lord teaches us not to be prideful. So, let’s talk about you, Michelle. I have to say, I’m really happy that I saw you on the street a few days ago! Ever since I had to leave Wisconsin, I’ve been having a hard time picking who to help out! But then I saw you, walking down the street, and I saw that you needed my help more than anyone. That look of loss in your eyes, like you needed someone to give you purpose, to reaffirm your life… That spoke to me. And so I decided to answer your plea, and here we are, ready to get you back on the right track!”
The man reached down and grabbed her jaw firmly, and with his other hand reached into her mouth and fixed something in place over her teeth. A mouth guard, made of rubber. He patted her cheek as his hand withdrew. “Don’t want you to bite your tongue. Not before we’re finished.” She stared at him, beseeching him with her eyes to let her go. He paid no heed, too lost in his own thoughts.
“Where was I? Ah yes. So I followed you, and I saw your life. The love you have for your husband, and your child. But I noticed that you were unhappy, particularly when your son and husband weren’t with you. Feeling lonely? Didn’t know what to do? I understand. Some people mock homemakers, saying they’re just a relic of a past time, but I disagree. I think it’s your choice, and you’ve made a worthy decision. So let’s get you back in that role you chose!”
He reached down and picked something up from behind her. As he walked around to stand next to the table, she saw the scalpel glint in his hand. Her eyes widened. She began to hyperventilate, the breaths through her nose sucking in more of that stench, making her gag. With one hand he held her stomach down, while with the other he reached down and slit the shirt she was wearing, exposing her abdomen. The scalpel continued cutting, drawing a burning line down her diaphragm. The wet, warm feeling of her own blood trickling down her sides as each breath began to hurt. He stepped back and put the scalpel back behind her and his hand came back up holding a large jar. The source of that earlier sound. The smoked sides gave no indication of what was inside, beyond faintly discernable motion. He turned it upside-down, and unscrewed the lid, holding it over the mouth as he brought it next to the cut.
“Now, don’t worry. This may sting at first, but its all right. A little pain is worth purpose, right?”
The hand holding the lid flashed away as he firmly pressed the jar down on the cut. Michelle’s breaths were harsh as she felt the sharp pinpricks of the feet of the creatures inside the jar. She tried to struggle but was still too weak, the pain from her diaphragm and the psychological shock of what was going on making her movements pathetically impotent. He looked down at her, one hand dropping the lid on the ground to come up and stroke her hair.
“You’ll soon be all better. Let them inside and they’ll never leave you alone like your family does. Just what a homemaker would want, right?”
His hand moved past her head, back to grab something from behind her. A tuning fork. He sharply rapped it against the side of the jar, frightening the insects inside. Michelle screamed inside her mind as the first slipped inside, a burrowing pain in her entrails. More and more entered her, a gnawing tide clawing and biting at whatever it needed to get away. Tears streamed down her cheeks as more blood began to pour from around the jar, sliding down her ribcage and the writhing bulges under her skin. Her heart beat faster and faster, until the sensation of prickling feet and devouring mandibles entering it caused it to cease completely.
The man looked at the slowly cooling body of what was once a human being, now just a hive. He reached down to the surgical table and picked up a camera. Another successful mission of mercy.