The first thing you noticed about the room was its dreariness. The dark curtains responsible for the gloom also incensed the study with the smell of mothballs. Large, with an ornate dining table at the center, its meagre light came from a lamp placed in a corner. There were volumes on philosophy, anatomy, and medicine in a bookshelf, as well as several books on paleontology and the breeding of dermestid beetles.
The owner of the house was having dinner by himself. Once in a while his thin face would peer across the dining table into the darkness. As is the case with people who don’t have to live with anyone, his thoughts ended up being spoken aloud.
“The weather report predicts a rainstorm darling,” the man said.
His hair was badly cut, and with his large glasses and thin features, the first thing you thought of was a mangy rat. His long fingers had the pruny look of being immersed in water for too long. They had seen many years of work, but the nails were well-formed and still gave his hands the graceful look of either a pianist or the precision of a surgeon, which was closer to the truth, but not quite.
“I might have to spray the place soon.” He said, scowling at the telltale holes of bug infestation in the table. “They should stay in the basement, where they’re meant to be.”
His voice turned ugly as he continued “You should have stayed here with me. Together. Like we were meant to be. I know we had problems, but that was no excuse. Why did you leave me my love?” He paused, eyes questioning the darkness before him, but he was andwered with only silence.
“Fine,” He spat. “Sulk then, you’ve always been ungrateful like that.”
“I cleaned out the basement today – I’ll need more room. They keep growing and reproducing faster and faster, so now they’re always hungry… If I don’t keep them busy they might bring the whole house down on us!” he said, raising his hands dramatically.
If he was expecting a reaction, he was disappointed. He shrugged, then continued eating, rambling on between mouthfuls. Thunder rumbled in the distance, a promise of rain to come. The man nodded his head. At least the weather people on GTV weren’t totally useless. He finished his meal then glanced a two-week old newspaper. He just glanced at tbe screaming headline about an explosion at a gas filling station which had caused several deaths, then on to the financial and sports section. He finally ended up reading a missing persons report on a Juliette Asante. The man carefully read the article again, then nonchalantly put it aside.
He abruptly got out of the chair, wiping his mouth with the napkin as he did so. He walked towards the darkness and stood before a seated skeleton. It was a work of art, and the bones had been lovingly polished. There was none of the brittleness you got when you stripped the flesh off with bleach or other chemicals. The carpet bugs he raised ate away all the flesh, yet kept most of the tougher connective tissue intact, which made piecing the skeleton back so much easier. Even at this close distance it gleamed dimly with a pseudo life of its own, a purity, the man decided, it had neither owned nor deserved when alive.
The man placed a kiss on the grinning skull.
“I’ll be back as soon as I can dear, but don’t worry if I keep too long,” he whispered.
For a second he thought the remains of his fiancee shrugged indifferently, but it was only caused by a gust of wind stealing through the drapes. Flashes of lightning made the skeleton look on in crazy derision as the man left the room.
Linda hadn’t made any money tonight and she was wet. The only thing she could look forward to were beatings from Stone and bawling from her baby. The short mini skirt and tight hugging jacket was not exactly the right apparel for the rainstorm. It had hours ago, and it didn’t look like it was letting up anytime soon.
A black Mercedes slowed to a stop right in front of the bus stop where she was huddled. The door opened and a finger beckoned her inside. Things where starting to look up. The man behind the wheel looked very skinny, with very large glasses. Probably the type bullied by his wife, she sneered.
“I’m the only one up tonight so it’s gonna cost you big boy” , she snapped.
The man just stared at her, till she started getting nervous. Would he say no? She was willing to bargain really, if only to show Stone it wasn’t her fault business was bad tonight. The man finally smiled and said, “Do you know you have an exquisite bone structure?”
She heaved a mental sigh of relief.
“You’re not bad looking yourself”, she lied.
The man’s smile widened into a grin, and he started up the car. Linda relaxed in the seat, safe from the cold and rain, and flicked off of a strange looking bug which had clambered onto her jacket. Tonight might not be so bad after all.