Techne – EL Firestine

Lydia Fox died in her sleep at age fifty-two.  She left behind a thirteen-year-old son, Simon, who became an orphan, his father having died when the boy was nine.

Simon Fox sat quietly in the funeral home, staring at his knees.  They were scabbed.  There was a screaming hole somewhere in his stomach, but all he could think about was how he would never get his homework done for tomorrow at this rate.  People kept talking at him, and trying to touch him and squeeze his shoulders.  He wished that they would all go away.  He was crying.

The bathroom was quieter, and he could lock the door.  Everything was dim grey and purple, very tastefully decorated, and there was a small, elegant cluster of flowers on top of the toilet, which sat above a fluffy purple rug, forlorn against the stark white tile.

Simon sat on the toilet lid and put his head in his hands.

Mother had never been quite right in the head, not since Father had died.  She had sat for hours in her old rocking chair, knitting from behind thick glasses she didn’t need, hardly eating, never losing a beat.  After a while, she had stopped using her bed entirely.  There she sat in Simon’s mind, rocking back and forth, gently and easily, the curtains drawn and an ancient, tasselled, stained-glass lamp glowing out of the dimness from the bedside table behind her.  She was still knitting her last impossibly complex sweater.  It was orange.  It was hideous.

How had she even gotten out of her room?  Where had she even found brandy, much less rat poison?

Salt water was leaking between Simon’s fingers, and he sucked in a heaving breath, trying to control himself.  He was shaking, and his fingers and toes were tingling painfully.  His head hurt.

 He pulled himself to his feet, bracing himself against the wall and not caring that he was getting the wallpaper sticky.  The sink was too low to collapse against, and Simon sighed, annoyed at the owners of the funeral home for not understanding their clientele better.

He turned the faucet on and, finding soap, began to wash his hands in the narrow ceramic basin.  He looked at himself in the mirror as he scrubbed, and noted that he was very pale, and his eyes were very red.  His sandy hair was tousled, and the suit he had found himself in that afternoon was entirely wrong.  His eyes blurred briefly with tears again, but eventually they focused.  He could see the wall behind his reflection, and his own shadow cast by the lights humming above the mirror.

It came to Simon’s attention that his shadow was somewhat taller than it should have been.  It was also shaped like a female with giant hair, which struck him as irregular.  The screaming hole in his stomach rose for a moment up into his throat.

The shadow waved at him.

read the entire story in Pulp Literature Issue No. 2, Spring 2014.