The Solace of Pain

Another very early story (I will put up something new one of these days). Quite grim, grotesque and gothic. Hope you like it.

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1. The Solace of Pain

 

“Jenny, Jenny, Jenny. Jesus Sass, I`m sick of hearing that bloody name!”

          Sarah knew, even before Sass burst into tears, that she could have handled the situation slightly better. Walking tentatively over to her sobbing friend, she wrapped an arm around his shoulders. He tensed at her touch. But he needed the warmth, the understanding - the love. His body sagged like a rag-doll, head buried into Sarah`s chest, staining her thin, cotton blouse with tears. Cradling his head and gently stroking his back, Sarah spoke in a hushed voice.

             “I`m sorry for snapping love. I know this has been a terrible time for you but it`s been three months now. You have to get on with your own life. This permanent grieving won`t bring Jenny back. She`s gone. You have me and I`ll always be here for you.” Lifting his head Sass forced a smile. Sarah gave him a friendly kiss on the cheek.

            “Thanks for being here Sarah,” Sass whispered, his voice calming. “I don`t know what I`d do without you at the moment.”

          “Don`t be silly,” she replied ruffling his long black hair. “Wash your face and freshen up. I`ll put the kettle on.” Wearily, Sass dragged himself to the bathroom. Splashing the reviving, cold water onto his face, he caught his pallid reflection in the mirror.

            Jenny. Within his own eyes, he always saw her. The good times, the delirious happiness.  The perfect relationship. They had been together for two years and towards the end of it they were preparing to be married. Then it happened.

            Jenny`s death haunted him still. The memory of having to identify her body in the hospital mortuary. Her throat slit wide open, stab wounds razing her breasts and stomach. Sass was told he only need identify her by her face but he wanted to see the murderer`s work. Even in death, Jenny still seemed so beautiful to him. So beautiful . . . The sink began to overflow.

            The kettle boiled furiously. Sarah`s gaze seemed catatonic as she pulled up the sleeves of her blouse. Slowly, she offered the bare flesh of her forearm to the angry plume of steam. No screaming, no shouts of agony. Her eyes closed tight as her skin reddened and blistered. As it clicked off , she pulled away inspecting the wound - smiling.

            “Here`s your cup of tea Sass,” a wide smile cracked across her face as she breezed into the front room, a mug in each hand.

            “Sarah,” Sass`s tone expectant. “Will you do me a great favour tomorrow morning?”

            ‘Yes, of course, anything. You know you only have to ask.”

            “Will you come with me to visit Jenny`s grave? I really don`t think I`m ready to go on my own.” Sarah let out a long resigned breath and gulped at her tea.

            “Of course I will,” she replied, feigning enthusiasm. “If you think your up to it. We`ll both go tomorrow.” Stroking the sleeve of her blouse, she felt the lumpiness beneath. The harder she pressed, the better she felt.

 

The following morning they pulled up outside the cemetery. Sass had remained silent the whole journey, lost amid his thoughts as Sarah drove. The fragrance of dew, flowers and fresh cut grass , wrapped around them like so many sympathetic arms as the couple walked among the many graves. The air was still and silent, just the occasional burst of bird-song to let them know they weren`t the only beings alive. Sarah, dressed in a long, dark coat, held the flowers for the grave-side in one hand, the other held Sass. She gave him a reassuring and smile. As if trying not to wake the many sleepers, Sarah whispered, “are you sure you`re ready for this?” Sass nodded unsurely. His eyes glazed as they both approached the grave.

            Sass fell to his knees, chanting Jenny`s name with a pain-wracked voice. Behind, Sarah watched, suddenly impassive. Putting one of the fresh roses to her face, she took in the sweet fragrance. Sticking out the tip of her tongue, she tasted the tiny droplets on the petals. The cold tingle shook her out of dream-state. She placed a hand on Sass`s shoulder.

            “I think it`s going to take longer than we thought Sass. You haven`t given yourself the chance to come to terms with her death.” Sarah guided him to his feet, his sobs convulsing in his throat. “Go back to the car, I`ll arrange the flowers for you.” Tearing his face away, Sass slowly walked away. Sarah arranged the flowers as promised then stood back a little, reading the inscription on the head-stone. She wasn`t even aware that her long fingernails were finding their way deep into the mush of her forearm. Slowly burrowing into the scalded skin. Blood snaked from the opening of her sleeve, dripping off her fingertips onto the damp earth. She walked back to the car.

            After returning to the house, Sass left to see a friend, leaving Sarah lying of her bed. As soon as the front-door slammed she walked into Sass`s room. A cool, sweet breeze from the open window, touched her as she sat on the double bed. Stroking the duvet, in sweeping arcs she looked about the room. Gig posters and framed photographs of Sass and Jenny performing with their band, Larissa. Sarah took a closer look at the live photographs. They were mostly black and white, showing action shots of Jenny, prowling the stage looking as if she was about to devour her microphone. Swathed in webs of lace, her long, teased hair blurring in movement. Sass standing in usual ego-stance, looking cool and aloof, powering away at his guitar-strings. Larissa`s sound had been dark and baroque, almost classically inspired.

            Another photograph showed the drunken duo of Sarah and Jenny locked in a posed embrace. This was taken before Jenny ever met Sass. At that time, Jenny and Sarah were still lovers. Sarah turned away completely emotionless.

            The shirt Sass had worn that morning, lay thrown on the end of the bed. She pressed it to her face. A gentle odour redolent of spray-masked sweat swirled around her senses. As if desperately taking in oxygen from a mask, she breathed long and slow with closed eyes. Sass; she could almost feel him as if he were lying beside her. Aware of the fire burning between her legs, she put the shirt down and continued surveying the room. Near the window stood a tall cupboard, opening the doors she peered in. Hanging next to Sass` suit was Jenny`s hand-made wedding dress. The filigree headdress had been painstakingly adorned with glittering clusters of coloured glass. The dress itself was made from mixtures of crushed black velvet, with ribbons of lace and satin. The clothes smelled strongly of Patchouli, one of Jenny`s favourite oils. The suit and the dress hung together like two disembodied spirits in limbo. Sarah remembered how she had helped Jenny make the dress; both girls laughing and giggling to each other about the big day.

            Suddenly a thought strobed through her head. :”Yes,” came the whisper. Leaving the dark couple alone in the cupboard she left the room and went to the bathroom to take a shower.

            Sass had fallen asleep on the settee, after drinking a bottle of wine to himself. Sarah sat beside him, pushing fingers gently through his long hair - then a gentle kiss on the lips. Sass` eyes flickered open. He felt the coolness of her hand holding his. She kissed him again, this time lingering a little longer. He allowed her tongue to snake around inside his mouth, meeting it with his own. Pulling back Sarah spoke.

            “Sass?” His eyebrows raised quizzically, waiting for the rest of the sentence. “Sass, take me to bed.” He didn`t know or care why, but he found himself leading her by the hand to his bedroom. On entering, Sass` mouth opened dumbly at the sight of his room which was glowing in the radiance of dozens of flickering candles.

            “I just thought I`d set the scene,” she said sheepishly, head lowered. Her prematurity seemed not to disturb him as he pulled her into the room and laid her on the bed. Easing himself on top of her, the pair kissed passionately as if it were their last night on Earth. Sarah could feel Sass` heart pounding like thunder against her chest. She pulled away.

            “I have a surprise for you Sass,” her words struggling through her breathlessness. “But you must close your eyes.” He grinned and shut one eye. “No! Both of them, no cheating or you`ll spoil it - now close them, both!” He was surprised at stern her voice was but took it as part of the game. Both eyes shut, he felt Sarah`s lips on his forehead before she left the bed. He could hear clothes being peeled away and discarded. He tried to picture Sarah stripping for him; why the secrecy? Maybe she was embarrassed about her body - God knows why. He waited. “You can open them now.”

            She was standing naked at the bottom of the bed. Naked, except for Jenny`s wedding headdress. Slowly Sass paced over to the smiling and sensitised Sarah. Feeling the warmth of her skin, he put his hands on her soft, smooth shoulders and looked into her icy-blue eyes.

            His hand smashing across her face sent her reeling to the other side of the room. The slap seemed to reverberate forever. Sarah fell to the floor in a heap, her mouth bleeding. He tore the headdress from her.

            “You sick bitch!” His words spat venom. “You will never, never replace my Jenny you twisted!...” Sass pummelled the wall with his fist. “What the hell must I have been thinking. To think you only wanted friendship? I`ve let you into my life, my house, my . . . our bedroom for Christ`s sake. And you do this!” He waved the headdress furiously in front of her face. Sarah wiped the blood from her mouth, smearing it across her reddening cheek. She curled in on herself, covering her breasts with her arms, suddenly ashamed of her nakedness. The onslaught continued.

            “My grief for Jenny has blinded me and you took advantage. I want you out of my house and out of my life. You`re nothing. You - are - shit!”

            Sass drank himself into oblivion and passed out on the bed.

 

            He had been crucified but there was no pain. Arms spread in a Christ pose, suspended high in the air, hands and feet dripping blood. It was as if he had been nailed to the slum-grey clouds behind him. Rain spattered his naked body. Following the pain of the raindrops, down, down, he saw - Jenny? She was looking up at him. Suddenly blood gushed from his hands, feet and eyes, showering her in crimson, sticking her clothes to her skin. Embracing her from behind was Sarah. Her hands slowly snaking all over Jenny`s soaked breasts, then deep inside her skirt. Stroking, sliding between Jenny`s legs. Bloody fingers easing themselves inside sticky, hot walls. Laughing, Jenny was laughing. Then came the pain.

 

            He awoke, eyes moist; the nightmare hung with him for a few seconds then dissipated when he realised he was safe in his own room. Something was wrong. His wrists had been bound to the headboard, as was his neck, preventing any movement.

            The stench.

            His stomach turned over in disgust. Eyes and nostrils stung with the repellant odour.

            The bedroom door opened and in walked Sarah, smiling and holding a mug of tea in her hand. The skin on her cheekbone and mouth looked purple and painful, stroking them in turn as she spoke.

            “Ah - you`re both awake. Oh sorry, you can`t move your head can you. Silly me.” She removed the stocking restraining his neck. Turning to his left he saw that something lay next to him beneath the covers. Grabbing hold of the corner, Sarah tore back the bed-sheets.

            Sass` guts lurched. His breath came in asthmatic gasps.

            Next to him wearing Jenny`s full wedding dress was the nightmare figure of a stinking, suppurating corpse. Muck and filthy fluid congealing on the mattress.

            “Isn`t this what you always wanted Sass? Jenny back in your bed?” His lungs burned with  a wailing scream. “What`s up sweetheart? You seem a bit . . . disappointed. The things I do for you. I just can`t stop match-making can I? She`s come a long way to see you.” She frowned at him. “Some people are so ignorant.” Sass became completely frozen with a cocktail of terror and heart-rending sorrow. The dead mouth of his bride to be seemed twisted into an expression of embarrassment; as if mouthing silent apologies to her living partner, for putting him through all this agony. Her once beautiful, sculpted face was now reduced to a stained, stretched death mask. Where once depthless, hazel eyes had blazed, was now home to the many thousands of crawling life inside. The gaping rent in her throat undulated as if gulping for air, as things stirred beneath.

            “Aren`t you going to give your bride to be a kiss?” She hissed sardonically. Sass, finally finding his voice, croaked out his plea.

            “Sarah, for God`s sake please don`t do this . . . please!”

            “How quaint!” She replied, still smiling. “That was the last thing Jenny ever said - after I fucked her in the back of your car. Just before she saw this.”

            From her jacket she pulled out a long bladed knife. Sitting herself next to him on the bed, she placed the tip of the knife gently against the soft flesh beneath his left eye.

            “Maybe you were meant to be together after all.”

            She fell forward.

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