Friday, February 10, 2012

The Secret

The room is condensed and square, it has the stuffiness of an old Soviet indoor pool that has grown stale and humid since the fall.  The air is stagnant and unmoving, the concrete walls and floor are moist and wet, a smell of musty water permeates the whole space. Though it is not immediately apparent, the stench creeps in, infecting clothing and skin so that not even a good scrub can cover its heavy perfume. 
For all the aura of still-standing water, there is no pool. One wonders just how many years the floors have been slick, and why is the concrete ceiling covered in small beads of moisture, like a blanket of hanging fruit, when there is no obvious water source?
Glenda can only see the sweating walls and the gleaming cement floor because of a few opaque glass covered bulbs attached to the wall behind her.  They give off just enough light for the room to look washed in a haze of gray. 
In fact, she’s not really paying much attention to the space, she’s aware of the dampness and the air which is hard to breath, but her attention is fixed on the paper bag.  The crumpled bag is wrapped up tight in plastic, like someone was trying to make sure the contents did not spill.
Glenda’s punching it, throwing it down as hard as she can, kicking it, stomping it, doing whatever she can to make sure the person she killed and stuffed into the bag is actually dead. Her thick black boot heel slams into the bag over and over.
She picks it up and hurls it towards the wall- the sound of it smashing into the wall is abrupt and ends without echo, like it has landed upon an already dead surface. Another kick.  She’s just got to make sure it’s dead, the fear of it somehow managing to escape the bag, coming insidiously to extract its revenge keeps her moving quickly, it provides the strength for another stomp and punch.
As she obliterates the bag, she can sense the shadow behind her, the friend she cannot see.  Even if she turned around there would be no shape or color. The dark shadow of her companion he could not describe even if needed, but it is there, filling up the corners with presence.

It is night and there are crickets out in the bushes adding a comforting sound to the darkness. Glenda is in a familiar front yard. This is suburbia, she has been here before, but she could never tell you when, she really doesn’t remember. 
The house is twenty feet away and dark, not even the porch light is on, but the moon is nearly full and she can see the carefully sculpted landscape- the trees and the low growing bushes, the decorative grasses close to the front door.  She has been here many times and she easily takes a few steps down into the dry landscaped creek that runs along the front side of the property. There is a small Monet-style bridge made of wood that crosses the creek. 
She takes the brown paper bag- covered in another plastic bag- and pushes it into a small black space where the earth and bridge meet. She can see the pink of her hand as it pushes the bag into the darkness.

The motel room is drenched in yellow light, looking somewhat elegant as the light plays off the textured wallpaper and the maroon carpet.  Glenda’s little white dog is sitting on a fabric covered chair and her dark shadow companion is once again filling in the corners of the room behind her. 
It takes her a moment to realize that the dog has found the bag – didn’t she leave it under a bridge?  The bag is chewed and torn, little bits of white plastic and crumpled brown paper are on the ground and on the chair seat. 
She can hear a voice in her mind: 
“The thing you try and hide is the thing that keeps popping up.”
She knows it's there, in the bag, the secret.

There is a central market in the middle of town.  Set up inside an old cement building that has survived two civil wars and a host of international conquests (all eventually unsuccessful) is a bustling scene. Instead of concrete, as one would expect of an indoor market, there is black water.  It is deep enough water to support all the canoes laden with fish and fresh produce and the giant mangoes that have just come into season.
Whether it is vendor or seller, everyone moves around in a canoe. The water is black with ripples of white reflected from the overhead florescent lights embedded in the ceiling over three stories up. The sound of the market is alive with bartering and the gravely voices of long-time smokers trying to get the best price for their hand-picked crops.  
Glenda and the shadow paddle out to the middle of the frenzy, knocking against the sides of other canoes as everyone tries to move around, like fish in a very small bowl limited to the surface. 
Glenda picks up the brown paper bag, bringing it out of the shadows by her feet.  She holds the bag in front of her, for the first time looking calmly at the folds, the crinkles in the paper now worn and dirty. 
Reaching in, she pulls out a long bone with some reddish brown muscle still attached.  She hands it to the shadow in front of her.  Reaching in once again, she pulls out a similar bone and takes a bite. Together they consume it all until what they hold is white and bare.  She takes both bones and tosses them overboard, she hears a splash and feels them descend into the black water beneath them.