Cold Comfort

Flash fiction No. 2, Fiction Friday. With the nights getting colder, and furnaces working all over the country, this might be appropriate….

           The voice wakes me in the middle of the night.

           “Arnie.  I’m scared.  Arnie.”

           Scared?  Of what?  I always looked after us. I made money to have a nice house.  If you worked as hard as me, you would enforce some standards in that home.  I wanted a hot meal on time.  I wanted that nice house properly cleaned.  It’s not too much to ask, is it?

“Arnie, Arnie. I’m so cold.”

It was her own fault. I told her a hundred times.  “Don’t touch my remote control.” I didn’t like her watching those stupid soaps. She was watching when she should have been getting my supper and she lost the remote. It didn’t hurt her to watch what I wanted.

“Arnie.  I wanted to watch figure skating.  I used to skate.  I was even pretty good. Remember?”

“Shut up,” I said.  “Just shut your hole.”

“Arnie.  I don’t want to be here alone.”

I got my earplugs I wear at work.  Those jackhammers are hell on hearing.  I put the earplugs in.

“Arnie, come on down.  I’m so lonely.  I’m scared.”

Damned earplugs aren’t working. I don’t want to hear her whimpering but I can. Why can I still hear her?

“Arnie, come down for a minute.  I promise I’ll be quiet then.  Please.”

I am a reasonable man.  I just feel stressed sometimes.  I have to go down and see if she’ll shut up. Doesn’t she know I have to work tomorrow?  Doesn’t she know that I had ended it yesterday?

Darlene is right.  It is colder than Siberia in the basement.

“Arnie, please.  I’m so cold.”

I go past the furnace to the storage room. There she is, dead.  Just like I left her.  So why do I hear her voice?”

“Arnie, I’m turning blue.  I’m so cold. Let me come back upstairs.”

I look at Darlene.  She should be blue.  I pushed her yesterday but not that hard.  She fell and hit her stupid head. All she has to do is look after me and the house.  I work hard.  It’s not too much to ask to have a nice home.  To have a good meal.  So when she asked me I said, no.  Why does she have to go to her sister’s all the time?  You’d think she’d learn.

falling woman

“Arnie.  It was her birthday.  I just wanted to see her, that’s all.”

That voice. She has to be dead.  How come I’m with dead Darlene…AND I CAN STILL HEAR HER DAMNED WHINY VOICE???

“Arnie, you can’t hurt me now.  But Arnie, I’m so cold.”

What does she think I can do?

“Darlene,” I say.  “Of course, you’re cold.  You’re dead, you stupid woman.”

“Arnie.  I’m so cold.  Arnie.  I’m scared and I’m alone.”

I turn my back because I’m done.  I’m going back upstairs to my bed to sleep.

“Arnie, don’t go. You have to stay with me.”

I try to walk out.  It’s like moving through mud.  So slow.  Then I can’t move at all.

“Darlene, baby.  Let me go.”

“Arnie, I want you to stay.  I’m cold and scared and lonely.  You can’t go.”

“Let me go get you a blanket.”

I forget what Darlene’s laugh is like but it isn’t like this. I try to reason with her. Crazy, she’s dead.  I couldn’t get through to her when she was alive.

“I’ll get you a hot water bottle.”

More lunatic laughing.  I can’t get it out of my head.  I cover my ears.

“You can’t go Arnie.  I want you to turn up the furnace. Turn it up high.”

Stupid woman.  The thermostat is upstairs.  She lets me move to the furnace.  I bend over and pretend to adjust a dial.

That damned laughing gets louder… it’s- WHOOOOSH!

“I’M BURNING.  HELP, DARLENE, HELP.  I’M SORRY BABY.”

The last thing I hear is that crazy laughing and my own dying scream.

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