Somehow it seemed like people were always telling Edith Wells how lucky she was. After all, didn’t she have a lovely home, a husband who was certainly a good provider, a daughter who never got in any serious trouble? For sakes, what could any mortal woman want?
“Well, for one thing, I absolutely hate being alone,” she’d tell them.
“Who doesn’t?” they’d answer. “So what else is new?”
And they were right, of course. When she was a kid she was sick so often that she never much got around to making friends. Her father, loving father, was in the Navy sailing some sea or other. Her mother was working a double shift to make ends meet. Only it seemed like they never did.
Her cinematic training began with a maniac mother who, on weekends, had to be dragged from movie theaters, after late matinees by a hungry Edith come to fetch Mama home. More often than not the daughter forgot why she had come and stayed with Mom for one more rerun. Edith fell in love with the hideous beauties created by Lon Chaney Jr. and Boris, Vincent, and Bela. For weeks she greeted everyone with the words, “Klaatu barrada Niktu” after seeing The Day The Earth Stood Still. She cheered The Beast From 20,00 Fathoms and cringed at Invasion Of The Saucermen. Like any normal kid, she grabbed at any chance to be scared stiff. To have nightmares.
Eventually, her father came home for good and her mother got into soap operas. Those Edith couldn’t handle. Demons, ghosts, and things that go bump in the night were one thing, but people talking about getting divorced–that was really scary.
And so Edith was alone again.
Until those first few years when she and Ken were just married. But that togetherness didn’t last. Ken had other friends, other things to do, places to go. Ken made it plain that she wasn’t the most welcome person to do them with him.
And those first years when their daughter, Sybil, was young enough to need her.
It was when Sybil was growing up that she returned to those shows of old. Except it wasn’t flying saucers anymore–aliens weren’t scary enough for her daughter. Only the new movies would do. Trouble was, the good ones were all rated R, and Sybil was only fourteen. Would her mother go with her? Please? If she promised to clean her room, empty the garbage, and be polite to her parents, even Dad, for an entire week? What mother could refuse?
She went, fully expecting to be shocked. At the first sign of violence, she was going to turn her eyes from the screen and direct them downward so she could count the kernels of popcorn strewn on the dark gray floor.
But she didn’t look away.
Even at the end where the girl made the villain literally explode and the screen couldn’t look any bloodier because there was no spot that was not some shade of red, she didn’t look down. It seemed a dance, an arabesque. That there were shreds of flesh in the arabesque seemed inconsequential.
She was hooked.
Unfortunately, when Sybil turned seventeen, she wouldn’t, of course, be caught dead going to the movies with her mother. And when Sybil turned eighteen she went away to college.
Since Edith refused to go to the movies alone, the question was closed completely. But she couldn’t give up her interest. She returned to the subjects of old. The only difference was, instead of watching the monsters, she read about them.
Edith actually became something of an expert. The way she saw it, there were basically three different types of classic monster–Frankenstein’s monster, vampires, and werewolves. The first two were easy enough to learn about. She had a little more trouble with werewolves.
The only classic she could find wasn’t even a novel. It passed for a scientific study. The man who wrote the book, Sabine Baring-Gould, didn’t even believe in werewolves. In his view, anyone who thought they were a werewolf was the Victorian equivalent of some kind of nut. Which didn’t stop Baring-Gould from going into loving gory detail about who ate who and why.
“Careful none of that stuff rubs off on you,” Ken warned with a laugh the first and only time he noticed what she was reading.
Now don’t get the wrong idea about Ken. They had a good marriage, better than most, and Edith was sure he loved her, as she loved him. Only sometimes when people have been together as long as they had, they can be in the same room and still be in two different houses. Maybe if they’d argues there’d have been some exchange–arguing is sharing in a way. But they never argued.
On their anniversary they planned a special night. They were to go out to dinner, but the weather was awful. Thunder and lightning split the sky, it seemed only seconds apart. When Edith looked out the kitchen window it was like looking into an aquarium, the rain was falling so fast and solidly. There was really no choice but to celebrate at home.
As Edith took the steaks out of the refrigerator, for some reason she found herself looking at them, really looking at them. It was the first time she had really looked at chunks of meat. at chunks of flesh. Like werewolves eat.
Never did perfectly innocent sirloins look so gruesome.
And Ken insisted on them being cooked rare. Rare and bloody.
And when she was a kid at her grandmother’s house, the cooked blood was saved as a special treat for the youngest, or the one who was just getting over a sickness. She remembered it tasting salty-sweet. The taste would cling to her lips for hours.
Edith wondered if she could talk her husband into a tuna casserole.
Ken came home late and he didn’t want either a tuna casserole or the steak; he had already eaten. He hated to do this to her seeing it was their anniversary, but after all, they were both adults, weren’t they? It had been one of those days. The boss obviously hadn’t gotten any last night and had taken it out on everyone else. Surely Edith could understand if all he wanted was a drink and bed? They’d celebrate some other time. Maybe next weekend? The weekend after for sure.
Naturally, she understood. I mean, she wasn’t a child who needed instant gratification. She could postpone her pleasures. She was perfectly content to open a can of soup and have a drink herself.
And another drink.
By the time she got to bed, some two hours after Ken, she wasn’t even feeling sorry for herself anymore.
Usually Edith didn’t drink just before she went to bed because it gave her nightmares. Not that she didn’t have nightmares, night terrors really, at other times, but the liquor-induced ones had no climax and no ending–they just went on and on from one horror to another and she couldn’t wake up, no matter how hard she tried.
And that’s exactly the type of endless dream she had.
It was all about her being invaded. Not invaded as in creepy things from outer space. Invaded as something growing inside her. Not a baby, or even a cancer. Some kind of unimaginable abomination. Ugly and growing. With teeth. every time it found a space–between the joints of her fingers, between her teeth and gums, between the very walls of her heart–it filled her. Filled her. Until she was no longer Edith Wells. She woke up screaming. Except no sound was coming out of her mouth. That was the worst kind of nightmare for her–when she was screaming for help at the top of her lungs, screaming and screaming until her whole body ached with the effort, but no one could possibly hear her since she wasn’t screaming at all.
Her mouth was dry. Too much Scotch, she guessed. Edith got up and went to the bathroom for a drink of water. She didn’t bother to turn on the light. Yet in the dark room her jar of moisturizer positively sparkled.
It was not only her mouth that was thirsty. She was parched all over. The thermostat was set too high, perhaps, or maybe she was getting a fever. Or maybe it was something else. In any case, Edith’s skin crackled as she imagined a snake’s might, just before it sheds.
She dipped her fingers in the cream and applied it to her face. It felt blissfully cool, like opening the refrigerator on a Summer’s day. She smoothed it on her neck. Her skin drank deeply.
Edith took off her nightgown and began spreading the balm downward. She had never done this before, yet she was not surprised when the oblong of cream over her heart formed ice crystals before it was absorbed. She spread it over hips and navel. She massaged it into her pubic hair. She reached behind, and stretching, did her back. She rubbed it into her thighs and toes, reaching into hidden places.
She held up her hand, the hand that had smoothed the moisturizer over her body. The palm was broad and the fingers were short, like a werewolf’s hands. All werewolves, however have hair growing out of their palms, and she certainly had none there. But then it could be because her pelt was on inside out. Edith smiled to herself. Then there’d be no sign at all.
She returned to the bedroom. Through the open curtains she could see that the storm had abated. The sky was being transformed from a blurry gray to a clear black pool. The light from the lunar orb was now nearly eclipsing the stars with its brightness,
Her husband was lying on his side of the room, on his twin bed, with his back to the wall. He half awoke when Edith approached him. Moaning, he told her he didn’t want sex tonight.
Nor did she.
She climbed on the bed and straddled him. It was almost like making love, especially since she was naked, but the blanket and his pajamas were between them. Edith felt so seductive, yet so far away from him, as if the blankets had always been there, separating them, as if they had never been able to touch, except clumsily through cloth. So many years together, yet they never really shared.
Edith had always loved him so much. In fact, she had never loved him more than at that moment. Only he was so far away, drifting farther and farther, so impossibly other. Other. Not part of her.
He protested a bit but did not really struggle when she put her mouth upon his throat. She hadn’t kissed him there since they were courting. Like then, he smelled of talcum powder. He tasted of salt.
Edith wished her teeth were sharper. If her teeth weren’t so dull it would have been over sooner and not as painful for him. She didn’t like to see him in pain, so she worked as quickly as she could.
She almost had to laugh at her love’s attempts to fight back. She had him pinned down so securely he couldn’t move. Edith never felt so strong, never thought she could be.
Ken started to scream. She didn’t like hearing him scream, so she just bit a little deeper. The screaming stopped.
Chest skin is thicker than neck skin, she noticed. The hair was longer too, too long to swallow. Edith spit it out, appalled at the waste.
With each bite Edith grew closer to Ken, and closer. Until she felt so full of him that he was a part of her. Now he would always be a part of her.
The bedroom seemed adance with blood. There were shreds of flesh in the design, giving texture to the finale of her dance of love and sharing.
Satiated, Edith kissed the ruin that was her husband. She kissed ken full on the lips, passionately, as is a wife’s prerogative. He didn’t respond, but they ahd been married a long time, and she no longer took that personally.
Reluctantly she left him.
Edith picked up the phone and dialed 911.
She told them it must have been an intruder. Or it could have been a whole gang of intruders. Or maybe it was animals, she didn’t know. She was asleep, she didn’t hear a thing. Perhaps she had taken some pills, she didn’t remember, she knew she had too much to drink. Hurry–he looked so bad!
Edith took a shower and put on her nightgown. The police would expect tears. She began to cry.
In the past two days she must have answered the same questions a thousand times. Just who could these intruders have been? Are you sure you didn’t hear anything? Couldn’t you at least have screamed for help?
She was reasonably sure they believed her.
Then why did she feel so depressed? So alone?
Why was it that even though Ken was a part of her, there was still something missing? Something she had once had and lost. She didn’t like to lose things.
But perhaps it wasn’t over after all.
Her daughter, Sybil, would be coming home for the funeral. She’d sleep in her old bed, quiet as you please.
Edith Wells had always thought it was nice for a mother and daughter to share.