Flash Fiction by Emily Deibler
Anatole set his pen down. He had expected the baby to quiet once Rosalie went to him, but nothing of the sort happened. After a few minutes, Anatole stood from the chair and went upstairs, the stairs groaning. He was cold, but he didn’t shiver; his body had forgotten how to.
Water was running in the washroom, and his wife’s name swelled on his tongue as the baby’s wails rose in pitch, but he also forgot how to speak. He couldn’t remember if he had spoken at all today. It was as if he was a specter, seeing the world through a pale haze, dragging along with his ball-and-chain. He couldn’t hear or feel his heart beating.
Glass shattering. He ran, throwing the washroom door open.
It took him a minute to process what he saw. His mind was blackened by the images in his diary—the callous gore. He had expected the disaster, but what he saw were fragments he had yet to fit together. Rosalie was standing there, staring at him, one thin hand on the counter. The shadows under Rosalie's eyes were blue, and clumps of hair fell in her face. She stared unblinking, but her eyelids were heavy and hid all the ghosts in her vision. She was wearing a white nightgown stained yellow on her left chest.
Milk had leaked on her gown. From behind, he saw something brown on the commode rug, something shining—glass, shattered glass, and a brown liquid—Roger’s medicine, the medicine with the wrong dose, the medicine that had failed him.
The medicine that had killed him.
When he went to embrace Rosalie, she crumpled, so they were sitting on their knees. They wept together, but apart. Always apart.
After Rosalie’s sister, Juliette, had died of consumption, Rosalie and Anatole had taken in André. This had been barely a week after Roger’s death, and Rosalie fed Roger with what seemed like great reluctance. Anatole had the sense that she only saw Juliette—and Roger. Ghosts. Anatole didn’t know how to look at André—eyes bright when Roger’s had been dark. Fussy when Roger had been quiet. He had hair as black as Roger’s, though—Juliette’s, Rosalie’s, as dark as a magpie.
Rosalie was fourteen years his junior. She had been spirited, an ardent cyclist. The cycling—that was how they met; that was how they fell in love. Their cycles were rusting now. In their barn by Little Roger's crib. By the guillotine.
(He had killed her.)
When he retired to bed that evening, Rosalie’s back was to him, too taut to be resting, but not moving to greet him. Her breaths deepened, simulating sleep.
Anatole paced, drew from his pipe, sat on the edge of the bed. He was crying before he acknowledged the prickling in his eyes. Still, he was cold as the forlorn headstones encased in ice and snow in the heart of winter. Heart, he couldn’t feel if he had one. He once thought his father was heartless and became determined to be different. He thought he had found a purpose, something to keep him and those around him warm—purposes. Husband. Father. He had failed, though. Even when he tried to think of the steps where everything went wrong, move the pieces in his head, he was lost. He was empty.
He had no purpose but the blade.
A native of North Georgia, Emily Deibler is a published poet and author. Her short story “Deer in December” was published in TL;DR Press’ Halloween 2018 Horror collection, NOPE. She has also published her poems “Turkey Hunting,” “Patty,” “Samantha,” and “Daughters of the Sun.” Her debut novel, Dove Keeper, came out in October 2018. She can be found on Twitter at @emilydeibler. She is a regular contributor to Marías at Sampaguitas.