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August 01, 2022

The Bleeding Walls

By Daniel Davis

Kline nodded his head as he examined the wall. He ran his finger across the surface and held it up to his face, sniffing.

"Yes. That's certainly blood."

I gripped Jess's hand to keep her from saying what was on both our minds.

"We were afraid of that, Dr. Kline."

He was an old man, slightly bent over, just enough so that he had to tilt his eyes up to look at you. He moved like a man half his age, however, and spoke with the youthful excitement of a child. He had a briefcase with him, and he turned to it now, rummaging around inside with his clean hand.

"Searching for something, doctor?"

"Handkerchief."

Jess handed him a box of Kleenex. He thanked her and took a handful, wiping his hand. When he was done he stood back up and turned to the wall again.

"That's a fair amount of blood, Mr. and Mrs. Harrington."

We nodded even though his back was to us.

"In fact, I'd say I never saw this much blood on a wall be-fore." He glanced back at us. "Not naturally, of course. At a crime scene once, a very gruesome affair it was. Killer did all sorts of things, and the walls seemed to just get in the way ... "

He let his voice trail off. He smiled.

"Sorry 'bout that."

He turned around again before we could say anything else.

I stared at his back. He wasn't what I'd expected; Oscar had told me Dr. Kline was eccentric, but I thought that meant he'd show up on a bicycle wearing a bowler hat. I hadn't expected a normal-looking sixty-year-old with the mind of a thirty-something asylum inmate.

Jess released her hand from mine and stepped forward. "Dr. Kline ... "

He turned. "Yes, Mrs. Harrington?"

She opened her mouth to say something, then closed it. She looked at me and I shrugged, so she turned back to the doctor and said, "You said you'd never seen this amount of blood on a wall ... naturally."

He nodded. "Yes, Mrs. Harrington. I do not consider the splattered remains of homicide victims to be 'natural.' If I did, then I'm afraid a lot of what I've seen would have to be considered 'natural,' and to be quite honest the thought scares me."

Jess bit her lip. I could see where she was going with it, but she'd started this train of thought and it was up to her to see it through. Besides, I wasn't too sure how to counter the doctor's naïve honesty.

"Doctor ... you're implying that ... this" -- she gestured at the wall -- "is somehow ... natural?"

He blinked. "Of course."

Jess stared at him for a minute, then stepped back beside me. "Oh."

Kline nodded and turned around to examine the wall again.

* * *

Jess had been the one to notice it first. She stumbled upon it in the middle of the night, during the power outage. She'd had her hand out, fumbling along the wall for guidance, when her hand came in contact with something wet and sticky. To her credit she didn't scream; she's always been a strong woman, too much so at times perhaps, and she simply felt around, trying to determine what the problem was.

It had been a thin stream of liquid, less than an inch across. She'd felt upwards for the source, but it was apparently out of her reach. She felt downward to see where it ended, but the stream reached the floor and soaked into the carpet. She noticed, too, that it was still flowing.

She'd known it was too thick to be water, and had considered the possibility of some leakage from one of the pipes. A freak sewage break, perhaps, or oil trickling out of some pipe or appliance. Since it was too dark to see anything, she fumbled her way to the bathroom -- using her clean hand so as not to dirty anything else -- and washed up. Then she came and got the flashlight from the nightstand, in doing so arousing me from a dreamless sleep. I followed her back into the living room, aware that she didn't really want me with her, and -- if I'm to be honest -- that was probably one of the reasons I went.

With the flashlight, we could see what it was, or at least we could see everything there was to know: a thin stream of a thick reddish liquid, coming from a small hole -- the size of a dime -- about eight inches below the ceiling. The wall, it appeared, had sprung a hole and was leaking.

We used duct tape and closed the hole. The leak stopped after a while, and after showering -- separately -- we went back to bed. In the morning the power was back on, and I cleaned up the mess. The wall hadn't leaked any further.

I mentioned the problem around the lounge at the high school, seeing if anyone had any idea what could be wrong. No one did, though Oscar Feldman, one of the biological sciences teachers, gave me a curious look when I asked his advice. He told me he had no clue, but when I turned away I could feel his eyes still on me. I probably would have thought more about it, but the first period bell rang and I had to rush off to class. I didn't see Oscar the rest of that day.

When I got home that evening I noticed another wall leaking, this one in the spare bedroom. I cursed and put some duct tape over the opening, then cleaned up the mess. Again, the leak eventually stopped. When Jess got home I showed her, and told her that I'd asked around work. She, apparently, had done the same, with similar results.

She sighed and went into the kitchen to make dinner. "I guess that's what we get for moving here."

I said nothing. Moving had been my idea, and like most of my ideas, she had been against it.

We found another leaking wall the next morning, this time in the bathroom. A fourth showed up in the master bedroom, and then the same wall in the living room began leaking from a different spot. Frustrated, I called in to work, and spent the day scrubbing the walls and carpet. On a whim, I decided to take the piece of tape off the first hole. I half-expected it to start leaking again, but instead all I saw was a small hole, clogged with something solid and black.

A clot, I thought, and shook my head in confusion. The wall is clotting.

That may have been the first time I suspected what was going on. Not that I put it all together, mind you -- the human mind is stubborn, and will rebel to no end against that which it deems impossible. But that was the first time I'd come to think of the leak as bleeding, though I had yet to voice my thoughts aloud.

Oddly enough, Jess was the one to do that. She must've been thinking it over in her head for a few days, because a week after the first hole appeared, she said, "It's as if the walls are bleeding."

We were eating dinner. I put down my fork and stared at her.

She looked back at me, defiant. "What?"

I shook my head. "Nothing. It's just ... I've been thinking that myself."

"It looks like blood."

"It isn't."

"I said it looks like blood, Richard."

We argued from there, stopping only when I noticed another leak from the corner of my eye. The hole had opened as we were in the room, but neither one of us had seen it. This time, instead of covering the leak and cleaning up right away, we stared at the stream of liquid. It did look like blood; if one cast aside all scientific reasoning, all known laws of life and physics, then yes, it did indeed look like the walls were bleeding. The liquid was the same color and texture as blood, and was flowing from the hole in the same way that blood poured from a small wound.

And the clotting. Don't forget the clotting.

The next day at work I was in my office when Oscar stopped by. He rapped on my doorframe and asked if he could come in. Noticing his hesitation, I told him to sit down.

He sat there for a good minute, wringing his hands, before looking up at me.

"Richard, I think I may have an answer for you."

I'd asked around again a couple days before, to see if anybody had thought of something. I'd asked Oscar and he'd shaken his head again, but here he was, anxiously shifting his eyes from me to the doorway over his shoulder.

I waited patiently, though I was certainly curious. I'd called the plumber, who'd come and examined all the piping and told me that everything seemed in order. I'd asked him if there was a possibility of a gas leak and he'd laughed, telling me he didn't know what could cause the problems I was having, except perhaps rain-water seepage. I'd thought of telling him that it hadn't rained in at least two weeks, but let him leave thinking he'd helped us out.

Oscar cleared his throat, not to get my attention to but to force himself to begin speaking. He'd always been a bit nervous -- if I'd met him in college, I never would have pegged him as a potential teacher -- but that afternoon he seemed genuinely frightened.

"This could be my job, you know. My career." His voice was weak, just above a whisper. I had to lean forward to hear.

"If you don't want me to, I won't tell anyone."

"Can we close the door?"

I nodded, and Oscar reached behind him and shut the door. Then he turned back to me, and he looked a little more confident now that we wouldn't be overheard.

"I know a guy. At the university."

I waited.

"He ... " Oscar shook his head. "He's unusual. Eccentric, I guess. Doesn't let it show in the classroom, not since a few parents complained a while back, but a lot of people there -- and here -- think he's a total nut."

"And they let him teach?"

"Tenure. Plus, they can't really prove anything. He publishes papers, but that's his own prerogative. And he keeps his opinions away from his students."

"And how would this affect you?"

"I ... I co-wrote a paper with him."

"You co-wrote a paper."

"Yes. I know it's not much ... but let's face it, Principal Cartwright is just looking for a reason to let me go."

It was true -- Oscar and Cartwright had never gotten along, not since Oscar had publicly spoken out against Cartwright's institutionalized reading program, which he'd sweet-talked the school board into allowing. It was a raw deal to the students, forcing them to read literature that was well over their heads -- especially since most of the students didn't give a rat's ass about books that didn't involve ghosts or breasts. The program had gone through without a hitch, but Cartwright had held a grudge against Oscar ever since, and had reprimanded him for calling in sick too often -- even though he took fewer sick days than most of the other teachers.

"I won't tell."

Oscar nodded. "Okay. Okay. I ... well, I really can't explain it as well as Dr. Kline can. But I can give you his number."

"Kline?"

He cringed. "You've heard of him."

"Who hasn't? Wasn't there a lawsuit against him?"

"Potential lawsuit. Potential. And it wasn't like he molested his students. He just ... taught them something their parents didn't agree with."

"And -- if I have this right -- it's this theory of his, whatever he taught his students, that might help me?"

He nodded. When I sighed, he added, "I know it's a bit of a stretch for you, Richard, but I really think that man can help. He's a genius. His views are a bit unorthodox, but that doesn't mean they aren't true. He has hard evidence of his theories."

"Then why are they only theories?"

"Because the public wants them to be. It's easier than changing their perceptions of reality."

Their perceptions of reality? I'm not sure what scared me more: Oscar's words, or the fact that they echoed my thoughts from a few days earlier.

"It could be a risk to me as well," I said. "Associating with him."

"Yes. I'm not saying you have to do this. I mean, I haven't seen the leaks myself, so I can't really be sure -- "

"Would you like to?"

He looked at me. "See the leaks?"

"Yes."

His brow furrowed, and he glanced over his shoulder to make sure the door was still closed. "In person?"

"Yes, Oscar. That way, you can be sure if I need to call this Dr. Kline or not."

He nodded slowly. "Okay. Tonight?"

"Sure. If there's a leak I'll call you."

"If I'm right, there will be."

It was an odd statement, but I let it go, and he left my office. When I got home that night, there wasn't a leak, but one started about seven o'clock, and instead of cleaning it up I called Oscar. Jess was hostile to the idea, partly because it was mine, partly because she didn't want to spread the word that we had bleeding walls. I told her the walls couldn't possibly be bleeding, but it didn't calm her much. Truth be told, it didn't help me at all, either.

When Oscar arrived he stared at the leak for a full five minutes. He took a few pictures with a disposable camera; Jess seemed inclined to tell him not to, but I gave her a look and she left the room. Oscar watched her leave, frowning, and gave me a quick look that I couldn't decipher. I was about to ask him what the problem was when he turned away from me and dipped his finger into the liquid.

He pulled his finger back and brought it close to his eye. Then he sniffed it. And then, before I knew what he was going to do, he licked it.

Wincing, he turned his head and spat. He wiped the finger on some Kleenex and nodded at me.

"That's blood, Richard."

I looked at him. "Blood."

"Yeah."

I could see Jess out of the corner of my eye. I didn't want to say anything, didn't want to acknowledge that she'd been right, but I had to. "Our wall is bleeding."

"Your whole house, I'd say."

"The whole house?"

Oscar turned to acknowledge Jess. "Yeah. Richard said the walls have bled in more than one room."

I nodded. "That's right. But this one's bled twice."

Oscar shrugged. "Weaker structure in here, maybe. Paint's thinner or something."

Jess stepped into the room, but stayed a good distance away from myself, Oscar, and the wall. "There's blood in our pipes? We had a plumber in here the other day -- "

Oscar shook his head. "Not in the pipes. In the walls."

"Surely he would've noticed."

"Can you tell, looking at your arm, that there's blood inside?"

Jess snorted. "Don't be stupid. This is a house, not a person."

"That just means there's more blood."

"Oscar." I stepped forward. "Our house is bleeding."

"Yes."

"How?"

"I -- " He stopped himself and looked from me to Jess. "I think I'd better let Dr. Kline tell you that."

"Dr. Kline?"

I could sense the attack in Jess's voice, and I tried to head her off. "Jess, he's apparently an expert -- "

"He's the crackpot who was in the papers!" She stalked over to Oscar. "You want us to tell some psycho that our house is bleeding?"

Oscar backed up. "Well -- "

"No. Okay? I will not be the laughing stock of this community. Maybe you don't care if people think you are crazy, maybe my husband doesn't care, but I do."

She had a point -- she had a good point -- and that only angered me more. "Jess, dammit, we need to talk to someone -- "

She pointed at Oscar. "Who's he? No one?"

" -- someone who can tell us what the problem is, or even how to fix it."

She nodded, but not in agreement. "This is what we get for moving to this fucking house."

"Jess -- "

She turned and left the room. "Do what you want. You always have."

Oscar and I stared after her. When I turned back to him he was giving me a worried look. I wanted to tell him it wasn't any of his goddamn business, but the flow of blood behind him stopped me, and I found myself staring at the wall over his shoulder.

"I'll get this film developed and take the pictures to Dr. Kline tomorrow," he said, his voice slow and careful. "He'll be interested, I'm sure."

I nodded, but I wasn't paying any attention to him. While the three of us had been talking, the flow of blood had gotten stronger, and a pool of it had formed at the base of the wall. There was too much blood for the carpet to absorb.

By the time Dr. Kline arrived three nights later, the wall in the living room had four new holes in it, all of them leaking. There was at least one wall in every room of the house that had bled at some point during the day. We would cover the holes up with duct tape, which seemed to do the trick, but another would appear somewhere else. We now had a shelf in the cupboard stacked with duct tape. It disturbed me, to think that we were planning for the long haul. Our walls were bleeding; shouldn't we have gone to a hotel room?

We should've, but we didn't, and I knew why: pride. Neither Jess nor myself wanted to be the one to admit defeat. We knew that the other would not let us forget it. And besides, I'd been the one so anxious to move into here, despite Jess's contentment in our old town. Call it stubbornness, call it stupidity, but I wasn't about to admit to her that I'd made the wrong decision.

After examining the wall, Kline followed us into the kitchen, where we all sat down around the table, ignoring the blood that trickled out from behind one of the cabinet sets. Kline cleared his throat as he set his briefcase on the floor, then sat up as straight as he could and looked at us.

"Mr. Harrington. Mrs. Harrington. Like I told you, I have never seen so much blood in one house at one time. This ... this is almost unprecedented."

"But you've seen bleeding walls before."

"Yes, Mr. Harrington. I have seen many. I have pictures. I have eyewitness testimony. I have video footage. I have blueprints and schematics that show that walls have bled in spots behind which there are no pipes, no drains, nothing that would cause leakage on the scale that occurred. I even have reports of walls bleeding in the middle of droughts, after weeks with no rainfall. And ... " He shook his head.

"And still parents threatened you for teaching that stuff to their children?"

"Yes. Long story short: yes. Our mutual friend Mr. Feldman has his own theory about why that is: people don't want to believe, because it would completely distort everything they currently hold to be true. I have a theory of my own: people are incapable of believing unless they go through it themselves. The human mind is a powerful, powerful thing, and centuries' worth of scientific knowledge is the proverbial immovable object. Only with great force -- great trauma, if you will -- can previous assumptions about the world be put aside."

"I'm still not sure I believe it," Jess said. There was no anger in her voice, just a weariness that, for a moment, made me want to hold her.

"Completely understandable, Mrs. Harrington." He glanced over his shoulder. "A bleeding wall implies that the house is alive, does it not? And several bleeding walls suggests that not only is the house alive, but that it is a very large, very powerful organism."

I leaned forward. "Dr. Kline, is our house alive?"

He thought for a moment. "Not in the way that you or I are, Mr. Harrington." He smiled at Jess. "Or you, Mrs. Harrington. A house is, after all, a structure erected through inanimate objects -- most of them, I must point out, derived from once-living creatures."

"Then how in God's name can our house be bleeding?"

"Because, in another sense, the house is alive. What makes a house a home, Mr. Harrington? You've heard that saying, correct? Well, think about it. What does? Some people would say children; some would say love; my ex-wife had a pillow that said dogs." He chuckled. "I think we can all agree that a house and a home aren't two separate things, but that one is derived from the other?"

Jess and I nodded, though I wasn't entirely sure I agreed.

"Good. Then, let's say for instance, that sometimes -- not every time, but sometimes -- a home becomes ... well, something different. A home is derived from a house ... but maybe something else is derived from a home."

"Like what?"

"I don't know, Mrs. Harrington."

She stared at him. I knew what she was thinking, but I got to it first.

"You don't know what's happening here?"

He held up a hand. "No, Mr. Harrington, I know perfectly well what is happening here. My point was merely, I don't know what your home has become. Something different. Something else. It varies so often, it's hard to pinpoint. Sometimes walls or floors or ceilings bleed; sometimes they emit wondrous odors that remind you of lilacs in the summertime. Sometimes they speak. Sometimes they scream. Sometimes things move around for no reason. Or images appear out of nowhere."

I swallowed. "Dr. Kline. It ... it sounds like you're telling us our house is haunted."

He didn't smile. I'd really wanted him to smile. "Who's to say what makes a house haunted? If you are happy in your home, does it not feel haunted? Perhaps not in a negative way, but in a positive way -- you feel comfortable when you are there, more so than anywhere else." He shrugged. "Why is that so much different than feeling uncomfortable?"

"But our walls are bleeding."

"A physical manifestation of the uncomfortable situation that has arisen here."

Jess and I looked at each other. "Uncomfortable?"

"Yes." He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Now we come to the hard part."

Jess snorted. "It gets worse than bleeding walls?"

"Yes, Mrs. Harrington, it does."

Something in his voice made me want to throw him out before it was too late. If he didn't say it, maybe it wouldn't happen.

"Mr. and Mrs. Harrington ... shortly before you first saw the bleeding wall ... something happened. Something that had never happened before. Something ... well, traumatic."

Jess and I exchanged another glance. I saw her eyes narrow, and I figured mine did as well.

Kline noticed the glance. He nodded to himself. "What was it?"

I turned back to him. "Nothing."

"This 'nothing,' Mr. Harrington, caused your walls to bleed. A lot."

Jess cleared her throat. She sighed, looked at me, then back at Kline. "He hit me."

Kline looked at me. "Is that so, Mr. Harrington?"

"Look -- "

"I'm not here to judge, Mr. Harrington. I knew before I came that something bad had happened. In fact, I'm sure a lot of bad things have been happening since you've moved in here. I don't mean things like bleeding walls or poltergeists. I mean bad things between you and your wife." He glanced at her. "Taunting? Threats? Cheating, perhaps? Arguments?"

We nodded.

"A common misconception in situations like this is that the relations between couples are brought about by the house itself. Bad things are happening with the house; thus, the house is bad." He shook his head. "There's no logic in that, and in fact it's quite the opposite. The couple is bad -- bad for each other -- and that affects the house they live in. Not all the time, of course; if that were the case, two-thirds of the homes in the world would be soaked with blood, would they not? But, I think, it happens of-ten enough to create a pattern. And when you struck your wife, Mr. Harrington, that was the catalyst."

I shook my head, staring at the floor to his left. "I can't have kids."

He blinked. "Excuse me?"

I looked up at him. "I can't have children. I'm sterile, or whatever medical word they use for it. Impotent. And ... " I pointed at Jess. "And she was rubbing my face in it. So ... so I got mad. I struck her."

I felt as childish as the words sounded, but I couldn't help how they came out. They were true, anyways -- she'd been taunting me about it, telling me how my dreams of having a family were over. She'd had her reasons -- I'd made a crack about her bitch of a mother passing away -- but that didn't matter to me; by now, we both had so many reasons for the things we did that none of them even mattered anymore.

Kline was nodding again. "So, yes, there is a history here."

Jess smirked, but there wasn't any real effort behind it. "Yeah. 'History.' If that's what you wanna call it, doctor."

"It's built up over time. And when your husband struck you, it exploded."

I laughed. "I think I've seen that movie, Dr. Kline."

He cocked an eyebrow. "Oh? There are movies out there espousing my theories, and they still think I'm a kook?"

The remark was meant to lighten the atmosphere, but it failed miserably, and I was reminded again that I was sitting across the table from someone who'd almost been kicked out of the university for teaching outlandish theories. Horror movie stuff, that's what it was. Haunted houses. Bleeding walls. Heaps of wood and metal and plastic and concrete that were somehow sentient.

Perhaps Kline had only been testing us, because his smile slipped away easily, and he looked to the nearest clock, then back over his shoulder towards the bleeding wall he couldn't see.

"Mr. and Mrs. Harrington, you need to get out this house. The both of you."

We shook our heads and said at the same time, "No."

He nodded. "Yes. You need to get out of this house, and you need to see a divorce lawyer. I have never seen this much blood in one place; I don't think a marriage counselor is going to help you any. Do you understand? You two are no good for each other, and you need to leave here immediately."

"This is our home, doctor."

"It was, Mrs. Harrington. It was your home. Now ... now I fear that it is something else."

We just looked at him. His eyes shifted from one of us to the other, and he saw that we weren't going to budge. He licked his lips and said, "Something bad will happen if you don't leave."

"What?"

"I don't know. I can't possibly know. And neither can you, Mr. Harrington, or you, Mrs. Harrington. Maybe ... " He let his voice trail off.

I leaned forward. "Yes, doctor?"

"Maybe I'm wrong, even. It is possible, I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that. Maybe nothing will happen. Your walls will keep bleeding, I am sure. Other stuff might occur -- maybe you'll see the images of lost loved ones, or maybe things will randomly catch fire, or stuff will float around. Or ... or maybe nothing will happen. Your walls will just bleed until they run out of blood. If that's even possible."

"If that's possible?"

He shrugged. "No one's ever stayed in a house where the walls kept bleeding. They usually leave; and when they leave, the phenomena stops."

I scratched my head. "So you're telling us the walls could keep bleeding for the rest of our lives."

"It's ... it's possible, I suppose, yes."

I glanced at Jess. She was looking at me. I could read her eyes -- she didn't want to stay here. She didn't want to stay in this house, and she didn't want to stay with me. I agreed with her completely. The love between us had ended long ago; we'd stayed together because neither one of us could make it on our own. We may not have been good for each other, but after four years of marriage, we depended on one another.

Still ... ending it all would be like ripping off the handcuffs that had kept my hands bound behind my back. I could sense it. With Jess gone I would be happier, lighter. I wouldn't dread coming home every day. I wouldn't have nightmares every night about what might have been. I wouldn't sit up wondering what she was really doing those nights she worked late. And, yes, I wouldn't be terrified that I might hit her again, that I might do something that would hurt her and bring shame upon myself.

I could see that in her eyes, and I knew she could see it in mine, and so I turned back to Kline and said, "We're staying."

He'd expected as much, I could see. He stood and grabbed his briefcase. I expected him to shake his head, or to tell us that we were damned. Inside, he offered me a sad smile, and one to Jess, and held out his hand for us to shake. His grip was limp and unenthusiastic; it was the grip of one defeated soldier shaking hands with another.

"In that case, Mr. and Mrs. Harrington," he said as he left. "In that case, then I wish you both the very best of luck. I truly do."

We taped up the holes and went to bed. In the morning, we taped up the new holes that had appeared during the night.

Our walls were rapidly becoming blood-soaked silver. One night, while Jess was out "working late" -- how she could possibly have the mind for something like that was beyond me, and the more I thought about it the angrier I became -- I got the idea to completely cover the walls in duct tape. Stop the bleeding before it starts. I started with the wall in the living room that had bled first -- though it was starting to become a moot point which wall had started bleeding -- simply because it was sizable but not too big. I covered the whole wall, and in the process of taping it up I discovered a few new holes that had started. I needed the stepladder to finish, and almost lost my balance several times, but I managed to cover the entire wall.

When I stepped back to admire my handiwork, I saw blood trickling out from beneath a few pieces of tape. I cursed and would have punched the wall, except I was afraid I would be showered in blood. Instead, I said to hell with it and left the tape on there. Whether it was effective or not, I'd tried.

Jess didn't say anything about the tape the next morning. I wasn't sure if she was pissed, impressed, or just didn't care. She cooked us pancakes for breakfast, and I made a crack about not getting blood in them, and she dropped the pan on the floor and left the room. I watched her go, then got up and put the pan back on the stove and made the pancakes myself. There were too many for me to eat, so I threw out the extras.

I called in and told the office I wasn't feeling good and wouldn't make it to work any time soon. The secretary wanted to put me on with Principal Cartwright but I hung up before she could. What was the worst they could do -- fire me? I laughed, and looked over at the nearest wall, where a leak had sprung about a foot up from the floor. My walls were bleeding. Everything else, by comparison, meant little.

Jess still went to work; or, at any rate, she left the house at eight and came back around five, except for a couple of nights where she stayed out until ten without notifying me ahead of time. I let her do it; I didn't really care much. I sat around the house, watching television and taping up holes in the wall. I'm not sure why I kept up the pretense; the walls were just going to bleed elsewhere. Maybe I did it because, once the blood pooled on the carpet, it began to smell and attract flies. Our house was filled with the buzz of flies, and I killed them by the dozens but they kept coming. Jess ignored it all -- she got up, made herself breakfast, left, came back, made herself dinner, read or watched television, and went to sleep. We still shared the same bed, but the mattress was large, and we could lie side-by-side the entire night without touching. We'd been doing it for years; we had it down to an art form.

One night she came home and started to fry herself a steak. As she was cooking a new leak formed in the ceiling, and blood began pouring onto her steak. I was in the kitchen at the time, and when I saw the blood pouring down, filling the skillet, knowing it would be hell trying to patch up the ceiling, I laughed.

She turned on me, wielding the skillet. I could see the hatred in her eyes, and I jumped out of my chair, knocking it sideways, backing away from her.

"Jess -- "

"This was your idea," she said, her voice low, barely audible over the hiss of the blood pouring onto the burner. "You wanted to live here. You wanted to move in here. You wanted to change jobs, to start a new life."

"Jess -- "

"Richard, it was your fucking idea to get married in the first place!"

"Jess -- "

"You impotent bastard! You wanted a family, and then you realized you couldn't have a family, and you hit me, and now this!"

I stepped forward. "Shut up."

"Shut up? Richard, the walls are bleeding! The ceiling is bleeding!"

"Jess, I'm warning you -- "

"Good, 'cause you didn't last time."

I stepped within range, and she swung the skillet at me. It was a grazing blow, but the skillet was still hot and my flesh sizzled. I screamed and lunged forward, swinging my fist with everything I had in me. I'm not sure where it connected, but she fell down and I went with her, still punching, still screaming.

When I was done I scooted away from her, into a puddle of blood -- hers or the house's, I couldn't tell. That's where the cops found me, a few hours later, when a neighbor called to report smoke coming out of the kitchen window. The blood on the skillet. I laughed.

There was a trial, but I don't remember much of it. My attorney -- appointed to me by the court -- wanted to plead insanity, but no one could deny the massive amounts of blood found in the house, most of it seeming to have come from the walls themselves. No one could quite believe me, of course, but they couldn't deny that I had a valid point either, and so insanity was out of the ques-tion. Then my attorney tried to pin the blame on Oscar and Dr. Kline, but both men had taken vacation time, and neither could be reached, and the judge refused to extend the trial until they re-turned. As such, with the evidence clear to everyone, I was con-victed of murder in the first degree and sentenced to life imprisonment.

I wasn't too upset. During the trail they kept me in the county holding cell. Now, at the state penitentiary, they have me in a small cell with another poor schmuck, some skinny kid named Pendergrass who may or may not have killed a couple people up-state. The food isn't as bad as you've been led to believe, and the company is actually better than I expected. The guards aren't too friendly, but they aren't paid to be, so I understand that and coop-erate to the best of my abilities.

The important thing, the really, really important thing, is that when I go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning, there are no puddles of blood awaiting me. The walls here don't bleed, and everything else considered, I can live with that.

Article © Daniel Davis. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-09-05
1 Reader Comments
Lydia
09/08/2011
06:51:30 AM
Nicely done. I look forward to reading more of your offerings.
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