Night Skin




Los Angeles, 1957.
The bone crypt that cages my veins feels of something rotten. It was as if during my sleep, my veins were lined with lead and the air weighed with a rare darkness that felt strangely familiar. I descend the staircase but halfway down, I stop.

He’s here. I can feel it in the marrow of my bones.

My heart begins to violently thrust against my chest. My ears fill with the sound of static. I arrive in the den to find him stretched along the velvet chaise, the creamy smoke of his cigarette dancing around his head. I could feel his teeth cracking from across the room. Clanking, clenching, sharp and ready for the kill.

He is the devil. He is my husband.

He stares at me in silence. His eyes are dark and whirring like locusts. Buzzing and hungry.
“Who were you talking to?” he asks. His tone is measured and cold. He is always suspicious of my activity, always looming and leering.
“No one dear, I was alone. Uh-I-uh was-”
I find myself choking, my words sitting in my throat, unable to come out.
“You just uh – what, you can’t speak?”
He stands now. The air is tight and heavy. He moves in closer. The lust for blood is ripe on his breath. I can smell it.
He continues, “I could hear you talking to that man again. Who is he?”
“There was no -”
“What? Do you take me for some kind of fool? Like a child?”
I can only muster up small gasps. The tension is suffocating. He looks at me for a beat, his eyes wild and black, his lips coiled upwards like a beast lunging at its prey.
“You muted swine.” His words aggressively cut the air as he strikes me. His hand feels hot and quick against the flesh. My head rattles in the darkness as it hits the floor.

I wake up cold. Am I dead? I can taste the blood on my mouth and feel the ache in my skull. Arms. Hands. Legs. Feet. Neck. I’m breathing. Oh, but how I wish I weren’t. The room is cloaked in a black so deep I am unable to see my own body. I move my hands across the ground and realize it is the cement floor of the cellar.

“Don’t move, Mary. You’ll hurt yourself.” I freeze. The voice slices through the air. It’s close and sounds like a man, almost like my husband, but there is a warmth and depth to it that seems foreign. I can feel it moving towards me. I can feel its mouth curling into a carnivorous smile. I can feel its skin. I can feel its eyes staring from across the room. I can smell the venom secreting from its pores. I desperately try to scream, to move, to do something, anything. Please, oh God.

I squeeze my eyes shut, praying it will disappear. That it is some elaborately vivid construction of my psyche. But I can sense its movement in the silence. Closer. Closer. Closer.

It breathes in hot and heavy growls against my ear. I’m paralyzed, crippled by the terror that moves through my spine like an ice-sheathed blade. It’s moving above me now, encasing my body like smoke. It hisses sharply. I black out.

I wake up on the velvet chaise in the den. “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” blares through the record player. The air feels like it’s made of strings—tight and delicate. The chaise is damp and smells of death. My limbs weighed down with fatigue, I struggle to stand and go over to the mirror that hangs across the room. The front of my white, cotton dress is stained with blood and dirt. The deep red and earthy strokes appear striking against the white fabric, like a carefully constructed piece of abstract art.

Repeats in my ear
Don’t you know little fool
You can never win

I turn my head and a faint, obscure figure of black static appears in my peripheral vision. I am unable to look directly at it. However, I am eerily composed. Calm, even. My body is drained of fear and I feel featherlike, almost whimsical. I light a cigarette and go out to the back porch. As I walk through the kitchen, the marble floor is coated in blood stains and broken glass. Strangely unfazed, I follow the trail of stains and glass out the back door and onto the porch. The Sinatra record still echoes in the distance.

In spite of the warning voice that comes in the night
And repeats how it yells in my ear
Don’t you know, little fool
You can never win

I walk out into the backyard, still following the trail of blood. It winds through the small pathway in the garden, weaving in and out of the greenery like a crimson snake.

Step up, wake up to reality

The serpent leads me to turn a corner towards the garden’s main feature, a four tier 18th century baroque fountain I purchased in Florence last summer. On the first tier, I find his lifeless body floating face-down like a dog delicately on the water’s sparkling surface. It’s my husband. The water is quickly reddening, the blood flowering out of his body in thick ruby plumes. I turn him over and his eyes are hollow and grey and calm and perfect. I can feel the black static behind me now, the weight of its presence hovering over my shoulder. My mind is uncorrupted by fear or even by thought itself. In this moment, all I am knowledgeable of is the warm tinge of its love.

Makes me stop before I begin again
‘Cause I’ve got you under my skin
Yes, I’ve got you under my skin