I was seriously going to start a revolution against the weather if we had another day of storms. First day, it was fine, I got a lot of housework done. Second day, it was still pretty cool, I finished up that article and sent it off to the magazine. Third day it was starting to get old, but we had some good thunder that shook the windows. That was cool.
Fourth day though. That’s what’s breaking me.
I groaned as I leaned back on my chair, trying to glean some inspiration from the ceiling. Like always, it had none. I looked out on the street, watching the water rush down the sides of the road, flooding the sidewalks and my front lawn. It was going to be a bitch to mow that later.
Still confirmed my fears- going outside was not going to happen, unless I started bleeding from my eyeballs and needed to go to the hospital.
I closed the nearly empty word document and started scrolling through Facebook. After reading maybe three or four clickbait articles, I got the ping of a message. Thank god it wasn’t my mother. Just my sister Carolina.
Heya! How you holding up?
I glared daggers at the rain outside before I responded.
About to die of cabin fever. Some storm last night, right?
Oh god yeah. Lucille didn’t sleep a wink. And when I did finally get her to sleep, she woke up an hour later SCREAMING. She says she saw someone falling from the roof. Last time I tell her that story about the thunder being god and the angels bowling 😛
I chuckled. That old one. Kept me from sobbing whenever it stormed. My sister was relieving my boredom already.
Poor kid. Give her hugs from Auntie Emma <3
I will once she gets up from her nap.
Just the thought of my niece made my day brighter. Even looking outside wasn’t as bad anymore… still bad though. It was still pouring buckets.
Hold on a second. Was someone out there?
I got up from my computer and walked to the window, thinking it was maybe someone taking their garbage to the road or taking their dog for a walk.
It was a woman. Naked. Covered in mud. With a thousand yard stare that focused on nothing.
I ran out the door so fast I didn’t even have time to close it. No time to worry about Mittens and Muddy getting out now. The rain was like ice down the back of my shirt, but I ran down to the street and to the woman’s side.
“Hey, hey, hey!” I took hold of her arm. She didn’t look at me, but she did stop walking. “Are you okay? Holy shit…” She was freezing cold, I don’t know how she wasn’t shivering. “What’s your name?” It was like talking to a mannequin. A blonde mannequin.
Shit. What to do, what to do… first things first. Get her inside. Get her dressed. Try to call 911.
“Hey, uh, miss?” I stepped back, gently pulling her along. “How about we go inside, huh? Get you warmed up, I can make you something to eat?” It would have to be eggs. I can only cook eggs.
She still didn’t look at me, but she didn’t resist as I took her into the house. The thunder boomed and the lights flickered as we stepped inside, but I was focused on getting her to the couch to sit down. I normally wouldn’t let anyone’s naked ass on my couch, but there was an exception to every situation.
I ran into the bathroom and grabbed the biggest towels I could, the fluffy ones. Think, what else, what else… socks. Socks and underwear. I think I had an ununsed pack somewhere in my dresser. Towels first though. Towels first.
The woman hadn’t budged an inch, but the cats were curled up around her ankles, purring and nudging her calves. Lucky her. “They normally don’t like strangers,” I said as I rested the first towel around her shoulders. “That’s better. Are you okay? Are you hurt at all?”
Finally, the woman turned to look at me. Her sea green eyes finally seemed to focus on something, and that something was me.
“I’m… okay now. Thank you. This is nice.” She pulled the towel tighter around herself and took a deep breath. “Lavender. I love lavender. Smells like my father’s garden.”
Her voice had a cultured tone to it, like someone from the courts of England. I breathed a sigh of relief. She was responding to me. She remembered something about her home. That was a good start.
“Okay. Let’s get you cleaned up and into some actual clothes. I’m Emma.”
“… Abigail… my name is Abigail.”
I refused to leave Abigail alone in my bathroom, I still had some high dose pain medications stashed someplace from my back surgery and I didn’t know if she was a druggie. Although when she got cleaned off I began to doubt that, she was practically glowing when she wasn’t covered in mud. No marks on her arms, her skin was flawless, and although she was a little thin she was by no means starving to death. When she turned around to get the shampoo bottle though I found something I hoped I wouldn’t.
Someone or something had skinned the flesh from between her shoulder blades, leaving it raw and scabbed over. I blurted out, “Jesus, your back!”
Abigail flinched at my voice before looking best she could at her injuries. “… Right.” Her shoulders sagged as tears started to form. “I promise, it isn’t as bad as it looks. Don’t be scared, Emma.”
Whatever this girl had been through kicked my protection instincts into high gear. I nearly stepped into the shower to give her a hug, but I doubted it would be welcomed. Plus. Naked hugs are a wee bit awkward for everyone involved.
I gave her one of my old paint shirts and sweatpants, and like I thought I did have some unused socks and underwear- you’ll never know when you’ll need things like that. I guided her back to the couch. The storm had gotten even worse, thundering and shaking the windows.
“Abigail, I need you to tell me what happened.” I rested a hand on her shoulder. “It’s okay if you can’t give me specifics, I just want to help.”
Abigail turned to me, and her smile this time was almost pitying. “I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do for me, Emma.” She sighed and sat back up, running her hands down her face before she nodded. “I’ll tell you though.”
If I could get her to open up to me, I could get her to open up to a real someone who can help. I nodded and moved closer. “Take your time,” I urged, hoping my little experience from crime television when it came to dealing with trauma victims would help.
Abigail took another deep breath.
“… I am no longer welcome home.”
My heart nearly broke. Abigail looked no older than eighteen and already she was homeless. She didn’t give me a chance to offer any form of comfort though.
“Home was all I knew. Home was safe though. I had many brothers and sisters, my father loved me.” Her voice cracked. “I had a place, a position. I sung in choir. I loved my father. I loved my brothers and sisters.” She went quiet for a bit. “… I questioned too often though. Father doesn’t like questions.”
More thunder, lightning turned the sky pure white for a brief second.
“Why. Why couldn’t we leave. Why couldn’t we wonder what would happen if we stepped outside the line.” Abigail tiptoed her fingers across her thigh. “It was so many ‘why’s’. At first, I kept them in my head, then they spilled out between friends, and then I asked him. He told me never to ask why again. And I… I got angry.”
Abigail balled her fists and her expression turned cold.
“I didn’t want to listen to my father anymore. I wanted to go my own way! I just wanted to… to try something new… and he told me if I walked out that gate, I would lose everything that made me beautiful.”
“But you are beautiful!” Again, I said the first thing that came to my mind.
Abigail squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head. “No, I’m afraid not. Not when I left my father’s side. I might appear beautiful to you… but you cannot see what has changed, if you have not seen what I was before.”
What she was before?
Lighting flashed white in front of the window for five entire seconds, making the house as light as day. The next bang of thunder knocked the lights out, and the front window that had been shaking all this time exploded.
Slivers of glass went everywhere, embedding in my face and arms. I screamed and threw myself in front of Abigail to shield her from the glass. When I lifted my head though, I no longer saw Abigail.
I saw a shadowy, rotting skeleton. No glory light, no soulful eyes. Instead there was empty sockets, blindly staring forward. Flesh clung to her bones, reeking of rot and wriggling with maggots. One of them landed on my lips and wriggled into my mouth. And her back! Her back had splintered, bleeding bones sticking out, like snapped sticks ready to be thrown into a fire. Her skull turned towards me, her teeth chattering. I could hear laughter echoing in my brain.
“Can you see what’s changed?”
When I came to, I was lying on the floor. The power was back on, although the lightbulbs had burst along with the window. My mouth was filled with blood, and when I sat up, I spat out the tip of my tongue onto the floor. Muddy was staring lifelessly at the ceiling, his mouth covered in a white foam as his belly bloated out. Mittens was nowhere to be seen.
Abigail stood at the doorway, looking at the sky. The storm had stopped. She turned back at me, her face back to the beauty it was before.
“Goodbye, Emma. For this, I offer one piece of advice- maybe sometimes, asking why is more trouble that it’s worth.”
And she walked outside. I got up and watched her go down the street, turning right onto Honeydew Lane. And like the storm, she was gone.
I collapsed to my knees as Mittens rubbed up against me, purring loudly. She dropped something onto my lap, and I burst into tears
It was a maggot. Still squirming. With a white downy feather stuck to its swollen body.