When I was twelve years old I peeped into a girl’s window for the first and last time.
I lived in a pretty boisterous area of town, not too far away from the nearby college. Right down the street was a house leased to a group of maybe five to six girls. The neighborhood didn’t mind them, they didn’t have crazy parties or trash the place. In fact one of them had a habit of bringing my mom cookies, as a thank you for being so welcoming to the area.
It’s how my brother Elliot got the idea in the first place.
Carla was honestly really nice. Had a great smile, always had a joke to crack, and was even nice to me. However, Elliot had a different thought process, having two years of age on me and a little less respect.
“Carla has rainbow polka dot panties, you know.”
I nearly rolled off the top bunk of our shared bed. I poked my head down, eyes wide. “How do you know that?” I asked, baffled. Had her jeans slipped down a bit and he just took a peek?
Elliot shook his head no, his smile like the Cheshire Cat.
“I looked through her window last night. She’s a babe. I only gotta see her back, but… wow.” He breathed out, and if there hadn’t been a blanket in the way, I’m pretty sure I would’ve been able to tell how excited he was. “You’ve never thought about doing that, Archie?”
I shook my head no. Granted, I was more my mother’s child. I never really went over to dad’s, he just drunk beer and looked through magazines that had scantily dressed women on the front. Not my style.
“What, you gay or something?”
“No!” That, however, was not something that could pass.
Elliot made a sound of disgust. “Ugh. Keep your gay shit away from me bro. Night.” He rolled over in bed.
The seed had been planted in my mind. I determined myself that tomorrow afternoon, I’d go look through Carla’s window.
So I did. I didn’t tell Elliot where I was going, I’d just tell him what color underwear Carla was wearing when I got back. He didn’t ask where I was going, he was too distracted with working on his newest model plane.
My heart pounding in my ears and my palms starting to sweat, I crossed the four backyards I needed to in order to get to Carla’s house.
Thankfully the neighborhood was pretty much dead and I got there without being spotted. Bent over, I started walking behind the house for the right window. I had no idea which was Carla’s bedroom, so I had to keep popping up real quick to see if anyone was inside.
The first window was a bust. No one was in there. Second window had another girl in there, I think her name was Beatrice, and she was napping. Fully dressed.
However, lucky number three, the third window I checked had Carla.
She was in an oversized sweater and jeans, writing at her desk. Her auburn curls hung past her shoulders, and she tapped her pencil against her pink glossed lips, deep in thought. She had no idea I was out there.
I had to admit, I was feeling the thrill. Crouched behind the windowsill, knowing at any moment, I could get caught. Quite an exhilarating feeling.
But soon I started to get bored. Carla was only working on homework, only pausing on occasion to scratch at her chest or back. Nothing like what Elliot saw. I was about to get up and go when Carla threw her arms up in the air and exclaimed, “That’s it!”
She stood up in a huff and practically ripped the sweater off.
First thing my preteen self noticed- she wasn’t wearing a bra. I forgot how to breathe. I’d never seen a pair of breasts before. And Carla’s set my standards high. Perky, symmetrical, and perfectly round. I’d gotten a step farther than my brother, and I couldn’t wait to shove that in his face.
Then I noticed the sore.
It was right in the center of her chest, right below the collarbone. The flesh around it was discolored, pale and almost green. The sore was a dip in otherwise smooth skin, and it looked terribly swollen. How the hell she managed to keep that terribly itchy looking sweater on for so long I have no idea.
Carla dug her fingers into the sore, and with a shout ripped it open.
Her skin from the sore to her shoulder came clean off like the breaded skin on a chicken wing.
I still don’t know how I didn’t scream or run away at that moment. I was frozen. Carla sighed, tipping her head back in relief. The torn flesh oozed yellow pus, and suddenly I was hit with the smell of rot. It was an overwhelming wave that made acid burn my throat and my eyes water.
With a deep breath, Carla set her hand on the wound and tore again. Her right breast fell to the ground with a wet slap. She’d only just begun. Using only her hands and fingernails, Carla clawed off skin and flesh all over her torso. She even ripped out her hair, dropping the ragged locks on the ground.
When she was finally done, she collapsed on her bed, gasping for breath. She’d peeled most of the skin off her top half, and her hair was only a few sparse patches left. She didn’t seem to be in pain at all. She seemed relieved. Like she’d finally scratched the itch.
Then she took off her pants.
I remember her panties. Lime green with tiny little frogs on them.
But the crotch was stained with blood. Diseased, brown blood.
I finally remembered I could run away. And I absolutely did. I took off down the street and once I was far enough down the street I screamed at the top of my lungs. The acid burning my throat finally spilled from my lips as I gagged and hurled the contents of my stomach on the ground. Yellow bile splattered against the ground and I was reminded of the pus. I threw up again.
That night I had nightmares of the skinless Carla crawling on top of me, wagging her remaining breast in my face and giggling like a hyena. Her pus dripped onto my lips and I was forced to swallow it. When I finally woke up, I’d found out I pissed the bed. I knew my brother could smell it from where he slept so I hurried to clean it up along with my pajamas so he wouldn’t have much to tease me with.
I thought I lucked out when I realized Elliot wasn’t in bed. That he’d gotten up to get breakfast or something.
I remember my mom walking in the room to ask why the washer was running, and then her eyes landed on the bottom bunk.
“… Archie? Where’s your brother?”
Four words that ended the life I knew.
It was all over the news- boy stolen from his own bed, remaining son left behind. My mother was on the news, sobbing and asking for the return of Elliot. She just wanted her baby boy back.
Search parties were held. Just in case he ran away from home. And I nearly shit myself when I saw Carla again among them.
It was like the whole skin ripping thing never happened. Even her hair was back to its normal thickness. She wrapped me in a hug and she smelled like coconut shampoo. Not even the slightest whiff of that awful rot remained.
We didn’t find Elliot for three months. When he turned up, it was in the creek.
My mother passed out when she identified what remained of Elliot’s blood stained pajamas.
Elliot had been gruesomely done in. His skull had been smashed open and the contents of his brain drained out. There was evidence of cannibalism on his thighs and stomach. I only found these things out because someone leaked it to the news.
I remember spending the night in Carla’s room while my mother was handling funeral arrangements.
I laid on a cot next to her, staring at the ceiling. I was still numb. What had happened to my brother? Why had someone hurt him?
“Ya know, Archie. I think someone wanted your brother to be found.”
I turned over in my cot, still dry eyed. Carla was sitting up in bed, wearing her adorable hello kitty pajamas. I shrugged.
“Does it matter?”
I remember Carla looking right at me, in the eyes.
“… Closure’s important. And… and if that person knew how much he hurt you, I bet he’d be super sorry. You’re a good kid.”
My stomach crawled as my mind played over and over again the smack of Carla’s breast on the floor.
I felt my eyes finally fill with tears.
“A… are you really sure they’re sorry?”
“Oh, Archie.” Carla swept in and wrapped her arms around me. This time, when she hugged me, I smelled it. I smelled the slightest bit of bittersweet rot.
“I’m sure they are the most sorry person in the world.”