Here's January's White Rabbit Story:
“You hit me,” Lisa said softly, with tears in her eyes and a note of disbelief in her voice.
“What?” I stepped away from the sink, drying my hands on a tea towel. “What did you say?”
“You hit me.” She raised one hand and rubbed at her cheek. The skin there was red.
“I’ve been washing the dishes. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Her bottom lip was trembling; she was on the verge of breaking down. I could see it in her eyes.
“Tell me what happened?”
“Just then,” she said. “When I was walking into the hall, you hit me across the face, for no reason.”
I took a step towards her; she took a step backwards, moving away from me, keeping the distance between us the same.
“Just keep away, Brian. Keep back.” She raised both her hands in a defensive gesture.
“Come on, Lisa. What’s going on?” I moved my own hands so that the palms were up: what I thought was a nonthreatening gesture.
Suddenly, without warning, she slapped herself across the face. The sound was hard and flat, how I imagined a gunshot might be.
I stood there in the bright little kitchen, staring at her and wondering if she’d gone insane. Thinking about what I should do next. The moment seemed to stretch beyond breaking point.
“Bastard! Stop hitting me!” She turned away and ran out of the room.
I followed her, unsure of what else I was supposed to do.
Lisa stumbled and fell, going down heavily at the bottom of the stairs.
“Stop it!” She was screaming. “Get off me!”
I stood above her, my hands waving slowly in the air, making little circles in front of me. “Please…stop doing this.”
She kept hitting herself about the face and neck, slapping and punching and scratching. Then, slowly and deliberately, she began to slam her face into the bottom step. There was blood on her mouth. I saw a couple of teeth on the carpet. She kept doing it, smashing her face against the edge of the step, turning her beautiful features into a bloody ruin.
I was too afraid to touch her.
Before long, the violence was reduced to a small, tired movement as she raised her head repeatedly and let it fall, smearing the damage against the step. Then, finally, it stopped altogether.
I hadn’t raised a hand to help her; my confusion had rendered me immobile, useless. I fell to my knees and cradled her broken face in my lap.
“You…hit…me.” The words were barely words at all, just a series of gargled sounds pushed through her shattered teeth. Her eyes were empty. No, not empty: they were dead. There was nothing left alive in there. Briefly, something brushed against me; it felt like a light breeze ruffling me hair and tickling my skin. It passed into me and through me, leaving a trace of something behind. The air smelled of honeysuckle.
After gently setting Lisa back down on the floor, I went and phoned an ambulance. I didn’t know what to tell them, so I said she’d suffered a bad fall. My mind felt as if it had been squeezed into a small box; my body was a suit of clothing that I’d borrowed from someone else. Everything felt wrong. I sat next to her until I heard the siren, and then a rapid, insistent knocking at the front door.
The paramedics stood on the doorstep, looking at me. Two of them: a man and a woman. “What’s the trouble?” said the man, stepping forward. He had kind eyes. His face wore a look of genuine concern.
Something clicked into place, a tiny mechanism I hadn’t even known existed. We never know what’s missing until it appears.
He was the one. It was him; I knew it was. The bastard.
He spoke again, confirming his guilt: “What’s happened here, sir?”
I knew what to say. What needed to be done.
“You hit me,” I said, rubbing my cheek where the pain was already burning through the shell of my skin, ready to hatch.
Then, as hard as I possibly could, I punched myself in the face.
© Gary McMahon 2019