By Fei Wu

It has been six months since my epiphany.

On the morning of my conversion, I was staring at the sterile white linoleum that lines the floor of the underground lab where I spend my days, indolent in artificial light.

Mary, the peroxide-blonde office slut had ensnared me in a tiresome flirtation. She slid up to me that morning wearing too much lipstick and much more eye-shadow. She purred a greeting, and brushed her arm casually against mine. The smell of her overwhelmed me, it was rosy and rotten. Her scent distracted me from my work with its fetid desperation. I stared at her through my glasses; making sure the glare obscured my disgust, and forced a smirk that I knew would make her thighs twitch. Mary was puppyish in her devotion to me, convinced I was a genius, that my aloof exterior was a shell for a lonely, suffering soul. This was partly due to a bored manipulation on my part, I’d casually left some scribbled lines of maniac poetry on my desk for her to see, and she’d eaten it up. The rest of her delusion stemmed from a deep, almost dogmatic faith in clichés. Her cubicle was covered with inspirational quotes, some of which she had written out in painstakingly cramped calligraphy — because a personal touch is never too much!

I had been languishing in ennui for weeks, and was growing tired of my own company; so when she bounced up to me and started poking around my workspace, I asked her to dinner. It was for amusement, much like the way one goes to watch a bad movie to scoff and feel superior. I regretted it even before she squealed like a delighted sow. I nearly cancelled our assignation, but the thought of another monotonous night blurred into oblivion with a bottle of bourbon depressed me.

That evening, Mary opened the door wearing a simulacrum of the white dress from Monroe’s Seven Year Itch, and stiletto heels. Before her straining white breasts, she carried a screen-printed tote daintily, with the eponymous starlet trapped, startled, on the sides.

“You’re a vision.” Of the most infernal sort — I almost added.

She gasped a thank you, and shivered with joy, “I made it myself!”

I can see that, you heinous bitch, I nearly spat. Instead I kissed her baby powdered fingers and whispered, “Norma Jean herself would be envious.”

She stared at me blankly for a moment, and then smiled knowingly, “Is that the name of that well-dressed receptionist in the lobby? She’s a cute, young thing, but you know what they say about the beauty of youth.”

I feigned amusement, “And what’s that?”

“It’s fleeting! Now a Beauty like me or Marilyn….”

I resisted the urge to shove a fist down her gullet, and chuckled appreciatively instead. The rest of the evening unfurled in a way that tested the limits of my skills in deception and flattery. Mary switched between vamp and coquette through dinner and opera, by midnight I had downed my fifth bourbon and my thin veneer of respect was cracking. As we stood on the curb outside of the opera house, Mary clung to my side like a simpering tumor while I frantically waved down a cab. When a taxi finally screeched up to the curb, Mary shouted, “Adieu my amore!” and swooned melodramatically toward my arm just as I moved forward to open the door. She slipped and landed neatly in a puddle of filth, destroying her unfortunate gown.

“I think it’s broken,” she muttered, brokenly, of her ankle. I glared down at her, only to find her transformed, the agony in her limb was displayed on her face. Suddenly, she was my Madonna, my blood red bloom in a field of snow. My epiphany.

She was staring at me through layers of make-up; her knitted brows were ravens in flight, her twisted lips a heartrending wound, her glazed eyes were diamonds of pure anguish. As her breath came in gasps, and the shadows passed over her face like storm clouds over the plains, I felt my trousers getting tight, tight, tighter.
She was the kinesis to my inertia. The energy I needed to cast off the reptilian slumber of my existence lay tumultuous on her face, vigorous in her contorting body. When twisted in pain, this wretched cliché of a woman had the radiant face of Christ enraptured. I picked her up, my prize, my light, and thrust her into the taxi. I barely suppressed an ecstatic groan when I saw the expression on her face at the jolt of the seat. My eyes were fixed on her through the entire ride; I didn’t want to miss an instant of her expression. She interpreted my rapt attention as concern, and a puppyish smile began to flit across her features. I quickly covered her leg with my coat, grabbed her broken ankle, and squeezed. I shushed and comforted over her incoherent screams so the cabby wouldn’t suspect. The look of horror on her face added another dimension to her features that was not so much rapturous as erotic. At my residence, I carried her, struggling and whimpering to my fifth floor flat with the energy of one who is reborn and filled with purpose. I injected her with a sedative stolen from work, and began to prepare.

After handcuffing her to the bed, I ran down to the store and began collecting my supplies. I bought the various necessities, and hurried back to my femme fatale.

The wild-eyed darling was just waking when I re-entered my bedroom. She remembered the pain in her ankle and the cruel treatment in the cab. She began struggling, as the sedative wore off completely, and let out a string of unbecoming curses. The obscenities were distracting; like sitting next to a vagrant when one is dining on a fine meal. It had to be remedied. I gave her a dose of a formula of my own concoction to keep her long body languid, while inversely sharpening her sensations. Tenderly, I wiped away the dribble and bile at her lips and pried her jaw open with a gauze-covered forefinger and thumb. Whispering and crooning all the while I found the slippery organ and removed her ability to form words with a few quick incisions from my scalpel and a skillful cauterization. Her hackneyed curses could no longer interrupt our tryst. Only luscious whimpers and gurgles remained.

I remember those first days of our romance with nostalgia. That first week was like a honeymoon for her and me. I had only to twist her ankle gently, or burn her very slightly with my cigarettes to see her contorting with dazzling pain. My dear little doe was delicate in the precious beginning, she would lose consciousness within the first ten flails of my cat-o-nine tails, studded with nails. She would wake as I sutured her wounds tenderly, playfully scratching at cuts and peeling at newly healed scabs. I would salt the incisions I made on her heaving belly with the utmost care, my eyes fixed unblinkingly at the radiance of her twisted, begging face. Her pain was my bliss, her terror my aphrodisiac. The more I took from her, the more she became mine. I absorbed her pain and mutilation and was constantly on the brink of ejaculation in those first blessed days.

The nectar flowed too freely in the beginning, and within a month Mary had run out of grace. It was my blunder; I should have kept her too delirious to realize the purpose of her torturous captivity, but a man has to rest, especially a man in the constant throes of elation. I’d burned through all my liquid concentrate lye, snapped and reattached every delicate tendon in her nubile body. My laundry room was a mass of bloodied, yellowed sheets, and Mary’s pained face was growing more stoic by the day. I wracked my brain for new ways to find my love, and was rewarded by fleeting glimpses at my agonized goddess. But to no avail, as the weeks slipped by, she retreated farther and farther from me.

Now, the honeymoon is over. These days, Mary is cold and leathery. The torturous weeks have aged her; her movements, once so annoyingly bouncy, are pained to the point of brittleness. My monstrous adulation has sapped her of all her vitality and what is left are winces that leave me disappointed. Instead of moaning or contorting when I light a match near her breast, she gazes at me with dull eyes that fade deeper into their hollows every day. Sometimes, when I do something particularly ghastly to her, I see a familiar spark in the deep down depths of her eyes and something else unnamable. Hatred? No. Perhaps she is grateful to me for unmaking her, for reducing her to her purest form. But the subsequent glaze smoothes away all signs of life. She is not doing this to spite me, it is my own fault, I loved her too passionately, I scooped out the insides of her soul and made her mine, and now she is but a shell. These days, I torture her more for the comforting routine of it than the thrill.

It’s halfhearted; truly I never wanted to hurt her. I don’t feel the old loathing for her personality; her trials have absolved her of that. I even feel a certain affection for this third incarnation of Mary, not unlike the way a person would feel towards a recliner, or a well-worn pair of shoes. I’m not angry at her for deadening her senses; I know she’s given me everything. But it’s lonely, terribly lonely without her.

Mary and I have settled into a weekend pattern, like all lovers tend to do. I spend all my golden Sundays swimming in her broken body, scratching and clawing and nibbling at a tibia a fibula an — I’ll let you go soon, be hopeful, be sensitive, little bird… I am sweet, so saccharine to her, my charred and tough-skinned playmate.

Today, I am rewarded for my kindness when I present to her a faded photograph of her mother that I procured from her old white-fenced residence in Technicolor suburbia. I hold the photo up for her to see, as her hands are chained and, besides, many of her fingers are too nail-less to grasp. My heart thumps as I watch her eyes pool with tears and hear her breath begin to come in gasps.

“Yes, darling. You miss your mummy, don’t you? You know, you looked like her, before I found you. And what would she say if she saw you now? Would she recognize her sweet little lamb?”

A wordless scream issues from her throat as Mary thrashes on our sticky sheets in pain, and I feel the echoing ache in my chest, and more sweetly aching, expanding, deeper down in my bowels. It has been too long since I’ve seen her, a week, almost. And seeing her, the excitement is overwhelming, dark and huge, it swallows me and I am empty.

Overly exerted, I drowse, her head pillowed on my soft and slightly moist belly. I fall, blood-scent and lust-spent into dark, lush dreams. In the dream, I’m peeling her scarred skin away, parting muscles, sucking on a succulent tidbit here, and there. I’m stroking her liver, kneading her womb, watching her face as I find the curled up creature, the little reptilian girl, born of her mother’s agony. Excitement surges when I see the horror in Mary’s unblinking eyes. I’ve discovered her secret! My daughter, an incestuous start of an incestuous line. My little darling will be beautiful, I can tell; her face most expressive, her neurons snappy. Her papa will dote on her with pins and pliers, hard metal used with tenderest care. While mama looks on with pride and recognition, she will finally understand what papa was mesmerized by in those first months. I twist and rend them both in impossible ways, all the while, their faces; their perfect faces stare at me in rapture. Even as I dream I am aware of the impossibility of it. I am dry and impotent as a corpse. I want to stay in the blood-red chamber of Mary’s womb and dream of our family forever. But a sharp stabbing pain in my thigh wakes me and when I open my eyes, Mary is grasping at my legs with her slick, red fingers. A hypodermic needle is jammed in my femoral artery. The apparatus waggles comically like the windblown stem of a sterile flower. The plunger has been pressed.

Immediately, I begin to fade in coordination and grow in awareness. A detached part of me marvels at the efficacy of my formula while the rest of me shakes and rattles. My eyes spin round and round, left to right, madly staring, glaring. This must be fear, creeping up my esophagus as acid and bile. I want to vomit, my mouth tastes like blood. I must get a grip on myself, for Mary’s sake. How could I forget to bind her? What will she do if she loses me? Who will she have if I am not here to love and pluck her?

I watch as she climbs me clawingly. Her mouth is wide open, she’s slack-jawed with love. I observe the ascent of her yawning maw. Purplish veins and a glossy stump are reminders of the squirmy little organ I so scientifically excised. I count the bottom teeth, observe how her pinkish gums seem to cling to the ivory that pierces them mercilessly. I have time to be mesmerized by the eerily beautiful inside of Mary’s ruined mouth, but no time to react to the incisors and bicuspids sinking into my neck. With the absence of the tongue, the entire cavern of Mary’s mouth seems to be taking me in, chomping, chomping my flesh. I try to push her away. Her eyes are a wild and stormy gray. Some madness, unearthed by my longing, has been freed in her. Limply, I try to subdue her, but her fury stops me. Her beauty has somehow been magnified in her rage. I am powerless against it.

She is my vengeful goddess, and I, her odalisque. Mary, my only love, stabs me with the same knife I have stroked over her body so many times. I moan, ecstatic, as she wounds me more deeply than I ever have, her hands in my guts, squeezing and playing with me in ways that I never dared with her. The world turns a florid, rotten red. Joyous, the last thing I see is her face. Twisted in pain.