Contains explicit and possibly triggering material.
Not to Mention the Elephant
"Good morning, Mother."
"Good morning, Dear. We've emptied the strawberry preserves. Please fetch me a fresh jar for our breakfast."
Joanne went straightway across the kitchen linoleum to the green basement door, pulled it open, stepped through, closed it silently behind her, walked down the wood steps with the peeling white paint, one step, two.
Green water rose from the cool cement floor, an expanse of green water spreading wall to wall. It rose steadily across each lower step as she stepped down from above, and it smelled of the things left behind at low tide, dead crabs and rotten seaweed and the corpses of long-lost sailors. Joanne's toes dipped into the water. It lapped her ankles, climbed around her calves, enveloped her thighs, held her hips, embraced her chest, cupped her breasts. Head held high, she walked on step by step, as the water crowned over her, flowed down into her lungs like a thick rotten-sweet gelatin, seeped in around her eyeballs, filled her with decadent ripe decay.
Joanne reached the canning shelves, grasped the smooth cool Mason jar of preserves, turned and walked back up the stairs. Step by step, the green water sluiced from her hair, drained from her eyes and ears and nose, fell away from her shoulders, from her body, dropped off from her heels and receded, step by step as she rose it receded off into the shadowed corners of the cellar.
"Hello, Mother. I hope you had a good day."
"Thank you, Dear. I hope you did well in school. I would like some green beans with the pot roast tonight. Please fetch some from the cellar for me."
"Right away, Mother."
Joanne closed the basement door behind her quietly and walked steadily down the steps. To her right an upright beam in the wall protruded, a naked woman bound to it with barbed wire wound tightly into her bleeding flesh. The woman shuddered, attempting not to writhe, and gasped with exhausted screams. Joanne walked past her, step by step.
To the left, a naked woman had been hung from the railing, a great dark rock chained to her feet. She was still alive, her hands bound so that she could just loosen the noose at her throat, but not reach the knot to untie it and then plunge to her death below. Her hair was matted, her face slimed with snot and drool and sweat and tears, her eyes begged Joanne for help. Joanne walked on, step by step.
To the right a woman had been bolted to an upright beam, the great silver bolt-heads protruding from her ankles stretched far overhead and from her wrists, fixed below. Her legs were splayed and her pubic area was bruised, swollen, bloody.
Step by step, eyes forward, Joanne walked on. Past the woman bound lengthwise along the top of the railing and whipped until little strips of flesh hung from her body. Past the two women impaled on either side of the bottom of the stairs, elbows bound behind them, lacerated nipples jutting forward, heads thrown back, screaming.
Joanne took the Mason jar of string beans and went back upstairs.
"Thank you for dinner, Mother."
"You're welcome, Dear. Thank you for doing the dishes. Now, I want to make fresh coffee with our dessert. Will you please fetch me some of the beans from the cellar."
Joanne closed the cellar door behind her and stepped steadily down the stairs. The air was dry and cool and silent. Her heart began thudding louder with each quiet step. She still continued on.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs she stepped toward the shelves, and the wolf came hurtling from the shadows. His rank smell and wild snarling hit her as suddenly as his weight, slamming her to the concrete. His teeth tore open her throat as his hind legs ripped away her dress and slashed open her belly. She felt her guts fly wide, her whole body loosen and fall away from her, even as she felt the coarse brindled hair gripped in her fingers. His breath smelled like rotten meat. Her sight was dimming, though the pain went on and on.
After long and long, the cool dark closed in.
Joanne scooped a cup of coffee beans and carried them upstairs.
As Joanne steeped back through the basement door, a dog howled outside -- right beside the house. The girl turned pale and swayed, gripping the door-frame for support.
"Why ever is the matter with you, Dear? There's nothing there to be afraid of. There's nothing there at all at all."
"Good night, Mother."
"Good night, Dear."
Joanne walked up the stairs steadily, one by one. She brushed her teeth and then she bathed and then she put her nightgown on and then she brushed her hair 100 strokes and then she said her prayers and then she got in bed and then Father came in to say goodnight, with his short coarse brindled hair, his green-water eyes, meat on his breath, barbed-wire scars on his hands.
And there was nothing there to be afraid of, and nothing happened at all at all.
© Anitra L. Freeman