The slats of her floorboards creak, widen and crack.
I am The Ugly Other. Underneath the floor.
I’ve been breathing with her for many years, waiting. I knew she could hear me, just under her own breath, closing the rhythm until we inhale and exhale as one. She takes my hands as I swing her around, just as a child, feet in the air, wind rushing through hair. It’s you and me, baby.
We watch on horrified in this public place, as the killer takes another life. There is so much blood. Soon the shooters will arrive to take her down. She laughs among her victims, whispers to ravaged flesh in a care free tone. We kneel, my partner and I, straining to hear what she says. She turns to us and stares. Her beauty is terrible and disarms me. I walk to her, my partner’s fingers failing to grasp my sleeve.
Another one approaches to play, we see him. He wears a uniform like his friends. They are supposed to represent authority. Come here little man, swing, laugh with me.
Her gaze is so beautiful. I want to dance with her like the others. I see it now. They are not victims, they are free. I close the space to her and hold out my hands. I hear a distant cry behind me.
I call out to my partner to stop, "Come back!"
To no avail. I shall have to interject as I leap from cover. The shooters aren’t going to arrive in time. I start my approach and raise my gun but am stunned into a statue. For I see a great shadow revealed behind my target. As real as her and moving independently. Vast, like nothing I’ve ever seen.
Here he comes. Ah, take my hands. And now we swing, around and round we go. He’ll understand that if we keep spinning then all will be well. He is giddy and young again, grinning ear to ear as I ingest his joy.
I can hear myself screaming as woman and shadow tear and plunder my partner’s body. He is smiling through the mauling they visit upon him. I try to turn back but the picture around me is confused. There is no backwards, no direction to turn as perfection approaches. Closing the view until it’s only her. She holds the severed arm of my partner. The sight of the ring on his finger, once just an inanimate object to my own eye, now pulls me into deepest despair as the echoes of this destruction hit me at once. Too much. Perhaps, they, can make it go away.
This one is hurt, a visceral pain rests in his eyes. A fine way to finish the feast. The floor beneath reacts to my command and is no more. I take this last morsel of food with me and fade into the river black as more humans arrive, firing tiny fragile dots.
Fear not. I shall return.
I pick my vessels with great care. You’ll know when it’s time. The slats of your floorboards shall creak, widen and crack. Listen to yourself breathing, can you hear the breath of another, just underneath? We’ll find rhythm.
And we shall swing baby, you and me.