A Twisted Tale by J Saler Drees
When Makar was a baby in a Russian orphanage rats chewed on his face, leaving him for the rest of his life with a crumpled ear, missing nostril and disfigured lips. Growing up, his face gained him more pity rather than love, until he finally found Griselda. Griselda who now wants him to spend the night again. They rest in her bed after having sex, his arms wrapped about her pillowy body, squeezing her soft flesh tight.
Usually he’d say yes, of course he would, but tonight is different. Tonight is the night of no moon. And he can’t stay or she’ll find out he turns into a rat. And if she finds out he’s a rat she’ll no longer want to be with him. And worse, he thinks she’s the one he wants to marry, the one he can see spending the rest of his life with. He’s thirty, has a steady job as an accountant, and ready for commitment. Except, how can he ever tell her that on the night of no moon, every month he turns into a rat from sun down till sun up? To tell her is a risk he’s not willing to take.
The summer sun has not yet set, he has two more hours of day light, some time to find a believable reason to leave. She turns to face him, her dark hand tracing down his pale chest to his belly button.
“Just stay,” she says, leaning in, her raisin colored hair like satin to his skin. “I’ll make you dinner. My dolbladas. Your favorite meat pies.”
She swirls her finger about his belly button and then traces his stomach to his pubic hair, where she runs her fingers through the springy nest. He’s getting hard again. Going back alone to his own miserable apartment is near unbearable. He doesn’t want to extract himself from her body. He thinks of sex again, Griselda with her orgasms smelling like cocoanut water and ripe mangos. And then dolbladas, her famous fried meat pies, made with her old hidden family recipe.
But staying is out of the question, after what may have happened last month, he can’t take any more chances. Especially with Griselda, this Guatemalan goddess. He slides out from her arm, and sits up in bed. “You know I’d love to stay the night, but I have a meeting in the morning.”
“On Saturday?” She moans, rolls on her back, her brown breasts splaying out over her sides, the lavender nipples balancing upwards. She gives him a pouty look, her thick lips protruding. “Tonight I need you most.”
“I can’t.” He shakes his head, torn, wishing to say the opposite.
“Tell me you’ll stay. Seriously, tonight I need you the most. It comes every new moon.”
He hesitates, gazes at her. Does Griselda know about his secret?
“What do you mean?” he asks, the scars on his face feeling hot.
“You’re going to think I sound silly.” She pauses, hands reaching for him, but he swings his legs over the edge of her bed. “I think there’s a monster around. I started marking my calendar whenever I see it.”
“A monster?” He stands, looking out the window at the sun faring toward dusk. “Don’t play games with me.”
“You know I don’t play games,” Griselda says. “I need protection from it. I swear, last month I heard it lurking by my garage and when the sensory light blinked on, I saw its eyes before it disappeared into the dark.”
The evening light through the window blinds streams eerie lines on the opposite wall. If only he could lasso the sun, corral the day. He asks, “How am I going to protect you?”
“I can’t be alone,” she replies, her stare imploring him, like a deep lake enclosing over his head. He turns his back to her, afraid she may see in his eyes someone else.
“I’ll stay for a while,” he says. She steps behind him, her hands slide over his shoulders, her lips kiss him on his deformed ear. He closes his eyes, and then she’s gone. Her foots steps patter out the bedroom door, slap down the hallway into the kitchen.
He shakes his head, quickly grabbing his clothes strewn about the floor. Already he feels the itch under his fingernails. Sense of smell is heightened. The Gain Spring laundry detergent in the sheets, dust in the corners, faded feet smell of Griselda’s shoes, but mostly that cocoanut mango natural woman smell. He can just eat her. So dangerous. He shouldn’t be here.
His tail bone throbs. Hair follicles along his arms and legs ache, ready to sprout. He might not make it back to his place in time to be able to dead bolt himself in the bathroom. Street lamps burn brighter strips through the window as the sky completely darkens.
Quietly, he slips out the bedroom door. He smells meat searing in the pan, oil heating in the pot, the cackle as bubbles pop, waiting to fry the pies. Beyond the hallway wall, he glimpses at her, naked by the stove, sifting out flour that she will soon roll out into crust. She sings in Spanish as she always does when she cooks. He doesn’t know what the words mean, yet enjoys her loud voice, stands listening for a moment.
Amada Margarita, mujer de don Simón,
quisiera que comiera
los tamales de ratón
Saliva cultivates in the corners of his mouth. The smells tantalize an inner beast. He feels his teeth sharpening. He steps away toward the front door before it’s too late.
“Makar? Where are you going?” Her voice calls out behind him. He feels her presence rushing toward him. Fingers wrap about his arm. “The monster will be here soon.”
“I’m going to my car,” he stammers. “To get, to get a gun for protection.”
She lifts up a hand and fingers brush his disfigured lips, where part of his gums and teeth show. He pulls away more desperate. Front teeth are ready to plummet upward, sharp spears toward the ceiling.
Her big eager eyes look up at him. The mango flesh, the cocoanut blood. He can sense her heart beat, hear the hum of her organs beneath skin.
She says, “You don’t believe me do you.”
“I do.” He swallows the saliva sweating in his mouth. Must leave now or the desire will overtake him. Stomach rumbles in hunger.
She whispers, “I feel like your hiding something from me.”
“I’m not hiding anything,” he finally replies, wrenching his arm free. The hairs under his shirt press on the cloth, growing longer.
“We all have secrets.” Griselda says. “Even I have a little secret.”
He can barely understand what she’s saying. Something about secrets. She thinks she understand secrets. The whiskers are about to plunge out from his cheeks, nose about to push forward. And he’s ravenous, the starvation wanting to jam all of Griselda into his mouth. Bite off her nipples. Tear into her breasts, lap at the milk ducts. Chew his way down to her hole and climb up inside to her uterus.
His Makar-self tells Rat-self, don’t do it. You love her. You can’t live without her.
But Rat-self says, eat her and have her all to yourself, forever, with you, inside you forever. Isn’t that better? Digest her, make her apart of you.
I don’t want her in me, Makar-self says. I want to be in her.
He grabs the door, opening it. Outside, the eastern sky is garbage bag-black.
“Don’t go out there!” she shouts. “It’s coming.”
“But I must get a weapon to protect us,” he lies. His voice squeaks raspy and high pitched. Maybe it’s too late. Maybe she already suspects. Why’d he ever start going to the cafe every morning to see her? Why’d he accept her extra fried pies? Why’d he have sex with her in his Volvo in the back lot after her shift?
“Be careful. Be quick,” she says. “It’s coming soon.”
The front door slams. It’s harder to walk on two feet, he wants to run on all fours. His tail presses against his pants, tears at the seams. The car keys fall on the pavement. He stoops to pick them up but his clawed hands have difficulty in attempts to act fast. If anyone sees a man-sized rat out their window, surely they’ll shoot him.
With his pink wet nose, he pushes the unlock button to his Volvo. He hears a car down the road, knows the motor, a 1998 Ford Escort, with an engine mount loose. A man laughs, he sounds forty years old, balding in the middle, flabby around the belly. A dog barks, a retriever, about four years old, the really blond kind.
He crawls into his car, clothes ripping as his shape shifts. On the driver’s seat, he sits on his haunches, his tail dipping down to press the gas and break pedals. He ducks as the car passes, the headlights flashing through the windshield as it passes on.
Only his adoptive moms know. Shortly after bringing him to the United States, they woke up to find an infant sized rat in their room and no baby. At first, they thought the rat ate their baby, and they tried to catch it in order to kill it. But when the first glow of dawn came through the bedroom window, the rat began to change back into a baby. After that, they took turns staying up nights to watch the baby and figured out he changed only once a month on the moonless nights. Since then they only locked him up on these nights. When he was four they explained his condition.
After that he’s been diligent to lock himself up once a month. Except these past five months. He wanted to see what would happen. The first time he didn’t recall anything and awoke in a dump outside the city with trash and bits of fried chicken, BBQ rib bones, chow mien and pizza crust clinging to his body. He never felt so rejuvenated, as though he’d just flown to the moon and back; thus he continued his rat rendezvous’ until last month. He awoke out in the forest, not remembering anything, but this time there was blood all over his mouth, down his chest, clumps in his hair and a fingernail jammed in his teeth, which he worked out with a steak knife once back in the confines of his apartment. Later on the news, a man was found in the woods, evidently attacked by a mountain lion, his body mutilated, brain and eyes eaten out of the skull, heart torn and sucked dry. Claw and teeth marks all over his body. Arms and legs chewed down to the bones.
You should do it again. Rat-self urges.
I never did that. Makar-self insists.
So hungry, Rat-self says. Nothing better than human flesh. Must eat.
Indeed he’s starving, crammed in between the driver seat and steering wheel, his stomach an insatiable pit, growling to be fed. He stills smells Griselda, her cocoanut mango aroma. He slides out of the car and stealthily creeps across the lawn. His sleek black coat blends well with the night.
In front, his night vision can make out a dark square form in the dark. A garage. And beyond the garage, Griselda’s smell. Movement scuttles beyond the garage walls. Pings of tin, many pieces of metal clashing together, a band of only cymbals quivering in a windy tunnel. He doesn’t understand the sounds, but he must get to her smell.
He searches for a way to get in and finds glass. Crashing through the window, he lands on all fours onto a cement floor of a garage. No car, no bikes or storage boxes or tools. Another smell overwhelms him, musk and piss. The rattle of metal increases. A hum of life quivers about him. Rats. Thousands of rats running about in metal cages. Their beady eyes glow from the lamp light that lashes in through the broken window. Their whiskers tremble out from the bars, their pink pole tails stick straight out as they run this way and that, their little clawed feet ticking across the tin wired cages.
Along one wall is a large freezer, beside it a table with dark blotches staining its surface. A magnetic strip above the table holds several sharp knives of different sizes along it, their tips all pointing down. Under the table are several clear plastic bins. One full of rat feet and tails in various states of decay. Some feet smell freshly severed and some dried and shriveled with age. Clumps of intestine and organs lay in lumps about the floor.
His stomach roars. He grabs one of the cages with four rats inside and unlatches the door, tipping the cage upside down and into his mouth. He clamps his sharp front teeth into their tiny skulls. Brain gushes into his mouth, delectably satisfying, and into his belly to fill him up.
He knocks down more cages with his tail and is about to open another latch when he detects footsteps. Very near. A door opens and light floods in. Shards of red glint out from cages. Flashes of tail. Clicks of nail.
Griselda’s silhouette holds a long sharp pointed object as she moves toward him. She screams, “What’ve you done to Makar? You monster, you’ll pay.”
Her voice is low and horrifying. Her fragrance overpowers him. He leaps out at her, gnashing his elongated front teeth, but a sharp peg hits him in the chest, chainsawing its way through hair and flesh and bone. He cries out. Pain shreds his insides. Griselda falls over, is underneath him, stabbing into his stomach. The woman rolls out from under him, acid and blood smeared all over her face and in her hair. He collapses to the floor, stomach even more empty than before and emptiness hurts, hurts so bad he can’t move. It’s ending. It’s all ending.
Flickers of Makar-self come back. Her voice, Griselda, his love.
“You will make many dolbladas,” Griselda says, mouth twisted upward, eyes blinking out of a mask of shiny red. She ties up his limbs, long toes with ivory nails jutting up toward the ceiling as she wraps the feet. He squeaks and squeals, trying to say, it’s me, Makar. See my eyes. I’m sorry I didn’t stay to tell you.
But his voice is fading, his eye sight dimming. She doesn’t seem to understand him, begins to bind his jaw shut. He pictures the sun rising in the morning. She will enter the garage to butcher a large rat, but instead finds a dead man tied up with his stomach gutted. And he hopes when she sees his face, she will fall across his body, consume him, until no evidence is left.
J Saler Drees lives in San Diego CA. She works as a nanny and writes during her free time.