Jack was a world unto himself. Anita relished his summers and dreaded his winters. At least the pattern was predictable. That was what she’d loved about him, she thought – his predictability. It had given her time to prepare, and now she was leaving.
How many girls had there been before her?
She’d accused him of infidelity, and he’d screamed that he had to get to work, but they’d talk later. They both knew that he meant to let his fists do all the talking. She meant to be long gone before he returned.
She’d gone into the basement for a suitcase and seen it.
The dismembered ring finger glared up at her like an accusation, engagement ring still on.
She should have gone to the police, but she hadn’t. She went to Doctor Evans instead. The card had been on their bureau. Jack went sometimes when his seasonal affective disorder wreaked havoc and light therapy didn’t work.
The dark empowered him like nothing else.
“You’ll relive your fears, your anger, your trauma…in real time. The power these things held over you – you can absorb it all. But you must release it soon after you wake. Or…”
“It’ll destroy me instead,” Anita finished.
Evans humored her with a tight smile and nodded at the vial she held.
Anita sat on a black sand beach and looked out on a calm sea. Dark blue hinted at incredible depth. She breathed in and out rhythmically, in sync with the waves.
It was not water, she thought, but ink.
Ink was what gave her life meaning. Ink gave the words in her form. That was why the sea was black, she supposed.
As it inched closer, she thought, It’s high tide.
Then it began to pool at her toes, and she forgot to breathe. She backed away to a lone bit of driftwood – what remained of the vessel that had carried her here. Away from…what?
Once you could see to the bottom
But you drank the poison and now…
She couldn’t help feeling like she’d been here before.
She waited for the memories to flood her brain, opened herself wide to receive the pain she would use to rid the world of Jack.
Anita tried to back further away, but there was nowhere to go. The sea swelled, flowing with deliberation, almost consciously, she thought. Like a hunter, hyper-focused on its prey.
She screamed as it scaled her body, screamed as the last of her hope fled, screamed until it filled her mouth with dark and night settled into her bones.
“Leaving the card out was a nice touch. She stayed a long time. Conjured more hope than I’ve ever seen. You don’t mind that I…”
At this, the doctor caressed the corpse’s breast.
“Frightened women are the best.”
“Aren’t they though?
He lifted the severed finger, appreciated the way the light glinted off the diamond in the ring.
“Until next time, Dr. Evans”