Crimson Chintz 

Crimson Chintz

The parlour was so sticky, its wallpaper seemed to be sliding off, even as I watched. But for what reason the woman had put me in the parlour I did not even question—since I had not seen the rest of the house.

She had given the impression of being in charge—not as an owner, more as a caretaker—whilst I had not yet taken the opportunity to examine the parlour. However, although I was someone normally averse to details, I did notice that the décor was decidedly choosy and chintzy—if blemished by blisters and peelings.

The woman suddenly re-entered with a feather-tickler on a stick, evidently uncaring whether a visitor might be disturbed by an environment of domestic chores or a pervasive aura of house-pride.

"Are you comfy for a moment?" she asked, digging, as far as feathers could dig, into one of the four top corners of the parlour—if such corners were indeed corners at all, judging by their being rather more like rounded alcoves-in-the-air. I nodded at her, failing to understand why a mere moment of my comfort was her concern.

A mere moment passed without duration ... and neither comfort nor discomfort were important during such an arguable length of time. Yet I nodded again and the whole room seemed to nod with me, by some quirk of eyesight.

I knew that a question needed an answer even if the answer was only necessary to ensure the question was asked. Any answer would have sufficed to square the circle.

Meanwhile, time did not fail to pass, in spite of consisting of nothing but overlapping moments. The woman drifted from my consciousness while, presumably, she had a go at other rooms nearby: rooms which I hadn't been able to check for sufficient viability or tenability as rooms, let alone the dust to warrant such an attack from her duster.

And I started to have a nosebleed: a nosebleed in the true sense where my whole body bled while my nose stayed essentially dry-nostrilled.

The nose, being merely a conduit, bled only inasmuch as its attachment, the body, bled. The nose wasn't cut. Something in the body gushed forth, employing the nose as an outlet. Unlike in the case of a nose, a finger could only bleed if the finger itself were injured. My nostrils were simply straws or syphons.

"Are you allright, my love?"

The woman spoke, upon returning to the parlour, in evident search of her yellow duster. She had noticed my distress: a distress which was redoubled by her use of an affectionate affectation of me being her 'love'. And the sickly backflow taste at the root of my nostrils was causing me to gag on the breath I couldn't quite catch.

"I'll put a cold copper coin down your back," she added, "since nosebleeds can otherwise be a devil to stop."

Abruptly, I choked on a spasm and threw a spray of abstract strawberries upon the wallpaper.

"There'll be a devil to pay," she continued, making me think she was hung up on devils.

It eventually dawned on me the reason for the existence of the choice of the decrepit chintzy room and for my presence therein. I saw it in her eyes. I saw that I was seeing her skull from inside her skull, a sight that effectively followed the drift of the brain's own sight of seeing it. Better get on with the housework, before my husband comes home from the office. I must scrape the grey grime off the innermost alcove with the edge of the hoover nozzle—then let its vacuum suck up the wayward thoughts with which poor menopausal women like me are beset.

Meanwhile, am I simply her fancy man, for when her husband's away? Or am I a night creature of complex motives, intent on sniffing out the fading residue of her seeping blood?

No answer from the room. Only the sound of a hoover breathing, the gentle popping of embolisms from under the wall-paper and bone china cracking in the distant scullery.

"Each month, there's a devil to pay." From HORRORMONES by Rachel Mildeyes

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