Tonya Dumont’s husband was dead, and under strange circumstances. It looked like an accident but his body was still at the morgue four days later so she knew it had the possibility of not being just your everyday accident. So when the morgue contacted her to visit her at home she thought it was just as strange a circumstance.
“We operate a bit differently,” was what the man from the morgue replied with when she asked if this was usual protocol. As she waited for him to show up she couldn’t quite remember his name. Was it Robert, or Ronald? Some name that was usually shortened, or ‘nicked’, as her mother would say.
“We like a more personal touch. This is the single hardest thing a person has to deal with, why should we make them go through it in anywhere else but the comfort of their home?” His logic was agreeable and furthermore he did run a private business, so why couldn’t they meet here instead of there to discuss the disposal of her late husbands body.
Disposal, she now thought sourly, if he would’ve used that word I wouldn’t have been so agreeable.
But she could say it, to herself in her own home. Anything could be said or done in one’s home and that’s why she didn’t question him, it just made sense. She wondered not about this mortician but rather about every other mortician, thinking they all should be this understanding.
So now she was waiting for him, this Robert or Ronald, and was frantically picking up her living room. She believed in the appearance of normalcy simply because she didn’t want to be seen as just another sad fresh widow. She didn’t want to be pitied and she didn’t warrant it, or at least that’s what she was trying to achieve. In movies or books when someone loses the love of their life they always spiral into this purgatory, with dishes piling up and a half drank bottle of booze in the midst of it somewhere.
Well not her.
Not the mighty Tonya Dumont.
Just because her husband was dead didn’t mean that she had to ruin everything they’d worked for. She continued going to work and as she walked around her house now she found it quite a quick job to clean up for her guest. All she had to do was wipe a thin layer of dust off of the coffee table and she was done. The coffee table that, through every evening, was her husbands best friend. He put his beer, food, and feet up on it, not to mention the wide-spread of every Sunday paper and it was just then that Tonya realized that while he was alive she never had to dust it. He never left it alone long enough to gather dust. And now that her simple tidying was done she felt entirely empty. Empty because she found that even though she worked so hard to put on a mask of life to wear when she went out, it was removed every time she stepped foot in her door. The walls here knew what was missing from inside them, and they pitied her whether she liked it or not. They felt the air, now so still after housing his constant energy and knew exactly what she was; a sad and lonely widow. There are, after all, no secrets that can be kept from the walls of a home.
Her expression began to hollow out, taking the look she never even let herself see. Eyes sinking in, lips losing color, mouth hanging agape. Like a doped mental patient, if only so numb.
The first time the doorbell rang she didn’t even hear it. She just kept looking down at her dead husbands favorite spot until the man knocked instead. This snapped her back and she felt the blood return. A quick breath and adjustment to her hair was all she needed, and she was back, to open the door with as much of the mask on as the walls would allow.
“Hello Mrs. Dumont? I’m Randall Flynn from Roseview.” Randall, she thought as he offered his hand. She took it and opened the door in its entirety.
“Please come in,” Tonya said standing back with a modest, only-being-polite smile on her face.
“Thank you. Wow,” he looked around, up the stairs and at the chandelier hanging above him. “This is a beautiful home.”
“Oh thanks,” she replied, a little bashful. It had been a long four days since anyone had been in the house with her. “Can I get you something to drink before we get started?”
“Just a water please.” She showed him to the living room, Randall continuing to marvel at the house while all Tonya saw was the coffee table, and then went to get the water.
“Have a seat,” she called back to him, but once she returned, she wished any other words would’ve been spoken. After turning the corner her feet slowed, just for a step, and she felt the mask slipping off.
Randall was sitting in her husband’s favorite spot, letting his brochures clutter her husband’s favorite coffee table. Rage and injustice filled her but she managed to grab the mask just before it hit the floor to inevitably shatter, and put it back on. Tonya continued her stride with that same polite smile and placed his water in front of him.
“Thank you,” he said somberly. “Now,”
and so it begins, she thought,
“we have a number of affiliates around town that can set you up with a beautiful service, so let’s clear some of this up. Did you have a cemetery in mind? A plot already reserved perhaps?” He was verbally walking on eggshells, like a parent talking to their child about sex and his face was anxiously compressed.
“No. It was just the two of us, his parents aren’t in the picture and mine are still alive so we just never really thought about it.”
“Right,” he nodded. “Well in that case I’d recommend you take a look at these.” He slid the brochures over slowly, as if he was trying not to scare her. Tonya picked one up and began looking, as he recommended.
It was perverse. A delicately manicured advertisement to make money off of not the dead, but the grief of the living. Everyone wanted a ‘respectful’ burial, which of course meant an expensive burial. One full of flowers and granite and marble and things that cost half a years salary, only to be visited a few days a year.
She sighed at the bullshit of it all.
“I know this is hard,” he responded. Looking at him, she tried to hide her contempt. This was a business man sitting in her dead husband’s favorite spot and he had fooled her even before meeting her. Fooled her into thinking that he cared by coming to her, instead of making her come to him. A good businessman, with his look of delicate apprehension and understanding. But what was he, maybe thirty? At best? What the fuck did he know about-
“Mrs. Dumont?” He looked even more anxious now. She quickly reapplied the mask.
“I’m sorry, I just don’t know where to begin here,” she said pretending to look back down at the brochures.
“Take all the time you need. I know it’s especially hard when the deceased is murdered.”
“What?” Tonya’s mask shattered before she felt it fall.
“Scott was murdered?” It seemed like she couldn’t get enough air.
“Oh, oh Mrs. Dumont I’m so sorry. We found out this morning I thought the police contacted you. I-” His hands were up, like football player who just got flagged.
“I talked to the police this morning and they said nothing about this.” She was furious, wanted to smash the untouched glass of water against his forehead and watch him bleed. She kept the quiet, even tone of a person who has known anger all their lives and can use it for the tool that it is.
“I apologize, you must feel-”
That’s where she cut him off. After her rant was done she was unsure of what exactly she had said but it went on five, maybe ten minutes and only at the end did she realize she was standing over him, yelling down at him as if he was a dog. She called him things she’d never said before and told him exactly how she ‘must feel’.
Then she stood up straight.
“Now get out. I’m not doing business with you.” But he didn’t move. “Did you hear me? I said-” She wanted to scare him, to make him flee away like the house was burning down. But then he began to smile, with a slow spreading pleasure, and she realized that he too, had been wearing a mask.
“Why don’t you sit down?” He said.
“Your fucking sick. I’m calling the cops.” She reached down to her phone on the coffee table, but then couldn’t move.
Randall had pulled out a knife and stabbed it through her hand, nailing her to the table. At first she just stared as it stood straight up out the back of her hand, and then she began to scream. Tonya’s guest leapt up at this and stuffed fabric into her open mouth, muffling and choking her. The force of this act sent her back down to the chair. She attempted to fight back with her free hand as the man brought duct tape to seal her mouth but the constant jerking against the shining blade that crucified her was unbearable. After she was silenced and fixed to the table he sat back down, lounging like a cat in the sun. He was satisfied.
Tonya looked at her hand through the tears and saw her blood dripping off the side of her husband’s favorite table. The other hand gripped the arm of her chair like a child at the dentist.
“Soooo as you probably guessed, I’m not from the morgue. I’m just a guy,” he reached into his pocket, “who is interested in how people will react,” he continued digging around. “How we react is the what makes us who we are,” he found what he was looking for and pulled out a small tape recorder. “And you-,” he rewound the tape then pressed play. She heard herself screaming at him and tried to do the same again, but the tape covering the soggy cloth in her mouth stopped it. He likewise stopped the recording. “-are a very interesting person.”
He opened up the tape recorder and took out the small cassette containing her audio and put it in on the table next to her bleeding hand, then took out another cassette from his pocket and slipped it in, clicking the recorder shut. Excitement lit up his eyes as he pressed play.
At first all she could hear was crying, then Randall asked a question, and her husband’s voice responded through sobs. Her eyes opened to their fullest and upon her realization he stopped the recording. She reached out with her free hand but he swatted it away and it went to the handle of what was fixing her in place. Jubilation took him over and a small happy gasp escaped him. Her hand was wrapped firmly around the handle of the knife. As she stared at him his crazed eyes darted between her eyes and the knife, her eyes and the knife. She took in short quick breaths and felt adrenaline build her up. Then she pulled.
But she couldn’t get it out. She began to cry again and let her hand drop lifelessly from the handle.
“Oh!” He shouted. “That would’ve been intense!” He settled back down and sighed. “So I killed your husband,” she met his eyes, “obviously,” he continued, “and I’ve got just about everything I need from you. But before I finish I’d like to thank you, seriously,” he leaned forward, “you were way more interesting than your husband, he just cried the whole time,” he took on a disgusted look, “cried and begged.” He stared at her eyes for a moment, trying to make sure that hammered home. Then he took out a pad and pen, flipped it open, and began checking things off.
“Okay,” he said slowly, “so we’ve got the death of a husband, the widow’s reaction, and… do your folks live near here?” Her eyes widened again in realization and she tried once more to reach out and grab him, this time he caught her by the wrist, then held her hand in both of his, tenderly. “Don’t worry,” he consoled, “they’ll be fine,” he thought about this, peering upward, “physically,” he amended. Tonya pulled back her hand from his in a snap. Their skin made a rustling sound against each other and she felt sick from it. “But,” he stood up, gripped the knife that was stabbed through her hand and put his face inches away from hers, then removed the knife to use it elsewhere. “I’d love to get their reaction when they find out that I killed their daughter.”
Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes short stories and flash fiction whether it’s ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre fiction, classic horror literature or erotica. The darker the tale the better. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.