Body Heat by Bethany Pope is the next instalment of Wales Arts Reviews’ Flash Fiction Week series, celebrating the genre with some of Wales’ best literary talents.
When Marie woke up her husband was cold in bed beside her. The morning light (falling through the window shade in slanted, deep-yellow stripes) revealed pale skin marred by lividity; deep red pools of coagulating blood, collecting where his broad shoulders and full (flattened) buttocks touched the mattress. He had been dead for some time. She hadn’t noticed.
Marie dreamt of glaciers; smooth white-blue expanses of ice, with the faces of her family members staring up at her through the scrim of frozen water, distorted, their mouths gaping so that they resembled something out of Dante. Marie woke up, naked and shivering. She reached for her husband and found him thus.
When she woke she felt nothing, emotionally. Her teeth were chattering and her hands felt bloodless and numb. It might have been shock. Certainly, if there was ever anything she never thought she’d be able to survive, it would be this. She’d loved David for years, and their love had been clement. Emotionally enriching. He was the sort of man who liked her for the things that other people would be likely to consider flaws; her matted, crazy-lady hair, her neurotic gnawing at the cuticles of her fingers, her affinity for filth. He was her large, soft, Alsatian of a man; a comfort that she never thought that she could live without.
Marie brushed a lock of dark, curled hair out of his eyes. One strand was touching the naked, greyish surface of his unblinking eyeball (the pupil clouding over already, resembling the albumin of an egg). She kissed him, once, then went to shower. Marie wept, a little, and turned the water temperature up as high as it would go, until her skin was red and aching, in the hopes of feeling (finally) warm.
When she emerged, steaming, she slid back into bed and curled her body around the stiffening body of her mate. His fat seemed to have solidified overnight, like refrigerated lard, and he didn’t feel anything like a human being. At least at first. After half an hour, he’d taken enough of her heat to soften up. She was able to hold his empty body close, close her eyes, and pretend.
Body Heat by Bethany Pope is part of a Wales Arts Review series publishing original flash fiction pieces by some of Wales’ top authors in a celebration of the unique literary genre and National Flash Fiction Day.