Feigning a Fine Fettle

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Til Death Does Depart

Marie held him tenderly, sweat dripping off her nose, shuddering, sharing his breath.

The French have a phrase, la petite mort. It means “the little death.” People use it to describe an orgasm.

He looked up at her, unfocused, shock written on his features. She was smiling beatifically, her eyes poring forth into his, glimmering his soul at the bottom of a pool, fading fast, deeper and deeper.

Most people are more than content with their little deaths, wrapped up in the afterglow of their rutting. Most people.

“Shhh… you’re almost there, darling.”

Which meant that he was almost here. As the man beneath her gradually stilled, as the thumping in his chest got weaker and weaker and his limbs began to settle under the weight of gravity, she saw him, just briefly, a slight darkening of the man’s eyes, a final release of all his earthly cares and woes. The sight was enough to make her sigh with longing and tense with need. She rested her chin on the pommel of the knife sticking from the man’s chest, feeling it slide deeper, lost in the moment.

Marie was not most people. You see, Marie was in love with death. She called him Mortimer. Why settle for la petite mort when la grande Mortimer was out there, lonely and oh so beautiful?

Marie extricated herself from the man’s stiffening limbs, weak in the knees. Mortimer had that effect on her. She looked down at the man (she hadn’t gotten his name), dead at her feet, and sighed, jealous that Mortimer had paid more attention to him than to her. At least Mortimer had looked dashing in the vivid green shade of the man’s eyes.

Marie didn’t care for killing. It was just the only way to see Mortimer. She’d of course thought about flinging herself from her balcony or slicing a knife down her wrist or hanging herself with a cord. Mortimer would be all hers, the most attentive and tender lover in all the world. They’d be together.

But Marie knew it wouldn’t last. Mortimer only cared for broken things and it wouldn’t be long before he cast her aside for something new. After all, the world is full of things breaking and broken.

No, her love could only be found in the eyes of strangers, ephemeral glimpses espied as they faded, like watching someone undress through a keyhole. Mortimer was a shy exhibitionist and she a scruple-less voyeur.

She had first seen him quite by accident, as serendipitous an encounter as any romantic could hope for. It was summer and she was 11. Her dog, Sadie, had just been hit by a car. The driver didn’t bother to stop.

Marie went to Sadie, her body broken and her suffering described by quiet whimpers. Marie cradled Sadie’s head in her lap and tried to soothe her, but nothing she did seemed to help.

Then he had come. Mortimer was dressed in brown that summer day, as earthy and gentle as Sadie’s eyes. Her dog went still, silent, peaceful. Mortimer had shown kindness and Marie was his forever.

At first she had only looked for dying animals, but that proved futile — Mortimer never stayed long. So she started to catch small things in makeshift traps: frogs, squirrels, sparrows, garden snakes, whatever she could get her hands on. She’d puncture their little hearts as surely as he’d punctured hers, seeing love reflected in the dying eyes of everything that swam, crawled, or flew. Afterwards, she’d bury them in shallow graves, unmarked but by her, like acorns hoarded by a squirrel.

Neighborhood dogs and cats were next. Their eyes were like larger keyholes through which to glimpse the tease that was her love. Fliers seemed to trail in her wake, tumbling like the leaves of autumn behind her: missing, lost, reward, please call!

Many years passed this way. What had started as puppy love (she begs your pardon) soon became something more — she needed something more. And she thought she knew what it was that she needed.

It was winter break during her freshmen year at college. The campus was nearly empty and fresh snow lay undisturbed everywhere she looked. She found a boy bundled in layers – scarf, coat, gloves, cap – like a Christmas present ready to be unwrapped. He was sitting on a stone bench near the library on a secluded little path edged by great hedgerows. He was reading a book and might have been a statue if not for the vapor of his breath and the occasional turn of the page.

She stood near him, uncertain, stiller than a statue, holding her breath as if he would startle and run. He finally looked up from his book, curiosity coloring his frost blue eyes.

Marie took a step forward, certain.

“Hi?” he said.

She didn’t get his name, but she’d never forget her first time. Her knife stabbed into this throat in one clean thrust, straight through his wool scarf, until it scraped his vertebrae. She’d used this technique on animals — Mortimer arrived quickly and took his time.

He wore the most stunning blue, dressed for the season. The boy gurgled, his eyes opened wide to the sky above. His blood stained the snow as he fell forward. Marie kept him from falling face first to the ground, enraptured by the beauty of her love. She ran her fingers through Mortimer’s hair and kissed him tenderly on the forehead.

The silence stretched on around them. A branch snapped under the weight of too much snow somewhere in the distance. A woman shrieked.

Marie came back to the present, standing over the man with the knife in his chest. She sighed. He’d left her again. She looked to her left at the paper cup the man had dropped on the floor. A colorful arrangement of pills lay scattered on the tile, a spring bouquet of medicine meant to make her forget about Mortimer. They didn’t understand though — nothing could keep her away from death.

Found this prompt on the Writing Prompt subreddit:

A woman falls in love with Death and commits murder countless times just to catch a glimpse of him.

Originally titled, “Til Death Do Us Part,” but I saw someone on Reddit with the same title, so I guess I wasn’t being as clever as I though with that one.

Then I thought, “Fatal Attraction,” but come on… how corny is that?

So I rethought my original title and came up with a play off it, which was more clever anyway.

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