No one has ever seen Simone’s fiancé, not in person or in photographs. Annecy doesn’t care. When she stares at Simone’s engagement-ringed finger she’s imagining it inside her. Not the void who’s marrying Simone.
“Annecy, darling, you should really find someone.”
Simone’s lips are against Annecy’s ear under the pretense of discussing entomology. The slit of her dress is riding against Annecy’s wheelchair arm. Her skin is a breath from Annecy’s. They sit nestled in the cervix of a dilapidated auditorium, lights dim, their professor droning about oviposition, the projector casting images of grasshopper underbelly, pink tube, and loam thrust aside for eggs onto an aged, velvety screen.
Annecy coughs so she doesn’t shudder. She grips her chair’s wheels. “Finding someone isn’t a problem. Everything else is.”
“It shouldn’t be, if you work things right.”
The murk disguises Simone’s emaciation. The hollow of her collar seems less severe, her hips less sunken. It does for her appearance what her drench of bluebell perfume does for her smell: it masks whatever the sabbatical did to her. She’s almost the woman Annecy met last spring semester.
Simone’s hand creeps upwards. It fingers the waist of Annecy’s skirt.
“Lavender is a lovely color,” she murmurs. “A practical one. I’m having a lavender wedding. You should too. It’d suit you.”
Annecy starts praying the pool between her legs dries before they leave the accommodating dark and reenter the harsh, well-lit world. She can’t focus on Simone’s innuendo-warning with her smell right there. It’s crawling into her mouth. Probing her nostrils. The odor under the bluebell is wet: near rank. It’s umami. Annecy cannot tell if it comes from a hole that should be seeping or a seeping hole that shouldn’t exist. She wants to be afraid.
The grasshopper, eyes black, is rhythmically pulsing her abdomen into the ground. Even the severed abdomen, the professor is saying, will continue these movements. As long as the female is sexually mature…
“You should come to my apartment,” Simone says.
“What about your fiancé?”
“What about him?”
Annecy knows every clothed curve of Simone’s breasts and while there’s something off in the way they fill her dress, some broken mathematical rule she cannot place, her windpipe tightens around the hot, sharp realization that there’s a protrusion around Simone’s nipple. Maybe a barbell. It and the invitation to intimacy are new.
“Here’s my address.” Simone takes the pen hanging from Annecy’s blouse. She reaches beneath Annecy’s arms, sleeve nudging against raised hair, to write her address onto a notebook. Annecy exhales when she withdraws.
The professor has moved on to reproductive parasitism now. Different ways of birthing slick eggs; different crevices to shove them into.
“See you later,” Simone says. She gathers her things then leaves.
Annecy splutters. It’s weak. She stares at Simone’s cursive, processing its cramped, conjoined letters, her body aching while a projected mud dauber pumps eggs onto a spider, before she realizes that Simone—unlike in past lectures—took no other notes at all.
She beats off more times per day than she attends class. She sits alone in entomology for weeks. No one has seen Simone, but they shrug off Annecy’s questions with She’s getting married, isn’t she? Maybe that’s why, as if Simone’s partner penetrates not just her but her schooling, her schedule, her every choice. The absences and distortions once excused by ‘busy with dating’ and ‘busy with engagement’ have metamorphosed into marriage and outright disappearance.
It’s such a natural transition that it unnerves Annecy more than it enrages her. When does suspicion crystallize into terror? If no one cares, if no one pays attention, when does a chrysalis become a grave instead of a changing place? Annecy cannot bear the thought of her health being governed by a man’s shadow, though it already is. She fills herself with fingers and toys so there’s one less spot for dread to enter.
When waiting becomes too much to bear, Annecy takes a cane and buses to Simone’s apartment complex. She suspects it won’t be chair-accessible. She’s correct: the complex’s ancient doors are heavy, its stairs steep. All its wiring and livability are afterthoughts. Annecy trudges through hallways pitted with stagnant units, warped railings, and peeling common spaces. By the time she reaches Simone’s apartment, fall bruises splotch her legs.
Her knocks go unanswered. Annecy almost falls again when she tries the knob and the door swings inward. It slams behind her once she’s in. The apartment is a murky squeeze of chambers: a protrusion into the walls of the complex. Low buzzing rattles its vents. Once she gropes through the kitchen, Annecy can see down the apartment’s length.
Simone is standing naked in the living room.
Naked of everything. She’s a near skeleton. A juicy, fetid matrix throbbing with enormous maggots. They crowd each other in her cavities in lieu of offal, their spiracles entangled in the adipose-flesh slush left, pudgy fingers forced through rotting hymen. They’re sucking at the spine. When Simone pirouettes to look at Annecy, flesh rags dangle from her bone in fringe. Her face is paler than her cleaned femurs. Simone smiles. The carpet between her feet is wet. It comes from the crowning maggot above.
“Hello, Annecy. I’m glad you finally visited!”
Annecy hears the crash of herself hitting her knees. She white knuckle grips her cane as Simone coos at her maggots. They trade holes. Their girth swells and ebbs, segment by segment, as they locomate around the host-slick. Some are bristly. Developing wings and pliable legs.
“This is nothing a wedding dress can’t cover.” Simone poses. “Now, regardless of what fails, I’ll never die. I’m within my children.”
“How could this happen? Your fiancé—”
“He picked this apartment.”
A maggot reclines on Simone’s chest, swaddled in what’s left of her breast skin. It works its mouth-hooks around her nipple from inside her as if it’s chewing a pacifier. They glimmer. Uterine rot and humidity born from body fluids blankets Annecy. It oozes into her skin. She salivates in an involuntary attempt to expel it from her sinuses, from her; drool strings down her chin and onto her knees.
Something is thumping inside a distant wall.
“I see myself in you, you know,” Simone says. “I was in your position before. We’re obligated to get married and produce children, yet that means men. It’s awful.”
The thumping is at the closed bedroom door. It’s accompanied by buzzing that vibrates into Annecy’s core. She sobs. A fruity stench settles over all the stained, torn furniture.
“I did the impossible, darling.” Simone’s head floats above the raw, fucked nursery of her body. “I built a traditional family without a man. Do you want to meet my fiancé?”
“No,” Annecy cries. But the door is already opening to reveal the stranger behind it, the wasp-waisted tower of antennae, segments, and lacy wings, the presence whose womb-lance made this possible. The maggots are crying not quite like babies. Simone is setting water glasses on what’s left of a table.
She’ll never regain what she’s traded away. Does that matter? Flesh rots while lace unravels; eggs hatch; there’s no unmarrying in the way that matters, but Simone has supplanted the nightmare planned for her. Simone’s fiancé looms over Annecy. She becomes aware of her existing holes: her five million pores, her dripping mucous membranes, her lavender predicament.
What’s a few more? What’s a curse for freedom?
That microfilament of a thought opens her. It’s not Simone’s finger inside Annecy. Not her engagement ring. Annecy moans around the feeler probing her mouth. Her throat spreads for it, making room for new ambitions, forms, and once unvoiceable things. Simone, core writhing, is folding mildewy napkins while she talks about introducing Annecy to her fiancé’s friends.
It’s easy, she’s saying. Once you let it in, it’s easy. You don’t lose what matters. You don’t lose anything at all.
Samir Sirk Morató
Samir Sirk Morató is a scientist, artist, and flesh heap. Some of their published and forthcoming work can be found in Rejection Letters, Stygian Lepus Magazine, ergot., and Neon Hemlock. They are on Twitter and Instagram @spicycloaca.