Slash of orange

Sweat joined with the swirls or red and strokes of black drying on the canvas face. The stench of oil and body fluids permeated the room, coating it til the walls turned yellow, but going unnoticed by its occupants.
Titus turned to look at the sweat-drenched figure on the bed, it was morning long ago but the lights continued to blaze. The girl was not much more than a skeleton now, with a band still tight around her arm. Titus removed it as she moaned a complaint; eyes still closed, and stretched it taught around his own.
Didn’t they have a baby? Or was that a dream given by the chemicals? Then he passed out amidst paint and brushes and shit.

A scream had sounded he was sure, willing his eyes open.
In the room stood a dark figure against the glaring backdrop of the afternoon sun streaming in from the balcony.

‘I am taking her’, low and guttural, tainted with sadness.

‘Fuck you’.

Tutus tried to rise and kicked over pots of paint, a stream of red flowed about his feet, made it to his knees before falling into the canvas.

The figure advanced on the bed. Titus threw a pot; orange paint poured out and lay on the air between them, moving almost imperceptible (like water evaporating or leaves dying), before covering the side of the dark figures face. With the limit of his strength reached, Titus lay on the floor panting.

‘I am taking her’.

‘Fuck you’, he gasped, spittle flying, ‘I know’re marked now..I’ll find you, you fucking bastard’.

Then the figure was gone, the shallow breath on the bed ceased and the afternoon sun waned.

Titus followed a few hours later.

It was a revelation this after life thing, no longer did he feel the burden of chemicals flowing in his veins, his strength was back, he lacked hunger and feared nothing. So he searched.
He found he could walk all day without stopping, and through the night and into the next before realising that he did eventually hit a wall and fell into sleep.

This continued, walking two days at a time sometimes before resting again, rarely hungry, just stopping to drink from rivers and streams and puddles.
After three weeks he had found nothing, seen no-one. No haunting figure with an orange slash and no pale drawn skeleton with familiar high cheek bones and matted dark hair.

As he grew more desperate his walks grew into three days at a time, then four, and finally a five day walk that left him sweating and panting and near delirium. He collapsed onto the earth and wept. Finally thirst drew him out and he stumbled on. A pool sat still under a tree which he sunk hands first into, greedy for it, and then sleep took him.

He woke with a start. The morning sun was on him. He hunched over the pool ready to drink, the water was motionless, glasslike, and his reflection was crystal clear.

A pale face slashed with orange paint.

Slash of orange

Michael Douglass

Alexandria, Australia

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