red berries

nc-17 | violent content | sexual content

It's a motel room.

Some anonymous motel room, in the middle of nowhere. The kind where hookers bring their clients, where men bring their mistresses. You could bring some stranger here and fuck him, and no one from your life would know. You could shoot the clerk and rob him of the few, dirty bills in his register, and no one from your life would know.

You don't know how you got here. You had to get out of the house. You remember grabbing your keys and getting in the car. You don't remember grabbing your wallet, but you must have, because you handed the clerk at the counter ragged, worn twenty-dollar bills. He gave you your change and the bills were even nastier than the ones you handed him. You almost told him to keep them. You almost ran from the room, rushing into the bathroom to wash the filth of the place off your hands.

The key had rust on it. Or maybe it was red paint.

You wonder how many people have slept in the bed, as you lay down on it, trying not to think about the bedbugs and germs that must be on the nasty, nasty sheets. People have slept on this bed. Fucked on this bed. Rolled over and kissed their lovers good night on this bed. Maybe people have even bled on this bed.

You should have brought luggage. Or something. You should have packed a bag for this journey, but you weren't thinking when you set off on it. You only had your purse, which barely had enough room in it for the wallet that your mom gave you for Christmas. Your mom knew what kind of purse you carry, so you think she would have gotten you something more appropriate. But she didn't, and you didn't, and the clerk probably is wondering why you would check into a motel in the middle of nowhere with only a small purse.

You could have robbed him. He's eighty years old if he's a day, and his hands trembled as he adjusted his thick glasses after giving you your change. You could have threatened him with your finger, stuffed in your pocket like a gun, or even just with your pitiful little purse, and he probably would have had a heart attack right there. It's not as if they have surveillance cameras in this crappy little motel in the middle of nowhere.

You decide then that you will rob him. You could fashion a weapon out of something in this room, and you'll go out there and rob him. Maybe you'll even kill him. It wouldn't take much to kill a man like that. One good blow to the head, and he'll bleed to death behind the counter. Maybe he has a wife or a daughter or a grandson, but that doesn't matter. You're going to kill him. You'll kill him for the few ratty bills in the cash drawer.

You close your eyes, deciding that when you wake up, you'll do that. You'll kill him. What right does he have to live, anyway? He runs a shitty motel in the middle of nowhere, and the only clients he ever has is hookers and people like you, who had to get out of the house. No one will miss him, especially since there's another nasty motel just down the road, and another one after that.

You don't remember grabbing your car keys. You must have, since you certainly didn't walk the however-many miles it is from your house to here, wherever here is. You don't remember driving, stopping at stoplights, and yielding for pedestrians. You don't remember walking from your house to the car and from your car to the hotel. You don't remember stopping to get whatever it was you bought at the fast food place, and you don't remember the drop of ketchup falling down and landing on your jeans.

You don't remember cleaning up the blood, but you must have, because when you gave the clerk - you'll get up and kill him, right after your nap - the money, you didn't have red stains on your hands. There was a small red stain on your arm, but that was from the ketchup. You know because when you lifted your arm to lick it off, while he was distracted making change, it tasted like salt and tomatoes, not the metal-ish flavor of blood.

You tasted blood for the first time when you were twenty-three years old. You're sure you had blood in your mouth before that, but never so much. Never so much that you felt like you swallowing gallons of it. Never so much that you could clearly distinguish the unique taste of it, and classify it in your mind for further reference.

You've seen enough blood for today. You won't stab the clerk, or shoot him. You'll strangle him. That way, there won't be any blood. You don't like blood. You don't like the taste, and you don't like the smell, and you don't like the way you have to scrub and scrub to get the stain out of anything. You suppose there are tips and hints in books for getting blood out of things, but you always felt dumb asking. They'd want to know why, you always thought. You supposed you could lie, and say it was menstrual blood, but would they really believe you?

You don't remember changing your clothes. You must have, since there aren't any stains on your white shirt and jeans, except for the little drops of ketchup. Nature invented memory so that animals wouldn't eat the red berries if the red berries made them sick. You think. They told you that in biology - or maybe it was psych class - but you weren't really paying attention. Your memory doesn't work right, then. You can't remember which berries will hurt you and you're scared of berries that probably wouldn't hurt you at all.

You decide you're going to get up and kill the clerk, instead of lying in bed, equating parts of your life with berries. You don't even like berries. The only fruit you can stand is bananas, and only if they're very, very mushy and about to fall to pieces. If you were going to pretend your husband and your children and your mother were fruits, they'd be bananas, not berries. You're going to get up and kill the clerk, crushing his neck like a too mushy banana. You're going to steal all the money from the register and go somewhere else, where they won't know you, and what you've done. You'll blow the money on booze and some man, who you'll drag to another motel room, somewhere, and you'll have him fuck you until you can't remember your own name. Your husband won't touch you anymore, as if he's afraid you'll turn into a pillar of dust, so he can't yell at you if you go somewhere else to get what you need.

You get up from the bed, and there's a bright flash of white and a low beeping noise. Maybe you're going to faint. You don't remember what you ate at that fast food place on the way here, but maybe it wasn't enough. Maybe you're going to pass out. Or maybe the clerk read your mind and he pumped some gas in the room to make you pass out. You struggle to get to the door. Maybe you won't kill the clerk; maybe you'll kill another patron, a hooker with hundreds of dollars in her pocket. She doesn't deserve the money, anyway. She's a nasty, nasty girl who probably dropped out of high school. She spreads disease and filth and the world will be better off if you kill her.

You swing open the door and manage to get out into the hallway. It's longer than you remember, but you don't feel faint anymore. There's a pressure on your chest, but you can ignore that. You decide you will kill the clerk. He can't try to kill you and get away with it. You're going to go out there and kill him, crushing his throat. Maybe you will cut him up, and splatter his blood all over the walls.

You don't remember making your way down the hallway and going behind the counter, but you must have, since your hands are around his throat. It's not as easy to strangle someone as you thought it would be. His neck isn't crumpling down like a mushy banana. He doesn't fight you, though; he just stands there until his eyes close, and his body goes limp.

You don't remember falling asleep, but you must have, because your eyes are closed now. It isn't long before you analyze the smell of disinfectant and cheap detergent, the sounds of beeping and dripping, the feel of an uncomfortable mattress under your back, and you realize you're in a hospital. You don't understand what happened; the old man, the nasty clerk behind the counter in the nasty motel, he should be in the hospital, or even better, the morgue. You should be in another cheap, nasty motel, with a cheap, nasty man, sweat dripping off your brow as you emulate the actions you saw on a cheap, nasty porno, one night when your husband was asleep.

You try to lift your arm, but you can't, and you realize that you must be in handcuffs. The man must have lived, and you must be under arrest. You can't understand how he overpowered you, or maybe he outwitted you. You thought you were stronger than that, or wiser than that.

Voices, now. They've noticed that you're awake, and you hear them talking about you. You open your eyes and tilt your head to look at the handcuffs. You've never seen handcuffs before, except in movies, and on TV, and you want to see what they look like in the flesh. You tried to get your husband to buy cuffs to use in bed, but he refused, holding your wrists and running his fingers over the scars and telling you that he didn't think that was a good idea.

Your doctor says your name. Your husband is holding your hand, but you don't see the handcuffs. Is it possible that the clerk didn't call the cops? That he didn't press charges? You don't remember talking to the police, or maybe talking them out of arresting you, but it must have happened, since you don't seem to be in custody. It's a shame; you wanted to see the handcuffs. There are just two white bandages, in their old familiar place, and you feel disappointed. Maybe they fastened the cuffs on too tightly, and they cut your wrists.

"I thought you were making progress," your doctor says. "I thought the pills were helping."

Pills. Pills. You don't remember pills. You remember berries, red on one side, and white on the other. You remember swallowing the berries one after another. You remember lying down in the bath and cutting your wrists, and you remember the blood that was the same color as the berries.

You can't lift your hand because of the IV.

"We're going to have to institutionalize you this time," he goes on, even though you aren't really listening to him anymore. He was the one who gave you the berries, and you realize now that they were poison. The blood didn't come out of your wrist quickly enough, probably because of the scars from the other times you tried. You supposed that you could have cut your wrists the other way, but that's not the right way, and you wanted to do it right this time. Or maybe it was the berries. Maybe they were poisoned, and they thickened your blood so it wouldn't spurt out as it did the first time, and the second time, and the third time. You got up out of the bath and went to the kitchen, to get a better knife, but then you decided to go to the motel and kill the clerk, who gave you an odd look for not showing up with some random guy, for giving you a rusty key, for giving you a five with a corner missing.

You close your eyes and return to the motel, with your hands around the clerk's neck. Your doctor is trying to get you to stop, but you ignore him, squeezing and squeezing until his neck is as mushy as the bananas you like to eat for breakfast.

There are berries on the ground, and you step on them. They squish under your feet.