Cathy Vella: Degradation

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Kate lay in the moist grass.  Dew glistened on the leaf tips as the morning sunshine, like tiny spotlights, broke through the gaps between the trees.  The small clearing didn’t attract much light, but some tenacious, wild flowers grew in a tiny arc that the sunlight crept across daily.

The smell of warm soil and yellow archangel hung in the air, and tiny tendrils of mist rose from the ground. A circle of light moved slowly up Kate’s leg as if the sun’s rays were a tender lover.  Her legs were parted, skirt around her thighs, one arm was by her side, and the other stretched above her head in a seductive pose.  Palms upward, her fingers were cupped like purple crocuses.  Her head was elevated and her face turned away from the light. Her eyes were directed at a space between then and now.

No one came to this part of the woods. Well, hardly anyone. Kate had never been here before and the man who brought her had found the secluded spot the week prior.  It was a beautiful place. He told her so as he carried her into the clearing.  He smiled as he moved her hair from her eyes.

She had waited on the bench for him. It wasn’t strange that their first meeting was in the park just after dark.  It was half way between her flat and the town; she would have walked this way anyway.  She thought he was being romantic.  He brought roses; she would recognise him this way.  One red rose was placed carefully in her jacket pocket too.

The roses were now strategically placed around her as she rested between the gnarled roots of the oak tree. Fallen leaves trailed across her breast, while beetles, ants, and spiders explored her body.  The gentle breeze rustled between the treesand set a few more leaves free. One drifted and turned repeatedly before coming to rest on her damp cheek. Her hair was splayed amongst the grass; the colour almost matched the deep red of the decaying roses.

If Kate had been alive, she would have been horrified at the minute forest life making a home within her crevices. Her cold, bloated body would have disgusted her. Always one to take pride in her appearance, her lips still had a smudge of Dangerous Red lipstick at the cupids bow.  Her false lashes were still intact, but a few of her nails snapped off in the struggle. She wore a new outfit for the date; pencil skirt, white silk blouse, jacket and new heels.  She knew he liked this look –  hetold her so.  Her flesh now bloated and bulged against the seams of her outfit. The left shoe was missing, the other hung loose on her foot.

As her body broke down into simpler matter, her flesh began to rupture. Her liquefying tissue was now making its slow journey out of her nose, mouth and other orifices.  She was slowly becoming part of the clearing, molecular death and rebirth. Her body was now a complex ecosystem, a host to bacteria. Her skin the perfect habitatfor a dedicated microbial community.

It was nearly a week before Martin convinced his new project to come to this spot. She wore a similar outfit at his request.  He came with a huge bouquet.  The roses were expensive but it was a small price to pay. This was too easy.  How desperate these women were.

He suggested a walk afterwards, but Tracy declined.  Something about her shoes not really being suitable.  He’d have to consider this in the future.  He told her he wanted to show her something, it wasn’t far, and it would be worth it.

An inkling of doubt entered Tracy’s mind, but she brushed it aside.  She needed to be more trusting, to embrace life, take chances.  She followed him through the foliage. A niggling voice told her she was a stupid girl, and she looked behind to be sure of the route they travelled.  When she turned again the area had opened up and he was looking at her.  He gestured for her to approach.

Tracy stood rigid with shock, her hand over her gaping mouth.  Martin found it hard to hide his heightened arousal and Tracey caught him smiling at Kate’s long limbs and bloated body. He was invigorated by the look of disgust and the flickering realisation in Tracy’s eyes as the epiphany of her future hit her. He smiled broadly as her eyes widened, revealing the milky white sclera. She trembled. He held his hand out to her.

If Kate could speak right now, she would scream at the girl to run.  To run as fast as she could, to scream as loud as she could, but Kate’s mouth was now choked with putrefying liquid and blowfly larvae. Her eyes saw nothing. Her once agile body was now just mush as her necrophagous inhabitants made short shrift of their habitat. The evidence of twenty-seven years of hard living reduced to very little in just days.

It wouldn’t have mattered if she could shout anyway.  Tracy was rigid with fear. Her brain frantically searched for reason, for solutions, for a way to flee.  She realised there was no obvious escape.  Her senses were heightened, and the gentle breeze felt icy cold against her skin. The moments ahead revealed to her like a succession of photograph stills, time captured and paused before moving to the next scene. Everything was clear – the veins in the leaves, the seeds from a dandelion head that floated between them, the pores on his face.  She could hear his heartbeat racing, could smell his anticipation. He was waiting for her to run.  He wanted her to run.

She reached her hand out to him and smiled.

The disappointment on his face was instantaneous.  His hand dropped to his side.  His heart quietened.

‘Truly beautiful.’ she said.


Photo by Aleksei Drakos.

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Aleksei Drakos

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