This is an excerpt of a novella titled A Mindful Rendition I wrote almost fifteen years ago. It's fascinating to look back on, how it captures my dark state of mind back then. Odd. Hopeful in a strange way. Anyhow, thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter @subjectplusverb and check out my podcast, Joy Sandwich, now on Patreon!
It happened on a Thursday, a few minutes past two in the morning.
I remember an unfamiliar smell in the air, creeping into my nostrils, waking me up from a dream I had about homicidal unicorns.
Sitting up in my bed, I looked over at Charlene lying next to me. Her eyes were closed, so serene and angelic. Her skin somehow looked softer in the moonlight.
Do children of three interpret smells differently than children seven years older?
Her innocence, perchance, was a protective barrier against putridity, even in aromatics. I crept slowly out of bed so as to keep the bad man from stirring, tip-toed over to the door of our bedroom, and pulled it open slowly. As each inch progressed into a wider aperture between door frame and the door itself, the smell sharpened.
I placed my hand over my nose to muffle the stench and looked to my right at my parents’ open bedroom door.
They never keep the door open.
I shut our bedroom door behind me, making sure one more time that Charlene was still resting peacefully in her bed. Turning my head back in the direction of the odor, I noticed a light on in the kitchen. I couldn’t see inside the kitchen but the light cast a rectangle against the wall where the Judeo-Christian cross hung.
I stepped forward tentatively, but certain I had to find out what was going on, the light being on, the stench, the creeping sense of dismay. Each step toward the kitchen, the smell became worse. I stepped forward timidly, and in the last couple of feet before the open doorway into the kitchen, I stumbled forward, a rip of a Band-Aid on a scummy knee-scab.
My hand still muffling my face, I saw instantly what had caused my wake, my aromatic stir, the interruption to Horace the Murderous Unicorn.
It was my mother, knees pressed against her chest, naked, and skin a melting pile of hot, maroon, translucent grease against the glass pane of the open oven door. She had stuffed herself inside the oven, knob resolutely set to "Bake."
I dropped my hand from my mouth, as it longer no proved to be effective against the smell of burnt epidermis and hair. I stared in horror at what remained of my mother: a charred, dripping frame no longer holding the mind that had brought her there.
Thirty minutes later, the oven was empty. The coroners came and went, taking her away in an orange bag, zipped up like a thick rain coat.
Do they keep extra body bags at home for safe measure, just in case off-duty transforms rapidly into after hours labor because a slew of locals decide to die simultaneously for reasons entirely unrelated? Is there some sort of discount body disposal superstore where they could purchase, in bulk, body bags of various size and color for other melting, oven-fried corpses?
The wayward thinking helped me momentarily ignore the oozing body. Until the coroners slid her in, and sped off toward the next great tragedy. Their death mobile emitted puffy black shapes from the tail pipe, like miniature cumulonimbus formations saturated in gloom.
Turning the corner, the ambulance vanished and we were alone. My mother was gone.