When I Turn

She did her best, but she was young. When her father sighed, she kissed his eyes and placed a wet towel on his forehead, felt the heat of his skin as she touched his restraints. He’d told her what to do, before the fever made it so he couldn’t speak; once he was dead, she was to ensure he stayed that way. No physical contact.

The sun sank in the sky, and the light that colored the workshop’s interior began to change. Now the room was white, and the father’s sweat sparkled. Now the room was yellow, and his mouth made soft sucking sounds. Now the room was orange, and his brow coiled like a viper. Now the room was red, his skin dry and loose, and he stopped making noise.

She knew he was dead, and it made her cry. Her hand drifted toward his workbench ghost-like, past the tin-snips and vicegrips, hovering over the little ball-peen hammer. She’d watched him knock the dents out of the old station wagon’s roof with it. Her fingers curled around its thin wooden handle. The redness of the room frightened her.

In the prolonged silence, the sudden sound of movement made her gasp; the hammer slipped and clattered on the poured concrete floor. She gazed at the table where her father lay, saw his still body begin to wriggle. His eyes never shut, never blinked, and his hands pulled at the restraints. They held, but he kept pulling. She edged nearer to the table.

His eyes locked onto her, and his mouth gaped into a dessicated rictus of teeth and tongue. She knelt to pick up the hammer and stood above his face, biting her lip. He tilted back on his head and reached for her with his eyes, with his teeth. She screamed, and brought the hammer down on his forehead as hard as she could like he’d told her to. The sound was an egg cracking inside the carton. Her father’s face was red.

She placed the hammer on the table and wiped a sniffle from her nose. Leaning over him and placing a hand on his cheek, she whispered something sweetly about how he’d be alright now, and how he was with Mom. She stroked the flesh of his face, felt it like sackcloth under her fingers.

The smell of her stimulated him and he gnashed his teeth, catching the skin of her finger and tearing. She screamed and ripped herself from his mouth, but his teeth wanted more. Grabbing the hammer from the table, she brought it down again and again until she didn’t see her father’s face anymore; all she saw was red.

Backing away from the table, she ran to the utility drawer and found the bungee cord she’d seen him use to strap down the generator when there’d still been fuel for the thing. She coiled it around her thumb, just below the knuckle, until the nail turned red. Then she reached for the tin-snips.

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