February 15, 2013 Fiction












Margrét Helgadóttir


A tall teenage boy sat on the floor with his back against the wall. He tapped his long fingers rhythmically against his thighs, lost in his own world. Unni sat down next to him and looked around. The waiting-room was crowded. People sat crammed together on a couch. It squeaked every time someone moved. The table in the middle of the room was hidden under piles of newspapers and worn glossy magazines.


It was early afternoon, but it was already dark outside. Thick snowflakes drifted in the air in all directions. The lights from passing cars were reflected in the window glass.


A radiator blasted out massive waves of dry heat. Unni wiped sweat from her forehead and opened the buttons on her faux leopard fur coat. A pale girl on the couch watched her. When Unni smiled politely to her, she smiled shyly back before she ducked her head and scrutinized her pink fingernails. Unni studied her own fingernails and moaned softly. They were torn, bitten and without nail varnish. She’d scrubbed every inch of her body after the night before, but she’d missed the dirt under the thumb nails. She leaned her back against the wall and sighed.


The door on the opposite side of the room opened with a bang. A tearful girl with blond curls burst in and hurried through the waiting-room not looking at anybody. Unni wondered what had caused the tears. She heard high heels click clack as the girl went down the hard concrete stairs in the hall. In the distance a door slammed.


All eyes were cast upon the middle-aged man in the doorway. He scanned the room with bloodshot eyes. His bloated fingers slowly twisted the ends of his moustache. The office behind him was dark. Unni shivered and huddled deeper into her coat. Her hand searched in her pocket. It was still there. She exhaled, comforted.


When he noticed her on the floor, he looked surprised for a moment, but then he grinned. The cold eyes in the smiling face made a frightening contrast. Unni took a shallow breath, then another deeper one, calming herself. The man nodded to the pale girl on the couch who blushed and rushed to him. His eyes lingered on Unni a moment longer before he shut the door. Soon she heard their muffled voices from behind the door. The pale girl laughed in a high pitch tone. Unni let out a sigh, relieved he had not spoken to her.


The hours passed. The waiting-room slowly emptied of people. They went into the dark office one by one and came out tearful or angry. At one point a new girl entered the room from outside. Her cheeks were red from the cold. All eyes were on her as she took off her wool cap and gloves and picked up a newspaper from the table. When she noticed it was out of date, she put it back and then stared into the air, her eyes blank. The others went back to their own thoughts.


At last Unni was the only person left in the waiting-room. The teenage boy had stomped out of the office with tears in his eyes. The new girl was in there now. Unni heard their voices faintly. Stretching her stiff body, she got up and went over to the windows. The snow was falling thicker. Behind her the office door opened. When Unni looked down at the street, she could see the new girl walking quickly out of the building and around the corner.


The waiting-room was quiet. The office door was open. In the distance she heard sirens from an emergency vehicle. Reflected in the window, her dark eyes stared back at her. The pupils were huge. They would soon consume all of her eyes.


Not yet.


She straightened her shoulders, turned and walked to the office door. At first she was blinded by the darkness inside. The lights in the waiting-room glared behind her. When her eyes adjusted to the dark, she saw that the heavy curtains were drawn, blocking out the lights from the streets outside. A small lamp on the desk was the only light in the room. The door closed behind her. Unni turned quickly. The middle-aged man stood with his hand still on the door knob, studying her.


Hello. What a pleasant surprise,” he said as he locked the door, put the key in his jeans pocket and walked slowly towards her. Her feet were glued to the floor. As he neared, the bittersweet smells from his body caught in her nose. He smelled of urine, tobacco, peppermints, old unwashed clothes and whiskey. She felt herself becoming nauseated.


He reached out as if to grab her. Unni cringed and he lowered his arm. “Would you like to take off that coat? You must be overheated,” he said, careful. She shook her head. “Okay. Suit yourself.” He sighed and gestured for her to sit on the couch. Unni shook her head again. He sighed again, heavily, and moved around the room, searching through some papers on his desk, opening a drawer under the table and closing it. She never let him out of her sight. He poured himself some whiskey and offered her a glass. She shook her head once more.


At last he stopped pacing and just looked at her for a long moment, clutching the whiskey glass. The door was behind him. The key was in his pocket. She fought the panic threatening to consume her and concentrated on keeping her breathing calm. Her blood rushed and she turned warm, then cold, then warm, as if her body couldn’t decide what it wanted. Anger ran down her spine and she shuddered.


Wait. Be strong.


What do you want?” he finally asked. “Why are you here?”


She didn’t answer. Moving restlessly, the man glanced down at his desk. A gun lay amongst the piles of paper. The metal glinted in the lamp light. Unni believed it was a pistol. He must have taken it out of the drawer. An image of him waving the gun in the air, screaming that he’d been threatened by a patient popped into her mind. The memory was crystal clear, as if it had happened yesterday and not many months before. She’d been terrified. A low growl escaped her. He swirled around.


What was that noise?” he asked. “Good Lord! Was it you?”


Unni didn’t answer, just took off her coat and put it down on the couch, then sat down next to it, smiling up at him. When she didn’t say anything or make any moves, he sat down on the other end of the couch. His grubby jeans were strained to their limits. The swollen stomach stood out under his white cashmere sweater. He emptied the glass and put it down on the dirty table.


The house was silent. At this hour, she knew, all the offices would be empty. It was at this hour he usually had asked her to come. When there were no people in the house, no patients waiting outside the office. In the beginning she was so happy about it, she remembered. She felt special. She never questioned it. It was different now. The thought that they were alone in the house made her stomach sink.


Be strong. Remember.


The urge to run out the door was overwhelming. Unni bit her tongue.


Why?” she said.

What do you mean?” He smiled a little. It made her furious.

Why did you pick me?” She spat the words out. “Why?”


I don’t know what you mean.” He shook his head slowly and cast a glance to the desk. He would have to get up and walk a few steps to get his gun, Unni reflected. She doubted he would be quicker than her. She was not the same girl anymore. But he didn’t know that. She smiled inside.


You know perfectly well what I mean. But don’t worry. I’ll help you remember.” She took up a huge kitchen knife from the inner pocket of her coat. His eyes widened. “Have you gone mad?” he shouted and stumbled to his feet.


Rushing forward, Unni pushed him to the floor. They tumbled. She was taller than he, but he was much stronger.


Do what you’ve trained to do, stupid!


Unni finally managed to get the knife blade against his throat. The man stiffened. His blood trickled. She sat down on his chest and leaned forward.


Do not doubt that I’ll use it!” she screamed into his face. He winced. “I’ll cut your throat open if you don’t lay still! Understand?” She pushed the blade further into his skin. He gurgled and made a nodding movement.


She reached for her coat and the tiny bottle she had hidden in her left pocket, popped the lid open with her right hand. She pointed at the label with the little skull and crossbones and his eyes widened. “Open your mouth,” she commanded. He pressed his lips together. They seemed tiny under the massive moustache.


Unni pressed the blade even further into his skin. The blood ran in a steady stream now. Demanding urges pressed inside her. She would have to run in the woods again tonight, she reflected.


Finally the man opened his mouth and the liquid trickled in. He gagged at the bitter taste. She held his lips together and did not loosen her grip until he had swallowed. His legs twitched behind her. Calm, she stared down at him. When his eyes blazed, she removed the knife and grabbed his shoulders, forcing him down when he tried to get up.


Why?” He struggled to get the word out. His eyes burned with questions. She studied him. The blood was forming small pools on both sides of his neck. The white cashmere sweater was no longer white.


I want to save the other girls from you.” she finally said. “All those damaged girls that are desperate to get help, and then they meet you.” She glared at him with contempt. He lay still now, staring up at her, confusion in his eyes. It made her angry.


You’re supposed to help them, not destroy them.” she shouted and swept tears from her cheeks, angrily. “You ruined my life, don’t you see?” Her sobs were loud now and her body shook. He tried to raise an arm, but she grabbed the knife and put it back under his chin. He became still.


Sorry.” She barely heard his whisper through her sobs. He breathed in a loud rattle now. “I don’t understand. But I’m sorry.” Unni studied him. He’d closed his eyes. She bent over and put her mouth next to his ear. Then she whispered into it. About the nightmares and panic attacks that had led her to him the first time. How all she wanted was someone to talk to that would make the frightening images go away. How she had woken in the woods thinking she’d gone crazy.


I thought they would come and get me and lock me inside an asylum, like they do in the horror stories,” she whispered. “That they would never let me out.” She shuddered. “I didn’t know what was happening to me. But then I met you.”


He’d listened to her, believed her. She trusted him. He was the first thing she had thought of when she woke in the morning and the last thing she thought of before going to sleep in the evening. She happily offered him her body in gratitude.


I thought I was a monster,” she whispered into his ear. “But it was you! You were the monster. Not me.” She could hardly hear him breathing now. His lips had turned blue.




Unni stretched her fingers. The tips itched. Massive pains swept through her body. When they ceased, she leaned forward baring her sharp teeth. “Look at me,” she commanded. “Look!” The man didn’t move. “Look at me!” Her voice was low and gravelly now. He opened his eyes. When he saw what she had become, he tried to scream. He opened his mouth, but only a low gurgling noise came out. His eyes rolled.


Yes.” Unni nodded to herself. “Turns out I’m a monster after all, huh.” The tail glided along his body as she stood up. “You see. I’ve had a horrible time after I left you. When the police showed up at my door and I realized it was you who’d called them, I knew you’d betrayed me. That you thought I was crazy. That you didn’t believe me.”


She bent down and took the door key from his pocket. It was easily done with her long nails. He’d closed his eyes again.


I escaped from the hospital, of course. No doors can keep me inside when I look like this. I become strong, you see. I hid in the woods for months.” She paused. “But then the strangest thing happened. When I accepted that I was a monster, I saw things very clearly. I realized that you were only using me, like you use other girls.” She growled.


I could have killed you with my teeth, you know. Those months I hid in the woods, freezing and hungry, all I could think of was that I wanted to tear you apart.” She glared down at the man. His swollen fingers twitched. “But it would have been too easy. And you would have won. You are the monster, not me.”


Unni took up the knife and her coat. She would throw them in the fire in the boiler room. She stood watching him, waiting for him to die. It didn’t take long. When the final rattle came, she turned off the lamp on the desk, opened the door and left the room, leaving the door wide open. Lingering in the waiting-room, she glanced around. It had stopped snowing outside. She saw her reflection in the window. Her pointy ears seemed huge in the sharp light from the ceiling lamps. A giggle forced itself out. She went out into the hall. Her loud laugh echoed as she walked down the stairs.

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  1. Rosie Kightly Stoker February 18, at 00:03

    @ Winter By The Canal: So sad. A lovely story. You can see the time pass in just a few paragraphs.


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