We must do our duty [Short Fiction Contest 1/31/07]
Walter Cleery sat in his favorite chair in the darkness of his den watching the storm. The brilliant flashes of lightning were the only light in the room. He held his pipe in his hand, but he couldn't smoke it. He was depressed and thinking of Anne. Tonight was their anniversary and Anne always did the same thing. She gave him a wonderful gift and then took him upstairs to their bedroom. As the years passed, sex was something she pretended she only did for his benefit, her duty as his wife. Walter knew better. He missed it.
Walter placed the pipe in the ashtray at his elbow. The scented tobacco was her favorite. He wore the smoking jacket that she had given him. For some things nothing could ever change. Unfortunately, he couldn't change to match the current situation.
Through the open den door Walter saw light from the bedroom pooling at the bottom of the stairs.
This is a dream, he told himself. I want this to happen, so it is.
Thunder boomed, rattling the windows of the house. Walter suddenly felt cold. He wondered if he should go up to her as he was. Yet, he realized that lifetime habits are impossible to break. He rose from the chair.
We must do our duty he thought. We had no children, so I became her child. Anne spoiled and pampered him, told him what to do and when to do it. She was never thoughtless or allowed a job promotion or a birthday, or, especially, their anniversary to pass without celebrating it this way.
Walter struggled slowly to the stairs. He steadied himself against the banister before climbing. He wanted things to be as they once were; the two of them young and healthy. During those last days, Anne pretended that everything was going to be all right, that nothing could ever come between them. But it did.
He paused at the bedroom door and looked in. Anne reclined on the bed reading. He tried to speak, but nothing came out. Suddenly weak he slumped against the door jam.
Anne heard the sound and looked up. She saw Walter and stifled a scream. Walter's eye sockets were dark and sunken, his nose merely a hole in his face. The clothes he had been buried in were covered with graveyard mud and steadily dripped water onto the carpet.
"Happy Anniversary," He managed to mutter through rigid, green-fungus coated lips. Then his arm fell off.