Iulian Ionescu | Daniele Murtas
Frank Waltz was an old man. He was old seven years ago when he had his first heart attack, he was old yesterday when a bathroom trip took thirty five minutes, and he felt a whole lot older today. He didn’t mind being old, save for the fact that the older he got the less people seemed to be interested in talking to him.
Was there even a point in complaining about being lonely? Frank gave up on self-pity a long time ago.
Just as every evening, he dragged his feet into the living room, sat in his chair, and turned the TV on, but left it on mute—he didn’t want to hear anyone, he just needed to see something move—faces, eyes, lips. Anything.
The only people who stopped by the house in the last few weeks were the food lady and the cleaning crew, but that was their job; they didn’t want to be there, he could tell. They avoided eye contact and barely spoke, as if he were already dead or something.
Ugh, The Food Network. Again. Frank sighed. If he could only get out of the house, stop by the old tavern and order a shepherd’s pie with a side of haggis…
The walls sighed suddenly; they do that sometimes. He was about to answer them when a sharp pain crossed through his stomach like a knife. He pushed his gut back, bent over, trying to stifle the pain.
Was it the hernia again? Or the twisted bowels? Or maybe the cancer had just returned to say hi? Either way, no need to call the doctor. What was he going to say? You’re old, you’re dying. Same crap.
He popped a painkiller and went to bed.
The pain continued throughout the following days, sharpening in the evenings. On Saturday night it was so strong, Frank took off his shirt and looked in the tall mirror on the back of the bathroom door.
That’s when he saw it.
An area at the bottom of his gut had turned translucent, so much so that he could see the veins and arteries, and the muscles that became semi-opaque. Underneath the muscle layer was a yellow, wrinkled surface. The stomach? Frank wondered.
He approached the mirror, looking at his own organs pulsate, and leaned forward—
Two eyes popped open on the yellow surface and blinked. Frank jerked backward and fell with a scream. He got back up, covered in sweat, and looked in the mirror again.
The eyes were there, inside his belly, staring at him between the blood vessels and the faded muscle tissue, a glint of carmine light sparkling in their irises.
He moved his gut with his hand and the eyes wiggled with it, twisting left and right, blinking nervously.
Frank waddled into the kitchen, panting. He grabbed the meat knife and sat on the floor, his gut like a sack over his thighs. From that position he could see the translucent portion of the stomach. The eyes were down there, gazing up at him with intensity.
He held the knife with shivering hands and put its tip in the middle of his gut. The red eyes blinked a few times fast.
Frank dropped the knife and burst into tears.
No matter what it was, there was no way he was going to kill the only thing that had the decency to look him in the eyes.