I had the privilege and pleasure of collaborating with fellow author Octavius Blackburn on this desperate tale of a husband’s efforts to leave his family, and the shocking repercussions of his actions.

Read the full story below, or check out the atmospheric audio dramatisation, courtesy of Octavius and the ever-brilliant Mai Kil.

Part 1

Octavius Blackburn

Healing means forgetting. It means purging the past, starting anew, reinventing oneself. With the beginning of each new chapter in one’s life, we must adapt, evolve, and allow yesterday’s skin to disintegrate into microscopic particles, or risk irrelevance. We do this whenever we start a new career, or when we go from living the single life to a married one, or what for me was the biggest chapter—when we have children.
       But no dream lasts forever. Eventually, we are all forced to wake up and deal with reality, the gravity, the tragedy of a situation. Enter the aftermath, which I deal with by boxing up all of those smiles captured in a moment of time—haunting reminders of fun-filled camping trips and beach vacations, visits to water parks and the zoo. I don’t have the heart to discard them by mixing them with the rotten food and plastic bottles in the trash, so I stack them up in boxes and I dig, because I prefer these moments to be buried rather than burned. Next, I pack up all the toys and clothes and place them in the bed of my pickup, leaving behind her favorites, which comfort her while she sleeps. Then I drive to the first church I find, where I unload the boxes and leave them outside the main entrance. I take solace in knowing that other children will enjoy her possessions as she did. It’s my good deed, my way of putting positive energy back into the world. But what is most important is that they are out of my sight and out of mind, allowing me to forge ahead with the cleansing.
       While I’m out on the town, I make two stops. First, I stop at a department store, where I purchase a two-piece suit, a dress shirt, new underwear, socks and shoes to match. I wear the new clothing out of the store and dump my old clothes into the waste bin on my way out. New clothes make a new man, because there are no memories attached to these threads. And after I trade in my truck at a dealership for a brand-new sedan, I’m surrounded by nothing but fresh beginnings. There’s only one thing left for me to do. I must remove every trace of her. Every article of clothing, the makeup, the jewelry, her electric piano, where she spent hours practicing the classics: Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin—they were her best friends in life. Not me. Not her husband.
       I go back to the place we called home for the last eight years and head straight for the kitchen stove. I turn on the gas burners, all five of them, and allow that sweet pungent smell to fill the room. Then, I take my leave of the place I’ve called home for nearly a decade, knowing that the refrigerator’s compressor will trigger the final stage of the purge. All of her energy will dissolve here, into the ether, along with the possessions from my past. As I drive away, I don’t even risk a glance in the rear-view. What’s gone is gone. What is done is done. I leave the past to burn into smoldering ash and keep my eyes trained on the road ahead. Because the future is now, and it’s time to reinvent myself once again.


Part 2

Gavin Gardiner

Healing means forgetting. It means purging the past, starting anew, reinventing oneself.
       That’s what the son of a bitch had whispered in my ear as he’d throttled the life from me.
       From his wife.
       I remember awakening to a darkness devoid of everything except the smell of gas, and with my first inhalation I understood exactly what was happening. It all came rushing back: the sudden slam of something heavy over my head (the marble chopping board?), being dragged towards my daughter’s bedroom (why’s she so quiet?), and finally seeing my husband’s true handiwork.
       Elisa, my sweet Elisa. Draped backwards over her soft toys with her severed throat yawning wide open in a big, bloody, sleepy smile.
       Yes, just a smile.
       That was when he began his damned ‘healing means forgetting’ spiel as his hands closed around my throat. There’s only so much a human mind can process in such a short space of time; in no longer than thirty seconds, the father of my daughter had pummeled me over the head, dragged me like a bag of coal, and began crushing my windpipe.
       My daughter. There had been that, too. The smile. That big, yawning—
       Probably shouldn’t think about that right now.
       Anyway, I was frozen into inaction by this chain of events, and the pink wallpaper eventually faded to black.
       As I told you, I remember awakening to that sweet sensory cocktail of utter darkness and the smell of gas. That inaction from before I passed out melted in an instant, leaving in its wake a resolve I never knew I had. I guess it had always been there, slumbering, waiting for that moment, the moment when I would piece together like a jigsaw all the warning signs of the past year—all the strange behavior, all those long nights with half the bed left vacant.
       Was it another woman? A hunger for freedom? A desire for a fresh start? It didn’t matter. Whatever was driving my husband, he’d chosen to turn our little life upside down, shake the shit out of it, and make his wife and child disappear. Simple, just like Elisa’s Etch A Sketch.
       My assessment of the situation had yielded one single, solitary command: get your daughter and get out.
       The command made sense. The smell was a gaseous time-bomb, this I knew. This Etch A Sketch required one final shake, and it was not one Elisa and I wanted to be caught up in.
       I struggled to my feet and groped across the darkened room, the floor seemingly tilting and shifting under my weight. My zigzag ended when my hands met the fur of Rupert, then the trunk of Babar the Elephant, followed by the mechanical eyes of a Furby, and finally the gaping open throat of my only child.
       I actually poked about the bloody mush for a while, can you believe that? Yes, I really thought my hands had found one of Elisa’s usual spilled glasses of milk (always so clumsy, my little girl!), but my investigation had proven the reality to be, indeed, my daughter slaughtered like a fucking pig.
       Okay, so that’s when I carefully raised her up in my arms. How was I to know her head would topple backwards and hang by what seemed to be a single ligament? I dropped it, that abomination that used to be my Elisa. I dropped it like a dead dog, because my daughter was gone. She wasn’t inside that cold slab of festering meat. No, Elisa was out there somewhere patiently waiting for me, trembling with excitement at the prospect of being taken to the playground for a go on the swings, that grin of hers spread wide—that big, bloody grin, yawning her throat wide open, so very wide…
       Best not think about that right now. No, there are more important things to consider. We must discuss what should be done with you.
       What should be done with you, darling?
       I still remember the heat of the blast as our family home went up in flames behind me. The fury of that fire, of my daughter’s burning carcass, was my fuel in finding you. It took time and patience, but patience is one thing my friends taught me throughout my years of neglect at the hands of an unloving husband. Chopin showed me the power of perseverance, Mozart the strength of will, and Beethoven the resolve that may remain once a part of you has been lost. Through hours, weeks, months, and years perched over my cheap electric piano decoding their music, I learned all the skills I’d need to find you, and find you I have.
       So I say again, what should be done with you?
       Ah, yes. I must heal you.
       You see, healing means forgetting. It means purging the past, starting anew, reinventing oneself. As you lie there broken, crippled, hanging onto life by a thread, allow me to reinvent you as you reinvented our sweet Elisa. She had no one to comfort her as you opened that big, bloody, yawning smile in her throat. But you’ll have me. Yes, I’ll comfort you through your dying breath. Just lay back, try to relax, and listen to my words as I heal you.
       As I reinvent you.

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