Here is my entry for the semi-finals of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge.
I had 48-hours to write a 1,000 word story based on these prompts:
An Unlikely Sanctuary
By Donna-Louise Bishop
(Brief Synopsis: A forgotten hospital shower, tucked away in an old dermatology office, is an unlikely sanctuary for Eve. Can she delay the inevitable and keep using it in secret, or has her time run out?)
Eve had always been a shower person. The way the water kissed her skin as it ran down her body made her feel awake and alive.
She liked the idea of washing the day’s affairs away to feel refreshed enough to face the world again. It was much better than sitting in a bath full of your own filth.
As she reached for the soap, she inhaled the steam’s warm vapour into her chest. The smell was something between that of a newborn baby and antibacterial spray. For a moment she allowed herself to be comforted.
She knew her time was up though. The rattling of the door handle had become more frantic. Now they were just waiting in the corridor for her to come out.
She so wanted to cherish these last moments.
* * *
Eve had stumbled upon this place by accident a few months ago and it had since become something of a sanctuary.
Hidden away in the corner of the hospital, she assumed this room had been used as a type of dermatology office at one point. The photos on the wall showed gut-churning images of deformed moles and nasty skin conditions. The shower facilities had been a special find.
She hadn’t intended on snooping around. In fact she had originally dived into the hospital to escape a torrential November downpour, but it had really been the sights and sounds that had lured her in.
It was surprisingly easy to blend in at a hospital; so many people coming and going at all hours of the day and night. At first she was nervous about wandering around in case she looked like a stranger without a purpose. She even made up a story about visiting a sick relative in case security stopped her to ask why she kept coming back. Desperate times had indeed called for desperate measures.
Getting clothes cleaned was the easy part. Her home, an old battered Ford, was parked in a fairly secluded place near to a laundrette. The hard part was being able to wash herself. Although the car had all the amenities required to sleep and eat, it lacked an essential part of life that too many take for granted – plumbing.
One quiet Sunday afternoon, Eve’s curiosity-balloon popped. Most of the visitors had gone home but the smell of a canteen roast dinner was fresh in the air, and outside snow had begun to fall
It was out of both boredom and a necessity to wash that she found the office. She didn’t even attempt to hold back the tears when she saw the little shower inside.
Feeling like Mary Lennox discovering the secret garden for the first time, she timidly opened the door to check no one was around to catch her.
There was just enough daylight left outside for her to take in the contents of the room. In its centre was a large, dark green leather examination chair. From its arm to the floor ran a single strand of spider’s web, dulled by a covering of dust. It was the first clue that the room was not used anymore.
To the left of the chair were a number of mostly empty shelves. On one rested a framed photograph of a couple pulling funny faces at each other with the Statue of Liberty in the background. Next to their silly grins sat an empty beer bottle with the label peeled off and a dead, dried rose sticking out the top of its neck. Eve imagined it was a memento from a special night they had enjoyed together.
For the first time in a long time she allowed herself to think about George.
Despite being married, she had always been shy around him, especially when she was naked. After making love, George would tap his wedding band against her fingernail just to distract her from getting self-conscious. The sensation would put her teeth on edge, but none-the-less, it worked.
After a while the monogamy became dull for George. He wanted dalliances with other women.
“I’m a sexual being. I need to feel the rush of behaving in a totally new and shameless way. You knew that when you married me.”
“You told me I was enough for you.”
“You’ve got to admit, promiscuity is a bit of a turn-on. I know a friend who sets up the guest lists for pleasure parties.”
“You want to have sex with other people?”
“Come on Eve, don’t sound so wounded. It might be fun. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to add a bit of spice to a marriage right?”
Wrong. He was so wrong.
Two months later George had moved on. Eve caught him fucking some red-head against their new kitchen table. Already gripped in the early stages of depression, Eve walked out of her home, slid behind the wheel of her car and drove away, never once looking back.
* * *
She longed for human contact. As she moved the soap over her breasts she felt a carnal rush of excitement boil in the depths of her stomach, heating her crimson cheeks. But her time had run out.
Someone had spied her entering the office and security had been called. Now they yelled at her to hurry up. She knew she would be banned from the hospital indefinitely. Reluctantly she turned the shower off and allowed the stale, damp air to seep into the cubicle.
Her eyes looked to the framed photo of the couple on the shelf. Holding its gaze, she walked to her clothes and pulled them over her wet skin.
“That could have been us George. That could have been us.”
She grabbed the frame and smashed its glass with her elbow, ignoring the fat, hot tear running down her face. The clear shard ran deep and up into her wrist.
Eve looked around the office one final time and smiled as she watched the last drops of water fall rhythmically from the shower head.