Flash Fiction by Christina Rosso
I found the other wives in the bonehouse. An icy draft led me to the tunnel, the entrance camouflaged by the brick wall in my husband’s study, pavers the color of blood. My bare feet smacked the cool stone, in a hurry to discover what was at the end of the hallway, behind the door.
In fairy tales, the heroine doesn’t see the wolf until his jaw is cranked open, teeth ready to sink into her pink flesh. Often, curiosity is the string that moves her, the narrator manipulating her story as though she’s nothing more than a marionette. When I found the other wives, I knew I had never been in charge of my story; my husband—my narrator—had tricked me into thinking I was in control.
None of us were ever in control. We were always going to wind up in the bonehouse. Our husband seduced us with jewels and promises of love and happily ever after, the puppeteer manipulating his collection of dolls.
I was surprised there wasn’t a magical key stained by a slick pool of blood. I had heard the old wive’s tale about the man with a beard tinted blue who had a hunger for bridal flesh. Yet still, I entered the black tunnel, following the hallway to the charnel house door.
It scraped open, invisible claws shredding the stone floor. My mind turned to banshees, gutted ruins of women haunting those who wronged them. Were they ever in control? I wondered. Was I? Goosepimples licked my flesh, sending a shiver through my body. I stepped inside.
Dark sap slipped under my toes, creeping into the soft crevices of my feet. Metal stung my nostrils. I was originally from the North, where sap is drawn from trees for all sorts of treats. I would never forget the sticky sweet smell of that purple liquid.
I stepped back, leaving footprints that were as good as a bloody key to convict me. My husband would know my sin of curiosity, and he would punish me for it.
The door moaned, the room bathed in blackness. White stars glimmered ahead, begging me to find light in the darkness, a spell to slip away. I shook my head. There would be no salvation for me. For any of us.
My husband’s scent always entered the room before he did. Patchouli with a touch of ginger. He was perspiring in anticipation. I inhaled, preparing my body for his damage.
His hand grasped the back of my skull, gently, even sweetly, the way a mother does her babe. I gasped, breath flooding my throat. I would never get to be a mother, I realized. I would never hold my child in my arms. He would never let me have such beauty. Such joy. I tried to turn my neck to face my husband, even though we were in the dark. Will I still have arms after this? I wanted to ask. Will there be anything left of me?
His thumbs dug into my skull, pulling on the hair follicles clinging to my scalp.
His teeth found my ear and nibbled on the flesh before his tongue writhed, anxious to tell its tale. “Once upon a time,” he began, “there was a man and his curious little bride.”
Blood rushed to my head, my eardrums buzzing. The white stars brightened before fading. I didn’t need to hear his origin story or learn what excuses he’d shaped to justify murdering his wives for doing precisely what he wanted. I imagined a bookshelf on the nearest wall. On its shelves sat my husband’s collection of marionettes. Their limp limbs gleamed with life. Just below the surface, these women thrummed, volcanoes ready to explode.
I imagined them calling to me, their voices shrill and bitter and absolutely beautiful. The bonehouse sirens. We will disassemble him, they cried, limb by limb, ounce by ounce. Until there is nothing left. Will you join us?
My husband’s hand slipped to my neck. I mouthed, yes, before he snapped it, my neck limp and ready for its marionette strings.
Christina Rosso (she/her) is a writer and bookstore owner living outside of Philadelphia with her bearded husband and rescue pups. She is the author of CREOLE CONJURE (Maudlin House, 2021) and SHE IS A BEAST (APEP Publications, 2020). For more information, visit http://christina-rosso.com or find her on Twitter @Rosso_Christina.