This One Thing – Daniel Eastman

There’s a woman living in a box inside my skull. Chained, dead bolted, and padlocked, a box made of wood. Human skulls are bigger, vaster, than we are led to believe. Of course there’s the brain. Then there’s the dark expanse beyond the brain where the woman lives in the box and the box is swelling, gaining in size.

We’ve never spoken though I’ve heard her garbled screams like someone stuck underwater. I do my best to ignore it. What’s wrong, my wife asks and I tell her it’s nothing through a stoic mask. I am disciplined. I am distracted. The angrier I look and more rigid I stand the fewer questions get asked. She’s etching a tally into the walls of the box, counting days, and it’s like a buzz saw in my brain. I can’t live like this. I have a job where I’m respected. Normal. People look up to me. I have a marriage. Some nights it gets so I can’t even sleep. This is no life for anyone. Sure, I make a show of having it together and it could be true if I could just be rid of this one thing.

I wait. When I know it is still within the great dark hall of my skull. That’s when I break inside. Undetected through the barren arroyos of my brain. I don’t need a light. I know the way. This is my place. I built it. I see the box a mile out, pulsating, defying the mechanics of ordinary wood. I come to the door with its myriad locks and trim sealed with caulk. Silence. She doesn’t know I’m here yet. I peel back slabs of wood with a crowbar. The wood whines with each pull of the metal tooth. Then I see her. She’s standing there in the box looking at me like I’m a savior. I tell myself to not ask questions. None of this why are you here, what’s the meaning of this. No. Commit to the act. I drag her out by the wrist. Deep voice. Gravel. I said let’s go. She whimpers and pulls back but I am stronger. Splinters of the shriveled up wood lay dead on the invisible floor.

At the foot of the river I toss her in. So fragile. Under moonlight there’s a familiarity about her I’ve only seen in dreams. I hold her deeper beneath the blackness of the rolling water under cover of gnarled branches away from moonlight. My sleeves rolled, she grips my forearms digging in her fingernails until my wrists run red alternately swiping at my face trying to take it off. Her feet thrash uselessly. There’d been a lot of rain and the water takes her before I do. My hands slip, losing her. When the eddies pull her out to the main current she’s nothing but the image of a body dissolving away in the night.

Man make use of his tools. I build a box in the dark. I am hollowed out. Parietal fracture. Metal hits the muck with a wet thud and I collapse on the river’s edge letting the water lap at my blood.