The Corpse by Vrinda Lavakare Mathur

Nilima Kumar was a good woman. She had been raised to be one. Raised to care and love unconditionally. To do as was told without any questions. She awoke, one bleak Wednesday before dawn, to a sour and bitter smell. It came from her unmoving husband and had spread itself across their sheets. The scent of beer and stale chips was recognizable, but there was something else in the air that morning. A new unidentifiable scent. It lingered in the air for a moment too long, as she stared at her husband’s clothes littered across the floor. She silently crept out of bed and picked up his clothes. She made a note to wash their sheets that day, adding another task to her unending “to do” list. 

Wednesday was like every other day. She bathed in silence, put away the dishes from the night before, cooked lunch for 2 and breakfast for 1. She wiped down the counters, filled water for her husband’s bath, ironed his clothes, made sure he carried all his files and watched him leave without a goodbye, his silver car pulling out of their driveway. They owned a bungalow, in a part of town that was once considered posh and now, obsolete. It belonged to his parents. Their photograph hung in the corridor with a wreath of plastic flowers around them, watching over Nilima. Ensuring marital peace, and good behaviour on her part and guaranteeing nothing on their son’s. 

As she picked up her cup of tea, she noticed the smell again. This time stronger, more identifiable. The putrid fumes of something dying clung to the air. She turned her nose upwards, putting the un-sipped tea back down. She couldn’t understand where it came 

from. The vile odour surrounded her and eluded her at once. She began her search. Scoured the fruit bowl for signs of decay. Nothing. Crawled on her hands and knees in search of rat traps near table legs. Nothing. Shined light in the hollow of musty cabinets. Nothing, nothing and nothing. She emptied the non-existent garbage, washed the sheets, bathed herself with eucalyptus oil, and lit a fruity candle. And the smell only got stronger, till it was everywhere. Inescapable and blinding. 

She stepped out of the house, trying to escape the scent that was driving her to insanity. Strangely, she noticed that the smell was stronger in the garden that was overflowing with sickeningly sweet roses in full bloom. She took a step further, and noticed the door of the garage was left ajar. The garage that only her husband ever used, was usually left locked and yet today... It reeked of rot. She walked towards it cautiously, the stench unfurling around her. She opened the iron doors of the garage. Heard the flies first and then on switching on the dull yellow lamp saw the sickly white form of a body. 

It was the body of a woman. She was sure of it. Something about its shape; the curves that seemed all too accommodating. She inched closer, unable to turn away. The body’s face was turned away from her exposing a back covered in glistening sticky blisters. A tight knot formed in her stomach. She had to see her face. She felt compelled to know who this woman was. What she looked like. Where he had met her. She had to. So, she slowly turned the woman’s lifeless face towards her. A scream ripped at her throat as she saw the gaping mouth that must still hold the woman’s stifled screams. She knew her. Had seen that face every morning in the mirror for fourteen years. She backed away, horrified. She had to get away. And before she knew it, she was running. Barefoot with hot tears streaming down her face. Fear had taken over entirely. All she could do was run. Past the whitewashed walls of her suburban haven that held smiling families. And past their garages that reeked of compromise and disappointment and death. 

Published in Issue #25

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