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Not Red

Bonnie J Redding has seen a number of her how-to articles published in horse magazines, including several in The Chronicle of the Horse. While typically immersed in writing young adult fantasy of novel length, she takes breaks to write short pieces that emerge from a less-explored place.

Red: the hey-look-at-me color. Red is squirmy, breath-catching, unavoidable. It's the color of the roses the short-term boyfriends brought me.
Not red: the blue tattered sailors by the side of the road that my husband loved to pick for me.
I sit uneasily on a padded chaise lounge at Virginia Blood Services. Running through my mind is one of the forty questions the computer asked. "Are you on any medications?" No, I answered, truthfully. I'm free of them. I peer over at the bag of blood hanging below the chair. It looks like chocolate pudding, or more the color of raw liver. Not red.
Red: the color of the pill bottle I threw out three weeks ago.
Not red: the intelligent, warm brown eyes of the man I love.
Red: the door of the house we settled into after our marriage.
Not red: the closet door, tan and tightly shut.
Red: the tiny eyes I see at night, glowing red when the closet door is ajar. I'd always close it. He'd leave it open, unthinking, or maybe on purpose.
Not red: The men's clothes neatly hung on one side of the walk-in closet, as the sun streaks across the collared shirts when I open the door. I peek at the shadowed side, the side with the blouses and a white box half-hidden under a sweater. It contains a birthday cake. But the white box is ripped open and there's a gouge out of the cake. Did he find it? But he wouldn't... I back out and slam the door shut. I go out and buy a new cake to surprise him.
Red: The eyes, growing larger each night. Why is the door open? Why can't he tell it matters?
Not red: waking up sweating, not bearing to look toward the closet, clutching him. His gruff, "It's fine. Go to sleep."
Red: one red eye, peeking out, taunting me when I have to look.
Not red: The note on the pad by the coffee pot. "You won't get help. I have to leave."
Red: My eyes in a flush of tears.
Not red: The claw easing the closet door open. Did this thing eat the cake? It's one claw and it's grizzly-sized. There's no one to protect me....
Red: The huge gleaming eye above the claw.
Not red: my neighbor's pale face as she finds me, screaming and slashing the air with a knife. I follow her panicked eyes as they drop to my forearms, lacerated and dripping. She's shaking as her sweaty hand touches my shoulder. I drop the knife and she kicks it away. As she kneels to hold a sheet to my arm and fumbles for her phone, I look over her shoulder. It's gone. The police won't find it.
Red: the spatter on my pajamas; the pool on my sheets.
Not red: the bag of blood hanging from a pole by another bed.
Red: the Virginia Blood Services droplet logo on a tag dangling from the blood-bag.
Not red: the gray straps holding me down as I squirm, the white bandages wrapping my arms, the clear tape across the needle in the back of my hand.
Red: the eyes that narrow as they stare at the box without any more cake. I see them in my head. I struggle harder.
Not red: The nurse's uniform, covered in wildflowers. "Please stop it," I beg. The nurse injects something into the line. "More sedatives," she says. "The other meds will take longer to help. You'll be with us for a while."
"I don't want to go home," I say.
Red: In my drugged, half sleep I dream of two demon eyes in the hospital TV. One winks.
Not red: I awake. My husband sits beside me, a bandage across his forehead and his arm in a sling. He holds my hand. "I should have listened," he whispers. "I came back for you." His breathing is rapid and his brown eyes fog as he remembers. He grips my hand and groans, "The closet..."
Red: the lips of a nurse with a patronizing smile, reaching toward him with a cup. "Your meds, sir."
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Author Comments

The SciFi/Fantasy group at WriterHouse in Charlottesville, VA inspired "Not Red" by choosing red as the theme for a story. My bedroom closet door is always shut.

- Bonnie J Redding
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