Thicker than Blood - Mike Omer


Friday, October 14, 2016

Catherine always believed that her soul was weightless. It was a thing made of thoughts, and feelings, and beliefs—all bodiless, as light as sunshine. But the soul also contained a person’s secrets. And those turned heavier every day.

If she could carry the weight on her back, perhaps she could go on as usual. She imagined a sturdy backpack, like her uncle used to have, with buckles and padded shoulder straps. She’d put all of her secrets there and adjust the hip belt, spreading the weight uniformly.

Instead, her secrets chose where they lay. They’d settle around her neck one day, dragging her down, making her neck stoop. The next morning they’d crawl into her gut, and she’d constantly bend over with cramps, running to the bathroom every hour. Right now, the secrets lurked in her heart, squeezing it, until it felt like it would shatter, or simply stop.

She’d called in sick that morning, third time that week. Her dad was getting worried, and she circumvented his questions by mentioning “lady problems.” It was now late in the evening, and she sat in her living room. The television screen flickering in front of her as she tried to cry.

Her tears had forgotten their way out. They constantly filled her throat, making her voice brittle and whiny, but they hadn’t emerged in days. If she only managed to cry, it would be a release. Perhaps the weight of the secrets would become bearable. Her eyes remained dry. Her lips quivered, and that only made her feel childish and stupid.

Secrets were sticky. They could clog your tear ducts if you weren’t careful.

She toyed with her phone, as she had many times in the past weeks, opening her contact list, her dad the first one in her favorites. Appropriate, since he was her favorite. Her favorite parent, her favorite human, her favorite thing in the whole world. She could tell him the truth. The weight in her heart would dissipate into nothing. Her finger wavered over the screen. For a second she could almost feel the anticipated relief.

And then the images came. His hurt face. He wasn’t a young man anymore. He’d had a heart attack last year, which the doctors called a “near thing.” What would this do to him?

The imaginary relief morphed into thorny fear and guilt. She couldn’t.

She let out a raw, feral sob. Dry as dust, no tears.

A sudden knock on the door made her heart skip a beat. For a second she couldn’t fathom who it could possibly be. It was very late. Her friends or neighbors would text her before showing up on her doorstep, especially at this hour. Then she knew. It was her father. He was worried about her, wanted to see how she was doing.

He’d take one look at her face and know something serious was wrong. That if these were “lady problems,” they weren’t the kind that happened on a monthly basis. Would she be able to lie to him when he asked her? Not right now. Not this evening. She’d have to tell him everything.

Relief, fear, and guilt flooded her at once as she got up, stumbling to the door. She took a quick glance through the peephole.

“Oh,” she said in surprise. She knew this man, but he wasn’t her father.

She reached for the dead bolt, more out of confusion than intent, her mind foggy after a long day. As she did it, she felt the sudden wrongness. Her thoughts, scrambling in panic, tried to order her fingers to stop, that this door should remain shut. This man shouldn’t be here at all. And something shimmered in his eyes. Something dangerous and unstable.

But there was a moment of disconnect between her brain and her body. As if in slow motion, she turned the dead bolt knob, unlocking the door.

It shoved open, slamming into her face, a sudden blinding pain. She fell back to the floor, the entire right side of her face throbbing, her vision foggy. Tears sprang into her eyes, finally finding their way out. She tried to scream, to speak.

A hand clamped on her face, blocking her nose and mouth. She couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t make a sound. She struggled, and he hit her.

The world went blissfully dark.

Her eyelids fluttered open. Her mouth felt strange, woolly, and it took her a moment to realize something was stuffed in it. She lifted her hand to pull it out.


The command froze her.

“I need that there. I can’t have you screaming.”

Her eyes focused