Punishments. Short Story.

Grace sank back into her pillows and dabbed at her mouth with some tissue. At least the vomiting was over for a little while. The bucket was half filled with the thick, gelatinous mass and the room stunk of it. Her mother wouldn’t be back to clean it out for another hour or so. Grace was used to the stench by now, sour and strangely sweet, mixed with the heady scent of the flowers her mother filled the room with. The idea behind the flowers was to mask the smell, stop it from spreading through the rest of the house, but it was a pointless idea. Her mother left the buckets and only cleaned them once a day, maybe twice if she was particularly fed up with the smell. Apart from that Grace only saw her mother when she brought breakfast and dinner. Lunch was pointless as Grace was usually picking at her breakfast until then. The nurse usually came around the time that her mother emptied the bucket and the nurse would help her use the bathroom. Her mother was adamant that she wouldn’t do that. It had been a struggle for the nurse to convince her mother to empty the vomit bucket. The nurse would strip the bed of the soiled sheets and replace them with fresh ones. Grace didn’t like the sheets that were used, they were plastic and sticky, she missed fresh cotton sheets, soft against her delicate skin. The nurse would clean her up, usually by hosing her down in the bath, then she would be dried and put back to bed. There were new beds out, ones that would dispose of the waste, but her mother refused to buy one, always saying that there was no point, as Grace would only get a few months use of it.

Grace had books and television to keep her company during the day. The visits from the nurse were a nice break, but the nurse was always a bit distant. Friendly enough but never all that forthcoming with conversation. Grace understood. The nurse was run off her feet, travelling around and looking after people like her. It was so much to do, besides that, people with the disease usually didn’t live too long, so it was probably easier on the nurse if she wasn’t attached. Grace still didn’t know the nurses name. Her mother knew, but her mother wouldn’t tell her. Her mother barely talked to her these days, and Grace was happy about that.

When she first got the sickness her mother ranted and raved, screamed about how it was her punishment, how she went against God. Grace had long since given up trying to explain, her mother didn’t want to listen, didn’t want to know. Her mother had blamed her once she heard of the attack and wouldn’t listen to what anyone else said. So Grace just stayed silent. It didn’t bother her too much now. It did before, when she still believed in god, but the night of the attack she realised that there was no god. If there was how could he let such things happen to someone who always tried their best to be kind and courteous, to follow the words of the bible. She had done nothing to warrant a punishment, she didn’t deserve the sickness, she didn’t deserve to die in her own filth, but that was going to happen, whether or not she deserved it.

She had been on her way home when she was attacked. Grace still didn’t know why she had been singled out. Two men had grabbed her and dragged her into the alley before she even had a chance to scream. They beat her, she didn’t remember that bit. The bruises had lasted for weeks, the broken bones for months. At some point she felt something sharp in her hand, she didn’t remember what she did, but Grace remembered the warm flood of blood that washed over her. She remembered the screams. Someone found her not long after. Covered in blood, both men were dead. The police all agreed she had been extremely lucky to survive the beating, and lucky that they had only managed to make it that far. The men were known to the system, recently released and with records of violent and sexual crimes. Her mother didn’t believe Grace. Her mother had painted her own picture of what happened. Her daughter, dressed proactively, flirting and drinking with men, leading them on and bringing them to the alleyway. Grace had always tuned out at that point, covering her ears and yelling so she wouldn’t have to hear the vile stories her mother had created.

They were both infected, still in the early stages. She caught it through the blood that splashed into her eyes and mouth. There was no treatment. Infection meant death. The only variable was how long it would take. Some people could live for years before finally succumbing, others only months. Grace had it for seven months now, the doctors expected she would only live for one or two more.

The only satisfaction that Grace could find in the last few months was the knowledge that, should god be real, should he be just, then her mother was going straight to hell. When she was a child she had those thoughts occasionally, always fleeting and always leaving her feeling horrified that she could think such things. But now she could see her mother as she really was, a cold, cruel woman who wielded religion and god as a weapon, as a means to dominate and subjugate those around her. There could be no arguments made, no speeches given. Her mother was right, her mother was righteous and anyone that disagreed with her was going against the very word of god and god would punish them. Sometimes at night her mother would sit outside her door and whisper, whisper the things that god was punishing her for. Grace wasn’t worried, now that she could see her woman for what she really was.

Grace smiled. It was time. She knew she did not have long left in the world. Her mother would be in soon to change the bucket. She would only have one chance and if Grace failed, her mother would most likely kill her.

Her mother didn’t look at Grace. She bent over and picked up the bucket. Grace took a deep breath and on the exhale she slit her wrist, as her mother looked up Grace flung her arm outward, splattering her mother in blood. Her mother dropped the bucket, it tipped over sending the black vomit over the floor and her mothers trousers. Her mother started screaming. Grace allowed herself to relax into her pillows. The cut was deep and blood was draining quickly. There was no need to splash more of it onto her mother, she had seen it get into her eyes, her mouth. As darkness closed in Grace welcomed it with a smile. Grace didn’t know if god existed and now it didn’t matter. No matter what happened now, her mother would be punished.

About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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