I just sat there, staring at her across the table. Something was wrong, I knew it. There was something off about her, something that just didn’t feel right.
It all started a few days ago. She had gone to sleep before me, as usual, turning in and crawling into the sheets on her side of the bed while I stayed up late, trying to finish the never-ending pile of work. But when I finally stood up, rubbed my eyes, and headed to the bedroom, something wasn’t the same. Something was different.
I barely noticed it, then. I saw her in the bed, curled up, and just felt uneasy. Sometimes, when a roach crawls on my skin, I just barely feel it, something wrong moving about on me. That’s the best way I can describe the feeling. Something about her wasn’t right.
That night, I was too tired to think much of it. I shrugged it off, crawled into bed beside her, and fell asleep without much issue.
But the feeling didn’t go away.
For the next few days, it just grew stronger and stronger, every time I looked at her. She wasn’t the same. Oh, she acted like nothing was wrong, smiled and joked with me, but sometimes, out of the corner of my eye, I thought that I could see her expression melt away into blankness.
I began staring at her, watching all of her little habits closely. The way she pushed back her hair – had she always done it like that? Did she always curl her finger around the strands as she tucked them up behind her ear? I couldn’t remember. But it wasn’t right. It was somehow off, different, a mocking imitation of what I remembered.
It crept into her speech, too. When I asked her a question, something about our history, our past, I could see it. For just an instant, she’d freeze before answering. She almost looked like she was thinking. Like she was recalling the answer.
But I could see that brief moment of total blankness in her eyes.
There was something in her head; I was sure of it, convinced of it. Something on her brain. Or in it, pulling all the strings to make her move like a marionette.
I began staring into her ears, into that hole of blackness. It’s such a big hole. Any number of things could crawl inside of there, could invade through those open gates.
We went to the doctor, under the guise of a yearly checkup. The doctor checked for brain tumors, at my request. He saw nothing. But I didn’t feel reassured.
See, it’s getting worse. Every time I talk to her, I see that moment of blankness. I’ve trained myself to spot it now, to see it whenever she tries to get near me. She says she just wants to comfort me, to hold me in her arms like we used to, but I don’t remember that. It, that thing inside her, can’t truly pretend to be her.
I know it’s inside her. When I look at her, I see a roach, a nasty little insect inside her brain, scuttling around and making her dance. I shudder, I look away, but I still see it inside of her in my mind’s eye.
I am positive it’s there.
Please, you have to believe me. I knew it was there, but I knew no one would believe me without proof. If I could just find it, could cut it out and hold it aloft in triumph as I crush it between my fingers, I would finally be able to rest again, to sleep.
It’s in here, somewhere. I had to cut in, to search for it. I know it’s here.
I was careful. I used plastic sheets, made sure that it had nowhere to escape. It must be in one of these pieces, hidden away like a roach.
It must be here.