• The Corpse

    by Eugenia Wang

    There was a corpse on the floor of my living room. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, and at that time in my life I lacked that certain necessary vitality motivating me to care about the body rotting, and so I left it there to spoil in the damp carpet beneath my living-room couch. It smelled like my various leftover food items spilled and similarly abandoned- that is, it didn’t quite smell like a corpse, but that was fine.
    Actually, I think back then the corpse was in front of my couch. I kicked it under later, and then it came back out during the summer and I had to kick it back under again.
    Anyway, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself back then, it being a period of transition for me — I had recently abandoned the less productive of my hobbies, instead spending my time alternating between a deep engrossment in my studies and sitting quietly on my couch contemplating my studies, which I was doing then. When I was done contemplating my studies, I sat contemplating my future, and when I was done with that I sat.
    My friends called in the middle of it, asking me to visit with them at the local forest at five. I told them I was busy, but maybe we could visit tomorrow? They agreed with some hesitance, and then I returned to my sitting.
    I realized at that time that I was sitting also facing a corpse, and although that was only marginally more interesting than just sitting, it was definitely more interesting that sitting contemplating my studies, I sat facing the corpse, and then sat contemplating a corpse. It looked at me.
    I went to bed and then woke up and returned to my studies and then called with my friends to confirm our visit, and then began preparing for our visit. Our visits were the only thing breaking up those numbing periods of time in between my studies and my thinking about my studies. I avoided the visits frequently because they removed me from the comfort of my living room, but looked forward to them always- back then, I sometimes forgot that life lived on outside without me, and it was nice to be reminded that the door to my living room was operational, if rarely used.
    But as I stood in front of the door, contemplating turning the knob, pushing and working the hinges of the door and opening the door, as you do, I considered the corpse behind me that looked just as rotten as it had that previous night. I thought then that perhaps I should do something about it? But that was the last time I thought about it.
    (I wonder if I had done it then if I would be here, now, where I am, if what hadn’t happened still wouldn’t have happened, if it would be better or worse or the same as it is now.)
    The forest was beautiful in a way that I used to want to grab and hold close to my face and feel against my cheek. But the whole thing felt far away – I could touch the trees and the grass but it wasn’t enough back then. I used to walk and contemplate the forest and how the forest grew, and with my friends would contemplate it together.
    I returned home a new person, my experience having refreshed me, until I saw the couch first, and then the corpse, and then the Whole Thing and everything felt very inevitable. I sat down where I had sat every day for countless years, with my studies open about me. For a moment, I sat contemplating my studies and then I returned to my studies.
    I vowed never to go outside again, and didn’t go outside for an entire month before my friends forced me out into the world. We went to the forest again and it was only upon my returning that I realized that the corpse was actually, honestly rotting. A thin dusting of flies had gathered in my living room, buzzing around the corpse and planting maggots under its skin. I bent over to check its face, which remained unrecognizable.
    I returned to my studies and then sat contemplating my studies and then sat contemplating my future and then sat and then went to bed.
    I think it was the following morning while I was eating my breakfast snack and watching the corpse that I became acquainted with the corpse. I watched its empty eye sockets and the flies crawling around inside of it and laying their babies in its gut and I decided I wouldn’t go outside again. I wouldn’t even pick up the phone. The visits had become just another unproductive hobby. I had to grow as a person and once I had developed enough I would be able to go outside and watch the trees grow without feeling guilty for my own lack of progress, and the only way I’d be able to grow was through my studies. At the time I was under the impression that the corpse agreed with me, because the flies had arranged themselves into a smile over its teeth.
    We studied the whole year that year. We didn’t even sit contemplating my studies. We just studied and learned and grew and when I saw the corpse in my kitchen looking more rotten than ever I didn’t even give it a second thought. It felt good that year, until summer came and my living room felt dark and hot and wet and the corpse stunk and something was growing in its belly. The maggots bloomed and the air was thick with flies. I resolved to go outside, get some fresh air, and call my friends. For the first time- ever, I think – the corpse bothered me. But I didn’t care enough to remove it, so I kicked it under the couch. I don’t know what I was thinking. I tried for the door but the door wouldn’t open. I started to panic but I just choked on flies and so I stopped panicking. After a bit I returned to the couch and returned to my studies. The corpse rolled back out from under the couch and out of spite I kicked it back under again and then drew up my legs so it couldn’t grab my ankles and pull me under as well.
    I didn’t quite give up, though. I called my friends, conspiring with them, but our schedules never coincided. My friends and I planned a visit for two days from then, but they all canceled later. It was going to be at the town park. My friends didn’t go but we went anyways and the world looked so small, then.
    The time came when my friends tired of my absence and broke down my door using force. They didn’t call beforehand, as they usually did when they visited, so it was very surprising to me when the door broke at its hinges and fell to the floor before me. The flies of my room poured out of my living room and into the faces of my friends, escaping into the world in a black, buzzing smog.
    It was only after they broke down the door that I realized that the corpse smelled terribly and had rotted terribly- by that time, the flesh had been picked off until it was just meaty bits clinging to the bones with flies wriggling beneath the meat, and there was something wild breathing in its chest.
    In the past, I had been careful not to tell my friends about the corpse, as I doubted they would understand. Seeing their faces slack and dumb with an odd sort of something like horror, I realized that they really didn’t.
    “Is this your corpse?” the authorities asked.
    “Yes.” I said.
    The authorities were unable to identify the corpse, and no one was missing so there were no data for them to collect to convict me of murder, but they collected data anyway just in case. They gathered my studies into their hands and asked me what I was studying. I didn’t know. They took my couch and my old food and then they gave them all back when they were done, emptying their arms of my things as fast as possible. I think I had hoped they would take them from me forever. But I think my things were too small for them — they looked impossibly big in my house, and when they stood next to me I had to crane my neck to see their faces.
    My friends had grown, too.
    When they were done, the authorities looked at me knowingly but they didn’t convict me. My friends were relieved I didn’t kill the thing. But I think . . . I think I actually did kill it, although with nothing so clumsy as a knife slid between the ribs or poison in its food.
    They buried my corpse in an unmarked grave and it crawled back home to me.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on October 28, 2011

    Topics: Young Writers' Corner

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