I decided to try something new, to write a short story in one sitting and just for the blog. If this goes well and you like it (and I don’t take too much pressure from succeeding and delivering every Thursday,), it might become a recurring thing. Let’s see. Today’s topic was inspired by a woman who cleans the local swimming pool. She passes all the customers by and never looks into their eyes and pretends she is invisible. And for some reason, when I searched for a topic today, the image of her popped up. Not that she would think this as an ovation to her or her profession, not that I would either. I just followed where the story went. Anyway, here it is:
A Short Story: The Invisibles
She listened to the screams to stop. The stopping meant it was her turn to go in. They had ceased a moment ago. She dragged herself up from the rocking chair and out of the warm kitchen where she had just gotten the fire going, and the stew to brew. She scuffled on, her left leg coming a tad behind. Upstairs the thumping and dragging rent the peace of the downstairs and the peace of her mind. In the past, she would have shivered, but now she only could think of the task at hand. She shimmied a closet door open, its hinges creaking as she pulled. She had several times said they needed greasing, but did anyone listen to her. No.
The bucket and the mop were there where she had last left them. She sighed and took them out, heading outside into the night air to the well, wanting to get back to the kitchen’s heat as fast as she could. All this walking and carrying made her left leg ache. She lowered the bucket into the well and drew it back up full of cold water. She took the heavy bucket and made her way back inside the tower, which loomed over her white and colossal. Inside the stairs leading up to the upper floors looked as unwelcoming as ever. She lowered the bucket and the mop at the root of the stairs and made her way once more to the closet. She took a bar of soap with her, putting it into her apron’s pocket.
There was no reason why she had forgotten it in the first place, but she guessed it was her little rebellion not wanting to take the stairs up. Not that her rebellions ever amounted to anything. Always more harming to her than for the one upstairs. Once again she lifted the bucket and the mop and began dragging herself one step at the time. She had to stop on several occasions to make the pain in her leg to subdue. But little by little, she made her way all the way to the top. She gently knocked on the door and waited for a reply. For a while, it was quiet, but she didn’t dare to knock again. There would be an answer, eventually. There always was.
“Enter,” a woman’s voice said.
She pushed the door open and saw the mess. On a metallic table laid a woman’s body and all her blood had drained out all over the floor. Her master was hunched over her desk, writing something down on an open book. She didn’t even look towards her. There was no need, she knew her place. It was to clean. She lowered the bucket next to the door and took the bar of soap and a knife out of her apron. She glanced at her master once more, but she was still writing feverishly something down. Most likely, the result of what the poor woman on the table had gone through. She carved the soap bar, making chips wall into the bucket full of water.
When she was sure there was enough, she put the bar back into the apron. And squeezed at the knife while looking at her master. She winced from the pain in her leg as she moved her balance. She put the knife back into its pocket and took the mop and pushed it inside the bucket, dunking it in several times to mix the water and the soap.
Her master coughed, waking her from her thoughts. She began to mop the floor, trying to stay out of her master’s way, trying to get all the blood out. She had become somewhat of an expert with blood and bloodstains, and to fool her master, they were gone even when she couldn’t take them truly away. From all her subjects, there was a memory inside the tower, and not only in the book of hers.
She hummed as she moved the mop around.
Again there was a gentle cough, reminding her to stop. Not to intrude the vital process. She bit her lower lip not to let her mind wander and start humming again. When she was done, and most of the blood was removed, she made her way back to the bucket to leave.
“The stew will be ready, madam,” she said as she lowered to take the bucket.
“I’ll be done soon, Martha,” her master replied.
Martha said nothing. She shut the door behind her and moved back to down the stairs one step at the time. It was even worse to go this way. One careless move and she was sure her leg would give in, and she would stumble rest of the way down. She breathed slowly out when her feet were securely on the ground level. Martha had to throw the water out before she could go back to the kitchen. She went outside, fighting against the urge to throw the water out from the front door and be done with it, but the master didn’t like that. Neither did she. Martha walked to the side of the tower to her usual spot. The blood and the soap and whatever her master was experimenting had done funny things to the place. There was a garden of mushrooms, flowers, and weeds which glowed in the darkness. She threw the water out and hurried inside to the tower, sure there were eyes following her out from the dark treeline. Martha’s hobbled the last steps to the door, pushing it shut behind her and locking it one lock at the time. Only then could she breathe again.
Martha took the bucket and the mop back inside the closet. Lowered the bar of soap on a shelf next to other bars and scuffled back to the kitchen. She looked at the rocking chair and wanted to collapse back into it, but the master would be down soon. Martha set the table. Took the stew out, tasting it and seasoning it one more time and sat on the table to wait. The heat in the kitchen made everything more bearable.
Thank you for reading! Have a lovely day ❤
© K.A. Ashcomb
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