That Beautiful Feeling
© By Gary L Morton (1150 words)
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Edgar Allen Poe had favored
the idea of poetry as appealing only to the sense of beauty. Curtis agreed.
Curtis also believed that life itself should be beauty, and today his
feelings were close to being blissful. The park showed as a haze of
enchantment around him, but there wasn't any exaltation or great sense of
poetic discernment in his mood. The foliage, flowers and the colors of the
dashing children were wonderful if ill defined, like one explosion or splash
of expressionist paint.
It was a pity the illusion
wouldn't last. A minute or a moment here and there and things would fall
flat before him. He wasn’t a poet and currents of emotional splendor didn’t
run in his mind. As it was, the good of his life was the odd lucky flash,
always left unexpressed.
This time it was sunlight
mirrored by windows that put his feet flat back in reality. He was
approaching the old stone building at the end of the park walk, which was
his place of employment. It was a grim place in his thoughts, and many
cobwebbed things were in it. He thought of it as the prison of his life. His
wife was a fixture there, although she didn't work there. She had a special
lack of beauty. Mainly she was a mistake of youth; being a fool, he'd
married a plain girl his parents approved of . . . and if the flower of
beauty fades, the weed of plainness mutates. Even the thought of Ann was a
blow to decency, and he would always try to think of her as just a word to
spare himself the picture.
Now the word tumbled in his
mind and with it came the second stage of sobriety, appearing as grayness at
the end of the grim tunnel. Yes, today he was getting rid of Ann. Down the
road there would be pretty women and a part of his soul would be saved. Not
that he was doing it for lust. Just being with a refined lady would be
enough, and he didn't mind the idea of paying for it.
Good old Amtac, and good old
Jake, he thought as the security guard let him pass through the turnstile to
the elevators. Yes, good old Jake and his love of reminiscing and the past.
In fact it was because he was such a bore that he'd earned the name good old
Jake. There wasn't anything that didn't remind Jake of the way it was in the
old days. But all the suffering Jake had put him through had a payoff. Jake
was a little on the dishonest side; he'd used Amtac equipment to invent a
new drug. He'd even tested it on Amtac lab animals. If Jake was found out,
he'd be shuffled out in a hush-hush affair. They'd never let it get out that
he was testing a sort of designer strychnine on animals, killing them
Why did Jake do it? Well, it
was because a pal of his from the old days was an insignificant actor that
wanted a drug that'd make his face twitch like he'd been dosed with
strychnine, only without harming him. Jake failed of course. Jake always
failed. His new drug killed rabbits faster than bullets could.
Now, it has to be the perfect
crime, Curtis thought as he unlocked a heavy metal cabinet. Edgar Allen Poe,
the clever fellow, had favored thinking things through before going ahead
with them. And Curtis pictured the upcoming events all while fancying he was
Poe thinking through a plot. It was beauty of a sort. He would pop home at
lunch, slip the colorless, odorless liquid in Ann's drink and she'd die.
She'd convulse like she'd taken strychnine, and the homicide fellows would
check for that. But there'd be nothing. It was a new drug of unusual
composition. Ann's death would be listed as natural, and for sure, Jake
wouldn't open his mouth about it.
Sunshine broke through; ice
cracked in his mind. He watched people pass on the street. The little things
made them happy. That he knew. Only a fool would think happiness was within.
Surround yourself with those beautiful little things, and you'll be happy.
Yes, he knew the secret of life, and his joy would be real. The reality of
beauty would be his, and in a way, he pitied those poor deluded idiots out
on the street. They were probably happy about going to work or something
Ann served him some tuna
salad. Ann was such a dear, and he ate with relish, knowing she would never
suspect the truth. She looked at him with motherly eyes. In her pasty-faced
kind of way, she adored her husband. Then she took a sip of lemonade and the
situation exploded. The table went over and china shattered as she began to
twitch and dance like a marionette. Curtis ducked back, feeling satisfaction
mingle with surprise. He could see her face twisting like a demonic mask. It
was the only hideous sight that had ever made him smile. Ann was still
shaking, bent double on the floor when he dashed out and returned to work.
Curtis wasn't at all
surprised when a policewoman arrived at Amtac, but the color quickly drained
from his face when the news wasn't of a death. His hands shook, yet he took
what pleasure he could from the policewoman's pretty face as she drove him
to the hospital. On the way, he learned that a repairman had found her as
he'd planned. But why hadn't she died?
“The doctor thought you
should be at her side,” the policewoman said as they entered the emergency
wing, then what light he had left in his mind turned to gloom as they
approached the end of the hall. A doctor beckoned and they went in to find
Ann surrounded by the usual intensive care equipment. Her face was covered
by a mask and he thought he could hear her mumbling feebly, “Curtis,
“Why is she wearing a mask?”
he said with genuine surprise in his tone.
Rather than answer, the
doctor gently removed the mask. “We're not sure what she ingested, but it
has destroyed her facial muscles. They won't relax and resume their natural
state. You're lucky to still have her. She'll recover of course, but I doubt
her looks can be saved.”
“She's a dedicated woman,”
the policewoman said. “She's been calling your name all afternoon.”
Curtis turned to stone and
remained silent as Ann's hideous face rose up, killing his dreams. He knew
his future was hell. “Curtis, Curtis,” she mumbled and at first he choked,
then he shook all over like he'd taken some of the drug himself. Falling to
his knees, he wept.
--- The End ---
. . . THE END . . .