By T.K. Millin
Lifeless, like the shell of a soul inside her, she sat at the kitchen table staring into thin air waiting for him to come downstairs and devour the breakfast he demanded. The twenty-five years of marriage with no children to have loved or even a pet to nurture, only the hum drum of daily homemaker duties to contend with, had finally taken their toll.
Joyfully whistling his way down the stairs, he walked into the kitchen and placed his laptop case on top of the counter and plopped down in front of his feast.
After shoving the last piece of bacon into his mouth and gulping down his juice he finally spoke. “I’ll be home late tonight so don’t bother to wait up.”
He slammed his napkin on top of the table. “Damn it Martha I told you there are VIP clients in town and I’m in charge of making sure they have a good time." He stood up, knocking his chair to the ground. He grabbed his laptop case off the counter and stormed out.
She contemplated leaving the dishes right where they sat and walking out the front door and never coming back, but that would be too easy. The thought of staying and making his life a living hell seemed more appealing, and she knew just where to start.
Adding the finishing touches to her make-up, Martha stared at a face she hadn’t seen in years. She’d forgotten how she once admired its beauty.
Quickly dressing, she trotted down the stairs with a new sense of purpose and opened the hall desk drawer and pulled out the newspaper clipping she had been saving.
Delighted the parking lot was empty she pulled into a spot in front of the door and read aloud.
“Merlin’s House of Medieval Antiquities.”
“Perfect.” She said.
The tinkle of a bell announced her arrival and a man slowly stepped out from behind a black curtain. “May I help you?”
Martha was startled by his appearance. He looked very old, too old to be alive. “Yes, I’ve come to see if you have anything that can help me with my troubles.”
“What kind of troubles would a beautiful woman like you have?”
She softly smiled and looked to the floor. “An unfaithful husband.”
“I see. Come, I have just the thing for you.”
She followed the strange man through the black curtain, down a narrow hall which led to a rickety spiral staircase leading down into a dungeon like basement.
“Where are you taking me?” She shouted as he turned a corner. The silence warned her to turn back, but her desire to make things right drove her to follow.
She turned the corner and walked into a room with walls covered in paintings of strange looking devices she had never seen before.
“What are they?”
He turned and grinned. “These are my genius works of art.”
“How can these paintings help me with my unfaithful husband?”
“I carefully designed each one to withdraw the deepest and darkest secrets of the human soul. However, I warn you, you must choose wisely.”
“I still don’t understand how these paintings can help me.”
“Do you want to know the truth of your problem?”
“Then trust me when I tell you any one of my paintings will reveal the truth.”
Martha looked at each rendering and the painful expressions upon the images’ faces being tortured, and smiled.
“This one looks like what they used during the Salem witch hunts.”
“Ah, this was one of my first designs. It was never meant to kill only to extract a confession or punish someone of a minor criminal act. You see they would place the feet into the stocks and then red-hot coals would be placed under them. It worked every time!”
She continued looking at each rendering, passing by those which seemed not harsh enough for his transgressions.
“Oh, I like the look of this one. What is it called?”
"Ah, my ultimate design. I call it the Judas Cradle and it is sure to help you with your troubles.”
“How does it work?”
“The accused is placed on top of the pyramid seat, naked, and their feet are bound together in such a way that moving one would force the other to move. This is wonderful for increasing the pain. Then the pointed end of the cradle seat would be inserted into their, well you can see where, and then the torturer would begin their interrogation. The longer they go without answering the more the torturer would pull them up with the ropes and smash them down again on top of the pointed seat. In time, they would confess, and if not, they slowly were torn apart.”
"I'll take it. How much?"
She sat silently on the couch in the dark waiting for him to come home from his night of selfish pleasures; eager to find out how the painting was going to help her get revenge.
Suddenly the room swirled with orange and yellow lights. She looked up at the painting and screamed at the sight of the strange old man stepping out from the canvas.
“Time to confess your sins.”
Tonight was the night he had been working so many long hours for over the past year and he couldn’t wait to tell Martha he landed the biggest contract the firm had ever seen. He was going to make up his neglect to her by taking her on the European vacation she always wanted.
He quietly unlocked the door and fumbled for the light switch. “What the hell?”
The sight of the ghastly painting hanging on the wall and the painful image on Martha’s face, her naked body impaled upon a pyramid looking seat, made him release the oversized dinner he had with Mr. and Mrs. Shakaki from Japan.
Total word count: 1000