Chamber of the Question

Nicole E. Beck


     She was in a bathroom—a room that did not belong to her— and the floor was spattered and splotched with blood. Her blood she thought but she couldn’t be sure. People were rattling the handle and she had the impression of a line forming outside. But the blood had to come off. She knelt and began scrubbing at it. She wadded toilet paper in her hand and tried to scrape or soak up the mess. But as she crawled around on the floor she noticed the same pools of blood she’d just cleaned, and they were spreading. They were spreading even as she flushed away the red rags and the tiles were now wholly stained.

     As she turned this way and that, she realized another woman was crouching in the corner of the room. Without a word this woman bent down and began to lap at the blood. She moved slowly, steadily, over the floor, her tongue flicking in and out. The blood diminished into penny-sized pools, shrinking farther and farther down until just the tiniest grains of red remained.

     The two women looked at each other, their eyes asking what had been cut into, cut off, cut out. The woman with the red mouth parted her lips and plucked something from under her tongue. It was an old needle the color of bone.  It skittered over the tiles and she picked it up.

As soon as she touched it, drops of blood began to fall from the eye. The other woman leaned her weight against the wall, sank into it and was gone.

     Now it was up to her. She closed her eyes briefly, bent her face to the floor and quickly lapped away the red dots. Then in one shuddering motion she tossed the needle into her mouth and swallowed.



Nicole E. Beck has a degree in filmmaking and art history. She reviews fantasy/SF literature over at Strange Horizons, has had two poetry chapbooks appear in print, and flash fiction published by Underwood Press.