By Abigail Sheaffer
The elevator doors slid open (he checked his watch, almost 11 p.m.) and he walked down the amber-lit foyer to Darcy’s door, 2407. He knocked, did not wipe the grin from his face. She stood on the other side, her apartment dark, save for the eerie blue glow from her Sony TV, and her refrigerator hummed. Her nose and eyes were red. He leaned in to kiss her. She turned away and walked towards the sofa.
The air was stale with convalescence, and her coffee table and floor were littered with balled up tissues. She reclined against two pillows, and he went to lay a blanket upon her. She recoiled.
“I’m sorry I didn’t pick up,” he said. She did not remove her eyes from the screen. “I didn’t know you liked Dr. Who,” he said, grabbing her foot. She pushed his hand away.
“Please don’t,” she said.
His mouth went slack. “She was there, I couldn’t talk,” he tried to explain.
She coldly glared at him. “You can never do it,” she hissed.
Joe stared at his hands. “I said I will, and I will,” he said weakly, his hands beginning to shake.
“Fuck you,” she said under her breath and turned her gaze back to the screen.
“What did you say?” he said. The air grew thin. His stomach roiled.
“FUCK YOU!” she screamed, getting up from the sofa.
“Darcy, Darcy—I can, I can—" But she was gone now, headed for the kitchen.
“You can what?” she barked. “What can you do, huh?”
“I’m going to fucking do it!” he wailed.
“When, huh? When are you going to do it? Tonight? Tomorrow? What? What? You can just come in here and fuck me whenever you want and go back to that fucking bitch? What is it you can do, huh? You’re FUCKING FULL OF SHIT!” Her voice trilled.
“That does it,” a voice said. They turned their gaze to the TV to see a man in a Max Headroom mask in front of a corrugated piece of iron sheet metal.
“What the hell is this?” Joe said. Darcy shook her head, stunned.
“He’s a freakin’ nerd,” the man in the mask said. His voice was odd, tinged by the dense rubber mask he wore. There was something menacing about his dark glasses.
“What the fuck is this?” Joe said again.
“Yeah—I think I’m better than Chuck Swirsky, freakin’ liberal,” the man in the mask said.
“What the fuck is he talking about?” Joe said.
“I don’t know,” Darcy said.
The man in the mask began rambling incoherently and giggled at the audience on the other side of the screen. For a minute, Darcy forgot about her anger at Joe and felt an involuntary urge to hold his hand, but it quickly dissolved.
“Catch the wave!” the man in the mask said, holding a Pepsi can. Darcy jumped as the man on screen threw the can down (Joe wanted to reach out, to hold her hand—he couldn’t stand seeing her afraid). The man in the mask then walked towards the camera and gave the finger before sitting down again. His mask was garish and unsettling, the rubber grin he bore was insidious.
“Your love is fading,” the man in the mask said.
Joe shot a look at Darcy.
The man in the mask hummed a tune, “I still see the X!” he said. “Uhhhh, my piles!” A whimpering, flatulent noise billowed through the telecast. “A giant masterpiece for all the greatest world newspaper nerds!”
The man on screen held up a gloved hand, and Darcy expected to see a gun or a blade in his grasp. She took a sharp gulp of air and Joe’s hand hovered over her shoulder, but he didn’t touch her, remembering she was angry.
“My brother has the other one,” the man in the mask said. The screen cut to a woman with dull eyes, in a French maid’s outfit. She lazily spanked a man’s exposed ass with a flyswatter. Then blackness.
“As far as I can tell, a massive electric shock,” Dr. Who was saying back on the TV screen, and all of life seemed to rush back towards them. “He must have died instantly.”
Joe scanned Darcy’s face—perhaps in spite of all this, she had forgotten?
“That was the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said. Darcy’s eyes went to the linoleum floor. Her shoulders were shaking. His natural inclination was to hold her, to kiss her eyelids.
Darcy picked up her water glass from the coffee table. She had always hated looking vulnerable. Joe saw her face was stricken.
“I want you to leave,” she said quietly. She walked towards her bedroom.
He wanted to rush up behind her and grab her waist (she always melted when he passionately held her—how many times had they made love on the floor, in the doorway?) and so he did, hoping this would bring her back.
“Leave,” she said again.
“No,” he said. The man in the mask’s voice echoed through him: your love is fading.
“You are such a liar,” she said. “You lied about everything.”
“No!” He was more persistent this time.
“Joe,” she said.
“I love you,” he said.
“Liar!” She yelled.
Your love is fading, the man in the mask mocked him. Joe felt his bowels loosen, his heart being gnashed by warm, metallic jaws.
“I want to see other people,” she calmly said.
“What?” he said dumbly.
“Gus asked me out,” she said. “I said yes.”
Joe stooped forward, his knees weakening beneath him. Darcy moved slowly through her bedroom, removing books from her bed, turning on a lamp. Joe leaned against the wall.
Gus was her work friend. Gus who had been pursuing her for three years. Gus whom they had mocked for his Swatches and Miami Vice wardrobe, his salmon t-shirts, his white blazers. Gus who resembled a poor woman’s George Michael. Gus.
“Have you fucked him yet?” he asked.
At this, Darcy merely looked up at him with a half-glint in her eye and replied, “Well, wouldn’t you like to know!”
Your love is fading, the man in the mask whispered into his ear. He shook his head violently, as if to wake up, as if to dissolve that frightening echo, but it only grew stronger.
“I love you,” he said.
“Is that why you’ve put Kimberly before me every fucking day for six goddamned years?”
He hung his head, livid and crying.
“You’re such a goddamned liar,” she said. “All of this was a lie.”
Your love is fading.
“IT WAS NOT A FUCKING LIE!” he screamed. “You are more real to me than Kimberly could ever be. This means more to me than anything I’ve ever FUCKING HAD!” His throat burned with these words, this undeniable truth rearing out of it.
He slammed his fist into her wall and plaster flew everywhere. She made a sound that was swallowed between her trachea and lungs. He fell down to the floor.
“It was not a lie,” he said once more, quieter. “It was not a lie.” Still, he heard the ghastly, disembodied voice of the man in the mask.
Your love is fading.
Abigail Sheaffer is the founder and editor-in-chief of Chicago Literati, an online magazine dedicated to Chicago’s literary community. She lives in St. Charles with her English Bulldog, Winston “Winnie” Churchill.