It resembled a mosquito bite. She first noticed it one morning while she was in the shower. As the warm water trickled down her skin and rattled against the white tiles, she saw that it was on her left ankle. It was small and raised and dark and red. But it did not itch. Instead, it simply jutted out of her caramel skin like the head of a curious earthworm. She poked at it. It felt alien yet familiar; as if it emerged from a forgotten part of her, hidden deep inside.
She dressed and proceeded to her daily tasks. A breakfast of hot sada roti and fried plantains was prepared and presented to her husband Stephen, who sat opposite her at the table. His face was dark and swollen from unprocessed alcohol he drank the night before. Tapping away on his phone, his entire focus was on completing a difficult level of Candy Crush. She stared blankly at him, then fingered the mark. She thought about pointing it out to him but decided not to.
Most of her day would be spent working at the clothing store. The day lasted seven hours and she would feel every lingering second of it. The only excitement of note came when she sold an intricately adorned piece of black lace lingerie to a younger, more adventurous women. In her mind she thought about how the piece would have not been a good fit for her; since her thirtieth birthday, a soft layer of fat began to accumulate around her thighs.
She had been employed at the clothing store for no more than a month. The job gave her something to do while she sent out resume after resume to various media houses with the hope of landing a job as a reporter. In her heart, she felt a great anxiety building, as if she was perpetually chasing a cloud that kept floating away from her. She shook her head quickly to rid herself of the feeling and forced her face to rebuild itself into a smile.
When she returned home she started dinner and checked in on the mark again. It had grown to the size of a five-cent piece but still did not hold any sensation. She gave it a quick pinch and sighed. After an hour passed, Stephen came home and headed straight to the sofa. She asked him how his day was. He replied that it was fine. His breath smelled of beer and cigarettes. The television lit up and so too did his eyes, as the room echoed from the sounds of gunfire from John Wick’s submachine gun. She asked him if he wanted anything to eat and he said no. She did not press him further.
She went upstairs into the bedroom and messaged Kevin on Whatsapp. Kevin was in his late thirties and worked as an investigative reporter for the Trinidad Tribune. He attended the gym regularly and it showed. With neither a wife nor a child, his main focus was his job. They first met a year ago while she attended a class that covered newspaper and magazine editing. For the first few months, he appeared to not take any notice of her until one day they just started talking. He promised to help her with her courses, as well as suggest potential job opportunities in the media to her. One thing led to the inevitable and they eventually began chatting regularly with each other. She could not remember just how the conversations started; all she knew was that the right words always seemed to come naturally from him.
“I discovered a small growth on me today,” she typed as she lay on her back in bed.
Within a few seconds, he replied;
“Oh? Where is it?”
“On my ankle.”
“Does it hurt?”
“Not at all. In fact, I don’t feel anything.”
“Huh. Strange. You definitely should go check it out though. Just to make sure it’s not serious. Seemingly innocuous things can sometimes spiral into something else. And I really don’t want anything to happen to you.”
Impressed by his effortless use of language, her lips quivered into the faintest of smiles.
“I’m sure it’s noth—” her thumbs hesitated for a second and she cleared the screen. As if possessed by a power other than her own, her thumbs rattled away and finished what she started,
“I’m sure it’s nothing hun.”
The message remained unread. She exited the app and sat on the edge of the bed. Her feet fell gently onto the carpeted floor. The downy fabric tickled the soles of her feet. An eternity seemed to pass when the vibration of a new message echoed through the silent room. Her fingers trembled as she took the phone in her hand. It read;
“Can you send me a pic of it please?”
“k. One sec.”
Hurriedly she made her way to the bathroom. Carefully, she massaged cold cream across the veins that wrapped around her foot until they receded into a delicate glow. The mark seemed to grow an inch bigger and spread across her entire ankle. Taking a deep breath, she slowly removed her underwear, letting it drape across her heel.
She sent him a picture, making sure the intimate piece of clothing was in the frame.
“Here you go.”
A minute passed before Kevin replied,
“Your feet look gorgeous babe,” he texted.
There was a sudden flutter of butterflies inside her stomach.
“Thanks Kev,” she replied. “You’re so good at compliments.”
A few hours later Stephen finally came to bed. She was still awake. As he lay with his back facing her, she grazed her fingernails down his spine. His skin felt sticky and hairy. He grunted. Her hands moved around his waist. His belly was doughy and bulged. His breathing quickened and he turned to face her. She slid into him, closed her eyes, and imagined that he was Kevin.
The following morning she awoke with stiffness in her toes. The mark had grown considerably. It covered her entire foot and it was smooth and cold like terrazzo. She lay in bed and passed her fingers over it, admiring it almost. She did this for so long that Stephen came in and reminded her of the time.
“I’m not feeling to go to work today,” she said.
“You should call the people and tell them,” he replied.
“I think something’s changing in me.”
“I just feel strange. Like if I’m becoming someone else.”
“Woman, I loss. Just keep calm and get some rest, but make sure and call the people and tell them you’re not coming.”
“Ok. I late. I gone.”
When Stephen left she remained in bed and did not call the store. She raised her leg to the bedpost and began knocking her hardened foot against it. She took off all her clothing and stood in front of the large bedroom mirror. She looked blankly at her reflection and hummed gently. She made her way to the window and looked outside. The clouds were grey and weary. Soon, the rain would fall. She closed her eyes and began to giggle, as if she were a teenager, then began touching all about her body. Finally, she decided to call Kevin.
“Hey. Am I bothering you?” she asked.
“Of course not. You never do. What’s up?”
“Nothing. Just bored. And I thought of you.”
A brief silence diffused through the phone.
“What were you thinking of?”, Kevin asked.
She coyly ignored his question. Kevin continued;
“You know, you have an amazing voice. It sounds so good over the phone.”
“I want to meet you. For lunch maybe.”
“Today might be a bit tough. I’m looking over a case right now. Can we arrange for tomorrow?”
“Ok. Tomorrow’s fine. I just have to meet you.”
“Is everything alright?” he asked with genuine concern. “I’m fine. I’m still in bed by the way.”
“Oh? How’s that?”
“Well I was just thinking of you; couldn’t get you out of my head,” she whispered as she stroked her foot against the shaft of the bedpost.
“And guess what?” “What?”
“I’m still in my panties. And they’re dripping fucking wet.”
By the evening the mark had spread down her entire foot, bordering the bottom of her ankle. It became darker; the colour of a freshly paved asphalt road. Still, it did not hurt her. She took out a bottle of Palmer’s Olive Cream and began applying it generously. Any remnants of hair had fallen off and it was completely smooth to the touch. She massaged it lovingly and hummed to herself. Her mind’s eye saw only Kevin. Her day passed quicker as she stroked and thought and hummed.
Stephen came home and went straight to the sofa. She forgot to make dinner; they would have to order food.
“What you feeling for?” he asked.
“A new job, a new life,” she muttered.
“Pizza babe. You can order a pizza.”
The pizza arrived. It smelled and tasted like burnt rubber. They sat on the couch and ate in silence. Only the sound of their mouths grinding the mashed flour and cheese filtered through the still air. The silence made her uncomfortable.
“I think I want to continue school,” she said finally. “If I finish the degree I’ll stand a better chance to get into a media house.”
“I tell you not to worry ‘bout that no more. Put it behind you. You spend too long on that anyway. Ent you have your Associates? You could relax now.”
She folded her leg and began toying with her newly transformed flesh. Stephen did not notice.
“I don’t need you to look after me. I want to do things too you know. At least if I finish the degree I can say I gave it my all. Don’t you think so?”
“You thirty-three. With no prior experience. I think at this point you have to let that dream of being a journalist die.”
“And do what Stephen? And do what?”
“What you mean do what? You could start a family with me. We both agree that after you finish your classes we would try and have a baby. A month pass and I eh say nothing, but now that you bring it up, maybe we can work on that.”
She tapped on the sole of her foot. It was callous and cold.
“You’re going to force me to have a baby now? Is that your solution? Have a baby and do nothing for the rest of my life?”
“Lord! You making it sound like a baby is a prison sentence. Look, you getting older. Both of we. It impossible to get a job as a reporter your age now. That is the reality. That ship done leave the port. That is just the reality. Having a baby is something to look forward to.”
“For you maybe, but not for me.”
“So whey we marrid for then?”
“You’re a selfish asshole.”
“Oh, I selfish! I selfish? Well hello pot. My name is kettle.”
He got up and took his car keys.
“Yeah. That is what you need. For me to fuck you and break in you.”
Stephen stormed off and left the house. He would head straight to the bar.
She sat alone for a while. The room was silent. She felt nothing. There was no use for tears or screams, not anymore. Instead, she felt nothing, just like the mark. It was now jet black and her toes curled tightly into each other forming a shell like the wings of a large cockroach. Gently, she ran her fingers across the back of her neck, slowly and softly, letting them glide across the delicate hairs that stood at attention. Her hands fell down her bare shoulders and onto her breast. The beating of her heart vibrated through to her hands and she felt the blood flowing through every cell in her body.
She called Kevin:
“I’m sorry to do this to you but I need to see you tonight. Can you pass for me?”
“Are you ok hun?”
“I’ll explain when you check me. Can you pass by? He just left home for the night.”
“You’re starting to frighten me now…”
“It’s fine. I just need to go out. I need some time for me. Besides, haven’t you been dying to meet up in person after all this time?”
She closed her eyes and thought only of Kevin. She pictured his warm assured smile, his large shredded body and how it would respond to her inquiring fingers. She thought only of that.
“Can you meet me by the cemetery? It’s like five minutes from me,” she asked.
“But that’s where most of those women usually go to wait for clients!”
“Exactly. Remember I’m still married. This will only be as a precaution, for both of us. No one will pay attention to me if I’m among other women you see…”
Kevin cleared his throat. She could hear his heart pumping over the phone.
“I’ll meet you in twenty minutes,” he finally said.
“Thank you. Don’t worry. I’ll wear a hat just to make sure no one sees my face.”
“I’m nervous as fuck by the way.”
“So am I. That’s the fun in it I guess.”
“Yeah. I suppose so.”
“See you soon babe.” She hung up.
She put the phone down and stood up. Her face became flushed as the veins all across her body throbbed from the fresh warm blood that swirled and coursed and danced through them. There was an energy she never felt before, as if a spirit was awakening inside her. As if all the years of silence she held inside was giving way to the sound of singing. As if the cloud she had been chasing for so long had finally stopped and burst into sparks of rain. She stripped off all her clothing and faced a large mirror. She saw someone else now; a different woman. She looked down at her foot. Her toes were completely gone. In their place was a smooth, black cloven hoof.
She stared deeply into the mirror. In it, she finally saw her true form. Then, from deep inside of her belly, she erupted in laughter.
Kirk V. Bhajan is a writer from San Fernando, Trinidad, where he has been pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at UWI, St. Augustine. His shorties have been published or are forthcoming at a number of venues such as sxsalon and Akashic Books’ Duppy Thursday series.