Taxidermied gimmicks on the inside, pretty little necklaces hanging from jackalope antlers, jewels like glass eyes. The corpse in the armchair, he’s very handsome. But the HOA must define “death” before you approach him so the body never leaves. Growing even more beautiful with its billowing, decomposing flesh weather. Most visitors just play the harpsichord in the corner. The furs on the wall and the furniture catching the little notes with combed dead follicles. It dampens the space, distracts from the castle dungeon underneath the floorboards. The rack down there, absurd. The last one stretched across it was a cloistered monk—his self-selected penance for lust—as handsome as the corpse in the suit in the armchair upstairs. Meant for each other, maybe, if they existed on the same floor. You can really imagine his plight as you sit on the rack yourself, upright, hands resting slop on your lap. The walls that join the levels, there are stairways inside them wide enough for a desperate torso. But by the time you rail your way back up the steps to the ground floor, you see that now it’s filthy with cozy mansion murder furniture. And no matter how many hours you sleep on the stitched flowers, the corpse is still there when you wake up. Hair slicked back with the permanence of an alchemist’s frog slime. It’s unnerving. Fuck the HOA, finally, the harpsichord too, its sheet music wrinkled tired anyway. The monk was on to something even if he didn’t finish the job. You cut the beautiful man in two down the center. He’s wearing a shimmer of a necklace and there’s an attempt to keep it intact. A small failure. Nonetheless, not your best work, not your worst, only enough for a self-contented sigh. But once the blood splatter finally drips down the walls and settles on the floor you see the jackalope’s starting to blink its eyes.
Caleb Bethea is an MFA at UofSC, studying fiction by night. By day, he works as a copywriter in eCommerce. But, the best of his time is spent with his wife and two goblins by the ocean. You can read his work in HAD, Maudlin House, Autofocus, Twin Pies, hex, and elsewhere. He tweets at @caleb_bethea_.