Ashes to AshesbySpiritfist©
"Don't have any more whisky Arthur, please, you don't want to get drunk again." Helen Kray spoke quietly to her husband, not wanting to attract attention.
"Oh shut up woman!" came the alcohol slurred reply,"I can handle my drink you know, listen, the Wilkinson's invited us to this party and who am I to refuse their hospitality."
Helen had been married to Arthur for close to 30 years now, she knew how difficult Arthur became under the influence of alcohol and did not discuss the matter further; the party was almost finished and she did not want to cause an ugly scene.
"I feel bloody knackered woman," said Arthur, tottering from one foot to the other, "Let's say our good byes and get off home, I'm fed up with these idiots here anyway."
Helen helped steady Arthur to try to hide just how inebriated he was, as they said their farewells and headed for the front door, at least the people at the party would think he was sober even if he was not.
"Right, you get in the passenger seat Helen, I'm driving." Hiccuped Arthur, he could hardly get the key in the ignition.
"No, come on Arthur, don't be silly, you are in no condition to drive, give me the keys I'll take us home"
"I've bloody warned you woman, I'm not drunk. I'm quite capable of driving my own car to my own home, now shut your mouth and get in that bloody seat!"
Helen could see the other guests starting to leave and she did not want a blazing row in front of them and so complied to her overbearing husbands drunken wish.
Arthur started the car, stalled it, then set off to a rather jerky journey home.
Along the motorway Arthur pressed his foot down hard on the accelerator, the 'cats eyes' in the road shot past alarmingly fast. Helen's hands were clenched tightly in her lap, the knuckles turning white with fear. She hated it when Arthur was drunk, especially when he drove while in that condition. It was impossible to argue or reason with him, he was such a domineering character.
Helen screamed, Arthur had hardly noticed the lorry in front of them, he slammed on the breaks hard, too late!
The small car smashed right into the back of the lorry, both he and Helen were catapulted forward against the windscreen, Helen's head struck first, taking the full impact of the crash.
Arthur remained unconscious for just a few seconds, he shook his head to try to help clear his foggy mind. He felt his face, there was a cut above his eye, his left hand felt broken, the fingers were stiff and painful.
He pulled Helen back into the car, her head was resting on the bonnet. He tilted her back into her seat then nearly vomited; her head had almost been severed, the hard edge of the bonnet had sliced through her windpipe, right down to her spine, she must have died instantly.
He looked up, he could see the driver of the lorry stumble from his cab and stagger towards them.
He quickly crawled over his wife and dragged her into the driver's seat, pain shot through his broken fingers as he took her weight, it must be done he thought, if the police found out he had been driving in his condition he could go to prison for a very long time.
He felt sick and guilty about this cowardly act but self protection over ruled all notions of decency.
"Are you all right mate? What happened?" the ashen faced driver pushed his head through the space where the windscreen had been.
"My wife fainted while she was driving." lied Arthur, "there was noting I could do."
"Okay mate, keep calm, how is she, is she breathing?"
"No." said Arthur, the reality of the situation striking home properly for the first time, "she's dead."
A mist formed in front of his eyes and he fell unconscious for the second time that night.
It was a simple funeral but Arthur had invited most of their friends and relatives. Helen was to be cremated, the accident had left her body in such an ugly state it seemed the appropriate thing to do. Arthur was to keep her ashes in an urn. In a few weeks time he was going on holiday to France, where they had spent their honeymoon together. Before leaving he was going to sprinkle her ashes off the cliffs at Dover; a rather touching gesture, anyway, it would get rid of them, he did not relish the idea of having the ashes in the house as feelings of guilt still gnawed at his mind.
"A terrible thing eh?" said Arthur's brother Ron, "She was a fine woman Arthur, it must be a terrible loss."
"Yes it is," replied Arthur, "If only I had been driving then it would have been me dead, I keep thinking, over and over, it should have been me who died!" his lies flowed like water.
"Don't be silly Arthur, it was an accident, it wasn't your fault, Helen fainted, you can't blame yourself for that."
"No, but I still can't help but feel guilty Ron." Arthur had repeated these lies so often he was almost starting to believe them himself.
"Well, life goes on brother." said Ron, helping himself to another sausage roll and glass of sherry.
Deep inside, Arthur did feel guilt about his wife's death, as he should, being fully responsible but the feelings were not as deep or sincere as they should be.
Arthur had always been a selfish man, always putting himself first and though he would admit it to no one, he was glad it was Helen and not he, who had died. He knew it was wrong to think this, but he felt it just the same.
"It should have been me! It should have been me!" he repeatedly told his friends and family, not meaning a single word.
The funeral had finished and everyone vanished like spirits into the night. Arthur set off for home in his car, whistling a jolly tune. On the back seat of the car lay Helen's remains, they may well just have been cigarette butts in an ashtray, Arthur had forgotten them already.
"Well, she's dead now," thought Arthur, "no point in crying over spilt milk, I've still got a life to lead."
The car entered the drive to his house, he was just about to close the car door when he remembered the ashes. He took them inside, they looked out of place on his mantle piece but they would only be there for a while.
A few weeks passed, it was now the middle of summer, in a few days time Arthur was to set off for France, he was looking forward to it greatly.
He needed a new pair of sunglasses, the shop on the corner sold them, he picked up his wallet and set off to buy some.
"Hello Mr Kray, how are you feeling? You look much better now." Mrs Brent, the shopkeeper smiled as Arthur entered the store.
"Oh I'm bearing up Mrs Brent, thank you, but I still have these feelings of guilt, even now I think it should have been me that died and not Helen, she was such a lovely person, she deserved to live, not I." this lie had become second nature to Arthur by now.
"Don't you be so silly Mr Kray, it was nothing to do with you, it was a terrible twist of fate that your wife fainted when she did, you can't blame yourself at all."
He smiled and shook his head.
Arthur bought the sunglasses, said farewell and set off for home, he had a holiday to look forward to.
He stepped through his front door, the smell of cooking that usually greeted him had gone, along with Helen; he missed it.
Since Helen had died the house seemed larger, almost empty. If he missed anything about her it was her presence in the kitchen. He had loved her in a selfish, overbearing way, he did genuinely miss her but he thought that life without her was better than no life at all. This, he decided justified his appalling actions at the scene of the crash.
It was getting dark, he felt like retiring early tonight but first he would help himself to a large brandy or two; even though this slow poison had been the main reason for his wife's death, he still indulged and still to excess.
He settled in an armchair and downed the contents of the glass with one swallow.
The room seemed unnaturally quiet, so quiet he could hear his own breathing, he held his breath, yet the breathing continued. His first thoughts were of burglars, he picked up a poker from the fire place and walked towards the window, the breathing had come from that direction. He could hear it clearly now, it was outside the window, close to the ground. It was a snuffling, husky wheeze, not human at all.
He pulled back the curtain then laughed out loud, it was a hedgehog, a tiny, spikey hedgehog. He looked closer, to his disgust the tiny animal was devouring a slug. He pulled the curtains shut, not a pleasant sight, he thought. He laughed at himself again, burglars indeed!
He helped himself to another brandy, then retired to his bedroom.
Just as he kicked the shoes from his feet he heard a noise, it was coming from the living room. It was a strange noise, like someone tapping a knife on a plate but louder and duller in sound.
He pushed open the living room door and switched on the light, the room looked strange, there seemed to be a light haze all about the place almost as if several people had been smoking cigarettes in there but that was impossible, he was totally alone.
Again he heard the metallic tapping noise, it was coming from the direction of the fire place. He looked towards the mantle piece. At first he thought his eyes were playing tricks. It was Helen's urn, it was moving up and down on the marble shelf, as if some invisible hand were raising and lowering it.
The movement of the urn became more and more violent, it leapt high into the air and smashed hard against the floor, the lid flew off and Helen's ashes were strewn across the ground.
Arthur was transfixed, I must be over doing the booze he thought but what happened next was too horrific for even alcohol induced hallucinations.
A cold, shivering sensation crept up his spine as he watched the ashes move and undulate on the floor, they seemed to be moulding themselves into some bizarre shape.
A heavy smell filled the air, it was Helen's perfume, it was everywhere.
He looked again towards the ashes, he was horror struck, they had taken on the shape of a woman, a hideously, grey and twisted form of a female, a grotesque mockery of a woman.
This disgusting creature hobbled and stumbled towards him, it's horrific clawed hands raised before it. Arthur could not move, all he could do was stare with unbelieving eyes as the monstrosity moved ever closer.
The thing was almost upon him, he felt like vomiting, he could smell it, it an appalling mixture of Helen's perfume and burnt ash.
The hideous, misshapen, horror leapt upon him, it's unholy form enveloping him, it's grotesque face, pressed close to his. He opened his mouth to scream, as he did so, this thing rammed it's hands into his face, the thick, heavy ash filled his eyes, ears, nose and mouth. He felt the stinking, filth force it's way down his windpipe, into his lungs, into his stomach, into his whole body, the obscene, grey dust forced it's way into every orifice. He could not see, he could not scream, he could not breathe! He was suffocating!
This disgusting grey, filth had permeated every part of his being, smothering him.
As the last seconds of life deserted him, he could hear a voice, it seemed to come from within him, it was Helen's voice,
"You were right Arthur," said the voice, "it should have been you!"