Sara Corris

When The World Ends You Won’t Know It

“Tell me what he’s doing to you when I walk in.”

“He’s got me on my back, my legs up over his shoulders, and he’s standing and leaning over me, pounding me, and he’s holding my arms down over my head, so I’ve just got to take it.”

“Uhhh yeah,” Jay groaned. “Fuck, that’s so hot.”

Shit I still need to move clothes to the dryer I’m going to be up all night doing laundry–

“You like it? You like the way he’s fucking you, you little slut?”

“At first I pretend like I don’t,” Cathy gasped. “I struggle and hit and scratch; that’s why he holds my arms down. He knows what I need–ahhhh–”

“Yeah?” Jay panted. “He knows what’s best for you?”

Is Rory completely out of clean socks or is there one more pair maybe it doesn’t matter she’s not leaving the house slippers are fine–

“Uh … yeah,” Cathy told Jay. “He’s pounding me so hard, so fast, I feel like I can’t take it, but he knows I can. He’s squeezing my wrists so hard it’ll leave bruises, but I don’t care, it feels so good–”

“Yeah?” Jay asked. “So good you don’t care when I walk in, and see him fucking you?”

“No not at all, I just don’t want him to stop–ohhh–I want you to see me taking it–”

“Fuck that’s … you’re going to make me come. I’m close.”

“Me too.” Cathy gave a small unconvincing moan.

SHIT cleaner’s coming tomorrow I forgot to get toilet cleaner is the bodega still open–

“Who is he?” Jay gasped.

“What?”

“The guy who’s fucking you–uuhhh–who–uuhhhis he?”

“Uh … the bodega guy.”

“What?” Jay stopped thrusting.

“The bodega guy … the guy who runs the bodega?” Cathy stammered. “Hey–” 

Jay un-straddled Cathy from his lap and deposited her onto the bed.

Cathy followed him to the bathroom. “Jay? What the hell?”

“You’re not taking this seriously.”

“What do you mean?”

Jay glared at her with disgust. “The bodega guy? Really?”

“What? He’s, you know, a … man.”

“You’re laughing at me. I’m trying to be vulnerable with you, share something really private and it’s scary for me, and you think it’s funny.”

“I’m not! I was going along with the whole dumb thing–”

“Yeah. Real supportive.” Jay swooshed one hand over the top of his head.

Cathy sighed. “What the hell do you want from me? It’s not my stupid fantasy, it’s yours. Next time, just tell me who I’m supposed to be humping in front of you, ok?”

“Never mind.” Jay wouldn’t turn to face her. 

This only pissed Cathy off more. Her first day off in over a week. She wanted to be sleeping, not coaxing Jay out of a wounded-little-boy mood.

“Jay, I’m sorry you’re hurt, ok? But I can’t do this now. I’ve got to put clothes in the dryer.” She turned and left.

***

“I’ve spoken to Sandy,” said Cathy’s mom. “She wants me to tell you that she won’t disinvite you from Thanksgiving. But she will feel uncomfortable having you there.”

Sandy was Cathy’s sister, and the fucking worst.

Cathy sighed away from the phone. “What am I supposed to do with that, mom? You and dad are the ones hosting. Just because Sandy lives with you–”

“Obviously your father and I want to see you! But you know how anxious Sandy is, with your work–”

“She’s judging me for going to an outdoor barbecue sixteen months ago. Sandy can call me herself if–”

“Cathy, please. Don’t make me take sides! You don’t know how hard this is on your father and I, seeing you and Sandy fall out–”

There had been no falling out. Cathy never liked Sandy. 

***

Cathy had the dream again that night.

In the dream, she is living in the dystopian future of The Handmaid’s Tale, and she is a handmaid. Her Commander is Michael Fassbender. She is brought into the room for their first-ever Ceremony. 

She seats herself on the bed, and waits. 

Michael Fassbender walks in. 

“Hi,” Cathy whispers shyly. “I’m Offassbender.”

Fassbender draws up a chair, sits, and looks deep into her eyes. 

“I’m so sorry,” he whispers. “I am so sorry you’re going through this–”

“Oh, that’s nice of you to say, but it’s ok! Really!”

Fassbender rakes his hands through his hair and gnashes his teeth. “How can I live with myself, if I do this–”

“Don’t talk like that; it isn’t your fault.” Cathy rests her hand on his thigh. “I know you’re a good person.” 

She clears her throat. 

“You know, back before the dystopia, I saw Shame. I thought you were wonderful in that dumb and boring movie.” 

Cathy gazes meaningfully at his crotch. 

“You have a talent that cannot be contained, it’s so huge. The biggest, most impressive talent I’ve ever seen, much bigger than anyone else’s. It explodes off the screen, your talent, demanding to be felt–”

Fassbender isn’t listening. “I hate this … all of it. I can’t bear the subjugation of women. I’ve got to fight it, whatever the cost–”

“Don’t do that!” Cathy blurts out. “Uh, I mean, that could get us both in trouble, and I’ve already been through so much. I think the best thing to do tonight is, let’s go ahead with the Ceremony as planned, and then you can do some brainstorming later in the week–”

“My god. You’re right; I’m being so selfish.” Fassbender falls to his knees and clasps Cathy’s hands. He gazes up into her face. A single tear trickles down his perfect cheekbone. 

“How can I help you?” he whispers. 

Cathy’s heart pounds. Her loins dampen.

“Well. I’d love it if we undress each other first, and then I want you to sit up and I’ll straddle you and we should spend lots of time kissing, feeling our naked bodies against each other, and then you take my breasts in your mouth one at a time while you’re squeezing my ass, and I’m moaning and bucking my hips and you can feel my dripping pussy grazing the outside of your cock, up and down, until it’s driving us crazy and we can’t stand it and I’m aching to feel you inside me, although I’ll need a vibrator to finish, did you manage to confiscate any before–”

Cathy realizes Michael Fassbender is looking at her funny. 

“I didn’t mean that. I mean, tell me how I can get word to your husband. Jay? I saw his name in your file; you must miss him so.” Fassbender seats himself again in the chair. “Tell me everything about Jay. I want to feel as though I know him–”

“I don’t want to talk about JAY… uh, because it makes me feel so sad,” she adds. “Yup, too painful. Best to just avoid that, and get on with–”

“But Rory? Your daughter? You must be going mad, not knowing where–”

THIS. IS. BULLSHIT. 

“Yeah, but I’m sure she’s with a good family,” Cathy says. “This whole dystopia came about because kids are such a hot commodity, right? She’s probably being spoiled rotten, having a great time; not really anything to worry about there–”

“Cathy.” Fassbender sits beside her on the bed. 

“You can call me Offassbender–”

“Cathy, I’m going to make this right. I will see you reunited with your family. I promise.” Fassbender places his hand over his heart, his flawless face glistening with tears.

“Oh. Well, I’ll be looking forward to that, thanks. But in the meantime–”

“Mommy, I had an accident.” 

Cathy’s eyes flew open. 

Rory was standing by the bed, holding her urine-soaked nightgown away from her body. 

“I tried to get to the bathroom, but daddy’s in there and … I couldn’t hold it.” Rory began crying.

***

“Cath? Are you crying?”

Jay stood awkwardly, hands in pockets, waiting for his wife to explain.

“What’s wrong? Is it something I did?”

Cathy shook her head. “I’m so tired. They hate me, no matter what I do–”

“You’re talking about the nurses again.” Jay’s voice was flat.

“It isn’t just them.” Cathy closed her eyes. “I had to ream out one of my residents last night. He’s a good kid, but he doesn’t get it. They brought in someone who’s coding, ok? And I’m in the middle of dealing with it, giving the nurses instructions. Then he walks in, this friggin’ resident, and starts issuing his own instructions. All completely wrong. Not intentionally being a dick, just being an oblivious guy. But all the nurses stop what they’re doing–what Itold them to do–and start following his instructions! Because he’s a 6’2” bearded dude, and when he walks into a room and speaks in his big stupid guy-voice, people are going to defer to him over me. It doesn’t matter that he’s only a resident and fifteen years younger–”

“Yes, men are garbage,” Jay muttered. “Let’s generalize about all men–”

“I’m not saying men are garbage! But there are these dynamics, assumptions about authority, ok? And I like this kid. I’m not saying he’s an asshole, or bad at his job, but he needs to understand. It isn’t about ego–”

Jay snorted and swooshed one hand over the top of his head.

“Whatever, Jay. Think what you want. But with my work, it isn’t. People could die if some clueless resident sweeps into an already-crowded room and starts giving contradictory orders, ok?”

“So. You told your resident all this, and now he hates you.” 

“It isn’t just that,” Cathy mumbled. “It’s all of it. I’ve had three patients scream ‘gook’ at me over my last two shifts, as I’m trying to help them. Old men encrusted in their own shit and vomit, and they’re tugging at the corners of their eyes–”

“But you always get those, Cath–”

“It’s more than ever, a lot more.” Cathy rubbed her temples. “It feels like it, at least. I don’t know.”

“They’re crazy homeless Vietnam vets. Their brains are mush from drugs–”

“I don’t care if they’re veterans! That doesn’t make it ok!” Cathy shouted, before catching her breath and listening for sounds from Rory’s room. 

Nothing. Cathy and Jay exhaled.

Jay spoke first.

“I’m not excusing them. But this is nothing new, right? You’ve never let it get to you before. Don’t let these losers see that they’re upsetting you, Cath. That’s what they want! You think I love all the jokes about us? The Jewish guy, Asian chick cliché–”

“Except you aren’t actually Jewish,” Cathy cut in. “And that only happened the one time. Right?”

“The one time I know about. But I know people think it, and I don’t let it get to me–”

“Because you aren’t Jewish at all–”

“–but people assume I am, and I don’t bother correcting them. What difference does it make, whether I am or not?” Jay demanded. Cathy didn’t answer. 

He sighed. “Clearly, I’m not saying the right things. Why don’t you call Sandy, or one of your friends–”

“One, Sandy isn’t speaking to me, remember? Two, what friends?”

“What are you talking about? You’ve got friends. The Caseys–”

“I’m only friends with one Casey. I don’t think the other one even likes me–”

“Do you just disagree with me for the sake of it? Do you even hear what it is I’m saying, before you disagree?”

Cathy stared. “What?” 

“You never agree with me, on anything.” 

“That isn’t true–” 

Jay laughed and swooshed one hand over the top of his head. At the same time, they heard whimpering noises from Rory’s room.

“Great. Now Rory’s upset,” Jay muttered. He left the room.

Cathy sat alone on their bed, listening to Jay comfort their daughter through the wall.

***

What. Are. Those. Noises? 

Cathy stared at the ceiling, and listened.

It’s not even snoring really, it’s … the most disgusting breathing sounds I’ve ever heard. Snorting. Snuffling. Weird guttural things. Then that sucking, whistling sound before the hideous, lip-fluttering … I think the tongue is involved too. Oh god … 

She rose and stomped to the bathroom. Jay’s sleep carried on, untroubled.

Cathy tore through the medicine cabinet, chasing melatonin with NyQuil, dousing herself in lavender essential oil. She wondered, not for the first time, why she hadn’t prioritized getting a place with spare bedrooms above all else. 

If there was one piece of advice I could give newlyweds, it would be: separate bedrooms. I’ll have to remember to tell Rory, when the time comes.

After twenty minutes, she decided to give sleep another try.

You got this. 

Cathy re-entered the bedroom and nearly retched. 

Sweet jesus WHY? Why does my bedroom smell worse than my ER? How is that possible?

She approached the bed.

It smells like dozens of feral animals are simultaneously dying, farting, and going through puberty. This cannot all be Jay. One human can’t, just can’t …

Cathy leaned over Jay, and sniffed. 

It IS him! Why, WHY does he smell like Sloth guy from Se7en who’s been tied down to a bed for years? 

What the … 

Jay appeared to be covered in a filmy slime. Cathy poked at him with a trembling finger. 

BEER?! He’s literally sweating beer! Beer is oozing from his pores! Hell no, I … can’t. He’s a Cronenberg movie, not a person. 

Cathy looked around the room.

Every surface is covered in his pubes and body hair and beard hair and nose hair. How can he shed so much hair and still be so hairy? It’s all over me, my clothes; it’s in our food …  

She gazed back down at Jay. 

I can never look at this man again with any trace of desire. 

Jay snorted, then farted, then rolled onto his side whilst smacking his lips.

How did I EVER harbor sexual feelings for him?

***

Jay waited until they were standing on Cathy’s parents’ doorstep to tell her. 

“I’m going to head out as soon as we’re done eating. The main stuff, I mean, not dessert. I promised my parents I’d drop by.”

Cathy stared. “Why the heck didn’t you–”

Her dad opened the door. “Look who it is!” he trilled as he scooped up Rory. “Come inside, how have you been, how was the drive …” he continued autopiloting as he retreated to the TV room.

“Hello.” Sandy greeted them from the kitchen doorway, arms folded and eyes downcast.

“Hey.” Cathy handed Jay her coat and bags, then approached her sister. “What’s new?”

“Mom tell you I moved out?” Sandy asked. She brought a fingernail to her mouth and commenced chewing. “Got a place of my own now.”

“Seriously? That’s great, Sandster!” Cathy meant it. “Where, when, how–”

“It’s one of those tiny houses. You’ve heard of them? For people who care about their carbon footprint–” Sandy stopped as Cathy pushed past her to the windows overlooking the yard.

“Please tell me that isn’t your idea of moving out,” Cathy hissed as she stared at the twee construction where her dad used to grow tomatoes.

A series of defensive squawks issued from Sandy. Cathy rested her forehead against the glass.

***

“What are you doing over there?” Jay asked as he rose from the bed.

“How do you do this?” Nadine frowned and held aloft two ends of a man’s necktie. Save for the tie and her boots, she was naked.

Jay reached under Nadine’s arms from behind and took the tie’s ends. Nadine moved her hands up to her hair.

“Your tits look great like that,” Jay murmured as he looked over her shoulder into the mirror. His hands brushed against them as he worked. “This is hot, actually.” He pressed his pelvis forward, so she could feel that he was hard again.

“Where’d you get this tie?”

“The guy who was here before you left it.”

“Oh yeah? Who is he?” Jay pressed further against her.

“The guy who’s always on the treadmill next to you at Barry’s. You know who I mean–he’s like a foot taller than you, much faster than you? I think he’s a banker; he’s always in these expensive suits. You should see the way he fucks me.”

Jay tried to stay focused on the tie. “You like it?” 

Nadine nodded emphatically, tits bouncing. “I love it, even though I’m sore after, because he’s so big and he can go for so long. And then I had to take you right after–”

“Is that what you did, you nasty slut?”

“Uh-huh. I didn’t even have time to wash up, before you were pounding away–”

“There.” Jay adjusted the knot. “Very professional.” Nadine grinned into the mirror as he cupped her breasts. His lips traveled down to the nape of her neck. “Keep your hands behind your head, but step your legs out further apart.” She obeyed.

Jay lowered to his knees, then sat with bent legs out before him, in between Nadine’s. Releasing his head back, he reached up and guided her into position above him. Nadine continued watching in the mirror, giggling at the first flicks of his tongue.

***

“That is such a friggin’ strawman,” Cathy interrupted. She pushed away her pie.

Sandy glared across the table. “What do you mean?”

“The idea there’s this cabal of non-believers, who are preventing action on climate change. Most people believe in it,” Cathy continued as she re-filled her wine glass. “So what? That doesn’t answer what can, or should, be done. Or mean there’s consensus on exactly what is going to happen, and when …” She noted her parents’ furrowed brows.

What am I doing? Why?

Dunno. Who cares? It’s pissing Sandy off.

Cathy continued: 

“I mean, how do people envision shit going down? Do they think the whole planet’s gonna explode? Or picture simultaneous tsunami waves everywhere? Besides. If you are on the receiving end of a fatal tsunami wave, you won’t know whether it’s happening just there, or everywhere.” 

She paused, saw that Sandy was going to speak, and hurried on: 

“People have always thought they’re staring down end times. Part of being human, I guess. Makes us feel significant. Still. It’s unlikely the end of the world will happen to fall within our hot-sec, stupid-short lifespans, ok?” 

Cathy played with her glass. 

“It’s about your perspective, isn’t it? That’s all. Amalfi was a wealthy, powerful city-state for centuries. Centuries! Then one day, the earth beneath most of the city broke off and fell into the sea. One moment, their only rival is Venice; the next, 90% of their population’s gone. Or look at the Native Americans, ok? 80 to 90 percent of them wiped out by smallpox, before ever seeing the settlers responsible. Or during the Black Death, when up to two-thirds of Europe died … All of those people, they all must have thought the world was ending. They weren’t wrong.” 

“What are you saying?” Sandy asked. 

“I don’t know.”

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