The Gradual Appliance Of Evil


The smooth sides are preternaturally white. It reminds me of a headstone, the first time I see it.
'Why is the fridge in the spare bedroom?' It doesn't seem to me that the question is odd. There is a 6 foot fridge-freezer in the bedroom, but no bed.
'We had to move a few things around, that's all.' The landlady scowls. 'I'm in a hurry?'
'Oh, okay.' We follow her back down to the kitchen, where the stairs open out.
'Would it,' I ask, but I pause, and the landlady huffs. I take an audible breath and start again. 'Would it be okay to move the fridge back to the kitchen?'
'I don't know, why don't you ask it?' She shows her teeth. I think it's a smile. 'So, if you want it, be quick, I have another viewing this afternoon.' Sharp looking teeth, behind that slash of red lipstick.
'We'll take it.' Luce nods, resigned. 'There's nothing left on campus,' she reminds me, and doesn't have to remind me of the previous dumps we've been dragged around.
'Cool.' A capacious handbag is snapped open, and each of us gets a wad of paperwork. 'Fill these out-'
'We know the drill,' Luce interrupts. 'You're in a hurry,' she says, by way of apologising.
'Right. Thanks.' Her eyes creep up the stairs.

We all leave. The landlady gets in her shiny car and drives too fast.
'I didn't want a lift,' Luce smirks, 'did you want a lift?'
'Oh no,' I tell her, 'I just love the smell of the bus shelter.'
The summer warmth is threadbare, there's a spikiness in the air. We scuff through an early drift of fallen leaves, laughing.

The bus shelter is close, and there's nothing wrong, exactly, with the house, except there is a fridge in the spare room. We have filled out our paperwork, written our cheques, bribed Dud a beer and pizza supper to drive our possessions to the door.
'Deal was for haulage only.' He sits on the sofa. 'No TV?'
'Brave.' He watches us instead, setting out an island of boxes, suitcases and bin sacks.
'You want pudding?' Luce tilts her head, and somehow the strap of her vest top slips from her shoulder. Dud looks nervous.
'What's on the menu?'
Luce pulls the strap back. 'There's a deli over the road, quite the cake selection. They have cheesecake.'
'And the catch?'
'Have you ever seen a fridge in a bedroom, Dud?'
Dud frowns. 'What do you mean, fridge in a bedroom?'
'It's not a euphemism, Dud, it's a refrigerator- it's in the spare bedroom- and can you imagine- a life where one has to walk upstairs for a beer, Dud, can you imagine?'
He screws his eyes up like a man with a migraine.
'We need to get it down to the kitchen, a little help will buy a slice of, let me guess, strawberry cheesecake.' Dud always has the strawberry cheesecake.
I know what I like.' Dud nods. He looks over the stack of boxes for a moment, then stands up. 'Okay.'
Luce, Dud, then me, traipse up the stairs. I'm not sure I can be bothered with it, after all the lugging I've done today. It seems like it's the sort of thing that can wait. Luce has her determined stride going, so I don't say anything.
'But you don't have a TV,' Dud pipes up. 'So why do you need to go downstairs to drink beer?'
Luce shivers. 'Let's put it in the yard.'
'In the yard?' The yard is tiny.
Luce shrugs, and pushes the door open. It sticks on the carpet. 'Odd,' she mutters; gives it an irritated shove; leaps back, nearly knocks me and Dud down the stairs.
'What!' I see what, while Luce clutches her chest.
'Sorry,' she says.
The fridge is in the centre of the room, like it is ready to confront us. It is unexpected, though there's no reason why it needs to be against the wall, where we last saw it. That was two weeks ago. Strikes me as unlikely, but the landlady could have moved it to vacuum the room. Not totally weird.
'Okay,' I pat Luce on the shoulder. 'That was silly.' I smile, and edge into the room. Dud and Luce follow. Dud puts a broad hand on the side of it.
'It's- too cold,' he whispers.
Luce and I exchange looks. We have never heard Dud whisper.
'How heavy is it?' I decide pragmatism might break whatever spell is cast here. I'm wrong. It will not be moved. Even with Dud's help, it won't shift, and he's right, it is too cold.
'This is ridiculous!' Luce puts her head in her hands. This time, Dud gets pragmatic. He opens the top door. A light comes on, shines on clean empty shelves. He opens the freezer door and the same thing happens, except the light shines on clear plastic drawers and they steam up in the room temperature.
'It's just a fridge freezer,' he announces.
'Then why can't we move it?' Luce looks drained.
'I dunno,' Dud shrugs. 'It's a bit weird.'
'It doesn't make sense.'
'Maybe it's possessed, you know, there's a poltergeist in it.'
'There's nothing in it, Dud,' Luce sighs. 'You opened the door, there was no, like, whirling maelstrom or paranormal cheese, or whatever a fridge poltergeist gets up to.'
'Not in the shelf space, I meant in the machinery bits.'
'Ghost in the machine?'
'Something like,' Dud hunches his eyes up again. 'Like a bit of evil.'
'A bit of evil?'
'Yes,' he nods, 'it's a bit awkward, but, at the end of the day, you have a fridge, it works, it's clean, you don't need to go downstairs to drink a cold beer, so, let it have its own room. It's cool, the fridge has a room.'
'It's not a very big room.' I shrug. 'Dud's right, it doesn't really matter. It's- kind of quirky- we have a fridge, it works, it just might be a little bit evil. A little bit is probably okay.'
Luce looks up at the appliance. 'There might come a point,' she says; emphatically; 'when we run out of excuses for it.'

'How's the house? I hear your fridge is evil.' Stefan swung a fringed suede bag from a sardonic shoulder.
'It's all about the evil, this season, Stefan.' Luce flounced to the library. Stefan always brought out the flounce in Luce.
'We're getting used to it. Canteen?' I was in a coffee and cake mood.
Canteen coffee was acceptable, if you really needed caffeine. The cake was wholesale horrid: wrapped in crimp-edged plastic. Coffee and walnut, the label claimed.
Stefan's default face was a fine blend of snobbish disgust. He looked at my tray, added a raised eyebrow.
'I'm tired.'
'Blood-sugar car crash.' He put a glass bottle of mineral water on his tray, next to an organic vegan snack box.
'They shoot vegetables, Stefan.'
He looked around the canteen, fixed his judgemental eyes on one or two people.
'I'll look forward to that.' On the way to our usual table by the window he made a finger and thumb gun, pointed it around the room. 'Vegetables,' he said, a little too loud.

'What do you reckon, Luce- good idea?' It was Stefan's, originally.
'An evil fridge party? Yeah, why not.' She over stirs her coffee. 'Do you really think it's evil?'
'I dunno. Maybe Dud's right, there's something a little bit evil about it.'
Luce ponders. 'Maybe,' she says. 'I couldn't eat my yoghurt this morning.'
'That's your definition of a bit evil? A spoilt yoghurt? I was thinking more how a kitchen appliance gets its own room.'
Luce surprises me by pulling the lid off the bin and retrieving the ditched yoghurt carton. There's something inside it that looks and smells like rotting flesh.
'Oh my god, Luce! How far past its sell-by was that!? That's disgusting!'
'In date.' Luce declared, flinging it back in the bin and ramming the lid down. 'Well inside the date.'
'That is evil!'
She stared at the bin lid. 'Yeah. That's not right is it? That's what a little bit of evil in a fridge does. Turns yoghurt into a gore show.'
'I don't want to see it again, but did that just happen?'
'Exactly,' Luce said. Then she sighed. 'But if we're stuck with it, we might as well have a party and I might as well have a new dress.'

'See you later!' She shouts as she shuts the door. I find her cereal bowl on the table, and a half drunk coffee, which is where all the milk has gone.

Before I get into study mode, I have to walk to the shop for more milk, drag upstairs to put it in the fridge. I have to get my books ready, the kettle boiled. I take a jug upstairs, for some milk; smart thinking; so I can refill the coffee cup without going upstairs all the time. I open the fridge door. Inside, is a fleshy lining, crawling with icy bluish maggots. What should have been milk is black, thickly black like mould. I slam the door shut. Open it again. No maggots, and the stark white shelves are back, but the milk is dark and sort of hairy. I take a picture on my phone, send it to Dud, Stefan and Luce.

In the canteen, people are nodding at me. I know they've seen the picture.
'Evil fridge,' is a murmur that follows me to my table.
'Perhaps we could build a profile,' Stefan suggests, 'what other food groups does this fridge disagree with?'
'So far, the dairy stuff has stood out. I had some celery, but it just went off, I forgot about it. Not very supernatural.'
'Too tired for celery?' Stefan flicks the plastic packet on my plate.
'Sugar is the new protein.'
'Shame it's not the new botox.'
Shame I'm too tired to listen to Stefan being clever and not tired, but it's not much of retort so I stare out of the window instead. I don't need a retort. I smile and wave at Flora, Stefan's painful ex. I don't have to look, I know he is stinging like I've just slapped his face.

Luce is home late. She has excelled herself: a dress, two pairs of shoes, a cropped jacket, a necklace, a parcel of make up, even a new set of underwear.
'It's just some friends, Luce, you probably could have worn jeans and t-shirt.'
'Heels or flats, that always gets me.' She picks up the patent stilettos, admires them by the watery light of an economy bulb.
'Can you afford this?'
'Only one life to live, dear Petal, got to be indulged sometimes.'
I hate it when she calls me Petal.

 'I take bits of human
anatomy, random bits like finger tips and eyes, not like, a liver or a thigh meat steak, you know; from the salad tray, double wrong; and make sandwiches. Then I wake up and the worst bit is, I feel hungry.'
'Test your iron levels. That's the theory on cannibals,' Stefan tells me, 'low in haemoglobin. And social intelligence.'
'Still angry because I waved at Flora?'
'We're fine.'
'So if I said, hey Flora, come to our party, it's cool, we're all friends still?'
'Just about.' Which is Stefan language for stop talking, it hurts.

'For the party,' I venture, 'we should fill the bath with ice, to keep the beer cold.' With the window open, with the way the weather has skipped autumn and whipped into winter, the ice won't melt. Nor will the bath mutate the beer into anything unspeakable. Last night's dream was pints of curdling blood made into porridge. The oats looked like mulched bone.
'We should decorate.' Luce has a magazine open on the table, she holds up a photo spread of a lavish Halloween scene.
'Is the evil fridge not enough?'
'Nope.' Luce rummages through her handbag; I notice it's a new bag; and pulls out a notebook. 'Ice, chunks of.' She writes as she speaks.
'Nice bag. Hope that's not the rent money gone, Luce.'
'It's fine. Tablecloth, black. Cobweb, giant, one. One big one is better for impact, don't you think?'
I snigger.
'Come on, Petal, concentrate.'
'Crisps, beer, job done.'
She rolls her eyes. 'Finesse?'
'A tablecloth? Really?'
'It's a party, Petal, come on, let's enjoy it. You're being pretty crabby lately.'
'I'm just tired, Luce.'
She shrugs, and writes her list in silence.

The flat looks amazing. Luce looks amazing. I decide to stick with jeans, but change my top, add a little glitter to my make up. Now I'm a disco zombie, and Luce can't say I'm ruining the mood. She sets the play list up, puts down the house lights, so it's all hot flickers and jumping cobweb shadows.

'Beer? Or dare to drink cocktails from the Evil Fridge?'
Dud looks at Luce. She knows he doesn't admit to drinking cocktails. He'll drink the beer and ask everyone later if he can just have a taste.
'It's in the bath, Dud.'
He nods, heads for the bathroom.
'Luce, what cocktails? Why don't I know about the cocktails?'
The doorbell rings.

'Um,' Luce sidles up, clutching her Bloody Mary, 'did you invite Flora? Only Flora is here, and Stefan's here, you know?'
'Oh, it won't matter, Luce, they're fine now, Stefan says they are fine so it won't matter.'
'Okie kay, if you say so.' Luce is drunk.
'Yeah, s'all fine.' She needs to be careful she doesn't fall off those stupid heels. I'm sticking to the beer, and the spicy rum that Flora handed to me, that Luce doesn't know about.
'Surprise!' I'm not supposed to say that bit out loud.
'What is, what's a surprise?'
'Something you don't know about. That's all.' I smile.
Someone upstairs screams: a real horror film scream.
Luce and I start laughing. 'Milk's off,' she says.
The screams go on. I head for the stairs.
'Just shut the door!' I call up, 'shut the door and I'll get you a different drink, okay, it's just a bit evil!' Whatever it is, the screams stop.
'I'm hungry.'
'C'mon, pizza, and stuff, yeah? Got olives.'

Luce leads into the living room, where the table looks extraordinary, the black cloth, and the juddering lights, and it looks like the food is floating in hell. The pizza is fantastic. Dud has found the cheesecake, I see, he is holding the whole plate with the whole thing on it, ignoring the forks just shovelling it in.
'Pig.' Luce is not impressed.
It's even less impressive when he is sick. Frothy pink stink, all over the cheesecake, all down Dud. I don't feel so hungry anymore, put down my pizza crust, discretely. It's another surprise for all of us when Dud doesn't stop eating, and there's as much coming out of him as there is going in, and it's kind of fascinating to see. He is gagging on his food, gagging on his vomit: handfuls of mush go back in his mouth. I'm glad I'm not Dud. We're all mesmerised. Luce does the next unexpected thing and hits him, hits him so hard, hits him in the temple with the pumpkin face ashtray. Then Dud hits the floor. I'm worried about Dud but a flailing Flora knocks over the table, and everything is a mess. Stefan is screaming, Flora is screaming, Dud is on the floor. I'm way too tired for all this. I think I should go to bed. I hear Dud groan, so he's not dead, so it would be okay just to go to bed now. I think Flora was pushed, but Stefan said they were fine, so it must be okay. In a minute, I will go to bed. Flora punches Stefan, his nose bursts: they pull back, square up: Flora has a knife, when did that happen? We don't have those knives. Luce has been shopping again.
'This is your fault,' I tell her.
She hits Flora with the ashtray: Flora, who recoils and falls, a perfect nymph. Blood trickles from one beautifully painted eye. Stefan stoops to vomit. Luce raises her arm over his head. Dud is there: I didn't see him stand up. He has hold of Luce's arm and it makes a snap, I hear it over the intro to Thriller.

Dud's face is lopsided from the bruise, his pupils are dilated, they're enormous, there's only black and white in those eyes. I can't understand what he is saying, his mouth is full of sick and Luce is screaming. Stefan is lying on the floor, and there is sick coming out of everyone's mouths now, only it's not just stomach contents, it's more like lumps of stomach: putrid, slippery, steaming; I see bits of crinkled tube, flaccid, intestinal things, and it's cold in here, I'm shaking and I'm looking at Dud and he speaks clear words.
'No excuses. Run out.'
'You've gone mad,' I tell him, 'you are as crazy as a loon.'
'It's got nothing to do with the moon.' Pink foam glistens on his chin.

Dud runs upstairs so I run after him. Everyone else is on the gloopy floor, I want no part of that. Dud piles through the door of the spare room, hits the fridge with his crazy shoulder. Lunatic strength shifts the thing, and it goes fast, takes out the glass, the frame, teeters, just for a moment, and I hear Dud grunt, see him lean his weight along it before it drops. On the pavement, drifting leaves blow over the bonnet of the fast shiny car, over the zigzag shape of Dud, over the slab of fridge, over the protruding hand and the oversized handbag. A red lipstick rolls to the gutter.


The Cranky said…
Remind me not to go to any of your parties?

That was an imaginatively creepy tale!
Lisa Southard said…
Thank you Jacqueline! My parties don't always end with a sacrifice ;-)
YONKS said…
Nice one! :-)

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