The Light Bleeder: A short story

A person with gold dripping out of their mouth
Olivia Staser/Staff

Last Tuesday, I met a woman who spills glowing clouds of breath from between her lips with every word she speaks, like she begs me to match her gleam. And if I showed her, “Yes, I glow too” and slid a blade along my finger, let the light drip out of the wound, she might have kissed the cut. And then worked her way up my arm and neck until she pressed her gold coin lips against mine.

But if I’d held up my hand and pressed the blade to my finger, she would have noticed the wedding ring before I could wound myself. A silver wedding ring. And, even if I showed her my glow, I could not let her kiss the cut because if she leaves my cloud apartment with light residue on her lips — residue she couldn’t have noticed because her lips are already too bright — a breeze might pick up the light flakes and toss them onto the ground.

Even a spot of me on Earth would set the world on fire.

So I marry men who can afford to keep me above the dirt. The ones who are never home so they don’t mind a plantless house and a breezeless kitchen.

When I get sick of them, I kill them off with silver guilt potion. I slip it into their breakfast so they leave the house flustered over the babies they killed, not with their hands, but with their money. And they never come back, except as a phone call: “He died choking on silver coins.”

The same money I use to keep living in a place closer to a silver cloud than a home — high above the people I might murder if I happened to trip on the fire hydrant in front of the bookstore, and scrape my knee. My glowing blood would ignite the sidewalk even before the drips met cement.

But last Tuesday, the housekeeper sent a substitute because he’s on vacation until Sunday. The substitute’s breath was powerful, enough breeze to spark the glow from my papercut smothered in gauze. When she entered with the vacuum, I tumbled into the next room: “Get away, stay away, your breath tempts the apocalypse.”

Last Wednesday, I slipped silver guilt into his breakfast and the ring off my finger. When he left, I called to schedule a house-cleaning appointment for Friday. I just want to see her. And if I happen to seduce and marry her, we can live together. I’ll just ask her to “please wear a mask” to hide her gold-coin lips from mine. And when the money from the man I murdered with silver guilt runs out and I can’t afford the mortgage on the airtight apartment, I’ll murder you so I can marry another rich man and save the world from charred bones.

Murder you?

I called up a fortune teller: “Will this work?”

Last Thursday, she arrived with a crystal ball.

“I see — ouch!” she recoiled from the ball.

While she went to the bathroom to hunt for aloe vera, I peeked into the ball myself.

Inferno.

Contact Hannah Johansson at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @hanfrancesjohan.