Just like her blood. The words repeat themselves often enough that he could choke on it, on the taste of blood in his mouth when his jaw clamps shut on the inside of his cheek when she hits him, when she grabs his hair and hits him hard with the heel of her hand over and over and he can't quite defend himself. She's screaming loud. He's staring at her, he knows, and it makes it worse. He shuts his eyes to black them out. Each blow lands with a flare of colour behind his eyelids. An ugly, ugly colour.
A stinking, roiling stench. He walks. He walks and his footsteps fill thickly behind him. He can barely hold the knife any more; his knuckles went red, then white, with the effort of keeping the grip. He can't see his knuckles now, though. You always had beautiful hands, she told him. This isn't beautiful. Perhaps there's a fear she'll hate him. Perhaps there's a fear she'll see what he has become and the stain he cannot escape and the weight of his sins caught dark-flaked under his fingernails. The blood's darkened nearly to black. It's not beautiful. Perhaps he's right.
Sometimes shut away in that dark place he dreams of a colour he's never seen. It scares him a little; he chokes on vomit in his throat. A coppery taste. The way flesh bursts. He wakes and is afraid and cannot remember. He can see blue sky and bright sun and dark stone and his own skin and clothing and sometimes, if he's lucky, an animal. The colour is an emptiness inside him. The colour is a hollow face with something inside lurking and smiling. He's not hungry yet, but he knows what hunger is: this colour, this missing colour.
It was unasked for, that's the worst part. I would have died for you, I couldn't protect you. Live strong, he'd been told, but how do you do that, exactly? He wants to curl up and let himself die, right there, at his side. I couldn't protect you. It stains his hands and it stains his forehead in a sullen red mark that won't go away when he scrubs. Cursed, he thinks, and fails to smile at his reflection in the mirror. He has to get away from this, he thinks. It's a futile struggle, but he needs to run.
Sometimes he wakes and the red staining his hands is not, as he first thinks, blood, but someone else's hair. On those mornings he spends hours combing his fingers through it, watching the play of red over his skin. Finally eyes open. A grumble. Stop that, he's told, and he's captured by red eyes that say: I know you. And he looks back and says, Yes, you do, don't you, and registers confusion. He holds those eyes as long as he can. This is the place he should be, he thinks, as his sin falls back on his shoulders again.
Ah, but I'm hungry! The noise grates, and he can only scowl at it; shut up, he wants to say, I'm tired. The words don't connect, though, or they do and are absorbed and give nothing back. But I'm hungry! Can I have some meat? He remembers the first time the monkey saw meat. His eyes had gone huge and he had stared and his hand had reached out and caught at an arm. Can I have that, he'd asked finally. Something desperate in his voice. Do what you like, he'd said back, and hadn't shaken the monkey's hand loose.
Ah, you are always like that. Scrub harder, if you're that determined to wash away the blood; it doesn't come off that easily, does it? Not when you're a living flesh-and-blood thing. Life is suffering. Life is blood. But you know all about that, don't you? It's part of your charm, really. A sort of mortal passion.
Maybe it's a futile struggle, but it suits you.