📅 Published on December 1, 2022


Written by P.D. Williams
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 4 votes.
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Bertram couldn’t be sure how long Emeline had been dead. She’d been in the bathroom, taking one of her late afternoon soaks. He hadn’t heard a peep out of her since she’d turned off the faucets over an hour ago. He didn’t think much about it. After all, they were both in their early 70-s, and as you got older, things naturally took longer.

Bertram was kicked back in his time-worn recliner watching baseball. It was now well into the fourth inning when the thought hit him to check on her. Lord, what if she’s fallen and knocked herself unconscious? He had sat through enough of those medical alert commercials to know that it was relatively easy to end up on the kitchen floor or—and this was when the disturbing mental picture took hold of him—a bathtub full of water.

He got up, walked to the bathroom, and banged on the door. “You okay in there?” She didn’t answer, so he opened the unlocked door and stepped inside. Emeline was sitting in the tub, her head tilted to the side. She appeared to be napping.

“Emeline? Emeline, honey?” He inched closer to the tub. The knot in his stomach grew tighter as he reached down and pushed her shoulder. She slumped down to the waterline. He jumped back as if the tub had sent an electrical shock through him. Bertram’s quaking hand felt her neck for a pulse but found none. He stared at her chest for any movement. It was still. “Oh, Lordy Lord! Emeline? Aw, Jesus, no! He backed out of the bathroom until he bumped into the wall in the hallway. He turned and staggered to the living room and dropped down onto the recliner. Bertram was shaky and confused.

Once he collected and arranged his thoughts, he realized that the first thing he needed to do was contact the authorities. He shut off the TV, turned, lifted the receiver of the landline phone on the small table next to him, and began dialing 9-1-1. Then the voice called from the bathroom.

“Bertram! Are you there?”

He froze, his finger still hovering over the 1 button on the phone’s receiver. He reminded himself there were no such things as ghosts. He dialed the 1, then he heard the water’s stirring, followed by the faint sound of feet sliding over the tile floor toward the bathroom door. In his mind’s eye, Bertram watched the doorknob slowly turn, and heard the tell-tale creak of the door hinges. The wet footsteps squished as they dragged down the hall and toward the living room.

Bertram laid the receiver on the table and stared straight ahead at the darkened TV screen. He could see his own reflection and the living room around him. His peripheral vision detected the form stepping out of the hall. He stayed focused on the TV mirror. He might lose what little sanity he had left if he looked directly at her. He panted as the body wrapped in a white bathrobe sauntered past him and sat down in the chair next to him.

“Bertram, I feel funny,” she said. “I hope I didn’t have a stroke or somethin’.” Emeline looked over to him. “Bertram, what’s wrong with you? Look at me when I’m-a-talkin’ to you.”

Bertram worked up enough courage to swivel his head toward her like a wobbly animatronic. When he saw that his wife was very much alive, and not some revenant haunting him, his body relaxed, and his heart rate returned to near normal.

“Baby?” he asked with more relief than fear. “God of Moses, darlin’, I thought you’d gone and died in the bathtub.”

“Died in the bathtub? What’s gotten into you, ya old fool?” She smiled and snickered at him.

“You was in the tub for a while, so I went to check on ya. You weren’t breathin’, or movin’, or nothin’. When I touched ya, you slumped over like a loose fence post. Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yes, Bertram, I think I might remember dyin’. I probably just fainted. Them new blood pressure pills Doc Melbourne has me on has been givin’ me the woozies. I’ll call him tomorrow and get that straightened out.” She shot a quick glance at the antique clock on the mantle and said, “Good gracious, would you look at the time? Have you eaten anything?”

“Well, of course, Emeline. The first thing I thought of when I figured you was dead was to go into the kitchen and stuff my pie-hole.”

“Oh, Bertram,” she mewed through one of the loving smiles he always found endearing. “You must be starved. I’ll whip you up some fried cubed steak and mashed potatoes.”

“Ain’t you hungry, too? You know how much dyin’ can wear a body out.”

“Ha ha, ain’t you a riot? Ya know, for some reason, I ain’t hungry.”

“Well, how ’bout you get on to bed and rest yourself, then. I’ve got more of a hankerin’ for a peanut butter and nanner sandwich.”

“All right, then. I am feelin’ pretty run down. I’ll see you in the mornin’.”

“I sure hope so.”

Emeline got up from her chair, stood over him, and kissed him on top of his balding head before heading off to bed. Sweet Jesus, how her lips are cold.

A good half hour before even God himself was set to awaken, the rooster crowed. Bertram sat up in bed, rubbed his eyes, and swung his legs over the side. He drew in the familiar fragrance wafting in from the kitchen. Bertram loved the smell of freshly brewed coffee and bacon in the morning. He threw on some fresh overalls and made a bee-line to his breakfast.

He leaned over the stove in the kitchen and sniffed the frying pans that created what he liked to think of as the Morning Miracle. He poured himself a mug of hot, black coffee and sat down at the small table by the kitchen window, where he was greeted by the glorious sight of one of Emeline’s life-altering breakfasts. He was about to place the napkin in his lap when it

dawned on him that Emeline wasn’t buzzing around the way she typically did. His stomach lurched at the thought that she may have passed out again.

“Hey, honey, where you at?”

“I’m down here!” Emeline hollered from the root cellar, where she stored her delicious homemade jellies. Soon, the cellar’s two heavy doors slammed shut. Bertram heard her grunting as she climbed up the three stairs of the side porch.

“Darlin’, are you okay? Do you need some help?”

“No, I’m good. Just needed to grab a fresh jar of jelly,” Emeline replied.

Bertram started loading up his plate with scrambled eggs. He heard the squeal of the long spring on the screen door stretching. “Come on, old woman, or I’ll start the blessin’ without ya!”

Emeline scooted past him, as he saturated his eggs with Tabasco sauce. He was stretching for the bacon just as she was sitting down. She reached across the table and placed the jelly at the center, next to the biscuits’ covered bowl.

The jar was her strawberry blend. Bertram read the personalized note on the label affixed to the front: Strappin’ Strawberry, Main Ingredient—LOVE. He smiled as if he were reading the sentiment for the first time.

“I don’t know what’s up with me this mornin’. My joints feel so stiff,” Emeline complained.

“Oh, now, Emeline, you know neither of us is exactly a spring chick—” Bertram looked at her. She had dark circles under her slightly milky eyes. Purple veins criss crossed her upper torso.

“Bertram, what is it? Are you alright? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Bertram swallowed hard. “Emeline, baby, have you looked in a mirror?”

“No, I just threw on my dress and got about my business. I didn’t have the energy to go comb my hair or brush my teeth. ’Sides, who’s there to try and impress way out here anyways? Speakin’ of teeth, my jaw feels tight. It’s makin’ it hard to talk. Do you think I might’ve gotten a tick bite? Those things can cause all kinds of bad symptoms.”

Bertram didn’t feel like eating anymore. “I think we ought to get you in the truck and go to the ER over in Campbell.”

“That’s nearly an hour from here! Just let me see if I can stomach some food, then I’ll go take some aspirin and lie down. I’ll be alright.”

“Here, let me see if you’ve got a fever first.” Bertram felt her forehead. He snatched his hand back.

“Bertram, what is it? Do I have a temperature, or not?”

“Sweetie, you don’t have no temperature at all. You’re colder than an Eskimo’s nose. Are you sure you don’t want me to rush you to the hospital in Campbell? There’s no tellin’ what you might’ve caught.”

“No. I’m too tired to even walk out to the truck. Just help me get back to bed. I don’t think I can hold anything down after all. We’ll see how I feel later.”

“All right, if you’re sure.”

Bertram took her arm. He nearly yelped. It felt as if her arm had turned into an unyielding rubber. When he finally got her to the bedroom, he began unbuttoning the back of her dress. He noticed it was damp, and her skin had a slight sheen to it. After he lowered her onto the bed, he covered her up and kissed her frigid forehead before heading to the living room to give all of this a good think.

Throughout the morning and early afternoon, Bertram checked on her four times. Each time, she was sleeping. Worn out by questions and concerns, he nodded off in the recliner. A while later, he awoke with a start and saw the early evening’s faint shadows beginning to take shape on the living room’s wall. He had drifted off earlier in the afternoon, which meant Emeline hadn’t been checked on for hours. Bertram gave a slight grunt as he hauled himself up and out of his chair. He was just beginning to get acclimated to alertness when he heard a gurgling voice cry out from the back bedroom.


Her voice sounded like it was underwater. Bertram was running down the hall when the odd smell hit him. It was like rotten fruit and spoiled meat. He charged through the bedroom door, flipped on the light switch, and blocked his howl with his palm.

“Bertram,” she asked, “do I look odd to you? I feel different from this mornin’. What do you think’s goin’ on?”

Bertram had no response for the waxy corpse sitting on the edge of the bed. Then his attention shifted to the stomach-churning stench emanating from the thick pus oozing from the popping blisters covering her reddish body. “I feel sick. Will you help me get to the bathroom?”

Bertram stood there, gawking at her. He didn’t know if he should run screaming from the house, or call an ambulance.

“Bertram, help me,” she pleaded.

He walked to the bed. Emeline held up a water-logged arm, and Bertram grimaced as he took hold of it. He began lifting her up to a standing position and felt the top layer of her skin slip a little. His repulsion made him pause.

“Bertram, get me to the toilet!”

It was enough to snap him back. After helping Emeline up, he stepped back a bit but held his arms out to catch her if she fell, though he dreaded having to touch her again. Once he’d directed her into the bathroom, she shuffled toward the toilet. She bent forward slightly and vomited up copious amounts of blackish blood and small, chunky pieces.

Feeling his own gorge rising, Bertram said, “I’m so sorry,” as he dashed from the bathroom and out to the side porch, where he did some puking of his own. As he was finishing, it gradually dawned on him that he had left his ailing wife alone in the bathroom, dealing with her own fear and discomfort. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he composed himself as best he could and ventured back inside.

The only thing worse than Emeline’s hideous appearance was the horrendous smell of decaying flesh that now permeated the back of the house. He grabbed a handkerchief from a pocket in his overalls and covered his nose and mouth. “Emeline, where are you, sugar?”

“Bah-room,” the croaking voice replied. She was hunched over the porcelain sink, her darkened hands gripping the sides. “Oh, Ber-ham,” she whispered.

Bertram approached the sink. He couldn’t see Emeline’s face; her oily hair had fallen forward over her brow. Bloody teeth clogged the drain. I think we might be lookin’ at more than some tick bite or faintin’ spell. The conclusion he was coming to unleashed a bevy of goosebumps all over his body. She wasn’t merely ill—she was a withering corpse. Bertram had seen enough dead farm animals. Emeline was just as gone as they had been.

He had no idea what to do, think, or say. Then the small crumb of rationality told him that the first thing he needed to do was become more practical—crying and confusion would not help. He could no longer think of Emeline as his beloved high school sweetheart and wife of over fifty years—she was now a body he had to deal with. His first course of action was to get her out of the house.

“Emeline, sweetness, let’s get you on the porch. I think we both could use some fresh air.”

She remained still at first and then made four small turns to her left until she was facing the bathroom doorway. “Do you want me to help you?” Bertram asked. He was relieved when she didn’t answer.

Once she made it to the porch, Emeline managed to bend her knees enough to lower herself down onto one of the rocking chairs. Bertram attempted to conceal the look of disgust on his face about her joints’ loud cracking as she sat down. Foamy blood leaked from her mouth and nose. They say that there’s dignity in death, Bertram thought, but there ain’t nothin’ dignified about my wife right now. He felt the need to cover her wretched body with something. “Sugar, would you like a blanket?”

Emeline nodded ever so slightly, her neck making the cringe-worthy cracking sound again.

Bertram pulled in a deep breath. Holding onto it for as long as possible, he jogged to the bedroom closet for the blanket. Once he was back outside, he tenderly wrapped the blanket around her and sat in the other rocking chair. Neither said a word. They stared out across the yard at the fading springtime sun as it slid softly and colorfully behind the tree line.

Bertram rocked back and forth. He tried desperately to direct his mind toward any other place, but the porch he was sharing with a dead woman. Bertram let his gaze wash over the front property, corralled by a long stretch of wire fencing. He was rapt as he took notice of the straight rows of neatly planted corn. They reminded him of a battalion of soldiers standing at attention. God, how I love the country life: it surely does agree with me.

But the merciful distraction dissipated as his thoughts circled back to Emeline. He recalled fondly the acreage portion that she had claimed: the magical place that ran along the north side of the house that gave the fruit bushes their first breath of glorious life. She used the berries she grew to create her wondrous and delectable delights. His lips trembled as he remembered the unique labels she made for each jar. She’d give each flavor a catchy name, like Big Bad Blueberry, Betcha Like ’Em Blackberry, or Really Red Raspberry. And just as she had done on the label for the strawberry jelly she’d served at breakfast, she always finished out the stickers with the affectionate phrase: Main Ingredient—LOVE.

As the hours wore on, Emeline’s wet breathing slowed. Her once bold eyes grew dull and distant. Despite his effort to stay awake with her, Bertram eventually fell into a deep and uneasy sleep. He was so drained that he slept past the rooster for one of the very few times in his adult life.

He was awakened by a loud buzzing. Emeline was still gazing well past nowhere; her eyes had receded deep into their sockets. The buzzing that Bertram heard was the numerous flying insects rushing in and out of her open mouth, invading her nose and ears. Her greenish body had bloated; it looked as though her stomach was set to burst. Due to the grotesque swelling, her blanket had slipped off.

For Emeline’s sake, Bertram tried to remain stoic. It would be cruel to let her witness her husband’s revulsion. His disordered mind made it difficult for him to decide on what he should do for his wife at this awful moment. He did know that he would never leave her with the relentless flies and their maggots. More importantly, he would never allow anyone else to see her in her current ghastly state—the authorities be damned!

“I’m fadin’, Berm,” she mumbled.

“What can I do, darlin’? Tell me what I can do for you.”

She struggled mightily to make herself understood. “Put me back in the tub. Please, let me twy and wash tiss mess off of meee.”

It was hard for Bertram to watch the filthy insects pushed out of her mouth as she spoke. It seemed evil and profane, and it brought about a wave of anger. “I’ll go and get the bath ready,” he said. “I’ll be back in a jiffy.”

When he returned to the porch, he had his handkerchief tied around the lower half of his face. Then he placed one arm under Emeline’s knees, now stiff with rigor mortis, and the other across her shifting shoulder blades, and carried her to the bathroom.

The muscles in his lower back strained as he placed her down into the water’s warm comfort. He stood up straight to loosen his back muscles and noticed that his arms were sticky and stained. “Do you want me to help wash you off?”

“No. Juss leave meee.”

Bertram shuddered as he realized that this was likely the last time he would ever hear his wife’s voice. “Call if you need anything.”

He went back out to the front porch to clear his head and allow the tears to purge his heart. He waited there for a very long time, but Emeline still hadn’t called for him. When he couldn’t take the silence and worry any longer, he re-covered his mouth and nose with his handkerchief and returned to the bathroom.

Emeline was slumped over, just as she had been the first time he found her. Her skin was turning black, and there was a slimy film on the surface of the water. Worse yet, her body was beginning to liquefy. The odor that ripped through his mask was the worst by far. Bertram opened a window and then bolted back outside to retch.

“Lord, please help me! What in the world am I gonna do?” he shouted. But Heaven was silent. Should he now call the authorities? And if he did, what would he tell them? What might they make of his wife’s decomposed body? Would they think him a ghoul and lock him away? There was going to be an investigation and many questions he couldn’t possibly answer.

Bertram needed a place to think. He walked around to the side of the house and stood near Emeline’s garden, where her prized crop flourished. He paced anxiously, frazzled and useless, hoping for an idea. Then, he abruptly stopped. As Bertram gazed upon the columns of ripened berries, an inexplicable feeling of calmness enveloped him. The garden’s peacefulness brought clarity, allowing him to ponder a few simple ideas rather than trudge through a complicated maze of elaborate plans. The decision he made felt not so much correct as it did proper. For Bertram, this was now a sacred place of remembrance—a place where a woman’s love nurtured the rich, brown earth that had yielded so much sweetness and beauty. Now, he knew what in the world he was gonna do.

He let her sit in the tub for over a week, so nature could finish the job it’d screwed up before. Then, he dug a hole out by her garden and began pouring her remains into it. When he got down to the last of it, Bertram picked up the small jar he had brought with him and filled it. He screwed on the two-piece metal lid, took a pen from one of his overalls’ chest pockets, and scribbled some words on the blank label.

Bertram carried the jar down to its final resting place. There, it would serve as a small monument to a love that would continue far beyond its fifty-plus years of earthly existence. He said a few words of prayer, then solemnly ascended the stairs of the root cellar. He lowered its doors as if they were the lid of a coffin. There in the darkness, on a row of tall racks, sat a jar of dark jelly. Written on the white label were the words: Amazing Emeline, Main Ingredient—LOVE.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 4 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by P.D. Williams
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: P.D. Williams

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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Cadan Leverett
Cadan Leverett
1 year ago

Awesome story, just if it had proper grammar.

9 months ago

This was such an interesting and eerie story. It was such a great idea and I was disappointed when the story ended. It was never boring and with the detail and the great ways it was written, was amazing.

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