Crimson All Over

by Larizza Joise Macabulos

How cold, she thinks to herself as she lay unmoving, listening to a stranger: Specimens collected, at the time of the post-mortem examination, are detailed in the following autopsy protocol. The decedent is one Rosaline Isabel Palermo, female, identified through facial recognition and dental records. 

She can feel her body being lifted, arms bent around to flex her fingers and joints: Rigor is absent, with livor mortis purple in color, distributed posteriorly. Records show that the subject is twenty-three years of age, unmarried, and of Filipino descent. Length is five feet, point two, with a postmortem weight of seventy kilograms. Eye color is unable to be identified due to injury. 

 A deep breath, then something above her forehead beeps: As the transport of the body spanned three hours, the body temperature dropped to thirty-three degrees celsius. The body is initially viewed as received at the scene of death in a black body transport bag. The subject is dressed in multiple articles of clothing, including a waist-length, light denim jacket that is unbuttoned and on the body in the usual wearing fashion. 

Underneath is a white, cropped tank top with extensive blood soakage in the front, also in the normal wearing fashion. Further down, the subject is wearing a black skirt that is three inches below the knee, with a rose and vines pattern. The garter portion is also bloodstained. The subject is wearing a matching black underwear set, well-worn and loose at the sides. The socks and shoes have been removed and are at the crime scene. 

Upon external examination, the subject appears to be well-developed, and well-nourished, with multiple lacerations across the neck, starting three inches below the left ear and ending one inch below the right ear. According to the police report, the weapon was a serrated table knife, and this seems to have been repeatedly sliced across the flesh. The jugular vein and carotid artery are completely severed. The sternohyoid muscle is severed, and the thyroid cartilage is halfway bisected. Her communicating vein is also severed. 

Upper and lower extremities are intact with no lacerations or bruising. Both eye sockets appear to have been penetrated by the subject’s right index finger, as evidenced by the markings of dried blood and aqueous humor on the subject’s right hand. The facial structure is otherwise intact. Markings of dried blood from the neck lacerations appear to have flowed downward, reaching the navel, suggesting the subject had been upright at the time of injury. Airways, save for the neck region, are free from any blockage. 

She is lifted by the nape, head propped up on something solid and rectangular. Somewhere down the ceaseless droning, something sharp sinks down the flesh of her right shoulder. It is cold, so cold, and it first carries the sting of a paper cut, only to crawl like a line of biting red ants throughout the surrounding flesh as it begins gently slicing from chest to groin.

Unable to steer away from the spreading sting, she could only lie still as the thing sawed through to the chest. The cold sharpness dislodges and, without much time to soothe her reeling nerves, starts sawing even deeper. Again, the minute tearing of flesh sends liquid agony throughout stiffened flesh, only now its depths are far past feeling, past nerves, past fathomable sensation. Somewhere in her is the thought of breathing, gathering air in the lungs, screaming. 

There is a strange tranquility in being hollowed out. While her ears tune in on the faint but thick sloshing of something slippery and swollen, the true coldness of where they put her seeped into her wan flesh, reaching joints, and bones, then settling. She thinks it is not too different from a grocery store’s meat aisles where children would stick their faces through its rusted vents and poke at the choice cuts with some tongs. 

The clock ticks away far to the far right, echoes of voices joining in their mechanical rhythm. Chiming tenors of a baby’s laughter, coos in feigned pitches meant to match its innocent wavelengths, idle chatter among relatives holed up in a warm, humid home. Like listening to a stifled old radio, white noise blanketed over snippets of the past. 


“What should we name her?” asked a voice reminiscent of crushed cigarettes in an ashtray. 

“Maybe Clarita?” said another, whose laughter tells of warm meals after a hard day. 

Someone much younger complained, along with the faint beeping of some device “So outdated!”

“Oy! That’s your Lola’s name!” Silvery-white hair, moles up and down her arms.  

“How about Laura, from Balagtas’ story?” Yellowing teeth, inch-thick calluses. 

“Jenny, from the girl band!” clinking bracelets, high-heels. 

A shrill newborn cry struck through the conversation and all broke into hushed chaos.

Ultimately, the name became Laura Jennifer. Laura, after the mother had traded her life in for the child. Cherifer, Jen, Lala, and Chini. Barely born, and she already had more names than months lived on this bittersweet planet. 

It was as if nobody cared for her mother on that cold, sterile bed. The rest of her family did not allow her to see what became of the mother she had loved, but she saw its cause. There, on the yellow-lit crib, swathed in soft cotton towels and enclosed in metal bars. Eyes tightly shut, tiny fists balled on its chest. Its face looked like sunburnt skin, almost crimson at its wrinkled cheeks. She did not understand the adoration that curled around the women’s voices. 

She did not have a mother anymore.

Something tightens in her chest and idly wonders if there is still anything there: A slimy, cold mass is placed in the husk of what was once her torso. Then, a folding sensation slides over it, three flaps, from what she could scarcely tell. Rubbery hands palm over them for a moment, gliding over breasts, and pick up something metal that clanged. 

Another deep breath, and again she is pierced by freezing steel. Yet this time, another foreign thing tailed it, an itchy, grating, fibrous thing that stuck to sinew and scratched it raw. It tugs her flesh back together, the large slabs dragging against each other with slimy pops and squelches. 

A part of her wants to run, take flight and go far, far away. The hollowness aches like an ulcer trapped inside her body, pulsating under the surface. Demanding to be felt, desperate to burst from the ground like roots beneath stone pavements.

Yet, she cannot do anything. Not now. Not like before.


“She wasn’t like this before. She was quiet, yes, but she would never hurt anyone.” Mother’s hands folded on her lap, prim and proper.

A blank gaze, framed with crow’s feet beneath thin round glasses. “Is there a history of mental illness within your family, Ma’am?” Her hands glided across the crisp paper of a new patient record. 

“No, not that I know of… Please tell me, doctor, how did this happen?” A pleading gaze, shoulders leaned forward like she’s about to witness a climax fight between her beloved primetime soap opera actresses. 

“Any possible stressors would have to be discussed between you and your daughter, and since she’s still reluctant to let you listen to our sessions, I’d suggest trying to work it out at home.” 

Mother bowed her head, forehead creased and fingers toying with her purse zipper. Slumped against the stiff leather in front of the doctor’s desk, the daughter did not speak, until the spit dried and stuck her lips together. While the doctor scribbled down which medicine to take, she could only shrink in her seat, stealing glances at her mother whose back curved with every scratch of the pen. 

They never did talk, and the words stewed and spoiled behind pursed lips. The air grew dense. Wary glances stiffened every conversation, and meals soured the longer her doctor’s words went unheeded. Agony blighted her mind every night, replacing the sleep in her eyes with tears that remembered the questions secreted away, often with alcohol or the veil of chores that couldn’t be done alone.

Where did I go wrong? in every look shared just before bedtime.

Did I fail you as a parent? when she came home from school early because she couldn’t stop crying in class some days.

I blame myself, you know? every time they replenished her medication, waiting in line at the pharmacy. 

She did not know what to tell Mother. Impossible as it is to do anything about it now, she still doesn’t. She herself does not know how she turned out like this. 

She had a family, and got good grades, just about as normal as one could get. She knew joy, she had felt joy, and never wished for too much. There were moments she thought that she could finally start opening up to her parents and show them a side she so desperately hid. 

But then Mother got pregnant. Another life, a newer beginning. A patch to cover up the holes they tore through their relationship with the daughter. Something else to convince themselves that they weren’t failures as parents. As it festered and stretched Mother’s gut, a vile pit churned in the daughter. Only she could see through her family’s smitten facades, her eyes unbeguiled by the so-called miracle that sapped the life from her Mother each passing day. The affront of splitting her bedroom without asking her and every conversation was poisoned with soft adulation while she sat across from them.

She heard her father whisper his hopes and dreams into Mother’s belly button at night, while he complained about her to his drink mates over brandy. They stared at the black and white blobs of Mother’s ultrasound with such fond gazes, but they barely noticed when the university recognized the daughter’s above-average marks. They shopped giddily, swiping their credit cards without a care in the world, while they glared and grumbled at her prescriptions. 

It wasn’t fair. 


The wailing little pile of flesh writhed under its soft warm blankets as she ran towards the tall grass. They would not find her so easily here. She shushed it over and over, but nothing worked. It never really liked her anyway. That’s one thing it and Mother have in common. The more she stared at its small face, her own reflection stared back from its big beady eyes. Everything she was not and it was disgusting. 

“You’re their ticket out, huh?” she asked, knowing it couldn’t understand. It kept crying, screaming with a shrillness that stabbed at her eardrums, hands opening and closing in front of her. She could see down its maw, the wailing hole of gums and spit that leeched off any chance she had at a normal life. Its face flushed such a deep red, swollen like an inflamed boil just waiting to be lanced. To think this screeching thing attracted such awe from everyone around.

“Thought they could just forget about me, busy themselves with you?” She shook it to and fro. Its warbles changed pitches with every move, mouth now opened so wide she could practically see its stomach as it heaved and sobbed. Little socked feet started kicking a few inches above her thighs, stretching and dangling. She slammed her palms against its bent legs.

“Think they can just shove me into some room, some corner like trash, huh?” She plopped down on the wet soil with it between her knees. It still hadn’t stopped writhing, squealing like a pig about to be slaughtered. Its eyes could barely be seen through the folds around them, skin shining with tears and snot all over its little wrinkled face. For a moment, she sat there and watched. 

“Y’know, I used to be like you.” She poked its flat little nose and stroked its soft cheeks. “They loved me, too. Said I was the light of their life. Carried me around like I was one o’ their Santo Niño statues, all around the neighborhood.” The praises she received so long ago still sang clear in her ears, the nicknames sent her way as Mother paraded her around in a gold sequined dress and little red slippers. 

A smile crawled across her lips and left quickly. “Not anymore, though. No, hasn’t been for a long while now.”

It quieted down, finally, like it was listening to her talk. 

“After a few years, they just kept me inside, said I couldn’t play with the other kids, ‘cause I’d hurt them. I never knew why.” She remembered the emptiness of her bedside without her mother, the desolation of her room. She remembered looking out from the steel bars welded to her window, listening to the cheers and laughs from the children playing with garters and bubbles. 

Then she went to school and things just got ugly. Scathing names were thrown at her every day, her name botched and written across public bathroom walls, wishing her away, wishing her dead. She didn’t even know who they were. Over time, she no longer spoke in class, no longer made friends, and became the weak little target they wanted her to be. 

Even as she got older, the same things kept happening. They tried to be subtle about it, but it’s still there. The names, the looks from professors and classmates alike, rumors spreading about things she didn’t even do, then her tormentors crying abuse when she simply defended herself. 

She sighed, wiggling her finger in its grip, its little fist was enclosed around her index finger. It babbled in what vaguely sounded like a laugh if the wide grin was anything to go by. “I won’t let you become like them. Mean and loud…You’re gonna be nice…and….”

 It was so accepting, with no more than soft gurgles. The knife pierced through its tongue, then the roof of its mouth. So compliant, so gentle. No wonder many adored her. 

The blood that ran down her fingers was warm, thick like her favorite hot chocolate from the fast-food chain they always frequented. Pooled down between her closed thighs, dripping slowly, noiselessly into the crushed grass below. It had long since been silenced, little trails of red running from its half-opened eyes. All the way down the knife slotted to the hilt, buried in the soft flesh under its jaw. 

Its little hand was still holding her finger, as if comforting, telling her that everything was okay. She breathed in, and her racing heart started to slow. How peaceful it looked. If she squinted, it was almost as if it was smiling. What bliss was it seeing, she wondered. 

She pulled the knife out and admired its crimson gleam. She could see her reflection. The red-lined exhaustion in her stare. Oh. How sad.  She took a deep breath.  Then dug a finger in the left socket as deep as it could go. Her ears rang, nerves flaming. She pulled her finger out and did the same to the other eye. Black. All was black. But she felt the warmth run down. And distantly, she could hear wailing. 

Or was it singing? Mother? Is that you? I will join you soon, she sang in her head, lifting the knife in her other hand, flipping it towards herself. 

Crimson all over her, how warm.


A downpour of freezing water flooded her body. Something porous slithered across her right arm, down to the hand, and back again. The sponge splatters on her stomach and then begins cleaning there. “Bet yer mommy’s pretty damn ashamed of ya now, huh? I know I’d be.” 

She wants to laugh, tell her that that’s all she knew her whole life. 

Even beyond that now.

A loud gurgling sound of some machine jolts to life on her right side. The lady didn’t have much trouble jabbing in some sort of hose in the jugular, though she might have done it with more force if her insults were anything to go by. Thin watery liquid begin to rush through blood vessels, and that olfactory sting of chemicals wafting in the air. Above the noise, the lady grumbles about being short on some chemicals after she had poured them all into the machine. 

There is no pain this time, only a swelling tingle from deep inside. 

Her eyelids are pulled back, something plastic and rough shoved in the sockets. 

Something rattles her teeth, a hard nail lodges deep in her skull once, twice, three times. 

Fingers slam her mouth shut, she feels someone leave.

Fabric is thrown over her body, blanketing her in darkness.

How cold. Wait for me, Mother. 

About the Author: A writer who enjoys gourmet cooking, fine wine, and, of course, scary stories, Larizza Joise Macabulos, or LJ for short, is a Senior studying AB Literature at the University of Santo Tomas. Currently researching Gothic literature in the Philippines, she hopes to publish a novel in 2023. Lover of all things macabre, horror, coffee, tea, and music, she is also a cult worshipper of Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, and HP Lovecraft. “Crimson All Over” is her first published work outside the university. 

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