what if – Jen Overett


What if

my husband was a mass murderer and what if he’d been killing for years, then one night
I found a body while investigating a blockage in our plumbing and I knew it could only have  
been him
and my husband was sleeping a deep sleep but woke at my tap on his shoulder, calm and
responsible tall and straight like the man he was, and I asked him and he said it was true, and
our lives together, the roof of our house, shifted to a whole new place
and what if from the furthest of dreamlike places I remembered he’d killed before, then
further still saw bodies rising from other soils and how he’d spent a different night dragging
and digging, and buried them deep elsewhere
then we’d laid down to sleep again, and what struck me was the depth of my husband’s
sleep and how he rose up tall and straight to do what had to be done
and now I remembered I was ashamed, and I told our children, though not of the role I’d
played which I’d hardly faced myself, they were so calm it’s murder, it’s wrong, and they
turned away and left and said they would never come back
and then I was sure it was true, so how had my husband shouldered this weight so long
and taken it in his stride, and what if all my life is a sham and I’ve married a killer, this kind
and gentle man
and what if I’d always known, then how did I lay down with him again or sleep, and how
were we ever clean when the earth is turning and blocking the piping with bodies that died at
our hands
and there’s blood on my hands and the dead are shouting our names and the grieving are
crying my name, and now I’m waking remember, remember, and his kind face and how he
rose up straight and tall to do what had to be done
and the world is changing shape so I go to the window to check, the dawn is unpicking
the night and it’s starting to fade, the cold is unclenched from my heart and I catch my breath
but there’s blood on my hands and the soil outside is waiting for earthworm turns and the
rising of secrets, and what has to be done comes into our dreams from under the ground, and
I am complicit


Jen Overett