Short Story: “See Ellie Learn”

 See Ellie Learn

Robert R Best

"See Ellie Learn" by Robert R. Best


Ellie shook excess water from her hands as she stepped back from the sink. The kitchen of her student apartment was small, but got the job done. Ellie was 19 and scared to be alone in the big world of college. But her parents had insisted it was time for her to get out of the house and learn.

She wasn’t completely alone, she reasoned. She had a few friends. She had Trina, her roommate. Things were looking up. She enjoyed learning.

A slight moan came down the hall. Followed by a tiny ripping sound. That bothered Ellie a bit, but not enough to hurry.

Her eye fell on the phone hanging from the wall. A small answering machine sat on a stool beneath it, the wires wound around the legs of the stool. The machine was Trina’s, provided by Trina’s mother, but both girls used it.

A red light flashed in the corner of the machine. Ellie frowned, considering ignoring it. She’d broken several of her parents’ answering machines while growing up. She didn’t want to upset her roommate. She stared a moment longer, then walked briskly over to the stool.

A whimper came from the hallway. “Hold your horses,” said Ellie under her breath. Then she chuckled at the thought of holding a horse. She reached out and pushed a large button in the center of the machine.

It clicked to life and a voice echoed from the small, tinny speaker just above the large button. It took Ellie a second to recognize the voice. It was Trina’s mom.

“Trina?” said the voice. “Trina, pick up honey. Trina?”

The voice paused, then sighed. A moan came from down the hall. Slightly louder than before, but not loud enough for Ellie to hurry.

The voice continued. “Please call me back as soon as you get this, honey. It’s been days since we heard from you and we’re getting worried.”

A muffled, scratching sound came from the speaker. Ellie imagined Trina’s mom moving the receiver away from her face. She heard Trina’s mom talking with another, even lower, voice. Ellie couldn’t decipher what they were saying.

There was more muffled scratching and the voice returned. “Your father is afraid I’m embarrassing you in front of your new college friends. So I hope that’s not true. Still, though, I’m worried. Please call me back. Love you honey, bye.”

The message clicked off. “Love you, Trina’s mom. Bye,” said Ellie, waving at the machine. She walked away from the stool, picking up a soda can she’d left on the counter earlier, and headed down the hall. The moaning grew louder as she drew near.

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” said Ellie.

She rounded the corner and walked into her bedroom. She swirled the soda around in its can and took a sip. She waved with the pinky of her can-hand.

Trina groaned from the wall. She was held in place with straps and chains Ellie had collected over the last few months. Hooks were bolted into the walls, keeping the straps and chains held tight. It had taken Ellie a week to find the studs in the wall to bolt the hooks into. That concerned Ellie. She’d have to get better with her hands before med school.

Trina was nude except for her bra and underwear. Blood ran in thin rivulets down the length of her body. Some was dried, some was still wet and glistening. Cuts, slices and bruises covered most of her upper body. Pans and baking sheets were laid out on the floor under her bare and chained feet. The pans were partially coated with blood. Blood smeared down the wall and onto the floor around the pans. Ellie frowned at that. This had been messier than she’d hoped.

“Hey there,” said Ellie cheerily, taking another sip from her soda before setting the can down on a dresser.

Trina screamed into the bloody gag wrapped around her mouth. She pulled against the straps and chains that held her to the wall. The hooks and bolts strained under the force, but Trina quickly ran out of strength and fell back against the wall.

“Watch it,” she said, shaking her head. “You’ll just pull the cuts open.”

And Trina had. Fresh blood trickled from the numerous slices across her body. Thin rivulets of it ran down her legs and dripped into the pans underneath.

“Your mom called, again,” said Ellie, stepping over to her desk and pulling on blue surgical gloves. “She sounds worried.”

Trina put her head back against the wall and sobbed into the gag.

“We know why, of course, so no mystery there.” Ellie snapped the gloves into place and picked up a scalpel. “Still, though. I guess we should hurry things up a bit.”

Trina shook her head as Ellie stepped over. She sobbed into the gag, saying something Ellie couldn’t make out. Tears ran down Trina’s face. Ellie got the gist.

“Shhh,” said Ellie, smiling as she looked Trina up and down. “This is important.”

She put the scalpel to Trina’s stomach and sliced a thin line across it. Trina shrieked into the gag, bucking against the wall.

“Careful, careful,” said Ellie. Blood pooled in the line she had made and ran down Trina’s stomach. It ran into her underwear, matting it to her skin. “You’re making a mess.”

Ellie set the scalpel back on the desk and wiped some of the blood away with her gloved hand. “Okay then, here we go.”

As Trina shrieked, Ellie worked two fingers into the slice she had made and pulled the skin downward. It tore somewhat, but didn’t give as much as she’d hoped.

Ellie shook her head. “Silly me.” She picked up the scalpel and made two downward slices, running from each end of the line she’d made first. Blood poured out, running down Trina’s legs and dripping off her toes into the pans.

Ellie replaced the scalpel and returned to the flap of skin. She worked her fingers deeper in. Trina screamed, tears running down her cheeks. Ellie grunted and pulled. The skin came free and tore away from Trina’s abdomen, exposing a layer of raw red flesh underneath.

“Oooh,” said Ellie. “Look at that.” She let the flap of skin fall limp along Trina’s belly. She stared at the flesh she had exposed.

Trina moaned and slumped against the wall.

“Wow,” said Ellie, staring.

Trina groaned and spat at her. The gag kept the spit from going anywhere.

“One second,” said Ellie, ignoring the spit. She stepped over to the desk and picked up her anatomy textbook. She turned the pages as carefully as she could, to minimize getting blood on the pages. Dried red smudges showed her past failures.

She looked at the exposed flesh, then at the book, then back to the flesh. “Wow, I think the book got it right.”

Trina moaned and struggled against the bonds. The hooks on the wall strained, but not enough to worry Ellie. She was too caught up comparing Trina’s exposed flesh to the picture in the book to care. She took a few hurried notes in a notepad set to one side of the textbook. The pen was so coated in dried blood that flakes of it fell to the paper as she wrote. She brushed them away, leaving faint red streaks through her writing. She set the pen down.

She smiled and picked up the textbook. She carried it back over to Trina. “See?” she said, holding up the book for Trina to see. Trina glared at her with her one good eye. The other eye was a swollen, bruised horror of flesh and caked blood. Dried black muck clung to Trina’s cheek just under where the eye had been. Dried fluid from where Ellie had cut the eye open. The fluid had been just what the textbook predicted. It had been very exciting.

“Just like it,” said Ellie, choosing to ignore Trina’s glare. She set the book back on the desk and picked up the scalpel. She stepped back over as Trina grunted and pulled at her restraints. Fresh blood ran from the raw exposed flesh of her midsection.

Ellie looked Trina up and down, wondering where to explore next. She stepped up to Trina. Trina shook and tried to pull away. The bonds held her against the wall.

Ellie brought the scalpel up to the inside of Trina’s armpit. She bit her lip, wanting to be careful. The skin looked soft and fragile. She didn’t want to do too much damage. She had to see.

She sliced into the flesh and Trina screeched into the gag. Blood ran past the scalpel and down Trina’s side.

“Shhh,” said Ellie, a little annoyed as she brushed the fresh blood away. It smeared across Trina’s skin. Trina yelled something at her through the gag. The motion of her rib cage pulled her cuts freshly open, sending blood pouring out.

“Lemme just have a quick feel in there,” Ellie said. She dug two fingers into the slit she had cut. Trina screamed as she rooted around the soft flesh inside.

Ellie smiled and pulled out her hand. She walked over to Trina’s other armpit. She drug the blade down and stuck her fingers in the hole. Trina bucked and screamed into the gag.

Ellie smiled, removing her hands and stepping back. “Good news all around. So far everything matches the textbooks. I mean, we haven’t gotten to the deep stuff yet, but so far so good.”

She stepped back and admired her work. Trina struggled limply against the bonds. Blood ran down her naked flesh into the pans underneath.

Ellie nodded. “So far, so good,” she repeated.

There was a knock at the door.

“Uh-oh,” said Ellie, looking down at herself. Dots of blood covered her dark shirt. A few trickles of red ran from her gloves and up her forearms.

The knock came again.

“Well poopers,” she said. Trina yelled into the gag, but Ellie was confident she was too muffled to be heard from the front room.

Ellie walked back to her desk and set down the scalpel. She pulled her gloves off and tossed them aside. She looked around the room for a spare shirt. Nothing was available.

The knock came a third time. Trina screamed into the gag.

“Coming, coming,” said Ellie, sighing. “God.”

She whipped her shirt off over her head and rubbed the outside up and down her arms. Satisfied the blood was wiped away, she turned the shirt inside out and pulled it back on. Trina’s blood was thick and clotted against her skin.

She smiled to Trina. “Wait here, ‘kay?”

She turned and left the room. She found her way to the front door and opened it just as the knock started a fourth time.

Trina’s mom stood behind the door, her hand raised in mid-knock.

She dropped her hand, looking startled and embarrassed. She pushed her glasses back on her slightly-weathered face and brushed her greying bangs to one side. “Hello there, dear. Is Trina in?”

Ellie frowned. “How did you get here so fast? Did you teleport?”

Trina’s mom looked confused for a moment, then she laughed. “Oh, don’t be silly, child. I called on the cell while we were in the car. We were nearby and thought we’d come check up on Trina.”

“A check up?” said Ellie. “Is she sick?” Ellie heard a noise come from the bedroom. She wondered if Trina’s mom could hear it.

Trina’s mom chuckled, apparently not hearing anything. “Oh no, no. Nothing like that. We just wanted to talk to her.”

“Oh, okay,” said Ellie, nodding. “She can’t talk right now.”

Trina’s mom frowned. “And why is that?”

“My client has no comments at this time,” said Ellie. The noise came again. Something rattling. Metal on metal. A little louder than before.


“Time to go,” said Ellie, starting to shut the door.

Trina’s mom reached out and stopped the door. “What on earth are you chattering about, girl? Are you on something?”

“I’m on the floor,” said Ellie. “And I guess the ground underneath that.”

A male voice came from outside the apartment, farther down the hall. Trina’s mom looked in that direction. She nodded, then looked back to Ellie.

“Her father just informed me her schedule says she’s in class right now. That seems like something he could have told me back in the car.” She turned back to look down the hall as she said the last two words, glaring at someone Ellie couldn’t see.

“That’s true, ma’am,” said Ellie. The noise came a third time. But with less clanging. More grunting and something ripping. “She does have a class scheduled for this very moment, your honor.”

“Yes, well, we’ll be headed there now to wait for when she gets out,” said Trina’s mom, looking a little relieved to be done talking to Ellie. “I’ll see you later, when you’ve hopefully come down from whatever you’re on.”

Trina’s mom stepped down the hall and out of view.

“High on learning, ma’am,” said Ellie, watching her go. She shut the door, satisfied she had had a successful human interaction. It was fun, she decided.

She turned, ready for more learning.

She stopped.

Trina stood there. She panted at Ellie through gritted teeth, her lips raw from chafing against the gag. The gag was nowhere in sight. Blood ran from innumerable cuts, down Trina’s body and onto the floor underneath her. Trina had trailed blood behind her all the way back to the bedroom. Bloody footprints congealed on the floor.

Trina’s remaining eye bored into Ellie. As she panted, seething through her tight jaws, the muck on Trina’s cheek bobbed up and down.

“Look at you!” said Ellie. “All escape-y! I’ll have to make a note of that.”

Ellie’s eyes followed Trina’s right arm down to her hand. Ellie’s textbook hung there, thick and heavy. Trina’s clenched fingers clawed at the cover.

“That’s my book, Trina,” said Ellie, looking at her and frowning. “You’ll just have to get your own! I swear, I’ll..”

Grunting, Trina brought the book up and slammed it into Ellie’s temple. Ellie gave a little cry of surprise and fell against the wall. Pain radiated from her temple and across the whole side of her head.

“Ow, Trina, god,” she said, righting herself and putting her hand to her temple. “Be careful with that thing.”

Trina swung again, slamming the book into the same spot. Ellie’s hand smashed into her temple and she fell over again. Pain ran down her arm and neck. She felt something wet and sticky in her hand.

Ellie was dizzy. She put her hand against the wall and pushed herself back up. She dropped her hand, noticing a smear of blood where her hand had touched the wall.

She shook her head, trying to clear it. She blinked at Trina. “What’re you doing?”

Trina screamed and brought the book up over her head. She slammed downward, ramming the corner into Ellie’s skull. A burst of pain rang through her head and down into her neck and shoulders. She dropped to her knees. Her joints shuddered from the impact. She felt more liquid pooling in the top of her head. She panted toward the floor.

“Okay,” she said, surprised at how thick her tongue felt. “That’s enough. We have to get back to learning.”

Trina slammed down again. This time the book rammed into Ellie’s spine. Ellie collapsed against the floor, grunting as the air rushed from her abdomen. Her chin cracked against the carpet. Her head spun as she tried to speak. No words came. She blinked as things went dark.

* * *


The first thing Ellie noticed was pain. It seemed to come from every part of her, but mostly from her head. The pain was dull but persistent.

Slowly, she differentiated one pain from another. Not all the pain was dull. There were sharper pains from her wrists and ankles. Something dug into them. Something cold.

She opened her eyes, surprised at how hard it was to do. They were caked shut. She pulled them apart, blinking at the blurry room.

It took a moment but her vision cleared. She was in the bedroom, chained to the wall with the same bonds she’d used on Trina. All her clothes had been removed.

She remembered now. The book. Trina had cracked her head with the book. She could feel the blood caked on her face and eyelids.

Trina stood a few feet away, still naked except for her blood-soaked bra and panties. Dried blood was etched all over her skin. She limped away from the desk, holding the scalpel.

“You wanted a turn?” said Ellie. Her tongue felt too large and seemed to stick in her mouth. “You should have said.”

“Shut up, bitch,” said Trina, limping over to where Ellie hung.

“Okay,” said Ellie.

Trina brought the scalpel to Ellie’s stomach and sliced across it.

Pain went through her body in waves. Ellie put her head against the wall and screamed.

“That’s right,” said Trina, gritting her teeth and grinning at Ellie. “Scream, you bitch.”

The pain faded to a more manageable level. Ellie felt fresh blood running down her stomach and legs. She looked back at Trina, panting.

“What’s it look like?”

Trina blinked her one good eye. “What?”

“The cut. What’s it look like? How does it compare to the book?”

Trina stepped back. “What the hell are you talking about?”

Ellie looked around the room, still panting from the pain. Her chest pounded. She felt the blood reach her toes. It tickled. “Where’s the book? Where’s your notes? You have to take notes. You have to learn, Trina.”

Trina stepped toward her again. “The fuck is the matter with you?” Her remaining eye darted around Ellie’s face, as if looking for something. Blood and dried muck cracked as her face moved.

“This is good. Let’s see how it looks in there. Get a mirror. And the book. Oooh oooh. And a camera.”

Trina shook her head. “You crazy fucking bitch.”

Then she rammed the scalpel deep into Ellie’s stomach. Ellie grunted with surprise, feeling hot blood rush out past Trina’s arm and down Ellie’s legs.

“Oh wow,” said Ellie. “That hurt. But hurry, get your notes.”

Trina wrenched the scalpel to one side, grunting with the effort. Ellie felt her stomach split open. She jerked involuntarily as she felt blood and meat rain down her legs. She heard them splatter on the floor. Her last thought was wanting to look down to see them.


(c) Robert R Best


About the author:

Robert R Best is the author of the Memorial Trilogy, a zombie saga consisting of Lakewood Memorial, Ashton Memorial, and World Memorial. He has also written a short story anthology titled All Kinds Of Things Kill and has appeared in several anthologies. Hobbies include sneaking up behind people who are reading his bio. Watch Out.