“It happened 2 years ago,” he says.
“You don’t remember?”
“Did I ever know?”
“I don’t think you ever did.”
“Then that’s good.”
“Yes. It is.”
Image from here.
The sun shines brightly against the window. I can hear the ducks squabbling in the canal just outside the window. All it would take, is me to open the blinds. Just like that.
But I can’t.
I can see them from the corner of my eye, her hair tumbling down the drape of his sighing naked side. Dark hair, like rags. Barely covering the beggar. But it’s warm here so that’s ok.
“You said you didn’t love me,” she says.
“I didn’t mean it.”
“Do you remember the humming bird?”
“So I love you.”
She recalls lazily the last girl they shot.
Through the eye, the orb just disappeared. I heard about it all. They were very pleased with themselves.
She whistles a noiseless tune as the postman wanders by outside. He’s lost. He normally whistles too, but today he’s lost. He’s lost his mind, I think. Just like everyone.
A lady in Sainsburies had told Steven to fuck off and die yesterday.
She made the list.
He told Tracy.
She said they’d cut out her eyes and make her eat them. But I’m not too sure.
I see the frame of my head, filling with memories.
“You remember?” he asks her.
“No. Did it ever really happen?”
“I don’t know.”
“I don’t care.”
Just us and the ducks. The postman’s gone mad.
SEE the room. Dusty. Smell of old, things gone by. Smell of mold, and here they are. These two like hens in their roost, swaddled close in each other’s bodies. The mad gleam in their heads. The lust for satiation. He, over and around, she. Hair dripping like candle wax across his pale white skin. They haven’t moved for days.
SEE cobwebs. Up in the corners. Spiders rattling over their skin. Bare plaster walls, sodden with mildew and soggy blu-tack. Scraps of paper where posters once hung. The rusty slivers of nail, still surviving.
“Hey,” she whispers.
“I need the bathroom”
Her hair sucks away from his back, leaves only threads where the dim electric light has tanned his skin. 40 watts, glowing dimly. The rush of a train outside, over the tracks. She staggers up and walks like a cloud through the empty corridor. Boards creak beneath her feet.
He calls to her.
SEE the files, papers scattered over the wooden floor. The splintered, dead wood rot floor, littered with yellowed certificates of achievement. 100 metres in 9.5. Grade 2 piano.
SEE the folder. THE folder, he called it. Big black briefcase, clicking locks. Click. Inside, a bible. Pages torn out. ‘What to do if you’re feeling suicidal’ from Gideon’s advice page underlined. A gun, black and foreboding. Packets and packets of white powder and lighters. Dollar bills. 3 plastic wallets, each blackened on the inside.
One for a finger.
One for a ring.
One for a shriveled left eye.
Sealed in mint perfection 2 years ago.
Spent shell casings. A thumbtack, with 3 ladybugs impaled on the end. 15 bottle caps, Newcastle brown ale. A letter from mother. Says in its spidery hand ‘DIE’. A crayola scribble of the house and grounds. One of the well, one of the library. One stapled to something else, underneath, a polaroid colour photo. Grandma’s raving face, bloodied, kitchen knife half in her chest, mama standing above the blade. A scribble of red on white paper overlapping.
Tracy drew that. She’s all grown up now.
GO down the hall. Old grandfather clock, stopped working when they shoved the old man inside. Had to break his ribcage and legs to make him fit. That had been a crazy night. They don’t look inside anymore.
“Just me, now,” he says.
Rolls over but I can’t see his face. No-one can. Pulls out the gun, puts it to his head. Pulls the trigger.
Hammer clicks against the safety.
“Yeah.” The call, distant.
“Come save me!”
“Do you ever think about it?”
“Can you really not remember?”
“I don’t know.”
“How old are you now?”
She stands, counts her fingers. Three on the left hand are broken backwards. The nails curl browned around and around, useless.
“14, I think.”
“Come save me”
SEE her jump atop him. Pull up her shab drab glamour dress gone pallid with the moon’s passing, no longer sparkling, flops for the beggar and inserts him into her.
“What was it like?” she asks
“There were more people around then.”
“Yes. bad people.”
“They were noisy.”
“We took care of it though. Do you remember that?”
“I don’t know.”
He takes the barrel of the gun and puts it in her mouth.
“Sing for me.”
She begins to sing, warbling like a pigeon, the black metal clicking, click, against her teeth as she bobs up and down like a merry-go-round. Or see-saw. Like a pogo stick.
But it wasn’t always like this.
I was born a boy. Couldn’t help it.
Look, a boy. That’s what they must have said.
If only they’d known.
I grew up. It takes years, but it flies by when you’re looking back. I remember once eating candy floss on the pier, some pier near some water. A sea, I think it must have been. Since then, I’ve had all the time to think.
5 minutes later I‘m 20 years old. I kiss a GIRL. The girl kisses me back, and it’s great.
23, and I make love for the first time. She’s drunk, it’s my graduation ceremony. Honours in music studies, Cambridge. Wow, said my folks. The standard boy-girl pairing. So normal. She reaches down, I think she’s a freshman, touches things, and I let her take control.
5 minutes later, I’m 24. Sat in the washroom of some rock club in Oxford, visiting a friend doing a Masters. 2 guys with piercings in their faces, green hair and red hair, kiss. I can see them in the reflection of the mirror. Their boots are swamped with ankle deep urine, like, nobody can shoot straight in these places. I’m being sick, clogging the damn sink, and this makes it worse.
27. My grandparents die, one after the other, 1 week apart. I hope that happens to me, someday.
28. I get raped. Tell no-one. It’s a man in an underground car park, a big black man. Threatens to kill me if I tell anyone. Here I am, gripping my suitcase, screaming out inside. He threatens to kill me but I’m dead already. Already dead, he can’t kill me more than this. I’ve had sex once and I’m getting raped by a guy. Changes things.
31. I get married. A sweet girl. She could never have known. I didn’t, really. We had kids. Steven first, then Tracy 5 years later. My kids. I loved them, perhaps a little too much.
Elenor never knew. I never knew. It was just something, love I guess.
It makes me chuckle to think my dad’s in the clock now. He was the only one that ever gave a shit about them, really. And look what they did for him.
48. The disease hits. The old go first. Nuts. It eats away at your brain, they said. TV carried up for 2 weeks, but then it fell apart. Scientists did some work, before they started killing each other off and eating their equipment. One guy was live on TV whilst he ate his microscope, glass, metal, his teeth crunching and cracking and slivers of metal sticking out of his throat, because they’d all gone away.
They said it was like rabies. Germs in the air, eating your brain. Everyone went crazy.
MY LIFE NOW
2 years ago they locked me up. But not to any wall, radiator, nothing like that. The two of them, after my mother had murdered Elenor, whom she’d always secretly despised, and my dad took his own life with my old colt 75 that rests in THE folder now, they tied me to myself, with garden twine. My legs to my arms, my arms to my legs, my neck to my feet.
Then they beat the shit out of me, with table legs.
It must have lasted about 3 days. The sun came up, and went down through the blinds that haven’t opened since, about 3 times.
The table legs broke over my head, so they moved to throwing plates at my face. Then they went outside for a while, prised the drain piping from the side of the house, and came back to fill me in.
I thought I would die. I wished I had died. I don’t know why I didn’t.
They’d take it in turns to smash me. Every slug seemed to make them angrier. They’d beat me with their weak hunger stricken arms until they were panting, exhausted, and had to take a break. Then they’d get a drink, maybe have sex, and come back over to fuck me up some more.
It wasn’t pretty.
In the nights I’d lie and groan, and they’d jump up and scream at me to be quiet, then smash me about some more.
I don’t speak anymore. Not because I’m too obedient, although I am, but because I can’t. I don’t know. I think I lost my speech box.
It became a chore. Each day, all day, they’d beat me then take a break. Beat me, then take a break. Beat me, then break.
SOME OTHER TIME
I feel the days run into each other, now, like eggs cooking, the yolks flow and merge until they’re just a yellow stain on white, and nothing more. Sometimes they’re here, and sometimes they are gone. I lie here, longing for my scraps, thinking how much difference there is between the life of a duck, and the life of a man.
MY PHYSICAL CONDITION
I have one eye left.
9 broken fingers, 1 missing. My ring finger. They were careful to preserve it, and the ring, in separate plastic wallets. In THE folder.
No teeth, no nose to speak of. Every breath I draw rattles through my dry twisted throat.
My skull is fractured in at least 5 places. I can feel the lines with the back of my hand. My jaw was shattered, so I can’t speak. Now it’s just a big clump, hanging. It takes me hours to chew a single bite of food.
My arms are broken and set in their broken positions. The right at the elbow, both bones of the forearm, the left at the shoulder, dislocated permanently, snapped through the skin at the top. Both my hands were pounded to dust, and I can just about twitch my fingers
Both legs imploded at the knees. My hips are buckled. All my ribs are cracked and compress my chest. They put me in the clock with my father’s corpse once, and I couldn’t move, for a week.
And I’m still tied up. I just lie there, and occasionally I get to watch them couple with each other. My kids.
The postman doesn’t even come in anymore.
I remember once reading a book. It was full of stories.
I liked stories. Sometimes
Sometimes, as I lie awake unsleeping, and the house is silent but for the grandfather clock not ticking and the dog shuffling sadly about, I feel my head fill with ideas. I feel, in the summer warmth, beads of sweat trickle down my face, dropping in the mushed meat, FIDO bowl, that I and the dog share, I feel memories of perhaps, the way things are meant to be.
But I’m never sure, if that’s how I remember it, or that’s how it is.
It isn’t my house anymore.
They’re moving around upstairs. I can hear them. I watch as toys are thrown down from the attic. A purple monster with a helmet. Scalextric track, useless now. Her My Little Ponies and pink butterfly bed sheets. Comics, the thin papers fluttering in the air as they fall, pattering against the walls like sick butterflies.
It’s their house now.
SEE him, her, staring at the blank grey television. They laugh sometimes, point, touch each other. They get bored easily.
“Want to come walking?” he asks
“To see what we can see.”
“Down by the big road, silly.”
“Oh, of course. Will there be accidents?”
“I should imagine so, now let’s go.”
She tuts. “Naughty boy, tuck yourself in,” and he zips up his fly.
“You’re just jealous,” he says.
“Not. It’s mine too’
“Yes,” he says, “it is.”
The door slams and they’re gone.
They pop the can by throwing it against the wall.
Then they tip the gooey meat, smelling of gravy and cold steak, sloppily into the bowl that has never been cleaned. They shove it across the floor, and the dog and I fight for it.
I didn’t eat at first. But I do now. To have that overwhelming smell before you, then to have the dog come and take it away. It isn’t right. So I eat now. And they watch, maybe hoping I’ll choose to die. I wish I had the heart to do that. I don’t know if this is defiance, then, or a worse form of surrender. I don’t know if the distinction matters anymore.
Remember how things used to be. I do.
I dream of the sea.
More of the same. Always stretching out, forever. Always behind me, passed like the life of an insect. Like spiders. Sometimes I wish they’d get up and clean the place up. Brush away the cobwebs. But then I realise I’d have nobody then. No friends.
“You sing so pretty,” he says.
“Thank-you, kind sir.”
Then he flips her over, fucks her from behind. She squeals, facing me. Her eyes catch mine. She stares at me, and I stare back. It used to be all about power. Her staring me out, trying to revolt me. But there’s nothing there anymore. I have nothing. He finishes, settles back into the bed. She walks over, stands over me. Takes a piss on my head, and I can’t move. Walks away.
I haven’t moved further than a yard from this spot since they did it. I can’t. Sometimes I wish I was just a yard further into the room. Then I’d catch some of the sunlight through the crack in the blinds on my face. Be able to see out, maybe a bird flying by. Clouds.
But I can’t move.
“I love you,” he says.
“I love you too,” she says back.
You can see all MJG’s stories here:[album id=6 template=compact]
“I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison.
I wonder what this well-written but disturbing story means. That our comfortable lifestyle, bonds of familial affection, our very humanity itself is ephemeral and illusory? I know comforts and dignities are meaningless. Love and humanity do sometimes fail, but I think that generally they last and sustain us, and we are never beyond hope of their recovery.
David- Thank-you for such a thoughtful post- I’ve never read that short story but checked it out after you mentioned it, very interesting stuff. I’ll roll with you that things are generally more positive than as depicted in this story. Most of my writings are, actually- but sometimes a bleak one slips through.
I later thought that maybe the story means you just really dread having children. They’re not so bad, really. At least I don’t have any broken bones, yet. 😉
David- Ha, interesting read on it 🙂 I don’t think I dread having kids, but….
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