Stolen 3 (again)

“Just look at the state of you…you’re absolutely filthy…” I looked but aside from a few flecks of dirt underneath my fingernails there was nothing about my current state that warranted my mother’s accusation.

At eight years old I was perfectly capable of giving myself a bath but I was no longer human in my mother’s eyes. I could tell by the ferocity of the steam that the water was too hot. My mother was generally a mild-mannered woman but parties made her hysterical. She loved nothing better than to plan events but she was unable to enjoy them knowing that in those few hours all of her efforts at perfection would be nullified. I climbed into the bath of my own accord knowing that my mother was too frail to lift me. I said nothing. I cried a little to myself but I was careful not to make a sound. She scrubbed my boiled flesh without sympathy but I knew that she did not hurt me intentionally.

“Don’t throw me away…” I whispered underneath the terry cloth towel. I wasn’t sure if I wanted her to hear me but presumably she did. She hugged me for a long time and it seemed to me the towel around my shoulders grew wetter. She didn’t make any promises but I felt reasonably certain that if she ever did it wouldn’t be entirely of her own volition.

I ate my oatmeal alone that morning. My father left early and my mother wouldn’t eat again for several days having been forced to eat a few mouthfuls of cake at the party. As soon as my mother began her chores I would go into the garden and retrieve my treasure. I had until lunch time to discover the location of the door but I did not need it because I already knew.

I rarely went into the basement. I wasn’t sure if the sterility of the space made it any less scary but it was at least inhospitable to vermin. I stood for a long time in front of the door debating whether or not I should open it. I knew the room inside had to be large because there was a good deal of unaccounted for space. I tried to remember if I’d ever been inside but it seemed unlikely given the volume of my restrictions. This was my father’s room. A room that he disappeared into for hours at a time. He hadn’t been down here for nearly two months.

My father was a surgeon and therefore like my mother in regards to hygiene and housekeeping. I unlocked the door and stepped inside. The room was full of bookshelves lined with medical texts. There was a desk much like the one my father had in his upstairs office and a chair that was identical. There was a journal on top of the desk that looked exactly like the one he’d given me for my birthday, a plain leather-bound volume with no lock. Inside of the journal my father had sketched, in excruciating detail, the internal structures of the human body. There were other sketches, close ups that made me feel incomprehensibly squeamish but I could not understand their content. None of the drawings had faces. I supposed the faces were irrelevant. None of the entries were of a personal nature and although there were a number of notations accompanying each meticulously rendered image they were of a purely scientific and impersonal character.

There was no surgical equipment or specimen jars. There were no pickled body parts or metal tables with restraints. I was both relieved and disappointed. I opened every drawer in my father’s desk. They were filled with identical journals, the sketches and notations meant very little to me but I studied them carefully just the same. I perused the bookshelves taking out books at random but they were similar in content to my father’s personal notebooks. I knew the proper names for the bones but only just and I often forgot the bones of the face. I did not yet know the names of all the muscles. I knew the basic function of the organs but very little of their failings.

I opened a large chest, inside were bones labeled in my father’s tight, Gothic script. I picked up the skull. I understood that it was real but I wasn’t frightened. Flesh was what made corpses scary, decomposition. These bones were all clean and only vaguely human to my mind. They seemed to belong to the same person as there were no duplicates and only one identification number on the lid of the chest. The chest beside it was different. The bones were smaller. I did not know if the bones were from a woman or an adolescent. The chest beside that one had a set of intact bones. The full skeleton of an infant. I did not dare remove them lest they come apart in my hands. The disproportionately large cranium seemed nearly as large as the skull in the first case, I was not sure that it belonged to the same body but my father did not make mistakes. There seemed to be other anomalies in the head but I could not identify the source of the deviations. The eye orbits were too narrow for the organs they were meant to contain. The arms were only rudimentary. Though only a small fleshless creature I found it repulsive, not even pitiable, just repulsive. The first two chests had been marked with numbers but this skeleton had a name “Elizabeth”. I closed the chest, heart writhing I glanced at the final chest but could not bring myself to open it.

 

Advertisement

Stolen 2 (again)

I had an inkling as to the location of the door but I would have to wait until my father was at work to begin my investigation. I left the library using an alternate exit to avoid confrontation. I would have to hide the key when time afforded but at the moment I had no alternative but to rejoin the celebration.

Dinner was painful. I watched my mother cut her food into progressively smaller pieces. She rearranged her food, now thoroughly dimensionless, into careful piles. She created illusions of absence. She ate nothing but air. My mother did most of the talking. She talked on behalf of everyone. I could feel her voice tearing at the back of my throat every time I opened my mouth. I could feel her eyes in my skull, like two hooks. ‘Shut up. Shut up. You’ll ruin everything.’ She spoke to me with her hands. She tugged my sleeve under the table. I spoke only when addressed. I spoke in monosyllables and euphemisms. After dinner there was a short recess. I spent my recess in the shadow of my classmates. “Your mother is very thin. Is she sick?” One of the girls remarked off-handedly. “Oh no, she just can’t put on weight. She has a high…” I trailed off a high what? What was I meant to say? The girl waited impatiently. “Standard…” I had heard the words high and standard linked frequently in conversation.

“Well alright then…” The girl shrugged. She didn’t care enough to press me. I searched my mind in vain for the word.

//

When I entered the kitchen I could tell by my mother’s expression that she had noted, if only just, my presence. Her hand alighted on my shoulder like a frightened bird and she took, what I imagined was, the last breath of the evening. I had prepared an excuse for my unexpected intrusion but it proved unnecessary.

“There you are Eli! Come now it’s time to cut the cake…” She maneuvered me toward the large banquet table in the center of the dining hall. She had tears in her voice.

There were three cakes, one vanilla, one strawberry, and one chocolate presented precisely in that order. It had been determined, after much consideration, that vanilla was my favorite. Strawberry suggested vanity. Chocolate suggested avarice. Vanilla was prudent and therefore the only acceptable choice, I would not even be permitted to sample the other flavors.  If it really was that easy to alter a man’s nature then why hadn’t my parents taken more care with their own diets? Why did my father drink? Why did my mother refuse to eat?

My mother pressed the handle of the knife into my outstretched hand, but she was not permitted to guide the blade. I watched her take her seat, her knitted brows drawing out the terror in her smile. For this occasion I was permitted to sit at the head of the table, a designation I neither deserved nor desired. The guests, which existed purely for their own benefit, appeared sewn into their chairs. I stood motionless above the cake. The cake might well have been a body of flesh and blood and I might well have been a recruit in service to an unprincipled war. I swallowed but the lump in my throat could not be dislodged. “Well don’t just stand there Elijah.” My father barked. I slid the blade shakily through the cake. When it was my mother’s turn, I watched her delicately shave away a slice. Paper-thin. Borderline transparent.

///

I buried the key beneath my mother’s favorite rose bush. She was in the kitchen, embroiled in a war which offered no hope of formal resolution. She would scrub each dish until her fingers were raw from heat and persistence. Once clean she would drop them into the trash one by one, like the shells of discarded eggs. No one dared intercept her pathos and no one dared name it but the cause was obvious. My father retired to his study, drink in hand, he would not speak again until breakfast.

I had been careful not to kneel in the dirt and with my sleeves rolled up past the elbows I believed myself impervious to filth. Against my naked forearms the air was as sharp as a briefly applied cigarette. Not for an external chill but such was the shock of my violation. I had wanted for very little in my short life and had asked for far less but this key held the culmination of all those secret leanings. I patted the earth carefully knowing that my mother would detect the slightest disturbance. If she were for some reason vexed by the sight of the topsoil she might extract the entire plant. The thought that she could kill something she loved to appease her illness frightened me and though I’d never voiced my fear I often worried that my own eccentricities might invite a similar fate.

Stolen 1 (again)

(This is a story I started writing some months ago. I posted several sections. I am working on it again trying to flesh it out. Trying to make sense of it all.)

The abyss exists within each of us, though it is perhaps more commonly referred to as ego. I is hungry. I is the reason that absence is so heavy. Some would make of their absences a grave, others would fill them by whatever means necessary. I am guilty of both. It is true what they say about regret. I regret most the atrophy of my heart through omission. I should have been more honest with my feelings, a man can’t live on justifications alone.

 

All memories are subject to embellishment and decay. Do not expect my story to adhere to chronology as you may be given to understand it. I write as though insane, I write as my memories surface. Do not take my words for truth. My words reflect only my interpretation of events. There are those that would silence me/challenge me but they are dead now. Literally. Figuratively. My wounds are deep, my judgments biased. What I am about to tell you won’t make any sense and if it does make sense then you have my deepest condolences.

//

My 8th birthday was more facade than celebration. A bit of posturing for my mother’s sake, as she had so little else besides. The children from my class were all invited but it was not for my company that they came. They came because their parents willed it. My father was a respected member of the community. He wasn’t simply a doctor, he was the only doctor for miles. He was an unpleasant man behind closed doors but faced with an audience he was intolerable. I knew the jest of his portrayal. My father held society in the highest contempt. He played the game but only because it forced others to acknowledge his superiority. I understood, to some degree, his false participation. I was accustomed to it but I did not care for either version and feared them both equally.

 

My social ineptitude was considered a betrayal to my parents who took great pains to secure their reputation. They spared me public humiliation but this omission in discipline was not out of consideration for my blighted ego. They simply did not want to draw attention to their own failings.

 

My classmates did not attempt to engage me in play during the party or afterwards. They saw me only as a repository for gifts. Their gifts were impersonal and superfluous. I opened them with a smile so tight that I felt my jaw would weld itself shut from friction. I did not seek their friendship. I was content to speculate at their games and the conversations of the adults meandering mindlessly around the room but all the while I was alone.

 

The room was not dressed for my benefit. There were decorations but they might as well have been stars. They hung fragile and out of reach. My mother too was like a star. Beautiful. Distant. Dead. Her cold fingers dug into my arm as she paraded me around the room. Every now and then she stopped to tidy my hair or to straighten my clothes. “Oh Eli please don’t wrinkle your suit.”. “Keep your hands out of your hair…you’ll ruin it.”. “Why are your hands sticky? The candy is for the guests. I hope no one saw you eating. Please tell me you were discreet?” Her eyes burned the top of my forehead. My mother went to great pains to avoid my eye contact.

“No one saw me Mummy.” I lied. Even had I been able to define discreet, the concept of discretion was beyond my comprehension.

“Well thank God for that…dinner will be served at 19:00 please try to be patient.” I nodded. My stomach growled. My mother blanched and then gathered herself together. “When we are finished greeting the guests I’ll give you an apple. If you promise to stay out of the way.” She started to tug my arm but I remained fixed. My face began to contort. I wanted to cry. None of the guests had shown the slightest interest or consideration for me. Wasn’t this my party? Wasn’t I meant to feel special? What I felt in actuality was shame. Shame for getting in the way. Shame at the notion that my party would be ruined if I was “seen” by the guests after its official commencement. I thought for a long time with my face screwed up. I didn’t cry. My features relaxed. My mother took a breath so deep it looked like she was having a seizure.

“You won’t even know I am here.” My smile wobbled a little before falling.

“That’s a good boy…” My mom shoved me in front of the next visitor. I shook his hand as I had been taught but I had to look to my mother for the words. I had forgotten what it was I was supposed to say. My mother mouthed the words to me. I decided to ad lib. “My name is Elijah.” I leaned in, the old man stooped. “I’m not supposed to be here.” I told him matter-of-factly. The man pushed a gift into my hands. “I won’t tell anyone that I’ve seen you then.” He assured me in confidence. He greeted my mother coldly and something in his coldness warmed my heart.

 

I do not know when I retreated to the library but it was not conscious insubordination as so little of what I did at that age was premeditated. To be the guest of honor in a room full of strangers was a loneliness more imposing to me than my own volitional exile. I took out a leather-bound volume at random. I had my own books but I had read them all and worn them bare in repetition. The library was locked, save for when we had company, and this had been my only occasion to enter for several months. During parties I often came in secret but to come here during my own party, where my attendance was mandatory/albeit pointlessly passive, went beyond risk. Taking a seat I opened the book in the middle expecting to find only words as my father did not care for fanciful stories. What I found instead was a compartment and in that compartment there was a large, brass key in a style that was faintly familiar. I placed the key in my trouser pocket and closed the book returning it hastily to the shelf. I could not risk being discovered, to be discovered now would deprive me of a singular opportunity. I was going to have an adventure, there could be no better gift. The sound of footsteps set me blindly into motion.

Proof of Fire

20296_thomas_bak_photographer_gothic_surrealism_hermetica_atavismsThomas Bak

A serpent’s son scalding a rose-fractured heart

You endow the night with nefarious lust

I trespass. a virgin and emerge wholly female

*

If my tears do not dissuade you

Then of what use is salt?

My prayers hold no favor for still you come

Drinking modesty from clenched thighs

*

We rise inside the same false sun

None shall believe in us, none shall stylize

The repercussion for no scripture above or below

Would ever betray what we together have done

Zombie (warning graphic)

Magpie Tales 68

She pressed the thread between her talons, humming under her breath. The sound was eerie but pleasant, like a lullaby carried over a great distance. She drove her hooked nail into the weather-beaten flesh. This cadaver was as tough as old leather but surprisingly fresh. She didn’t enjoy the act of decimating but the art of creating a vessel for new life. “Pfft such a troublesome corpse…” She muttered tersely, she received only a gurgle in response. “Now don’t go mouthing off…you’ll mess up the stitches…” She reprimanded sharply wagging her index finger and then running that same bony digit over the rigidly stitched pout. She squinted her nearly pupiless eyes at the man grumbling to herself for a minute then shrugging. “Brains have turned sour by now…just mush…” She insisted, the single milky white eye of the man beneath her looked on frozen in muted horror. The other had fallen out, curiously unattached to the optic nerve, an exquisite state of blue. There it sat watching, sagging under its own weight.

=

His lips stung from rows of tight little perforations. The punctures were wedged open with flexible little wires that tore a little with every visceral exhale. His mouth was stitched closed. Screams rose in his parched throat but no words formed only incoherent murmurs. Not even a vocalization really but an internal vibration, like a primitive growl. His heart seemed to burrow down into his entrails tangling there, blood and offal simultaneously pumping.  He felt the thick soup rising and lumping in his throat like coagulated blood. His body sobbed with his breath, each suspended before completion. His ears thundered with coils of snapping heat. He couldn’t move, his muscles erupted in spasms, electric waves of wrenching pain as if the sinew were being ripped free of his aching bones. His back suffered especially as though nails had been driven beneath the scapulae. The metal pins he reasoned must have torn open the ripe red flesh and released a flood of lactic acid. His oxygen seemed halted by a vice drawing his rib cage inward. Metallic edges digging into the tender space between the intercoastals, of course none of this was the case but such was the vividness of his torment. He only shuddered but inside his body erupted. He narrowed his eye drawing his attention to the solitary light drifting above him. The light sliced at the back of the filmy orb, shadows swathed the periphery and in the center prisms of color. The wafting palate was mesmerizing like the oranges and reds behind pressed lashes. The light was beautiful and he prayed to every power to be absorbed, to break down into the sunsets and sunrises he gazed upon as a child. He vomited in his mouth; gravity carried the bile down but for several moments he felt the panic of drowning. The desperation of his weakened peristalsis, waves of black terror.

=

He tried to move, moments passed maybe days and all the while the incessant scraping of nails over moist chasms in his flesh continued uninterrupted. Pricking, pricking each surgical pass was lightening fast so he couldn’t distinguish one prick from the next there was only the rolling waves of searing pain. “Not dead!” He screamed in his mind, his lips shuddered, released only metallic dust. “Your right fresh…full of sticky fluids…looks like we’ll have to bleed you and remove the thingies inside…” She crinkled her delicate nose. “Stink of blood you do…I prefer the smell of those dusty bags of bones myself…” She said hitching a razor-edged thumb to a modestly dressed skeleton. The skeleton paced the room absently but at finding itself the center of attention it turned around, empty sockets fixed. “Mind your own…” The demon girl hissed and the skeleton turned slowly back around, drawing its clavicles up in a shrug. The cadaverous imposter felt the press of nails on his cheek and his head turned. “Much less mess…just needs enchantments but I take care of the zombies…the zombies are my friends…don’t talk much I like that…” She said emphasizing her point by tapping his chest. “Don’t even know you’re dead…” She clenched her hand around his wrist. “Tick tock no pulse you see…” She dropped his arm back to the table, it rolled over the edge, hanging at an odd angle. “Not dead! No zombie!” He screamed in his mind; he whispered out loud, “Now we open you up…” She said lifting a mallet and a metal spike…don’t worry corpsie no pain…”