There are many dark tales coming your way; some funny and some not so much.
From the other end of the deserted hallway they almost looked like two young, school girls. Their braids wrapped as tightly around their heads as their hands were clasped together. They moved cautiously towards the main staircase. Not because they were blind, no, the two of them had travelled these halls so often as students that even now some 80 years later they could have maneuvered these passages with the ease of the “sighted”.
It’s just that unlike yesteryear there were deep cracks in the floor and blocks of plaster where the ceiling had rained down like some apocalyptic hail that made haste impossible.
‘It is so quiet’ thought Marta. ‘It’s like a church or a…’ She couldn’t quite bring herself to complete the thought. And she made the sign of the cross just in case God had read her heart and had completed her sentence. At the thought she shivered.
Anya felt the shiver and laughed. “Are the ghosts tickling you?” She reached out and squeezed the place just under Marta’s ribs that always made her explode with laughter.
“Do not joke Anya. It’s bad luck.”
“Yes. That’s all we need now as we stand in the parlor of death is bad luck.” Anya said.
The two women continued shuffling in slow measured steps to avoid stumbling and shattering their now delicately fragile bones as brittle as the glass sold to tourists by the street vendors outside.
After spending a lifetime together these two ancient women had returned to this place, this place that had shaped and defined them. This place had helped to free them from the prison of their blindness, as much as it had helped to forge the chains that had bound them together.
There were no more words now. They had said them all. Over almost 8 decades there had been thousands maybe even millions of them, words of love and hate, recrimination, guilt, words of encouragement and laughter. So, so many of them and yet now as they stood at the top of those stairs that had led down to the front door and what had always seemed like freedom as young girls… any words, any last words that might be said were silenced forever as their memories filled with Tomas.
He was so full of laughter and love. They had both loved him, loved him as obsessively and as deeply as you do at 8. They loved him almost as much as they loved each other, which of course was the problem… because Tomas was head over heels for Marta.
Silly now to think back at the things that shatter the world of children, even at 16 the situation would not have seemed as dire. But they had not been 16 and at the time the thought that anything or anyone could come between them, could make them have to choose was so unbearable that the answer was simple. So very, very simple…
Standing at the top of the stairs they could see the broken body of Tomas lying in a pool of laughter and love but unfortunately only for one.
Accidents happen all the time in schools for the blind even when they have been closed for over fifty years. Anya and Marta looked almost like school girls, their braids loose as they lay broken yet together at the foot of the stairs.
Love For Sale
“She has been fashioned from the finest of materials. Her hair is that of a Duchess beheaded on the eve of her wedding seconds before consummation could be achieved. The expression on her face really says it all, doesn’t it? The arms are of course those of Petrushka snatched during the death of her incomparable swan. Although the torso is common stock the breasts are those of a Saint, I am not sure which one because they all merge together for me with their horrendously over the top and somewhat garish deaths. The only thing I remember for sure is that this was obviously not one who was pierced through the breast with an arrow. And finally the piece de resistance and what really makes my humble offering unique is what lies masked by her damask. Soft as a kitten, smooth as a silken oyster and yet lined with the razor-sharp dentate of those Amazonian hell fish. Lulled by the gentle cooing of the doves your enemy will truly be consumed by his passion.”
I studied the man as he digested my meaning. He did not look like the usual type interested in procuring the services of my Vionette. This one looked like he would have no problem keeping a woman satisfied or at least too terrified to do anything but pray for his lack of interest.
“May I?” The man gestured towards the short stiff round of embroidery that covered Vionette’s most charming point of interest.
“But of course.” I said. “Just…”
I was about to say to say ‘don’t get too close’ when I heard the whirring purr of those tiny teeth and knew that I had been too late.
Vionette did not even have the good grace to blush as the man writhed beneath her staring in horror to the gush at the end of his arm where his hand used to be.
I gave Vionette my sternest look.
“I am sorry my sweet but you know how much I hate it when someone points.” Vionette cooed.
I searched the man’s pockets for coins but found nothing but credit vouchers. I wished Vionette had at least held her temper until we’d been paid. That was the trouble with artists they cared more about their dignity than their pocketbooks
Well at least it wasn’t a total waste. The man was strong and healthy and would keep my girls fed for weeks. I on the other hand would have to go hungry again.
When Ramone died Alice did her best to carry on. She got her hair done. Tried to get out, see friends. She painted, listened to music, read, bought a CD-Rom that guaranteed her the ability to speak Mandarin in just thirty days. She saw each new movie as soon as it came out and for the first time in her life she could actually choose her picks for the Academy Awards with confidence because she had seen them all even the foreign shorts. When her best friend Phyl had her baby she even agreed to be the godmother, this shocked the hell out of everyone who knew her because it was common knowledge that Alice liked children about as much as the Pope liked homosexuals. But that was beside the point; Alice was embracing life with her arms open wide and a beatific smile on her face. Well for almost a month anyway. And then she grabbed her favorite duvet cover threw it over the dining room table and moved in.
It didn’t take long for Viv to notice something was wrong because she was a really stellar girlfriend. And if truth be told she knew that it was just a matter of time before this ravenous hunger for life that Alice was experiencing would become anorexia. So when she came home that night and found all the lights off and her Siamese, Mick howling like it was the end of the world from the top of his cat tree, she immediately feared the worst. Taking a deep breath she prepared herself to find Alice soaking in a bath of her own blood, laid out like Camille in their bed or lying broken and small, looking like one of those macabre dolls that Alice collected, the ones that came in coffins. Therefore finding her set up like a Bedouin under the dinette set was actually a relief. And she decided to ignore this rather eccentric behavior and carry on as if everything was status quo.
Alice was trying to decide where to set up her laptop when she heard someone knocking on her roof. She knew it was Viv. She heard her come in but had decided to ignore her. After all Viv was a part of the world Alice had left behind after she had been left behind. She knew that Viv loved her but not as much as Ramone had. Nobody loved her as much as Ramone and she missed him so much it made her crazy. Everybody knew you only got one soul mate in life right? Alice’s was a sleek black cat with one patch of white at his throat and one just below his belly making him look like he was dressed for flamenco. So when the rapping continued Alice threw sanity to the wind and chose to believe that she what she was hearing were chunks of meteor sizzling with radioactivity and she prayed that her shields would hold.
Viv getting no response slid Alice’s dinner through what she assumed was Alice’s door, drew a chair up to the table and ate her meal in silence. It was not the best steak she had ever eaten. But then it could have been a lot worse considering the fact that Alice did all the cooking. Viv hoped that this tent thing was just a phase because she really didn’t think it was fair for her to work all day and then come home and have to make dinner. She enjoyed being a provider. She did not enjoy being a nurturer. Although she very much enjoyed being nurtured especially since it was a totally new experience.
Alice was trying to decide where she was going to live now that she had started a new life. The choices were literally endless because here under the dining room table she was omnipotent. She was the Creatrix. All she had to do was imagine it and it was. Here time moved backwards and forwards at her whim. Here she was alone or surrounded by the friends she’d always dreamed of. She could get naked throw on a mock, mink coat and sip mint juleps with Tallulah Bankhead, smoke Gitanes and scream her existential angst with Sartre, Camus and any other philosopher that struck her fancy. She could watch the nine moons rise over a planet that she had painted into existence and then dance down a white marble staircase with Fred Astaire. But the best thing about being the Alpha and the Omega was that nothing had to die. So here in her snug, duvet heaven, Ramone was still alive.
Resurrecting him had not been easy. It had taken an incredible amount of concentration and she had needed to put in her ear plugs to drown out the sound of Viv asking her if she wanted things. But once Viv had gone to bed and the apartment had fallen silent, Alice was able to conjure a shadowy version of her soul mate and hear him purr. And with his near transparent arms wrapped around her neck, and his practically sheer head on her cheek, she had the first good sleep she’d had since his death.
Tommy says that once there was a sun that rose and sank in the sky just like the dead. Just like me. He also says there were giant ribbons of color that arced across the sky after it rained and so many stars in the black night sky that they made pictures. I cannot imagine it. Not any of it but especially not a black night sky and not the part about people. Even though he shows me pictures I find it hard to believe that we ever looked like that.
Tommy is dead too only in a different way than me. Tommy says that once there was as much different colored flesh as there are ways to be dead. He says that once people used to hate each other because of it. He says they used to kill each other over it. I would never kill someone because of the way they looked. I only kill when I’m hungry.
Tommy tells me that once there was more than hunger and shelter. That once almost everyone had someone like he and I have each other. He says we are friends. Tommy says that once there was even love. Thinking about this makes my head hurt more than trying to imagine a black night sky blinking with random sized stark white lights. But he says he will show me pictures once he remembers where he put the books.
I do not understand how Tommy can lose things so easily when he never leaves The Library. I never lose anything and I hunt this entire city.
To be cont….
She gave me my memories, concise on a small square of white paper. She handed me my heart wrapped in the bitter leaves of willful blindness. She was the one with the scissors.
I waited for her to cut. I waited for days, months, years. Decades have passed and still I wait, eyes focused like lasers on the thread of my life. The blades frozen above and below like the scream in my throat.
There is nothing I can bribe her with. Nothing I can say that will move her to mercy. She is unreachable. She is cruel. She is infinite. I, am the mote in her eye.
They say she is the most beautiful thing that has ever crawled out of the Sewers and yet no man seeks her bed. Some say she is only half a woman, the half that you see, while the other is something that slithers. Others whisper that her kiss will drain a man till there is nothing left to fill his boots not even dust.
The children say the worst of all but I know different. And what I know is truth because Bella Donna is my daughter.
Not that I call myself much of a mother. Didn’t I leave her to die as soon as I cut the cord? And didn’t I forget all about her until I heard the children’s tales drifting through the pipes.
Stories about a child covered in filth, barely old enough to crawl let alone climb out of the Sewers with a trail of rats dancing at her heels. Or better yet riding a great albino crocodile straight through the centre of Down wearing nothing but a belt of bones.
I will admit the very idea of it gave me the shivering fits. How was it possible the babe was half dead when I left it? Too weak to even cry… Someone must have found her. There are tens of thousands of us who live underground and not all of us are cannibals.
Of course I wanted to see for myself if this was indeed the burden I had carried three long seasons but the sun was too hot so I waited till the leaves fell only to find I had waited too long because the ground was deep with snow. And so it went until one day I knew that if I left it any longer it would be too late because the children were screaming for the Rite.
The Rite had not been performed since well before, even my mother’s birth, when the last of the Suits and Uniforms had all been turned to ash. There had been no need, no enemy so feared or hated until now. Perhaps I had not been such a bad mother after all for if she had died like I intended she would not now be facing a living hell that would last two maybe three weeks until her desiccated body cracked wide open for the wasps to nest in.
It was a long and painful climb from the Sewer to Down. And I had to stop many times along the way just to catch my breath. My joints are large knots that barely bend and my lungs… It is the same for all of us in our third decade some even sooner but I was so close now. I could see the brown light up ahead and knew I was almost there. Just a little way, just a little way…
All I had to do now was wedge my shoulder under the steel stopper that kept me from the surface. It was not as heavy as I had been led to believe and actually crumbled slightly as I pushed.
The streets were empty save for a few tending to whatever they could grow in the soil found under the disintegrating roadways. But even they seemed to be rushing in order to join the mass that swarmed like maggots on a corpse at the temple of the Justice Called Penney.
I wish I had been able to come charging in on the back of a giant white reptile but I had nothing save my two rotting feet so I crawled.
One of the farmers offered me a lift on his back so I was able to see her face before they doused her with the Enemy Fire which is wet like water but melts your flesh like the liquid rock that still runs in some parts of Nu. And I saw that it was true what they said that she was beautiful. That her scales swirled with colors like the pools that formed after the rain. Her eyes glowed red like the moon and I wept as her hair turned to acrid sludge.
I had wanted so much more for my daughter than I had. I had not wanted her to know hunger or thirst or the pain of being forced. I had thought only to end her life before she could have a chance to know suffering. But instead I had brought her to this.
By the time I reached the steps she was burning so brightly that the crowd could barely keep their eyes open from the pain of it. I raised myself up and clasped her to my breast. I should have been screaming but I felt nothing only my desperate, need to place my lips against hers until her breath was gone and she could go to the place that I had dreamed for her.