Laura

I can only dream of horses and dogs in this place.  Strong, sweating beasts with slick coats and wild looks in their eyes, spittle foaming and bits clinking.  Last night the horses reared with manes flaring and the dogs stood at the fence barking barks that shot back through their muscles and tensed in masculine rhythm, their snouts wrinkled back, gums pink and pillowy.

I couldn’t see the dogs, so I imagined them as the dogs the neighbours used to have when I was a child, those same damn animals that wiggled through the fence and impregnated our dogs and then shat all over our lawn.

After a week of these dreams, I find out the horse’s name is Troy.

. . .
Laura gets wheeled through the hall every day.  Come in from outside, press against the wall for the gurney to pass through, and the nurse looks at the wall behind my head because she can’t be bothered to look in my eyes.

Laura’s in her soft blue hospital gown, looking a little bit worse, is what I always think, with her closed eyes and chapped lips.  And even though she’s maybe thirteen, I still want to bury my face between her small tits and feel the pilling of the fabric against my cheeks.  All those little fuzz-things, like some new form of dust.  Sometimes when I see her I think of Arthur driving a wooden stake into her heart, and it makes my stomach feel like rot.  Some Victorian aristocrat straddling the poor thing and pushing a small cavern in her chest, ridding the world of the Bloofer Lady, stuffing her champing mouth with something foul and spicy.

Ah, but one always thinks like this here.  Thinking any other way would be obtuse.

Laura, what she thinks about, must be something terribly awful, the way they cart her away every day.  She comes back with red patches on her face, still as quiet as the grave.
Snacks in ten, someone says, and I go back outside.

. . .

I share a room with a girl who says she’s from Detroit, though I doubt she’s ever set foot in the city.  She doesn’t like me, but that’s all right because she doesn’t like anyone.  She only likes you if you have an erection, and if you don’t she doesn’t see the point.

“A man with an erection,” she says, “is the most honest thing on earth.  That’s why they’ll never put one on the television, that’s why — because television is humanity’s greatest lie to itself, and we can’t stand offending ourselves with such honesty right there, right there staring at us.  It’s the honesty that’s offensive, not the erection.  But women, women are lies — you can see them on television spread eagle becuase they always look as bored as hell.  You don’t trust them, do you? Who do you fuck here? I’ll spit in your face.”

Erections are her thing, probably because they’re so very difficult to get here.  Might be the food, or the company, or the lighting.  All the same, they’re her fascination.

One would think we’d get along, me with my wooden stakes and her with her erections, but she won’t have any of that.  She doesn’t see why you’d pick a wooden stake over an erection, and I say “You can’t kill a vampire with an erection,” and she says she could — she says “Find me one of each and I’ll show you.”

. . .

At the end of this hallway there’s a door going out to a place that looks like a cement shooting gallery, which of course it isn’t.  The little stalls are slate grey and cold like marble tombs with half-walls so you can glance down the whole way and see everyone out here, chattering with their glow-sticks in their hands, gesturing these salami-sized orange things around that leave trails on your retina if you blink at the right moment.  I don’t know why we have to carry them when we’re outside, and I don’t know why everyone else has an ankle monitor except me.

If you beat someone with the glow-stick, the light will eventually go out.

. . .

Back inside to see Laura being wheeled down the hall, down to her room, to the right, past the second garbage can, near the light that always gives out when it rains.

She’s in a new position on the bed, and the linens have been changed.  They’re still dingy-grey, but I know that soft weave and soapy smell cradling her blonde head is as clean as it will ever be.  The patches of red are on her temples again, a fresh band-aid on the back of her hand.

I press up against the wall and watch her pass.  She looks a little worse, I think.  A little worse.

. . .

“Simon,”

“Yes.”

“Simon.”

“Yes.”

“Simon, look at me.”

“I am looking at you.” I say.

“You’re not looking at me.” Mr. Linley says. “You’re looking at the carpet.”

. . .

I’ve angered Julia by drawing two puncture wounds in the throat of her Saint Barbara. She spent all afternoon on it, all afternoon on it, you shit, and I tell her to just make it work, to just paint a little trickle of blood, a little smear of life there on her ivory throat, and Julia howls at me.

That’s an awful big window she’s put in Saint Barbara’s tower, I tell her.  I say that Saint Barbara’s got to be up to something different this time.  She’s looking to escape from her tower, right, but it’s so tall she’d die if she just jumped out the window.  So she has to learn how to not die.

I tell her that I’m helping Saint Barbara out by making her Undead.  I say, after a while, she’ll be able to turn into a bat and fly right out of the tower.  And if she waits a little longer, she’ll be able to materialise in moonbeams.

Moonbeams!

Julia tries to stab me with the end of her paintbrush because Saint Barbara is a saint not a goddamned vampire, you maniac, look at what you’ve done, look at what you did to my painting.

After someone pulls her off of me, I get banned from the art room.

. . .

The hallway has been empty for the last three hours.  Shapes of other residents have disturbed the smooth shining of the fluorescents on the linoleum, but there has been no gurney today.  No Laura, with her face like a bad theatre make-up experiment. Someone tried to make her look like an angel, but she just looks dead.

But are her gums, I wonder, pulled back over her teeth?  If she would open her mouth, I would know this.  If she opened her eyes, I would know what colour they were, and if I was close enough when it happened, I could watch her pupils dilate to take in the new light.

I take a right, pass the first trash can, and the second one, and the light is flickering because it’s started to rain outside.  The petalling is on the back of my tongue, and there’s a whumping sound going off the walls, falling down from the lights and milling around the floor, doing cycles like machine-pinions pumping.  The rain cradles it, softly, as I stare at Laura’s room.

Laura’s room.

I press myself against the door, and it is as cold and hard as the tundra.

. . .

Mr. Linley asked me once if the sight of blood turned me on.

I laughed because it was such a stupid question.

I laughed and laughed and laughed.

. . .

Troy’s eye is rheumy and as wild as ever in the bright, scorching light of day.  The fields behind him are so bright, the sky so blue, the wind so filled with the scent of tar weed, filled with the sound of dogs barking and the thumbing of mighty hearts beating behind mighty, glossy chests.

. . .

The squeak of wheels, that thin blackish sound sharpening like metal, wobbling in and out of sky and cobalt blue, travels down the hall and my roommate looks at me, waiting for me to untangle from my blanket and jump out of bed.

“She fucked a horse.”

“She did not.”

“She tries to escape every week to that field over there.” my roommate says. “She wants horse cock.”

“She does not.”

“She fucks horses. Why else do you think they lock her up?”

. . .

Santa Claus was here last week, and I couldn’t think of anything to ask for except immortality, so they sent me to the priest and I spent the entire time worried about the cross around his neck.

“Do you believe in Jesus?”

“Yup, Jesus.”

He talked a lot with his saggy old mouth, and I just repeated the last word of whatever he said with “yup” in front of it.

“Yup, the cross.”

“Yup, I’m a sinner.”

“Yup, amen.”

I don’t think they understood what I wanted.

. . .

You never get long in the bathroom.  4 minutes and 19 seconds before they burst in, shouting to distract themselves from the fact that you might still have your pants down.

I stare at my feet in the bad lighting and have two minutes and forty-one seconds left.

I think about Laura, lips parted, and the small breaths that pass through them. I think about her head lolling back, exposing her white neck, her gown slipping over the roundness of a shoulder, so perfect and pale, as I kiss her neck and then, oh, she pulls her gown up, the worn cotton sliding over her fresh skin like silk, her hair cascading down from the neck hole.  Her young body is awkward and angular in my arms, but her breasts are small and smooth, her nipple pert against my tongue, the skin slightly salty.  She likes it so much that she gets on her knees and sucks me off, never once opening her eyes, and I know she’s pretending I’m a horse, that she’s pretending I’m her old horse named Troy, the one she fucked and the one that sent her here because the stable boy saw and told her parents when she wouldn’t let him have her way with her.

And then it’s 1903 for some reason, and Laura is lying in the hay with her dress up, her stockings muddy, the lace-up boots thick with horse shit, the leather glossy and stark against the white of her petticoats and the skin of her thighs, and it’s raining and dreary, but her face is sweaty, her cheeks rosy with exertion as she lays in an afterglow near Troy’s stall, and the stable boy is watching in the shadows with a sightly bulge in his velveteen trousers, and he–

“Okay, Simon, time’s up.” the nurse says as the door slams open against the wall.

I pull my pants up.

It wasn’t working anyway.

. . .

Outside is some sort of desert, something large and dark and mostly grey — in greys, mostly, and I bet it’s technically a tundra because of the climate, because of all the rain we get here, and the way it’s cold and the ground is very hard.

We eat in a place called the empy-are, which somehow means Multi-Purpose Room, and it is like a great big greenhouse, with half of the ceiling glass, and windows from floor to ceiling all along one wall, looking out over that great wasteland.  They are really good windows becuase plates thrown at them don’t break the glass, and they’re also really good plates because the plates don’t break either.

This is where we have the Christmas party.

It’s very boring.  Laura isn’t here.  Everyone is just sitting around, pretending to be lumpy sacks of potatoes, except it smells like lemon cleaner and gingerbread instead of earthy brown.  So they’re not really potatoes. Not really.

I get up to go to the bathroom, but no one follows me this time.

. . .

I try to bite her.

“You fuck — fucker — you miserable fuck — !” my roommate forces out of her mouth between huffed breaths.

Her free hand comes down and smacks me in the jaw.  She has one of my wrists gripped in her hand as I try to turn over on her, but she’s heavier than I am, and has me pinned down at the waist.

“You asshole, Simon, you stay the fuck put you know you want it–”

She takes my head in her big hands and slams it once, twice against the linoleum floor of our room.

The power went out becuase of the electrical storm, and the ankle monitors stopped working. For the first time since I’ve been here, the room is perfectly dark, devoid of that green blinking, shining even through the thick weave of our winter blankets.

With the monitors off line, they don’t know where anyone is.  They don’t know what anyone’s doing, you see, and this is why my roommate is trying to rape me.

I think.

“Stay–!” she says, “Still! Stay still — stop — fucking — moving — Simon I will claw your goddamned face off–”

She pins my throat down with her forearm, leaning her weight on it, and it feels like all my nerves are sliding away, down into my feet under my skin, and the skin itself, like paint peeling down, curling, exposing a cold forehead; the outside of a barn, that west-ward facing wall that spends too long in the sun, so long it’s hot-cold, hot-cold–

“Just get fucking hard already–”

She backhands me across the face.

“What is wrong with you, you freak?  You retard –”

The door to our room slams open, a golden flashlight shining, and she turns around and starts screeching at the nurses as they come at her.

“No! No! No! He’s mine!” she flails and I barely escape one of her flying feet. “No! He’s — No! WE WERE PLAYING NICE–”

They pull her off of me, and I faint anyway.

. . .

They let me back in the art room, and under the pudgy, malicious glare of the art therapist, I paint my hand blue, then press it into a piece of paper.  And then I do five more, and then I cut them out and tell her I’m done expressing myself for today.

She says sessions last for an hour and maybe I might still want to express myself.

“You don’t have to only express good feelings, you know,” she says.

“My teeth fucking hurt.” is what I say, and she sighs and lets me go back to my room becuase my teeth do hurt, because they haven’t had the dentist in yet to cap the teeth my roommate smashed with her elbow.

I sit on the edge of my bed and stare at the floor.  They did an exemplary job cleaning up all the blood that came out of the nine or twelve cuts in my head.  It shines as neat as it ever did, and outside, here comes Laura, rolled along in her gurney, looking like pale death.  Always, always like a death that no one can revive.

Here she comes.

. . .

~ by yearzerowriters on December 6, 2010.

40 Responses to “Laura”

  1. Beautifully done. Painful read – very real, took me right back to rehab. Hell on earth.

    • I’m absolutely enchanted by this idea of it being set in rehab. I kept some things loose, or unidentified (like the setting) for this reason, so the gaps can be filled in by every person that reads it. But rehab–I’d never thought of that! Brilliant! You always bring something marvellous to my work with your comments.

      -Sarah

  2. Blimey S, could give more than that but in mid school run.

    • Well, you’re more than welcome to say more when you have the time. I will wait patiently. Up to a year, that is. After that I might not remember.
      -S

  3. To me it’s like Clockwork Orange.
    “Find me one of each and I’ll show you.” – amazing line.
    A brutal, beautiful kick in the guts

  4. Fucking hell, I love every single thing about this piece. EVERY SINGLE THING.

  5. I like this. I like the micronovel format.

  6. Dan – a clockwork orange! You know how much I love that. It is a bit, though; there’s a touch of the ultraviolence yes. And I think yeah … some moloko plus and the ninth would do everyone good.

    I take it, though, that you didn’t get the Twin Peaks references? I thought you might have.

    Cody – thank you! I happen to like this piece a lot myself. Was there anything you liked the most, though?

    Marc – thanks! I did it that was because all I had were little slices. I assembled it from some dreams I had one night, and I think that’s why — just patches of different things.

    There are things from the dream I never got around to writing, though. Like the new roommate with the eye on her tongue…

  7. Doh! As in Palmer? You know I’m really not such a Twin Peaks geek as I should be – my favourite lynch by miles is Blue Velvet which I pretty much know word for word. If you love Lynch, do check out Dugpa if I haven’t mentioned it before. I would like to buy this story from you for our Wafer Thins if you’re prepared for me to do so. Do you have your books yet?

  8. As well as dreams, I get chunks of words that wake me in the dead of bloody night, repeating in my head, over & over. Like: ‘He was small, he was everso small, he was like – the tiniest creature, hopping about on one leg’ repeated & rising in volume & I’m trying to ignore it & go back to sleep but it won’t stop until I give in, get up & write it down. Which is kind of ok if its a fab line, like that partic example was, i mean, i felt it was worth getting up for, but some are complete crap but just as insistent & sleep-wrecking. Like: ‘I love your toes/i love your toes”.’ Haha!!

  9. btw, because this piece took me back to rehab (no! no! no!) it was a shock when it became apparent pov was male because we were strictly segregated, we even had seperate male/female staircases.

    • yeah, that’s a hiccup in this piece. Being that the first draft was more or less an elaborated dream transcript, it was in second person. Then the second draft was in third, with an unidentified MC, and then the third time around, which is what we have above, the MC became a male.

      I flip-flopped on that because I wasn’t sure if I should’ve made the protagonist myself, or at least name her after myself. So it was late in the game that the gender of the MC was described, but I think, with the opposing themes of hyper-mascilinity (the horses and dogs in the dreams) and sexual repression (the fixation of Victorian vampirism in real life), it makes more traditional sense for the MC to be male. If the MC was female, we’d be dealing with a different set of issues.

      That’s only my analysis, though. There are some things I still can’t figure out. And of course you could have a huge discussion on sexual identity vs gender, but I don’t have the energy for it.

      But I think having this inconsistancy alerts the reader to the idea that something is off in this place, that maybe we can’t trust this narrator, that we don’t really know what this place is, or why he’s there. So do we trust the fact that he really a he? His perception is skewed at times, as he describes things (sometimes it’s like a form of synesthesia). There are parts I took out that showed more of this problem with perception, so really — he’s our narrator, but only because the events happened to him, not because he’s to be trusted, or the best one to relay the story. It’s biased and isolated to his understanding of the world (which is my only argument for it being in first person, which I usually don’t like).

      It’s one of those mysteries, though, why those two are roommates. Something is obviously not right.

  10. I enjoyed the gender jolt.

  11. I’ll admit it sarah, I am too scared to read your story just now. When Dan said it reminded him of Angel at My Table I was put off. It’s a brilliant film butone of the scariest I know. I think I have a deep fear of being carried off to an institution.

    Have bookmarked and will read when strong!

  12. Love it. I feel like, even if it’s not intended, I just went inside the mind of someone with dissociative identity disorder. I love the lyric nature of this, the sing-songy quality of parts, and the (pardon me) batshit craziness of other parts. Just love it.

    • Dissociative identity disorder — that’s interesting. What makes you say that? Would these be vignettes from just one personality, then, or is he the other characters in the story as well? I’m intrigued by this diagnosis.

      Batshit insane is completely okay.

      THANK YOU ROBBBBBBBB

  13. Took me two reads to understand (yeah, I know, I am slow), but I liken the impact to a 2×4 applied at the nape of the neck. Contains such imagery that makes me howl at the moon in forlorn envy.

    Jaysis, Miss Melville.

  14. Brilliant. As I read, I just assumed it took place in a mental hospital, but thinking it over, I suppose it could be some sort of concentration camp where they keep everyone drugged up to their eyeballs to save money on fences and barbed wire.

    The only glitch I saw was the thing with the stable boy…should it have been “his way with her” instead of “her way with her”?

  15. Well, as I said, I adore the whole thing – but what is most beautiful is the fragmentary nature of the narrative. I think so much more can be said in fragments than in excruciating detail. Fuck Flaubert, you know?

    • Ha ha! I like Flaubert! But yes, I know exactly what you mean. Fragments give us only the important slices, or the proper glimpses. And with fragmentary storytelling I think you can hide more and create a much more biased view, because there are so many gaps, so many things untold and unknown.

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