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, 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.
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.
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?”
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.”
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.
“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.
. . .