This short was written, again, to a strict 1500 word limit. The post-facto premise was It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.
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The wormy sun toasts my flesh. When I hold up my hand, it peeps between my fingers and floods the eyelets with lagoons of honeyed light and a trembling aurora ignites in silhouette.
‘I know who you are – you’re Bina; you’re the girl who escaped!’
Well duh; I knew he knew; how could he not know. My finger rubs at the cross on my forehead, and then I pick up the rock and turn it over in my lap.
‘They ferried Kovlishgan in at daybreak. I’ll tell you how to get in undetected.’
I paddle my feet in the rockpool and all the smudgy anemones pull their tendrils inside their bodies and they’re so funny that I laugh and then wait patiently for them to explore the water again and then I kick the water and they all cringe again.
‘You can’t suck me, y’know: I’ve been trained to resist; we’re all trained.’
Ha! He doesn’t know it, but I’m much better at it now. You look at a person and try to peer into the cavity behind their face and then holes squeeze through the pores in their skin and unfurl in the air – ragged holes that are big enough to stick your arm through – and you imagine reaching inside the person. Each hole leads to a different thought, and I can smell them better now: the good ones are sweet and tangy like syrupy kirsch, and the bad ones are yeasty like tuberculosis. I even managed to do it to Pater Friwhop and learned that the holes are called grendls and are like public windows that are bound to private cortical windows with a sinewy energy called wrinkls.
‘Want a choke? Mind if I do?’
His wooden teeth chatter like mousetraps that fuck up, and his face is doughy pale, but not bright like the inside bit of a ghost. He pulls a tablet from his knee-breeches and tosses it down his gullet, quickly so as I can’t see that he is shaking. The delivery boys are paid with mute, and there’s a lot of mute on the island of Carousel-Motion because it stops us opening holes. When you’re muted up, you don’t care about brushing your teeth or bathing, and someone has to do all that stuff for you or else you smell like hyena shit, but none of that concerns you when you’re muted up.
I stay my feet and sun-wraiths ripple about my ankles. On days of an occidental crescent, Pater Elaad taught us ethics so as we might not abuse our powers. He told us of consequentialism which is where decisions are judged primarily in terms of their consequences. In consequentialism, the end justifies the means. But what I don’t get is where the end is. Y’see, every consequence has another consequence, and so on. So where is the end that we’re s’posed to use to judge things? If it’s at the end of the universe and everything, then we’ll all be dead and it’ll be too late to judge anything. Anyway, I would’ve asked him but he hated girls except when he was flogging them for pleasure and pleasuring himself or shooting mute into them to arouse a vomit reflex for research, and I was the only girl left. On escape night, I slipped into his room and he was snoring like a puffed-up cockchafer, and I sucked him but Kov hurried me and I retrieved some stupid thought about his dead wife’s titties. His hairy skin came through the hole too and his carcass bounced on the rug like a mulberry jelly set with hedgerows of throbbing veins and hard-boiled eyeballs.
‘D’you know when the end is?’ I ask the delivery boy.
He bares his wooden teeth and squints and asks me how old I am. I tell him I am twelve in summer equinox. He tells me that the end was summer equinox twelve years ago. He grimaces when he tries to bend his leg pieces back and I’d smash the other one too if I could be bothered.
Blackhead gulls shriek and scatter as I climb the plumpest dune. It is branded with canary grass that scratches at the soles of my feet, and it blushes upon a sky that blisters with smouldering storm. Winds gallop from the ocean, coiling serpents of sand and whipping hair across my lips. The lighthouse keeper’s ghost tries to kick sand at me – he’s just as stupid as a ghost. The lighthouse keeper hid in a wardrobe, but he was dead easy to find ‘cos he couldn’t stop from farting. Really, it was hilarious! I locked the wardrobe and left him in there with his poison for over an hour. He’s the only ghost who knows how to make sounds – directly into my head – and he sings the same crappy melody over and over:
There’s a girl who’s really sad
‘Cos she has no mum or dad
And she takes it up the arse
Anyway, he was dead easy to suck and he told me how to get to Carousel-Motion and, because of him, broad-clawed porcelain crabs are banqueting on delivery boy tripe.
The worst thing I ever did was suck my little sister, Nuta. It was the first time I ever summoned the holes and I didn’t know any better than to explore them. She tore really slowly and she was really crying and screaming and flapping her arms like moth wings, and I was terrified but I couldn’t stop the thought coming out and she peeled into four neat chunks and her insides splashed over her feet. The thought I hooked was about Livia who was her stuffed lioness. I know she forgives me though, ‘cos her ghost doesn’t bother me. Sometimes she appears and shuffles along behind me, her head hung and her long spectral hair over her face. You can’t hug a ghost. But still it’s nice when she visits me.
I wade into the sea, where it’s rocky and slippery with witch’s hair weeds, and the lighthouse keeper’s ghost spits at me and evaporates. Ghosts despise water. The caves are near the end of the peninsula, where the sea is loudest and deepest olive green. I hitch up my petticoat, but a rabid wave spews over me and I’m soaked anyway.
The delivery boy’s holes were tiny like beads of gangrenous light dribbling through some cockeyed colander and they were all impregnated with a garlicky smell, but I still found the caves. See, I said I was getting really good at it! Me and Kov are going to practise so as we can suck anybody without them knowing or getting skinned. We’re going to hop the delivery boy’s catamaran and sail to the Star-of-Saffron-Page-Seven. There were pictures of the mountains in one of our study books and there’s this warm freshwater lake in the clouds that’s cocoa-brown in the day and glows like a watermelon at night and it’s surging with shrimp and with tasty toads that sing harmonies together, and the shore is brushed with exotic butterflies seduced by billions of spiced orchids. We’re going to build a village there and wear garlands and have loads of children and throw grand parties every evening. I hope I have lots of girls. I’m definitely going to name my first girl Livia.
It wasn’t so dark in the caves, even when I went deep, because pearly light drizzled through pinprick blowholes, but it was cold enough to swell my arms with goose-bumps and the water licked my belly. Echoes dripped and sloshed and trickled, and it was difficult to carve Kov’s voice out of them. He was manacled at the wrists, chained raw to a rock. I barely recognized him because his hair was a season longer and he was so skinny his ribs bilged like ripples in milk. He kept crying at me to clear out, but I was sure I could pull the chains free, and I even tried sucking them apart, but shackles have no thoughts. Anyhow, I shouldn’t have left without him in the first place.
Kov told me there was another way and I knew what he meant. So I hugged him until the water salted my tongue and then we sucked one another.
It feels like hookworms snagging, tangling your veins, tingling then tearing, and your throat and lungs boil with bile and blood and your breath gargles into your ears.
The thought I presented was from when me and Kov snuck into Nuta’s bed after Pater Elaad had burned her fingers black and we took turns telling her about how our lives would be by the lake in the mountains, and she sucked her thumb and pressed Livia to her cheek and went to sleep.
The thought Kov gave me was curious. He wanted to know if we had seemed like a good idea once, before we became too powerful. I guess we had because they let us die together.
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Having just read Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, I was eager to have a shot at skaz (a type of first-person narrative that has the characteristics of the spoken rather than written word). As I wrote this piece, I began blogging on the techniques I was experimenting with.
You can follow the key moments of my journey here:
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