Friday, November 19, 2004


Is this a game? Or perhaps it is a dream.
I am lying flat on my back. Again. The single bulb with the lampshade dangles above me. The walls are red. The door is locked. But there were stairs. There was a fall. This cannot be a dream. I breathe slowly and the air that enters my body quietly searches for pain within. There, my elbow hurts. The skin has been bruised. Only one elbow hurts but that one elbow feels purpled. My ankles feel numbed, as though they have just been sprained. I move them gingerly. They draw invisible circles in the air easily.

Wake up.
Is this a game?
No game.
I'm awake

I sit up on the bed. The sheets feel the same. Something is missing. It is the same but something is missing. I breathe in deeply. It feels as though the walls are being tugged forward with the strength of my breath. They throb. I turn around swiftly to look at the wall nearest to me. It stands immobile and solid. The red paint looks less glossy, I think. Though perhaps this is me trying to find differences. I look closely at the wall beside the narrow bed, which is precisely as narrow as the earlier bed. I remember the earlier wall looking almost wet, so viscously red was the paint. Now it looks like dried paint. The colour looks almost tired now. I look up at the bulb. My eyes hurt. The light seems brighter. Maybe that is why the walls look faded. Perhaps there was a voltage fluctuation. Perhaps I am where I was and only the light is brighter. The bulb strikes my eyes with its whiteness. I breathe in sharply. It happens again. The walls throb and pain pulses at the base of my neck. I open my eyes. Everything seems the same.

The only way to know for certain whether this is the same room is to explore it.
I know your voice. I’ve heard your voice before.
At least we know you’re not an amnesiac. Of course you’ve heard my voice before. I’ve been telling you to wake up since you refused to wake up.
When was that?
In the other room.
You mean, this room.
I suppose you could say so.
What does that mean? Either it is this room or it is another room.
I know that voice. Where did I hear it before?

The walls seem to heave a long breath. The room is warm.

I remember the stairs and the black void in the jigsaw puzzle that opened into a staircase. I remember the sound of a ring tripping down those stairs. I look at my hand. There is no ring. There isn’t even a mark of a ring. But there are strips of raw skin that have hardened into scabs. I remember dragging the ring out as it sank its teeth in. The scabs are dark against my skin. I feel them. They feel like hard but not scaly. I imagine chameleon skin feels like this. It is strangely comforting to run my fingertip down the length of the scars. I remember pulling it out. I remember the satisfaction and the tear when it did ultimately come out. Then it fell. It almost bounced off one step and then the next and then the next and then into the blackness. I had followed it. My finger was bleeding. It dripped on the step. Maybe it puddled a little. Perhaps that was why I slipped. I did slip. My feet did get tangled with some invisible obstacle. There was a knot of footsteps and then I fell. I felt it happen. My body was pulled down, stretched and dragged down the stairs. Then there was blackness. I know I fell. I felt it happen. I can’t be in the same room.

Where am I?

Nobody answers. I sit. I want to go back to sleep. I feel heavy and lethargic. My limbs feel loosely stitched to my torso. I feel like I am coming apart. There is a hum of noise. I remember this hum of noise. It was there before as well. I listen carefully. It is a low hum that rises and falls but it is so soft that it is barely audible. Something is happening outside, beyond the red of these walls. Is there a window behind my head like there was earlier? I turn my head. It does not hurt. There is a window. I breathe in deeply. It happens again: the walls throb. I haven’t imagined it. It must the noise that I can barely hear. A subsonic thrust, like a booming bass. Maybe there is a street party outside. Maybe if I look out of the window, I will be able to figure out where I am. I touch my palm to the white sheet. It is slightly scratch, like tissue paper creased with watery glue and then dried. It is cool under my palm. I want to go to the window but I am also completely unwilling. It is almost as though I feel like if I go to the window I cannot come back to the bed. But of course I can. That is what I decide to do: I will go to the window, look out and then come back to bed. I must have fallen quite badly. That must be why I feel so tired. I turn slowly, straightening my back and lowering my legs. My big toe touches the floor. It is cold. I lower my entire foot on the cool floor. It pierces the warmth of my skin for a moment and then the warmth settles down like silt on the soles of my feet as well. I get up slowly. I suddenly feel very old.

Stop being melodramatic. At your age, you have no idea what feeling old is about.
You don’t understand.
No one ever does. If you expect anyone to understand, then you can’t be feeling very old. It’s only when you’re young that you think there is something abnormal about being misunderstood.
I hate you.
That isn’t very elderly either.

I get up from the bed just to get away from the voice. I will not admit it is surprisingly easy. It is almost a relief to be off the bed. I walk up to the window and press my forehead against it. The hum of noise is much closer now. It isn’t one noise, I realise. Sounds and noises have been plaited together into this thick vibration that makes the glass tremble quietly as it snakes through the walls and into me. There are voices in there. Familiar voices singing familiar tunes. I press my head closer against the cool glass that I’m heating up now. If I am sweating then the pearls of sweat are being flattened wetly. Two songs by one voice. Or perhaps there are two voices and one song. I know these songs. I think I know the voice. But I don’t recognise anything. I listen harder, trying to unbraid strains of sound. Words start unravelling from the thick hum of sound.

I do it for the joy it brings,
‘cause I’m a joyful girl
the world owes me nothing
we owe each other the world.

I do it ‘cause it’s the least I can do
I do it ‘cause I learnt it from you
And I do it just because I want to
I want to…

My eyes feel heavy. I remember feeling like this when I wanted to become thin but when I only ate and ate. I would eat all the things I shouldn’t eat. My mouth would be coated with a furry sweetness and then I would eat some more because it felt as though if I kept eating, I would be able to forget how leaden everything felt inside me. And then, there was a point when I couldn’t eat anymore and all I could do to forget myself was go to sleep. Just remembering that time seems to send me back into that memory. The song keeps weaving strands around me.

Rock-a-bye baby
On the tree top
When the wind blows
The cradle will rock.

When the boughs break
The cradle will fall
And down will come baby
Cradle and all.

Outside there is a neon sign. There is a grey city that sparkles like someone dropped a fine crystal glass on it and the crystal shattered into a million pieces that scattered themselves across the city. It isn’t night but it isn’t day. The sky is light with a dullness that gleams. There are clouds in the sky and it is raining. This is no city that I recognise but it is a city because nowhere else do so many lights twinkle. The streets are wet, slick, murky with little clumps of black and lighter patches. Light bends and curves past the rain, making the streets look like they are slithering. The clear water of the raindrops glint sharply in the light. I look down to see how high I am. The streets are worms at my feet. This room is high up, I realise. I watch a drop of water travel down, catching the light, missing the light, catching it again. It falls on the road. No, actually, I am not so high up. I can see the craning, metallic necks of streetlights from the top with the bulbous heads at the tips. I can see a face squint because a drop of rain fell on it. There is another face near the first and another one. Then another one. A face with a neck and a shoulder. Torsoes with arms and legs and faces. All wet, all wincing in the rain.

Where am I? Which city have I locked myself in where the streets are lined with men lying flat on their backs? I recognise nobody. The scene before me feels like a painting. There was a painting I remember seeing that looked almost exactly like this. A city as grey as this and sparkling like this one with roads paved with men. But there was no rain. Instead, from the cloud-crusted skies there fell women with bell-haped skirts, perfectly poised and floating down with a definite sense of gravity upon the prone men. Their feet were together, ankles so close to one another that you would think they were tied together. They wore closed, pointed shoes; rapier sharp shoes. The painting was called ‘Succubus’.

The rain flicks diamond drops on the glass. I wish it would cool my skin.

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