I must have been thirteen when I was startled awake by my father barging into my bedroom. His brown hair, disheveled and matted with sweat, as well as his beard, sported patches the color of dusty cobwebs. He stopped mid-stride. His gleaming eyes widened in their sunken pits, his wrinkly face scrunched up. His cheeks flushed crimson as he glared at my crotch.
I remembered: an explosion of ecstasy and relief had knocked me unconscious. My inner thighs were coated in dried juice, and my folds still felt puffy from the punishment I had meted upon them with the sticky dildo I was holding.
I sat up with a jolt, horrified that my father was getting an eyeful of my pussy. As I stuttered an apology and scrambled to cover myself, the old man let out a strangled grunt, lunged and struck me square in the face. The whiplash cracked my vertebrae and blanched my vision. An overwhelming pain swelled behind my shattered nose as if I had inhaled icy seawater. I was yanked off the bed onto the wooden floor, where my father delivered blow after blow as if I were a piñata. Darkness was pouring in like oily tar. I must have missed my father’s footsteps leaving the room; I was writhing, sobbing and bleeding when he dropped a damp washcloth on my face.
“Quit whining, little pervert,” he said. “You’re lucky I caught you first.”
In one of the first memories that my defective brain bothered to save, I was sprawled out face down across my mother’s lap as she spanked my bare bottom. She’d smack me so hard that the shock traveled along my spine, and the stinging skin of my ass cheeks broke into droplets of blood that dribbled down my thighs. I squealed, I pleaded for forgiveness. My tears seeped into the fibers of the living room carpet. I begged to know what I had done wrong to deserve this pain, but my mother repeated, “This is the only way to get back on track for a better life.” After her wrath subsided, while she caught her breath and my ass burned bright red, she would squeeze me against her chest. Her cheap perfume cloyed my nostrils. Her fingers trailed along the sensitive skin of my back to knead my buttocks. She whispered, “I know you’ll make me proud someday, my baby starfish.” I wanted to ask when would that day come, when would I be worthy of a loving embrace.
Ages of this world have come and gone. Try infinite loneliness. I remember floating inside the amniotic sac, inside the womb, as an embryo. Tiny hands grasped at the umbilical cord. Warmth encompassed me in a soft embrace, a protective fluid that buffered me from the horrors outside, that flowed down my nostrils and caressed my tongue with its velvety texture. The baby starfish swam inside its mother’s tummy, and when it heard music, it waved its tube feet. I was waiting for something, or someone. Perhaps it remains within me, that insatiable longing.
I have been shot, stabbed, strangled, drowned, electrocuted, exsanguinated, eviscerated, crushed by boulders, frozen solid, blown apart, thrown off a roof, run over by a truck, trampled, hanged, crucified, burned at the stake, boiled in oil, decapitated by guillotine, impaled on a pike, poisoned with cyanide, flayed alive, torn to shreds, eaten and excreted. Yet, I still operate a flesh-and-bone mecha from the command center housed within my skull. A couple of years ago this body passed the vertex of its parabola from growth to decay, and began the accelerating descent that one day, turned into an arthritic hag, a withered husk covered in sores and boils, will land me in a grave, to linger as bones with flesh clinging to them while I join the cosmic reservoir of carbon and silicon and phosphorus and hydrogen in the great big mess known as Earth.
My unsteady legs want to drop me like dead weight. Those intrusive daydreams had blocked off the stream of colors and sounds and crazy that reality dishes out, in which I’ve spent a lifetime wading neck-deep, but I feel it rushing back in through my pores, flooding me. I hunch over and hide my face. Some tectonic shift has shaken my mindscape, plunging the plate of my sanity into the ocean, locking it a thousand kilometers below sea level, down into the pitch-black, icy trenches of despair. My brain craves to squander what remains of its energy running in an idle loop, turning over and over on itself.
“What the fuck is wrong with you now?” the blob spits out.
My chest tightens. No, I can’t bear to look up at that rotten blancmange sprinkled with eyeballs. If I’m doomed to receive the visits of sentient monsters from some interdimensional abyss, why couldn’t I have met a half-woman, half-octopus who used her tentacles to draw intricate artwork on the seabed? Or a man with the wings of a bat, who spent his nights soaring through the sky, seeking out those in need of an angelic guide. Or a half-woman, half-serpent who became a healer, milking her knowledge of venom and antidotes to save lives. At least a witch with a vagina of glittering gold. Instead, a black-humored goo-pile, like the foul sludge from my mother’s bowels, got its shit together and came stumbling through a dimensional rift to annoy me.
I’d love to tell my former co-worker to piss off, but my voice would push against the lump in my throat. An insurgent faction within my mind is attempting a coup d’état to usurp control over my nervous system. I turn away from the contaminated wall, then I stagger past the wastebasket where my vomit must have cooled. With my trembling hands, I pull Jacqueline’s chair and I slump onto it, making the chair squeak and skitter closer to the window.
As cold pellets of water splash against the glass, the office lights are contouring in white those raindrops that streak down in zigzag over the black canvas of this night. Amidst the pitter-patter of rain, the wind howls and thunder grumbles. Toss thy dildo at the reflection in that cracked mirror.
The outside world awaits me in a superposition. In how many of those probabilities has everything already come to an end?
I close my eyes. I take measured breaths of fetid air to steady my racing heart. The cacophony of noise and colors fades into the background, and my mind starts painting on the void. A cabin, its cedar boards grown mossy and bowed with age, its shingles weather-beaten by decades of harsh winds and rainstorms, its wooden shutters hanging crooked on their rusty hinges, stands on a plot of land by Crystal Lake, surrounded with snow-laden fir trees. I’m sitting next to my father on a bed covered in blood and hair and bits of bone. As usual, the old man is naked. He’s combing the hairs of his forearm with his fingernails.
I clench my eyes tighter. In the vast, dark, cold ocean of my mind, an intricate tapestry blooms as it unravels, stretching to infinity. Galaxies shine like jewels, glued to trillions of purplish-pink, bioluminescent threads woven in a cosmic web.
I’m an infinitesimal starfish suspended on a silken thread over an abyss. My lips have been sewn shut with tiny sutures by my surgeon goddess. As Her glowing, blood-red gaze penetrates my consciousness, I expand through the vortex of Her web.
A silver-white flash dazzles me. I’m melting. My cells burst and ooze with viscous juices, and my atoms break down into electrons, protons and neutrons, until only my ghost remains. A phantom, a specter in the void, a lost soul drifting through the endless expanse of space alone.
Author’s note: today’s songs are “Oh Sister” by Neutral Milk Hotel, “Made-up Dreams” by Built to Spill, “How Does it Feel” by Roy Harper, “Always This Way” by Laura Marling, “Fallin’ Rain” by Link Wray, and “It’s Happening Again” by Agnes Obel.
I keep a playlist with all the songs mentioned throughout the novel. A hundred and forty-six songs so far. Check them out.
You would love to hear Leire narrating this troublesome chapter, wouldn’t you? Maybe you would not, but regardless, here’s the link to the audiochapter.
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