Wrapped up in a blanket, I chafe my arms through the sleeves of my wool pyjamas. The child from the forest is seated at the edge of the velvet sofa, while Jacqueline, as she kneels on the carpet, cleans the dirt off the girl’s face with a wet wipe. The belt of Jacqueline’s lipstick-pink silk-blend robe has loosened and the fabric slipped over her meaty breasts, revealing the old rose areolas. A couple of times, the savage girl has snapped out of her puzzlement to glance down and admire my queen’s bountiful mammaries; soon enough the child will salivate, then her sucking reflex will kick in.
My head is throbbing, my body feels bruised and battered, and my fingers and toes are tingling like pins and needles. Now that I’m coming down from the adrenaline buzz, I’m getting dragged down further by the exhaustion that has settled in after successive sessions of nightmares, and that’s on top of how wrung out my job leaves me five days a week.
“My stalkers didn’t come to visit me this time,” I say in a tired voice. “They somehow brought me to another place.”
Jacqueline sustains a smile to reassure our guest, but the worry is deepening her crow’s feet.
“I was staring at you when you disappeared, Leire. You vanished as if you had walked through an invisible doorway.”
I shudder with a chill, then pull the blanket tight around me.
“For you this must feel like dating someone whose exes keep trying to ruin her life, except that I would never allow those abominations to befoul me, regardless of the size of their genitals.”
“Was it the bunnyman?” she asks with indignation. “What the hell did he want this time?”
“That filthy buffoon likely wants me to worship him like a god. He never showed up, though. Maybe he and Alberto were mocking me from some hiding place.”
Jacqueline lets out a deep sigh.
“I’m so tired of those assholes.”
“You’re telling me. I should consider filing a restraining order against them.”
As if Jacqueline were babysitting a stray kitten, she wipes dried mucus from the child’s nostrils, who’s staring at my queen with rapt attention.
“This kid looks Mongolian, wouldn’t you say, Leire?”
“Those eyes seem Asian, yes.”
Jacqueline lifts the child’s necklace off the mud-speckled leather tunic, then examines the strung sand-colored teeth.
“She also looks as if she came from a different era.”
“Well, once I figure out from what corner of this planet I snatched her up, I’ll put her on a plane headed there. Given how her parents clothed her, I doubt they use cell phones, but she may find her way back to her tribe somehow from the airport.”
My own body interrupts me with a yawn. I’m getting cranky; I want to say fuck off to all my troubles then go beddy-bye, but it must be about five in the morning, and in two hours I’ll have to prepare myself for work. Maybe next time I’ll reach the shower.
I rub my eyelids with my knuckles.
“I’m almost delirious. I need to guzzle down some coffee, although it may worsen my jitters.”
I shrug off the blanket and rise to my feet, then I shuffle out of the living room and into the kitchen. The candy-red coffee maker stands out on a corner of the cloud-grey countertop. I load a capsule into the machine, I place a mug under the spout, I push the start button. As the coffee machine hums, the noise of the fridge door closing startles me.
Jacqueline has taken out a burgundy apple, which is glimmering in the kitchen light. The child’s eyes flare with sudden interest, her nostrils quiver like a rabbit’s. Jacqueline gestures for the girl to sit down on the closest dining chair, and once she obeys, my girlfriend hands over the apple as a reward. Our guest munches on the fruit, then lets out a yip of delight.
The coffee machine’s spout drips the last drops of coffee into my mug, then it lets out a mechanical sigh and its red light switches off. I warm my hands with the mug. My eyelids are heavy and my head woozy from exhaustion. Once some caffeine enters my bloodstream, I should feel my brain slowly unclench.
Jacqueline, while she strokes the girl’s disheveled hair, is staring at me as if trying to figure out how to bring up a troublesome topic. When she breaks the silence, she speaks in an anxious voice.
“Leire, have you been… contacted by Ramsés?”
I was taking a sip of the bitter brew partly to feel a tiny heater inside me, but when my brain processes Jacqueline’s reference, I gag on the coffee. It now smells and tastes like a dirt-encrusted metal pipe used to transport waste, or as if my girlfriend ripped an atomic fart that will seep into these consecrated walls and stink up the place forevermore. I put down the mug with a thunk, and the dark liquid inside splashes the countertop.
“J-Jacqueline, such a blasphemous word shouldn’t have been uttered in this sanctuary! Why would that pig factor in anything that we do during our blessed time away from his domain? And what kind of dealings do you believe I’ve had with that evil wannabe satyr? Are you implying that he’s been sending me pictures of his erect cock and hairy balls, and my consequent urge to flee from this plane of existence is why I suddenly became capable of walking through an invisible portal into some boreal forest? Or do you believe that I would turn into a wanton harlot if I snagged a peek at his genitalia?”
The child’s face is tight with tension as her eyes dart between Jacqueline and I, but she keeps chewing on the apple. My girlfriend’s eyebrows are knitted together. She shakes her head, maybe to clear up her mind from an unsavory notion.
“Sorry, Leire, I’m… overwhelmed. Keep drinking in peace, please.”
I turn away and clutch onto the edge of the counter. My mind attempts to picture some of Ramsés’ demands, and I catch a glimpse of me wearing a dog collar and flogging myself while my boss jerks off in a nearby chair. Then I see myself with my nose stuffed into his sweaty armpit.
My mouth fills with the metallic flavor of lukewarm, poisonous puke.
“I loathe Ramsés with all my being. Why wouldn’t I? He has the face of a gargoyle and a donkey dick. I shouldn’t be associated with that rotten cocksman. He believes that all women should bow down to him and lick his filthy feet!”
I shut my eyes tight, then I breathe deep to calm down. My entire body feels hot and prickly with embarrassment and disgust. Why did I believe that I had the right to raise my voice at Jacqueline, who is my beloved, my savior, my queen, the only person that makes it worth it that I have spent most of my adult life slaving away so the government can steal my money? Has she not provided many tender caresses and loving licks? Hasn’t her warm and honeyed saliva, as well as other juices, flowed down my throat? Doesn’t she make me cum more powerfully than ever before, in more interesting ways, and with all my fantasies brought to life? But I still felt compelled to shout at her.
I sniffle, and my chest fills with an onrush of sorrow. I should grab a knife from a drawer, slice my gut open and offer my dripping viscera for Jacqueline to feast on.
I mop up the coffee spill with a paper towel, then I empty my mug in the sink.
“It’s alright,” I mumble weakly. “I suddenly hate coffee.”
Jacqueline approaches me, pulls my head towards her and nuzzles my hair. Her hand slides under my pyjama top to roam my bare back, and as her warm breasts press against my side, I imagine them filled with milk for my baby needs to be fed.
“I know you are exhausted, sweetie,” Jacqueline coos, “but now you are home, safe with me.”
I inhale deeply. My shoulders slump in relief.
“Where on Earth do you think you ended up?” she asks.
I want to scrub that memory before it crawls into some crevice of my brain, but the child would remain as a puzzling memento of having crossed that invisible threshold between worlds.
“There were… pines and skinny trees with moss hanging from their branches. I glimpsed ice-capped peaks far off into the distance. The sky was blue with little puffy white clouds flying in formation like some mythical flock. And a hulking monster nearly mangled me.”
Jacqueline’s hand travels down so her fingers can knead my ass. A shiver rolls over my skin. I hope she slips one digit into my asshole. When she thrusts it deeper, I always yelp like a puppy.
“Can you describe that animal?” she asks with a faint tremor in her voice. “They tend to live in specific areas of the world.”
I briefly envision a reindeer with a human face. Then a woman who has a vagina for a face. Also a snake with human arms and breasts.
“Well, it was quite hairy, was covered in mud and drool, had teeth like daggers, and reeked of sex. Its claws could have torn my body into tiny pieces, and its tail could have wrapped itself around the planet a dozen times.”
Jacqueline turns her gaze to a corner of the ceiling, then she arches an eyebrow.
“Lead the child into the living room while I go get…” After one look at our guest, Jacqueline strides up to her and snatches the ravaged apple from her hands. “You don’t need to eat the core, baby girl. I’ll get you something much tastier later.” She tucks a stray lock of raven-black hair behind her ear, then she smiles at me. “I’ll go grab the laptop.”
My beloved leaves the kitchen with the apple in her grasp, and her hurried footsteps move towards the bedroom. The wild child’s lips are smeared with juice. She’s staring up at me inquisitively while the fingers of her right hand, which she has rested on the lap of her leather tunic, are curled around an invisible fruit.
My neck starts twitching. I swallow thickly. The gaze that is penetrating my pupils hasn’t been corroded by schooling nor society, and sparkles with curiosity. This child is a creature examining another creature to figure out some truth for herself. It feels like she’s pointing a flashlight directly at my heart, exposing its scarred tissue.
I fear that I’ll burst into tears.
“I-I’m from France,” I manage to stammer, and my voice cracks because I am a burden. “There, our children don’t talk to strangers. There are piles of trash everywhere. Our rivers run with sewage and raw waste. W-we also don’t eat apples whole.”
The child gets down from the chair, reaches out and grabs my hand. Her grip is light but confident, her palm is moist, her fingers are tiny. She widens a smile that narrows her monolid eyes and dimples her cheeks. I would have expected her teeth to be rotten, but in the kitchen light they look quill-grey with some plaque buildup.
How has this girl survived in that forest from which I kidnapped her, and what part of me is her life raft in this ocean of madness?
“Can’t you see that I’m a monster,” I ask in a worn voice, “one far worse than any that walks on four legs?”
The girl tilts her head up. Her fingers tighten around my palm.
“You mean your face?” she asks in a gentle voice unbefitting of her ten years of living in that desolate land. “Or your soul?”
I’m the most miserable failure in history, the weakest person that ever lived. But right this second I’m a lonely human who needs this child to feel loved.
I forced a neural network to produce plenty of images inspired by this chapter: here’s the link.