she's addicted to nicotine patches
she's addicted to nicotine patches
she's afraid of the light in the dark
6.58 are you sure where my spark is
here, here, here
--Tori Amos, 'Spark'
In retrospect, she supposed she should have been more afraid of being in a house borne on the hat of what appeared to be an amoeba the size of the Chrystler Building doing his best impression of Wyatt Earp. After all, the rocking motion was making her sick. She was probably going to die, and that crunch right there was probably someone's house. Had been someone's house.
Next to her, the kitty eeped and threw up.
The house lurched and threw her against the wall. Except she was already slumped against the wall, so she didn't have to go very far. So this was how she was going to die. All right.
She had already slit her wrists twice. She had no scars because they hadn't bled. Can't bleed to death if your body won't bleed. So she had lived. No one had noticed.
The first time had been when Tasuku left. She had stolen her mother's kitchen knife and gone to the bathroom. The knife had felt like home against her skin. She remembered cutting and cutting and cutting, and not dying. No one else did.
No one else remembered her living, either, so she supposed they couldn't be blamed for it.
Her fingers twitched. She needed a cigarette. She touched the pocket where she kept them. Nothing. Empty as a house on the hat of a mechanical monster a thousand feet tall should be.
Tasuku would have been proud. Proud? Pleased. He didn't approve of her smoking. He only let her when--
There was a knock at the door. How polite, like a regular visitor. Come for tea. Maybe the welcome wagon. You're dead; welcome to hell.
Come in, she said. She had no right to say that. It wasn't even her house. It was Tasuku's house.
It stepped through the door with its boots to its knees and its guitar strapped to its back. Like a demonic turtle. She knew it wasn't human. Or maybe it was and everybody else wasn't. What's so great about being human anyway?
I don't know, replied the figure in the doorway. Its eyes were the colour of burning bodies. You tell me.
I don't know. Her hand touched the cat. The cat stopped pacing its little cage and began to purr. Like a machine. Maybe the cat was a machine. Maybe she was a machine, too, and the it in the doorway was the only real thing here.
Nuts and bolts don't bleed.
Instead of answering, it reached into its pocket and lit a cigarette. She wanted to reach up to grab it from its mouth. She sat very still. Got another?
The end of the cigarette burned like dead bodies. It she had known what burning bodies looked like. The fire ate away at the letters so carefully printed there. No one watching now would ever know what knew best. This saddened her a little.
Did you write that there?
Are those my cigarettes?
Would you like them to be? Its hair fell across its eyes, but she could see them glowing from the beneath.
Its smile grew great across its face, like a crack, like a sick thing. Spread like a wicked virus. The cigarette never budged. You're a very good girl, you know.
I mean, it continued, breathing its cloud of poison smoke into the stale air, haven't you been? Been a good girl?
Biting her lip, she nodded. Hunger wouldn't let her do anything else. Hunger. /Need/. Her fingers twitched. Out of habit, her knees fell slightly apart.
It smiled its sick smile again. Good girl.
The cat hissed once and pawed away. Moving against the house's motion, it looked demented, perhaps retarded. It wiggled first this way, then drunkenly that. It didn't want to see the reward of being a good girl.
Now the cigarette was only best, and with a few more breaths it was nothing, a crumpled heap on the floor. It killed it with its boot. And then it leaned close and kissed her ear. Its knees fell between her legs. It smelled of smoke.
It leaned in gently towards her face. She blinked, startled, and it smiled with its eyes like the stars it had come from. When it smiled, the grey tendrils lited from the corners of its lips. It leaned in and exhaled thick smoke into her mouth.
She grabbed it. Her hands clawed at the sides of its face, and she kissed it hard. Her tongue slammed into its mouth, licking every tooth, every gum, every part of its tongue. It tasted like smoke. Hot, wet smoke. She stuck her tongue deeper into its mouth; she breathed the air it exhaled. Her body needed it so badly.
There was a hand between her legs, and her skirt was gone already. Around her knees, brushing her ruffled socks. Just the way he had liked it. He had said it made her look innocent.
Innocent? She wanted to laugh into the kiss. Hardly.
It returned the favour. She could feel its tongue in her mouth, now, and its hand between her legs, petting her soft cotton underpants. Her mother had always told her to wear clean underpants. She assumed her mother hadn't meant for occasions like this.
Such a good girl, it whispered without breaking the kiss. She didn't stop to ponder how it did that. It even sounded like Tasuku. She wanted it to stop, but she couldn't ask it right now. Its hand brushed down the front of her blouse, where all the buttons were unbuttoned already. Such a very good girl.
I try, she wanted to answer. I try. I'll do anything you want me to. I'm a very good girl. She shivered as it touched her breasts.
She began to wonder if it had breasts beneath its outfit. It looked like a woman, but she knew better than to trust that, especially if it turned out that it really was the only real thing and she only a machine. If it were the only real thing in the world, certainly it would be a man. It wouldn't allow a woman the privilege. But if it did have breasts, she wondered what they would feel like.
Tasuku had liked her breasts, he had said. They weren't very big, but he said he had liked that. He had said they were just right. He had said a lot of things.
It had its fingers inside of her, pushing deep into her, and she sighed a little and looked away. There was no point in this. It was going to get nothing out of having its fingers there, and pretty soon it was going to realise that and get done with other things. Soon enough. All she had to do was wait.
What, don't you ever like it? Its grin hovered over her chest. Like the Cheshire Cat, but with a face. Isn't it good for you?
She looked uncomfortable, which she was. No, she wanted to tell it, but nobody had ever asked her before, so she had never thought about it, and as soon as she thought about it, she had no answer. So she told it nothing. It slipped another finger inside of her, and she whimpered softly.
There, there, it consoled her. Its other hand petted her hair and wiped away the tears that didn't exist on her cheeks. Just lean back and enjoy it.
You've hardly begun, it countered.
She shook her head. Doesn't matter what I've done.
On the other side of the room, the cat lifted a paw to its mouth and began to lick it with great interest. It didn't seem to have any more trouble moving, and she wondered if maybe the house had stopped moving. But if the house had stopped, she herself hadn't, and therefore had no way of telling. It pushed its fingers in harder, pushing her against the wall. Maybe it was keeping her there rather than letting her fall somewhere else. How thoughtful of it.
Her bra, open at the front, held her hands as well as handcuffs might, behind her back. She could pull her hands free, she reasoned, if she really wanted to. They weren't any use right now.
It closed its teeth over one of her dark nipples, and she could feel the nicotine on its teeth as it bit into her bloodstream. But she did not bleed, because there was no bloodstream, and therefore no blood. How convenient. Like a machine, was that?
She nodded nervously. Like a machine. Maybe she was just another machine, nuts and bolts and circuitry beneath the skin. Maybe it was sticking its hand into a machine.
Maybe her gears could cut its fingers off.
Don't even think about it, it laughed. Or you'll find I'm just as much of a machine as you pretend to be.
I'm sick, she protested. I'm sick. I need help.
Nonsense. Was that its entire hand inside of her? It might have been. She couldn't look down. She feared she might be sick again. You're a good girl. Good girls don't need help.
She brought one of her hands to her lips. The clothes that had held them a minute ago weren't there any longer. Her fingers went inside her mouth. She tried to imagine fitting her whole hand in there. I'm sick.
You never told him things like that, did you? It stuck so deeply inside of her, not moving in and out but just sitting there, like the kind of tumor so deep you can feel where it ends and begins. You would never have used that excuse with him. She could feel it brush the edge of her stomach if she tried.
Gritting her teeth, she looked down. It watched her from the other side of the room, but it had left its guitar sticking out of her.
The house lurched. She guessed the monster was still up and around, moving towards its destination. The guitar shifted inside of her, and she nearly screamed as she felt one of the strings scrape her lungs. But her mouth didn't move, and her body didn't move, and she didn't make a sound. She was a good girl. She could get through this.
She was on her back, now, and it was on top of her, kissing her throat. It still tasted like smoke, but now less like a cigarette and more like the smoke that burns your eyes at a campfire. Maybe it was the smoke of the bodies its eyes were burning. She wondered if it would burn her up.
Only if you'd like me to. Its guitar sat on the other side of the room, twanging out low and lonely notes every time it fell against something. But you have to ask please first.
Not until you understand.
What is there to understand? she wanted to ask. She wanted to ask lots of things, like why the baseball bat now inside of her seemed so much larger than she herself was, but these questions seemed to have a better time and place that wasn't this. Maybe she could remember to ask later, when they weren't important and she could forget to ask.
What was there to understand, anyway? This was the way it had always been. He had laid her out on her back, taken off her clothes, talked to her slowly. Most of his clothes stayed on, because that wasn't the point.
But she had been naked; except for her socks, she had been naked, her two breasts rising like sandcastles above the landscape of her body. He had looked, but he hadn't let her look. Hadn't let her touch. She didn't even know what her own body felt like.
It picked up her hands and put them on its bare hips. Like this, she presumed. Maybe all girls feel alike. She ran her fingers up and down its back, feeling the careful ridge of the spine beneath smooth skin. Its waist was small, and led logically down to the tuft of hair and the baseball bat. She didn't want to touch that.
You can touch it if you want to. Its voice was heavy and breathy. She didn't want to touch it. You can touch it if you want to.
That meant that she had to. She did, feeling how smooth it was, and still how hard. It was warm and slick with moisture she assumed she had produced. It probably hadn't thought to bring its own.
Not like Tasuku. He had pressed into her as hard as he could. She had heard it in his breathing, could tell it in every grunt and moan. He tried. But he never pushed so deep he scraped her brain. Like it was doing right now. She clamped her mouth shut for fear it might escape that way.
He had never managed anything like this. She supposed he had just never remembered to bring his baseball bat. It was filling her throat; it was choking her.
The house lurched and she screamed, and as she did, everything fell from her mouth -- a baseball bat, a guitar, a glove, a ring, a match, a twig, a cough of sea water that might have belonged to the ocean on some distant planet circling a sun she'd never heard of, a nut, a bolt, a piece of wire. They poured out of her from inside, tearing her from the very center, and as she spat them out she spat blood.
It put its hand to her mouth to wipe it clean, and she smiled. It returned the smile. Human after all, I see. The baseball bat was gone.
Human. The word was barely a whisper from her swollen throat.
She tugged her knees close, pulling the hem of her skirt down a little lower so as to be as modest as possible. The inside of her mouth tasted like a thousand dirty copper pennies. She could feel the river inside of her flowing out slowly, and wanted to touch it, but knew better than to mess her clean cotton panties in front of a stranger.
The soft sound of a lighter's flickering made her head lift a little. She let herself be pulled into a sitting position. She felt like a doll. A perfect little doll, dressed and painted to look just like a good girl. Her head tilted forward and her glass eyes closed.
It stroked her hair comfortingly, lifting the cigarette to her mouth. She breathed deeply, gratefully. So deep that she couldn't express her gratitude. This was the only time he had ever let her have a cigarette; he had let her take drags off of his. For being such a good girl.
What about now? she asked. Tiny wisps of smoke clung to her lips. They tasted like a thousand copper pennies, too, but now the pennies were bright and shiny and all dated yesterday. Please?
It planted a soft kiss in her hair. Across the room, the guitar rattled once and shattered. Do you understand?
She nodded. She held its lighter and flicked it once, twice, until it glowed a tiny blue flame.
Then wait, it promised, stroking her hair again and tucking her under its chin again. It will come. It will all come.
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