Hummingbird

Jackboots crack on pavement top
echoes of wings in the undercurrent.
Dark, heavy silence
cut only by the flurried fists
which hover, dart, knock
in the night.
Flashes of color,
rank and status,
allow them to pretend awhile longer
that this could never happen
to them.
They laugh as they sip their sweet nectar
which tastes only faintly of fear, for now.
So hush, my little one.
They won’t come for us.
Tonight.

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Dream: Part Fifteen

He rolls off the bed, grabs his pants and heads into the bathroom.  She lies still, staring up at the ceiling, listening to him rinse the slick scent of her off.  She is cold, but can’t bring herself to move.  She can’t remember how she got here, a place she promised herself she would never be again.  She only meant to come up to give him the money and tell him she was done.  With everything, for good.

“Get up, you’ve got to get out of here,” he tosses her dress onto the bed.

“I thought maybe I could stay for a bit.”  She wanted to  talk, to explain.

“We are not going through this again.  When it’s time to go, you go.  Jesus.”

She slides her feet to the floor, turning her back to him.  She does not want him to see her cry.  She slips into her dress, licking her fingers to rub at a stain near the hem.  She moves closer to the window, standing in front of the desk Dean has currently claimed as his base of operations.  It is littered with mail.  Some already open and empty, others waiting, full, for that quick slice of the knife to spill their illicit contents into his hands.

“Lana, you don’t need to be here,” his tone is brusque, hard.  It hurts her ears.

She runs her hands over the edge of the desk, buying herself time before she can safely look him in the eye.  She turns to face him.  The room is suffocating, there is no space between them.

“Why are you such a bastard?”

He looks at her coldly, “I will pretend that you did not say that. You will leave now.  And you will come back when I tell you to.”

“I MATTER, GOD DAMN IT!”

There is a single moment where they are both silent, eyes locked, letting the aftershock roll over them.  It is broken though, as Dean takes a halting step backwards.  He looks confused, and he clutches at his stomach.  His hands come away a startling red.  She takes a deep breath and moves to catch him.

He grunts, low and angry, as he slides down on the letter opener again.

“You can’t keep pretending that I’m not real once I walk out that door,” Lana whispers in his ear as she lowers him to the floor.

“You crazy bitch,” he spits, the words as hot as the blood she wipes off her face.

“No.  No, I was so good to you. You don’t get to treat me this way.”

She plunges the blade into him a third time, pushing her weight behind it, sinking it into his chest.  She struggles to pull it free.  She can see nothing but blood.  Hear nothing but his groans.  They sound so similar to the ones he makes when she is lying beneath him, willing and open for him.

“I am a good girl,” she cries as she hacks, indiscriminately now, at his face and hands as he tries feebly to protect himself.  “I was your good girl, you were supposed to give a fuck.”

Sobbing, Lana pushes herself up off the floor, away from his brokenness.  She crawls up onto the bed, the sheets sticking to her hands.  Collapsing against the headboard, she throws the blade away from her.  It clatters across the face of the desk, spilling the envelopes to the floor and exposing the DayDream to the sunlight filtering through the greasy window.

There is nothing but the sound of harried breathing, the stench of iron and the color blue.

She moves towards it slowly, peeling herself off the bed.  It is beautiful, the slight shimmer.  It will make everything better.  She tears open the closest bag, squeezing its contents onto her skin.

The DayDream is cool, refreshing, but she doesn’t like the dark purple hue it has cast on her hands and wrists.  She closes her eyes and massages the smooth slick of blood and drugs.  Fifteen minutes.  Fifteen minutes until it takes effect and she can wash herself of this.

Lana wanders into the bathroom, her hands still running one over the other.  Catching her reflection in the mirror, she stops.  There is blood on her face, streaked through her hair.  It is caked on her hands and arms.  Sprayed across her dress.  She is motionless, as though she is waiting for him to get up and leave the room so she can begin to cleanse herself of his shortcomings.

The dress comes off slowly, clinging to her in places.  She leaves it in a puddle on the tile floor.  Thinking Dean may have kept extra shirts, she turns to leave.  That is when she sees the marks he left on her back.  From earlier in the afternoon, long rakes down the soft skin as he dug into her.  She traces her fingers over them gently.  She loved him, once, she thought.

Dropping to her knees, she spews bile and acid across the floor.  It drips from her nose and lips as she chokes, trying to breath.  She retches again, trying to make it to the toilet, crawling through the brackish pool of expelled stomach contents.  Her throat and nasal cavity burn.  Five minutes, just five more minutes and everything will be better.

Dream: Part Thirteen

The sidewalk is still wet from the rain that fell last night.  It leaves dirty, thick stripes down the backs of her legs as Lana walks quickly, head down.  She doesn’t seem to notice, but repeatedly chews the edge of her thumb.

She has never come to see him without being expressly invited first.  But that doesn’t matter today.  Her free hand flutters to her chest, smoothing the fabric over her skin.

She cannot get there fast enough.  She is afraid she will lose her nerve, turn back and pretend to be okay with the way things are.  But she has made her decision, everything will change today.

Under her breath, Lana begins to whisper the carefully rehearsed words.

“Dean.  You have been very careful to keep emotions from being a part of our relationship.  But I am sure that you know how I feel, how I have felt.”

The words came faster as she felt her face flush.  Clenching her fists, she continued on.

“I gave you everything you ever wanted physically because it was all you would accept from me and the only thing I could ask from you.”

She wipes a tear from her eye, noting with some annoyance that her makeup has smeared across the back of her hand.

“But not anymore.  I don’t want anything from you.  I need—”

Her phone goes off, its staccato vibrations interrupting her triumphant finale.  It’s Dean.  Telling her to meet him at the hotel.

She stops short.

“Son of a bitch.”

Taking a few deep breaths, she can feel the rage building.

“No.  No, I decided to come see you.  You can’t make me do anything anymore.”

 


 

When he opens the door, Dean casts a critical eye over her.

“It’s still raining some,” Lana finds herself saying, as she smoothes her hair into place and tries to wipe the makeup from her face.  Again the anger wells inside.  Why should it matter what he thinks?

“Of course.  I didn’t realize you’d be here so soon.”

“I was running errands when I got your message.”

She turns away from him, cursing herself.  Closing her eyes, she counts slowly to ten, trying to regain her composure.  She reminds herself why she is really there.

She feels his arms slide around her, encircling her, the smell of him is heavy on her heart.  She leans back into him, as if he could help her hold this emotional burden too.  His skin is warm on hers; it feels as though she is melting.

“Lana,” he whispers, his lips brushing against her neck softly.

“Yes, darling.”

“I need you.”

“I need you.”

“Yes, but I need you to do something for me.  Something very important.”

He turns her around, bringing her face carefully to his so that she would have to look him in the eye as he explained to her exactly what he wanted her to do.

Dream: Part Eleven

She made the decision early in the morning.  She put on her clothes with care, as if dressing for battle.  Each layer made her feel more secure, as if it was a part of her defense against him.

Lana found it difficult to face herself in the mirror.  Her hands shook as she tried applying mascara.

There was a half packed bag sitting by the door.

She wanted to leave without actually saying goodbye.

Dream: Part Ten

She hates the waiting room for this office. The walls are a disgusting red, too dark to be appreciated. It is menacing. The couch is old and it sags in the middle, so she always chooses one of the hard plastic chairs which flank the water fountain whose presence in the middle of the opposite wall seems inexplicable to her.

The room is too small, the seating is too close together, and even though there is never anyone else here when she comes to see Dr. Waldron it makes her feel claustrophobic. As though the people who normally keep these places warm would disapprove of what she comes to talk about.

“Lana?” the receptionist slides the glass back and indicates the door ahead, “She’s ready for you.”


“Good morning, Lana, please make yourself comfortable,” there is a pause as Lana settles into the much newer leather couch.
“I’m glad you decided to reschedule. I was worried when you cancelled after our last session that we might have touched on some subjects that you weren’t quite ready for.”

She hesitates for a moment, then shakes her head.

“No. You said some things I needed to hear. And I have been thinking about it a lot on my own lately.”

“What have you been thinking about?”

Lana turns towards the window. She realizes she hates the window in this office as well. She feels like it should look towards something idyllic and peaceful, some place she could lose herself in while she gathered her thoughts. Instead it overlooks the parking lot to a hotel. Nothing cheap and tawdry, but nothing high class. The kind of place she often finds herself in with Dean, tangled in his sheets and wishing she was closer to him. She looks back to Dr. Waldron.

“Did I ever mention the time I bought a blonde wig? Something I thought I could surprise Dean with. I thought it was beautiful, it made me feel sexy.” She toys absentmindedly with her own hair as she talks, speaking slowly and purposefully.

“I remember my hands shaking briefly as I knocked on the door. Being shy and nervous, hoping he would like it; it was always so important to me that I pleased him. And when he opened the door, he looked at me, and he laughed.”

Lana smiles sadly, “I had nearly forgotten that. But he laughed. So I took it off and put it away and that was the end of feeling spontaneous and sexy.”

“Lana, just because he laughed, doesn’t mean that you couldn’t be spontaneous or feel sexy anymore. He could have been startled by your unexpected change in appearance or-”

“Oh, it wasn’t that he laughed. I asked him later why he didn’t like the wig, since he’s had me wear one before. And he explained that the other wig belonged to another woman that he fucked. That’s why he liked me wearing it.”

The room is silent.

“What I’m trying to say is, I’ve realized recently, that I don’t love Dean.”

“This is a big step, Lana. What does this mean for you?”

“I’m not entirely sure…”

“Okay, well let’s start with the practical aspect. What do you intend to do about your physical relationship with Dean?”

“I want to end it.”

“You’ve said that before.”

“I mean it this time.”

“Then, if you really intend to end things with Dean, where do you believe that puts your relationship with your husband?”

Lana is quiet.

“I don’t know. I don’t know who he is to me anymore.”

“What does that mean?”

“We’ve spent so much time being invisible to each other, I don’t know if we could ever really see each other again. Does that make sense? When I was with Dean, I didn’t want to see Reese. Even when he was across the dinner table from me. So I made him invisible any way I could. I made myself angry at him, I made him undesirable, I made him cruel.”

“And how did he make you invisible?”

“He didn’t have to work very hard. He is hardly ever home. His job is all he cares about. I bet he wouldn’t even notice if I didn’t come back one night.”

“Do you really think that’s true?”

“Sometimes.”

The room grows warm in the ensuing hush. The women can feel the weight of the words that have been spoken.

“I feel like I am making myself invisible too. Like, without Dean, without this need that I have defined myself by for so long, I won’t know who I am. And I am afraid I will just disappear.”

Metamorphosis

She stands, clutching her dress in her hands
naked and bare,
she inhales the scent of decay
and discovery
before the oak armoire.
The fabric feels old and worn under her fingers,
like a skin she has shed.
And that thought makes her smile.
Stepping out of her mourning clothes
and leaving them behind,
as a snake slithers from its scales.
She takes her time, folding the blackness.
She uses crisp corners and even lines to give order
to despair.
Then, she places it on a shelf
and quietly closes the door.
There is no rush to cover herself.
Naked and bare,
she stands, transformed.

Dream: Part Two

She is standing at the sink when he comes in.  Her back is to him, she is humming faintly.  He pauses in the doorway briefly and watches her.  She is lovely in her rhythmic motion, hands circling plates as she cleans away the residue of last night’s dinner.  He watches for just a moment more before he moves towards her, grabbing a towel so he can help. 

            “Hey there,” he leans in to kiss the back of her neck playfully.

            “Reese, stop that, I’m all wet.”

            “Just the way I like it,” he gives her a lascivious grin and picks up a bowl. 

            She glances at him out of the corner of her eye, watching as he  slings the dish rag around.  She rolls her shoulders, easing her neck from side to side, fighting the temptation to sigh.  She counts to ten before turning to smile at him. 

“How was work?” she asks, though her attention is elsewhere before he even begins to answer.

            “Hell.  We can’t seem to catch a break on this new shit coming in.  I can’t figure out how it’s getting into the city, much less who is selling it.  You wouldn’t believe who we’ve caught with this shit.  Your average, run of the mill, gutter trash, yeah, but housewives, school teachers.  It’s out of control.”  He stops suddenly.  “Lana?”

            She has frozen, her hand halfway to the cabinet. 

            “Yes.  Headache, I’ll be right back.”

            She places the glass back on the counter, clinking against the Formica as her hand shakes.

            “Sit down, I’ll get you some aspirin.”

            “No!” She grabs his arm. “No, please.  I actually think I’d feel better if I lay down for a bit.  Alone.”  

            She forces herself to walk, not run, down the hallway to their bedroom where she carefully closes and locks the door.  Lana crosses the room and sinks down in front of her nightstand.  She kneels for just a moment, head on the cool faux-wood grain top and wonders why she is so surprised to find herself here.  Then she reaches beneath the table and peels free the small plastic bag of Dream.

            She traces the creases in the bag, from where it had once been folded into quarters, and considers dumping the rest of the beautiful blue contents into the sink.  It would turn dark, once it hit the water, losing the shine that she loves.  It would spiral away into the drain, freeing her from suspicion, trapping her here in this dull, flat reality that had no real life, no excitement.

            Lana wet the tip of her finger with her tongue, pries open the corner of the bag.  She slides inside, feels the soft grain of the Dream, the smooth edges of the plastic.  When she pulls out, the end of her finger is coated in pale blue, just enough to take the edge off. 

            Carefully, she reseals the bag and tapes it back under the nightstand.  She will decide what to do with it later.  Then she crawls into bed and slowly rubs her cotton candied finger along her upper gum.  She licks herself clean and even chews her nail off just for good measure. 

            Then Lana settles back into her pillow and closes her eyes.  Her toes and fingers melt into the comforter, pulling her legs and arms slowly down with them.  Inch by inch she disappears further into the bed, becoming so heavy she ceases to exist

Prologue: An Awakening

She awoke in the same terrifying darkness.  The emptiness that was now so familiar, but never less oppressive.  She had been wandering in the crushing blackness for as long as she could remember; it was all she remembered, like recollection and time had been stripped from her awareness. She could touch it, smell it, even taste the dark.  It was her entire existence or all of existence.  If it could be called that.  If it could be called anything at all.  She longed to perceive anything except the nothingness as it swallowed her.  If she could think of something, imagine anything beyond the empty suffocating dark, perhaps she could find what was missing, what was lost, remember what she was.

Words were beginning to fold together and lose both shape and intention.  She could feel them twisting and writhing around her in the abyss.  It was as though they were an extension of her body – searching as desperately as she to find a way out, to define obscurity.  But instead they crowded upon her, causing the darkness to press in further.  If she could quiet the black, stifle the movement of her thoughts, it might be peace.  In the midst of the terrible chasm of nothing, she craved silence, begged for the words to release her.

The dark pressed harder as she strained to resist, demanded to know what she was, who she was.  She refused to accept this reality.  It was there.  Just out of reach of her comprehension she could almost sense the hole like a bottle or glass drained and then obliterated. The nothingness smothered her, enveloped her.  With the last of her conscious she defied and felt it beading on her like droplets.  Wet.  She felt the wetness, the first recognition of anything and with hope-filled panic she grasped for it and demanded it.  Quickly it spread and continued to devour her but now she could feel; she could feel it soak her.

Liquid rolled over fingers and found slick sensation on what must be her arms and down her back between legs thrashing against the tension of the pressure.  Wetness touched and made real the parts of her naked body as it squirmed in the dark made corporal.  It now stung open eyes and filled burning nostrils, pain greeted her as water poured down her throat and constricted her lungs.  She cried out as she found reality.  Dark black flowed around her and pushed her body as limbs flailed and she choked and began to drown as she took her first breath of existence.

She fought against the current and kicked as she clung to life.  Her chest and mind blurred and burned, deprived of air and reason.  She could almost see her own form struggling through the thinning dark of the water.  The distance called to her, pushing her forward.  Then her fingers found light.

Her head erupted from the water.  Cold and sound and air all hit her.  She gasped and coughed as she slipped in and out of the sea.  Bobbing weakly, her limp body vomited water and clung frantically to the bits of air she could.  She was out of the nothing, out of the darkness, she would cry if she wasn’t dying.  For countless waves, she faded in and out of consciousness, until finally she moaned and felt coarse sand on her back.

It was light when she woke.  The move to stand was slow, instinctual.  Feeling every bone, every muscle stretch and extend to unfurl her to her full height.  Arms reached out above her head, fingers searching the air for the electricity she sensed coursing somewhere nearby, the coming storm.  It suddenly seemed important to delight in the ability to command her body, to live.  Though she could not have said why. 

In fact, she could not have said much of anything at all.  She opened her mouth wide, running tongue over teeth, experimenting with lips.  Satisfied that things were as it seemed they should be, she set about choosing a word to release.  She could feel it bubbling up in her throat, like the last bit of ocean salt being expelled from her lungs.

Her mind was full of twisted hallways, packed with gilded cages, each containing a single word.  It was silent here, while they remained entrapped.  She considered allowing it to remain, for she felt that she had desired this stillness but could no longer recall the reason.  The crowded hush seemed wrong, out of place here where the waves roared softly in and the sand cut gently at her feet.  This is a place that called for sound.

She chose a word roiling and undulating, barely contained within its bars.  It burned her as it rushed past, filling her ears with a sorrowful ecstasy.  It consumed her before she set it free.

“A—.  Alive.”

She laughed joyously, effervescently at the texture of letters on her tongue and quickly sought another to fill the void.

“Delicious. Crystalline. Sonorous.”

She pulled them out and tried them on, reveling in their weight, consistency.  It was addicting.  Each one tasted unique in her mouth; from the velvet sensuality of “susurration” to the bitter tang of “cacophony”.  She felt ravenous.

“Amorphous. Dulcet. Felicity. Resplendent. Somnolent.”

Their golden cages crushed beneath the force of her voice; she ripped them apart, one by one, tearing down bars and twisting open the doors.  She flung the words from her as rapidly as possible; relishing the righteous noise they made as their consonants crashed together and fell around her.  She could almost feel the sharp sting on her skin as they made contact.  She paused before a single cage, smaller than the others and shrouded in shadow, almost as though it was trying to hide.

“Elena.”

This word.  There was a hush, momentarily, as this word settled down around her, enveloped her completely, became her.

“Elena.”

It slipped over her shoulders and hung comfortably around her neck as though it belonged there.  A name, her name, a definition of self.  It grounded her, sunk her toes further into the cold sand.  She rolled it over her teeth and back around between her ears.  She pulled it tight and let it warm her.  How could she have forgotten?