NEW: la bas: song of the drowned -- by darkstar (8/16)
- Title: la bas: song of the drowned
Feedback: adored and craved
Archive: I would be honored, only please let me know :)
Codes: L/R relationship, angst. S/J relationship, angst.
Rating: PG-13 to R for mature themes of war violence.
Disclaimer: see introduction
Summary: In the aftermath of a war, four survivors struggle
to hold on to their identities in the face of a society meant to
la bas: song of the drowned (8/16)
The Phoenix Compound
I see him standing in the open doorway, long after his wife and his
child are asleep, his face intently staring at something neither of us
can see. I cross the room, bare feet padding without sound on
concrete, and stand beside him. A night breeze pushes hot air
through the weave of my t-shirt.
"Too hot to sleep," he says.
"Is that all?"
"No, not really."
"What did you say to him?"
"What'd he say to you?"
"That he was sorry."
"I've always known that."
The wind stirs the silence; hot and dry and empty.
"Did you see his nose?"
"It was bleeding. Good."
"It didn't stop."
"Maybe it was too soon."
"It always stopped before."
"What are you saying?"
"He said he let them do things to him so he could get across the
"You don't owe him, Marie. He made his choice."
"It should have stopped bleeding."
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
You're not naked; there is a cotton t-shirt and panties between
you and the water, and there's no one in the room to see you
even if you were, but you don't want to take that chance. The
shower room is dirty: black mold in the creases of the broken
tiles, brick red rust on the showerhead, a drowned roach in the
corner of the stall. You wear your socks to prevent fungus
between your toes, but you can't help feeling pretentious.
Who are you to judge the building when you're just as filthy?
Black mold bruises on your arms (wrists and elbows and
Random spaces in between), on your legs (ankles and kneecaps
and higher), on your neck, spreading along the side of your jaw.
Rust brown streaks of dried blood. More blood than
you want to think about, in more places than you want to see.
Some of it you can only feel, like the patch of matted hair at the
back of your head. It's swollen; maybe even a concussion.
Drowning roaches crawl in your mind, climbing over one
another in waterlogged desperation to escape the chaos.
You are a victim; you are a killer.
You are defenseless, you are deadly.
Either way, you've lost something. You're just not sure what.
The water is ice cold, death on the skin in January, but it's okay.
It hurts, at first, but it turns numb quicker than expected, and
Soon you don't even notice it. This reminds you of losing him.
Pain, then unexpected numbness, and then nothing. They say
you are in greatest danger of losing limbs to frostbite if you can
no longer feel anything. You wonder if this applies to him.
If his memories will turn black, wither, and then fall from your
mind into the snow, hard frozen nubs.
No; it won't be that easy.
Because you didn't lose him after all. He left. You want to say
you are abandoned; forsaken, but you don't like the sound of
those words. One is too helpless, the other too dramatic for
this. This is too real for drama and emotion. It just happens,
one awful event at a time, and you've survived it for five days
now. Days or years? Time has always been relative for you; too long
when it should be short and too short when it mattered the
You turn off the shower, watch the last bit of blood swirl down
The sink with the soapsuds. You shiver uncontrollably as you
dry the beads of water from your skin, but at least it's
movement. Part of you just wants to sink to the floor, in the
corner, and never move again. Maybe the shiver is an
involuntary protection against that.
There is no way to dry your hair; you try with paper towels and
an electric hand-drier, but it is too long and too thick. Outside
it is winter; pneumonia will most likely set in. You think of it as
an abstract: sickness is a plant shriveling up by a windowpane,
coughing is the rattling of the frame when a train passes by,
fever is the hot, moist air beneath a radiator that looses all its
heat into the floor.
You dress at your normal rate even though it hurts; no point in
indulging in unnecessary attention to weakness. The gloves go on last;
they are all you have managed to salvage. They tore the cloak down
the middle, they took his scarf. Protest was futile, then, and when it
came time to leave, you didn't have the chance to look for it.
The door to the truck stop swings shut behind you; an old man
is waiting for you outside, holding out a doughnut and a cup of
You eye the food with suspicion and craving, then direct the
scrutiny to his face. He found you on the road, you agreed to
get into his truck because you saw the rosary hanging from his
rear view mirror and the picture of the Virgin tucked against his
dashboard. He is old enough to be your grandfather; this does
not mean it is safe but it does mean you will take the chance.
You have to get away, and this is your only option. If worse
comes to worse, you still have the knife.
(Breakfast. You look like you haven't seen food in a while.
Yeah. A while.)
It's been five days; you don't tell him that.
(Then what are you waitin' fer? Eat.
I don't have any money to pay you for it.
I wasn't askin' for cash. You're too skinny as it is...go on,
You remember to smile when you take the food from him,
remember to resist the urge to stuff the entire doughnut into
your mouth at once.
(Where did you say you were going again?
Detroit. Does that matter?
No, not really. Anywhere is good.
You sure you're not in any trouble?
Family problems? Boyfriend?
Only a partial lie. He looks at the bruises on your jaw and
doesn't ask again. His truck is just across the parking lot, but
you can barely see it through the early morning fog. You follow
him slowly, cautiously, checking behind and before at all times.
A car door slams. You jump. It is the little things that will scare
you now: bumps on the wall and footsteps outside the door,
darkness without a nightlight. What else is there to frighten you?
The big things have come and gone.
You are half inside the door, sitting on the step and drinking
your coffee as the old man checks his cargo, when you see the
other car pull up. It's a truck --faded green and beat up-- but the
vehicle isn't so important. It's the man you see getting out of the
passenger side, nodding in curt thanks to the driver.
Maybe it's the fog; maybe you're dreaming. He can't be who he
looks like, but the details are there and they are concrete. A blue flannel
shirt (just like the last time you saw him, only stained, you ignore
the fact that it could be blood), sideburns, a scowl across his
mouth. And beneath the scowl, fear. Or hope. Or both. You can
hear it in his voice when he starts to shout.
The sound is picked up and echoed by the fog, stretched out,
lingering. You freeze at first, terrified he has seen you, but then
you realize that his voice is not a statement but a question. He
doesn't see you. He is searching for you.
"Marie, are you here? Marie!"
He is alive; this is a brightness, a flicker of a match, though not
enough to light any candles or start any fires.
You watch your spirit run to him, flying across the snowy
parking lot, arms outstretched. He catches you and hugs you so
hard he lifts your feet off the ground. He cries into your hair;
you cry onto his shirt collar. There is an inadvertent brush
of a bruise; you will wince; the entire story comes out in bits
and pieces later that evening, in a cheap hotel room. It
is hard but you get through it without crying. He touches you
and heals you, puts himself inside your head to drown out the
But this is not the truth; it is another dream, and you know it
is because nothing is that easy anymore. You ache for him. You
ache for your silence, but you do not say a word. What would
you say? I'm here, come get me. Come find out everything that
they did to me, everything that broke me. Come be with me so
you can leave me again.
"You ready to go, miss?" The old man is back; he climbs into
his seat and holds out his hand to help you into the cab.
You drop your empty coffee cup to the ground; crush the
plastic beneath your heel. You don't dare look over your
shoulder; you will lose your nerve and run back to the man
calling your name.
This isn't me abandoning him, you say to yourself.
He left me first.
"Yes." You climb into the cab and shut the door. "I'm ready."
As the truck's engines roar to life, you risk one last glance out
the window. He is moving inside now, no doubt to check the
bathrooms and question the cashier. Maybe he'll find you later
on down the road. Maybe by then you will be able to let
yourself be found.
Your last glimpse of the man who said he loved you is of his
back as he walks away.
He is surreal in the mist, a disembodied spirit, a lost prayer.
to be continued.
stay tuned :)
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]