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NEW: la bas: song of the drowned -- by darkstar (8/16)

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  • clone347@aol.com
    Title:  la bas: song of the drowned Author: darkstar     Email: clone347@aol.com Feedback: adored and craved Archive: I would be honored, only please let
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 17, 2001
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      Title:  la bas: song of the drowned
      Author: darkstar    
      Email: clone347@...
      Feedback: adored and craved
      Archive: I would be honored, only please let me know :)
      Codes: L/R relationship, angst. S/J relationship, angst.
                 Post-registration.
      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
      destroy them.


      ------------------------------------------
      la bas: song of the drowned (8/16)
      darkstar
      -----------------------------------------


      The Phoenix Compound
      November 18


      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?"
      "Nothing important."
      "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
      border."
      "You don't owe him, Marie. He made his choice."
      "I know."
      "And?"
      "It should have stopped bleeding."

                              * * * * * * * * * * * * *

      Fog: Marie


      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?
      More 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
      most.

      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
      coffee.

          (What's this?)

      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,
      take it.
           Thank you.)

      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?
           I'm sure.
           Family problems? Boyfriend?
           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.

      "Marie!"

          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
      other voices.

      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 :)


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