For the month of April, fellow author, Thea Atkinson is streaking through 30 blogs and flashing us a piece of fiction. I generously offered her a space today so she could expose a piece. My blog will be back to normal tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy and follow the links at the end to see who she flashed yesterday and who she will flash tomorrow. Feel free to leave a comment to let me know if you enjoyed the streak, and you are welcome to tweet it or share it on Facebook. You can also follow the chain through twitter with the hashtag #blogstreak
I am Anna, and the sounds of this house whisper to me as I lie on my narrow bed in darkness. There’s no window in my bedroom to relieve my eye of wall; no moonlight streams in through clouded panes. This room is wholly blanketed in a perfume that dissipates by day but that leaks from the walls at night and rises to my nose with the stealth of a snake. It brings with it a spectral whispering that brushes over my body and makes each hair rise to its touch. From toe... to shin... to thigh... to stomach… the moaning washes over me, as if it were a blanket being pulled to my chin.
When it reaches my ears it swells to a whisper and circles my head with a ghostly life of its own, with essence, and movement, and body.
I repeat the same sentence to remind myself I am of this world and no other, that I am a solid body with a right to be here. I repeat it to block out the sounds of night in this room, to disguise the whispers, to fill in the brief silences between the guttural cries--to drive away the spirits.
I am Anna.
I scrub his floors and scour his fancy, indoor commode in return for billet, spare and cheap as it is. My employer just grunts at my efforts and scurries back into the mortuary, closing the door behind him with a deathly click. I gape and try not to look shocked at the naked bodies within.
Night after night I listen to the darkness. I drum anxious fingers on my stomach when the moaning gets too loud. I pretend the bed has a down mattress and is in the sweetest of rooms with the lightest of walls, and when the feeling comes that someone is standing directly beside me, I hold my breath and wait for a touch that never comes.
I am Anna, pinned here by fear to a hard, steel bed that has no give, no softness. Sometimes the whispers take shape and become words in the darkness.
Faster the whispers come, louder.
"Help us, Anna."
"Let us touch you."
"No," I croak. "I can't save you. Won't save you. Leave me alone."
So many voices, so many tones and pitches. The perfume, stronger now, clarifies to a floral scent, of lilacs and roses and violet, then to musk, and finally to the overpowering, antiseptic stink of formaldehyde. I know it well. It is an odor that follows him into the dining room when I serve supper. It clings to his coat and reaches out to me, reminding me of my nights alone in this dark room.
I want to gag.
I am Anna.
Always it’s the same. Every night after dinner I serve her coffee, and him a bourbon—-straight with ice. He watches me and I know he sees the fear in my eyes.
"Let me help you make up your bed, Anna," he says. I don't know how to refuse.
Tonight, like the first night and every night, I fetch the bed linen from a closet at the end of the hall. By the time I make it to my little closet-of-a-room he is there by the bed he has rolled in, and that he will roll out again tomorrow. He fingers the thin material that bundled together makes up my mattress and I clutch the linen to my breast. My heart beats frantically beneath. He stares at me like he does every night, then finally sighs and leaves.
I am Anna.
And the sounds and whispers and energy and perfume come together and meet over my navel. They grab at something deep in my belly that feels like an invisible umbilical cord; they grasp and they tug and they rise above me, spiraling upward. Up, up, up to the ceiling and there they stop.
For these moments there is silence. Everything in the room, the sounds, my fear, exist far above me and I'm left with memories. Strangely, I think of a childhood friend with glossy black hair curled into ringlets that reached her waist. How I envied her those curls. For a second in this darkness I feel as if I'm bobbing just slightly at the end of a glossy ringlet.
Though I have never left the bed, that thing within me that dangles above it remembers that I took scissors to those waves, and mercilessly cut each one to the quick.
I plunge back into myself, and the darkness comes alive once again.
"Save us, Anna."
I hold my breath. I count.
I clutch the edge of the bed. Bed. It’s not a bed—has never been a bed, and I know it. I’ve always known it.