I think about what kind of gift I would give her if I dared. An image comes into my mind of a glossy paperback with a rough stick wedged through it. Not placed inside but stuck through the cover and the pages, piercing them, almost sewn in like thread, right across the middle in a vertical line. Impossible, the inexplicable violence of it completely at odds with what it means about us, her, my feelings towards her, and yet it feels like the only right answer. Earthy, and all that mothers. Who’s to answer for our such wild notions? I picture her taking it from me, looking at it seriously, and at me, eyes asking, This Is For Me, From You, This Is The Answer? I almost nod, she almost reciprocates, taking the book. The air between us presses like a vacuum, compressing us into a still scene, each part of my intention crumbled like charcoal and dried into paint. She does not touch the stick, but we both feel it as if it were caught through our bodies. We are both here, but are we ready?
She could have lost it on purpose, of course. That’s what he liked to remind her. It was a possibility. Well, she would prove him wrong, and never find the damn thing. Someone else would have to find it for her, because she had already checked everywhere, and exhausted all the possibilities she could imagine. The answer was external, it had to be, she huffed. She was clearly the victim of some mean, contained conspiracy, designed to teach her a lesson. That was not unheard of. That was a possibility, she aired. The suggestion seemed to bounce off his arrogance-coated ear and crack dully on the kitchen tiles.
A part of her, at least, became conscious again. Thankfully, not any part of her that could suffer from pain or sickness; a graceful mercy by the universe. That is to say that she, the ‘she’ that she was now, could still house those feelings; or rather, provide them with temporary shelter. But they would no longer damage her, fill her, consume her. No, she could never again be consumed.
Instead she was suspended, supported. Cushioned and floating. Her skin was now translucent, freely giving and receiving all matter around it, without either control or injury, in contrast to her cautious life before. She watched as pink and purple lava flowed in, around, and out of her body. Fluid jellied shapes continued their steady journeys like working ants, without awaiting her permission. Nothing was considered, it simply was happening.
She titled her head upwards, slowly, as if on the edge of a bath. Comfortable enough not to be moved by anything she saw, but curious enough to look. She watched her hair swim after the previous moment’s urge of her neck. Everything was happening at a speed that meant you could continue acting in the present, while still watching the recent past happening at your side. Living, breathing nostalgia.
She felt nothing of the previous night, though. Nothing of the alcohol, the exhaustion, of the drugs that she had been unaware she was putting into herself. The giant had found her, filled her, and finally, consumed her.
She was now a part of him, and instead of all these muscle memories fizzing inside her, they passed idly through and around her, swimming with those jellied shapes, as if forming a jigsaw of a time past. Except that they were not building anything.
The giant had not accounted for this, and he was not built for such things. His chest was cavernous, but it would never be strong enough to house what he had put there. He was full, cramped, heavy, his body strapped into a thick decline.
Trapped inside him, the girl was freer than she had ever been. She was now nothing more than a sentient membrane of a soul, but she was there, and one day, she would finally consume him.
The teapig has evolved to understand her position in the office. It is a position of tea-maker, but not tea-drinker. She knows how to create the perfect medicine for every situation. Monday Morning, Broken Heart, Last Minute Late Finish Disappointment.
Her name is Mills.
She passes unnoticed behind desks that are taller than her stout mass unfit for digesting the refined delights that that which she creates has to offer.
Greg-in-booth-29 is the only person there who feels a pang of conscience at his lack of attempts to socialise with her. The rest of them are indifferent.
Except for Annie.
Ever since Mills set trot in the office, Annie has been watching her. She leans over from her booth to breathe through the hairs on Mills’ back, rustling the fibres of her self-consciousness like the wind pushes dry leaves from their settlements. On one occasion, she held Mills’ gaze as she poured one of the teapig’s cups of perfection very steadily onto the carpet. No one else bore witness to the incident, but the stain remains, undiscussed, but scuffed at by the feet and furrowed brows of all who pass.
Annie has been known to move booths.
Mills has accepted Annie’s alpha status over her and the other females in the office, if there are any. All that can be seen on the route to the kitchen is mostly the tips of black shiny shoes and sparse bits of hair from men’s heads poking out from the booth boards. Sometimes a pair of glasses will also emerge, and then snap back out of sight.
Where others plug in ipods or swing pens through their fingers, Mills needs no distraction from the miniature boredoms occurring on small routine commutes. She is aware of her surroundings, of her connection to the universe, and the acute tragedy of everything. She made this decision herself, long ago, and, as she concocts her perfect medicines, she knows that she is truly living life to the full.
The cream in the fridge is a slight way off from its usual, acceptable scent, but that does not matter to them. It is slid out from the beginnings of crust on the middle shelf of the fridge, and onto the counter where it waits as they turn to each other. This was never supposed to last.
Apologetic-looking fruit is taken from a plastic bag. Only one bag. The words ‘bare minimum’ are reigning this household. A receipt is crumpled and slipped under the lid of the bin. This was never supposed to be thorough. Or perhaps it was, just not… So serious. So right. So completely fine.
“Age is our friend,” he toyed, winning their annoyance. A council of women switched off from the listening side of the conversation, and began spewing their individual responses to the offensive keyword, barreling over one another to regale their bitter memoirs and sour predictions.
He sighed, letting this one go, being intelligent enough to recognise a lost cause, and glanced longingly at his watch. He enjoyed this, and held onto the moment. ‘Well, age is my friend,’ he thought to himself, and stroked his facial hair, appreciating each fresh sprout like a newly blossoming rose, knowing that, because he was a man, he would fare easier than these people hell-bent on misery.
“He’s not even listening!” one of them cackled, and the group broke into that dirty kind of laughter that only occurs in response to things that are not funny, and are not jokes. He smirked politely in response, returning from his daydream, from his sideburns, and cut his mental ties with each one of them as easily as he had lost helium balloons from restaurants as a child.
They hadn’t even let him alone for enough seconds that it would have taken to fully absorb the waitress, a much more pleasant presence, one who probably didn’t give a damn about age.
He hoped his friends would hurry up and die soon.
Happy Hallowe’en! Thank you, Chuck Wendig, for the challenge.