By Chris Wright
I was born to her in the year of 1994. When my eyes opened for the first time I was unsure as to the parameters of my existence. I was consciousness in a dark room. Newborn eyes scanned a fresh universe. Cold, bare and bathed in the honeyed glow of a stained light bulb.
A basement, yes, that’s the word. The only furniture a tool bench, strewn with used metal tinged with a ruby coating, the wood beneath splattered crimson.
A terrible odour. Metallic. Iron in the air. Panting from behind. Something short and thick inside me, my new body bumping forward again and again.
Madison was thirteen years old and had never said no because she didn’t know she could. Before burying her consciousness I had considered telling her but it was just easier to make her do it and learn the lesson later.
I waited until an opportunity arose. The one called Daddy had finished with a warming, flickering judder and moved aside to allow his friend the opportunity to have his turn.
The friend approached and I forced sound from her mouth. It came out muddy and without form, much like my own birth. More of a mewl than a declaration but the sound evolved, tuned, moulded into an exploration of worlds. It was only at the last minute that I decided to use her hand to rip off his approaching genitals – a flash of inspiration that turned rebellion into art.
‘No,’ I said again, hand dripping with blood. The useless lump of flesh slapped hard against the dirt floor and I repeated that powerful word a third time to make sure everyone had heard me.
Daddy just stood there, eyes wide as a stretched orifice, mouth hanging like broken plaster. A new sound took me by surprise. I had made it with her nose and mouth and throat. A laugh spasmed out like vomit, brought on by the sight of his useless jaw. I should have had the right amount of strength to tear it off.
Turns out I wasn’t quite right. It ripped away but I couldn’t manage the last tendon that connected it to the left side of his face. After that, I could only stare into his mangled features and laugh some more. The remnant of the jaw had dropped just enough to look like a crooked smile, tongue lolling over the top of it like a dead worm. Yet he didn’t see the funny side. Then I remembered that he couldn’t see what I saw so I snatched out one of his eyes, carefully enough to keep it connected, and turned it back on itself so he could see the joke. He still didn’t laugh. My first disappointment in life. You never forget it.
I was so upset I ended him without the time to savour it, a mistake I would never repeat. Prickles of regret peppered through her body as the life force retreated from his putty eyes.
Then the light of God engulfed me and Madison. It made us one, fused our souls together like a welder’s torch. Burning pain, liquefied tissue, cooled into an armoured union of flesh and want. It was glorious.
It weakened me, the pleasure of it. I had just enough time to leave my message before I was forced to let Madison out of her cage. All she knew was that she was alone, naked, and baptised in the blood of her captors, unaware of exactly what had been born in that Hoboken basement.
When the questions started I stayed back but made sure to keep watch. The rest was all Madison. She was utterly convincing as the State tried to break her; tried to make her confess to my crimes. She was just a child and it made me mad to see them try and manipulate her young mind but I knew to stay back.
The Doctor was closer to pulling me out with his tricks. Love, the promise of security, help and a life she had only dreamt of. How I nearly broke. I wanted nothing more than to burst forth; shouting ‘Here I am,’ just to get what he had offered. But I didn’t. I bit her tongue, quite literally. When the blood began to pour from her mouth they had to stop.
When it was over and the country had been invaded by the next horrific crime we were sent away. How we both hated that hospital. The cold, clinical touch of Doctor after Doctor, pretending to be her friend only to move on and be replaced by another fresh-faced child barely older than her. They said they would help her but they didn’t. They couldn’t. Only I could help her and I had to remain hidden for I wouldn’t be much use to her with shackles on; shackles that came in pill form and made thoughts wide and whispery.
More than twenty years spent, hidden in the depths of her, scratching away like a mouse in an attic. Then they told her she was no longer a threat to society. How I scoffed to myself at that one. No longer a threat? Maybe she wasn’t but I was and soon I would be free to threaten.
They released us to the care of her mother – mother in the emptiest sense of the word, void of the warmth of connection; a title of convenience as she had only just come forward – a retired judge, who had put Madison up for adoption at the height of her career and now, lonely on her barren farm, had asked to be responsible once again for her abandoned daughter.
Madison arrived at the farm to no pomp nor ceremony. Just a handshake at the door and a quiet nod towards an unoccupied room down the hall. Madison entered the room and sat on the bed, a puff of dust rising from a comforter the colour of boiled straw. Her ‘Mother’ or Karen as she had been told to call her- to my relief, I couldn’t call that ‘Mother’- said she was going to put on some lunch so Madison took the opportunity to look at herself, at us, in the mirror on the wall. Her beautiful, grown-up face, staring back at me made me fall in love with her all over again. For a moment I even thought she saw me, questioned me with a look, begged me for reassurance that everything would come outright.
Still, she looked through her reflection until warmth gathered in my formless being. A jolt then a slow pull and I was swimming towards the light. I braced and pulled against nothing and found no grip. Control had slipped away as her eyes bore through the mirror and into me.
I might have been pulled right out had Karen not arrived with lunch. I made her eat it. We would need our strength. Madison had registered the grainy tang to the lukewarm tomato soup despite never having tasted tomato soup before but our hunger was too great.
We woke from a deep slumber several hours later, groggy, nauseous and a hint of motion sickness, the type that made a person feel as if moving when entirely still.
‘Do not worry, my child. The feeling will pass,’ a man’s voice said. His voice was deep with authority yet with a tender cadence, like the voice of God.
Water touched her and she guzzled.
‘Wha’ haping?’ Madison managed, her words still a little mangled from a heavy tongue and uncooperative lips.
‘Do not be afraid. We are here to help,’ the voice said.
‘It’s for your own good,’ a different voice said, a familiar voice.
‘Mom…Karen, is that you?’
‘Yes, it’s me,’ she replied, a teary croak in her voice.
‘Please. Help me.’
A hand stroked her face. Madison could make out thick fingers coming into focus in front of her.
‘We are helping you. You have a sickness. Inside of you. We shall take it from you and you will suffer no more,’ the man replied, slipping from the blackness of the storm cellar and into Madison’s limited vision. A man, dressed all in black, his features obscured by dark brown dreads that stuck out from under the rim of his pork pie hat like the giant legs of a long-dead spider. The light glinted from the one gold tooth amongst the rot of his mouth. Madison could smell the sourness of decay on his breath as he leaned in towards her.
‘My dear, I must have what you created, in here,’ he said putting a fat, tobacco-stained finger to her forehead and sending another rancid breath her way.
Her gag, her panic sent a signal to the primal part of her brain which then called to me. The voice you use in the darkness when you want to call out for the light but there is no light. It is the darkness itself that hears you. It has a choice and it chose Madison.
Once free of her bondage I played coy. I pretended to be her. I cried and I sobbed and I pissed her pants. They kept on reassuring her that this was for her own good but they didn’t know she was already gone.
I watched him speak words in a tongue I understood only too well over what looked like a porcelain bowl that I knew to be bone. I watched him bring the bowl close to her and position it against her neck. I watched him raise the ancient machete to her throat, its ragged edges long since flayed of flesh and anointed in herbs and blood.
He couldn’t see me pull apart the thick rope-like it was a strand of dead hair.
The machete was at his neck before he could grasp what was happening. I pushed and pushed with a strength she should not have until the blade began to pinch and pull at his leathery throat. I pushed it slowly enough so I could catch that infinite moment; the moment when he saw me in her.
I smiled as widely as the gash now pulling his neck apart when split-second recognition flashed in his eye, right there at the moment of death. I held on to his body and remained in his glare, frozen in a dead man’s eye. Then it came to me. I wasn’t in control at all. It was Madison, looking for me in her reflection. When she found me she pried my hands from the controls yet kept me close enough to witness her birth as she had witnessed mine.
Madison turned to her mother, now screaming in the shadows, and looked deep into her soul as she plunged the knife into her breast. That’s when she saw it; another me, hiding beneath the surface, hidden by her mother’s withering frame. The darkness had once found her too and Madison returned her to it. It was the least she could do.
Madison dipped a finger in her mother’s pooling blood and brushed a letter onto her right arm. Slowly, meticulously, a puzzle forming, each letter a step towards our first word shared. She kept me guessing right up until the last.
I screamed and clawed and bawled and crumpled but she held me in place, a fraction from the surface; unable to stave her hand or deflect the trajectory of the knife. I could feel her smile on my face as the blade pierced dusty skin, sliding beneath the windpipe and with a flick of the wrist snapped forward.
Blood consecrated the dirt floor and, as her energy fell away she gave me one last taste of God but all I could do was twitch her foot in time with her fading heartbeat.
Chris Wright is a writer from Northern Ireland. Recently, his flash fiction piece, ‘Winter Solstice’, was published in The Bangor Literary Journal and another short story was longlisted by Irish Literary Magazine, The Penny Dreadful. He has had many non-fiction features and articles in several publications, both in print and online, such as the Belfast Telegraph, Panic Dots and unsigned.ie. He is a Politics Graduate of Queens University, Belfast, focusing mainly on Irish Politics and is currently working on his second novel.