WARNING: CONTAINS MATURE CONTENT.
This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a short story I wrote for the Future Problem Solvers Scenario Writing competition this year, on the topic of Human Rights (for all who don’t know what the competition’s like: they give you five different topics to write on, a word limit and the stipulation that your story’s set in the future, and that’s pretty much it) (oh, and they have a tendency of liking disturbing stories, for some reason, haha). My story got second place in the senior division of competition for my state! 🙂
Now, BEFORE YOU READ ON, please be aware of the fact that the following short story contains occurrences of abuse, thoughts of suicide, etc... so I wouldn’t suggest reading it unless you can handle that kind of stuff. Thank you!
Tentatively, aware of the way her muscles turn to fire with every simple movement, she reaches for her lipsoother and forces the cap off the petroleum-coated applicator. The lipsoother comes to life in her hands, sending vibrations up her arms, and she touches it to her lips, barely a nudge. An audible whimper releases from her downturned mouth. Her hand reaches to cover it as the whimper begins to transform into a full out scream.
She shoves the agony down, buries it.
The lipsoother falls uncapped and unused to the tile floor, where it skitters and jumps away from her, and she sinks to her knees after it, letting the cool solidness of the white tile caress her aching, burning skin. She sits there for a moment, tucking her knees up beneath her.
Cool. Quiet. Peace.
She stands again and wipes the tears from her eyes, swallowing the murmur of pain that rises in her throat; it burns, everything burns, everything about her is on fire. Going up in flames. Dispersing as smoke on the wind.
She feels herself dissolving, and she clings to the counter so hard her skin turns snow white and her knuckles strain against their sockets, but at least she feels stable. She feels pain, the pull of her weary muscles, and that is proof of stability. Of life.
If she was dead, she wouldn’t hurt.
She can’t stand to look at herself in the mirror, so she touches the glass, whispers slurred words to it, and it grows dark, revealing the computer mechanism within. Program icons appear across the screen, but she doesn’t pay attention, as long as it’s no longer a mirror. She looks like death with her matted hair and mascara tears, too obvious and too real in a mirror’s clear reflection. But still her lips are dry as a desert and taste like some unknown ocean, and she reaches for the lipsoother. Steeling her nerve, she commands her fingers as they grasp and slip to put the vanilla-flavored balm to her lips and smear it on, embrace the vibrations it drills into her tissue that are supposed to be therapeutic but instead feel like a jackhammer.
Familiar. So familiar. She holds to that, running her tongue over her smooth lips until they’re dry, and she applies the lipsoother again, only to repeat the process.
She wants to go home, but she cannot. He has taken away her home, and her life, and her memories.
Her muscles spasm and make her elbows jump. Her knees knock together. She clenches the slick lipsoother tube the way she clenches her teeth. The pain is excruciating, but she must sustain. She must ignore the burning like it doesn’t exist. In her mind she pictures swimming through a cool lake… but she’s never been to a lake, so she substitutes it with the abandoned pool out back, only reimagining the pool clean.
She once heard that swimming pools were originally icons of great wealth, rather than the eyesores most people view them as today.
Clean, and Clear, and Large, and Cool. Cool. Cool.
With one hand still wrapped around the lipsoother, she forces herself to approach the giant, mirror-shaped computer screen on the wall over the sink and open the program for the cleansing station at the far end of the bathroom. She clicks through the calmest options she can locate, from first spring rain for the general washing at the beginning, to waterfall mist for her antibacterial cleansing. It will burn the least.
She goes to select summer afternoon for the drying sequence, but fumbles and must begin the process over.
Cool. Quiet. Peace.
Once stripped of her clothing and shut inside the cleansing station, her thoughts alternate between speeding too fast and creeping too slow, like a clock as it nears a black hole, threatening to suck her in. Swallow her. Swallow time.
Before she can think of the pain, she forces the door and exits the cleansing station, her bathing incomplete. Warm water streams off her in little, snaking lines like veins. All she wants is silence, she thinks. The silence that comes with being underwater.
She feels herself drowning. The cleansing station behind her releases the minute yellow antibacterial vapor into the air. It swirls about her, out of the station and into the room. It coats everything, gets in her eyes, makes her lips tingle or maybe she’s crying.
The scream is out of her, out in the silence, before she can remember to hold it in. There’s a crash on the floor below her, in the other world beyond her own. He’s heard and he knows.
That’s it. That’s the end of it. The fire monster within her rears up again, burns in her chest, and burns in her feet, and burns in her fingertips. The sickly yellow vapor coats everything like sulfur dust. The unfamiliar taste on her tongue, on her cheeks, on her chest. An ocean that wells up within her, chokes her, leaves her gasping for water that is not full of salt.
She grabs the electric razor from its container in the cleansing station, meaning to release the burning so that she may fall cold, but before she can, the door to the bathroom slides open with a pop and he’s there. The razor is clenched in her hands. She bleeds although the pain isn’t substantial enough for her to feel. He is the only thing not yellow in this yellow, yellow room.
Where is the lipsoother? The lipsoother that she brought from home?
She is unsure.
The fire rages on. Her vision spins like she’s in a whirlpool, going around and around and around and she’s falling.
He falls beside her, brushes the dust from her hands, squeezes her rainbow-shaded fingers until they release the electric razor. Her last attempt at humanity. She slides to the tile.
He has stolen everything now.
She cannot breathe, but she cannot die. The world is no longer yellow, but red and then grey and then black. She suffocates in silence as the unfamiliar ocean solidifies, an iceberg, burning against her lips. She thinks of the swimming pool – abandoned.
Her last thought: She wishes she could swim.
… So now that you’re all depressed and all that, you should listen to Lea Michele’s cover of “Cry” on Glee and, you know, cry through it with me:
IT’S JUST SO PRETTY AND HEARTFELT AND GAHHH!!!!!!!