Бесплатный фрагмент - BASEMENT COMMANDMENT

Edited by Rowan Silva

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She turned to face the window. The tomatoes were ripe and crimson. She had planted the seeds in a rectangular flowerpot, fitted wall to wall of her wide windowsill. The plant had overflown the pot’s edge, rolled down, and reached the deep ledge, free-falling all the way down to the old hardwood floor in green and red. Hundreds of tomatoes with gripping, thick green stems covered the wall below the sill. The shower did not stop on the floor, amplifying in number and depth to flood broadly through the living room.

She thought, Wasn’t it yesterday that these colorful invaders were still on the windowsill? They have stealthily night-crawled the hardwood, overcome the thick margin of the yellow carpet, flooding fast to my bare feet on the carpet as if aimed to sink me in waves of green and red. Three days! I planted the seeds just three days ago. Stranger than the rapid growth is the smell: not the type of a vegetable. It goes down into my lungs and reaches the soul, I succumb to a devilish temptation of the wild. The aroma floats in the air of my apartment, I see souls dancing around me, sometimes in flesh. I bite; the wild taste of fresh kill, the red juice fills my mouth, overflowing from the sides of my lips, running to my chin. I enjoy the dripping, red stains on the yellow carpet.

She rubbed her feet against the sofa, the tickle went away. She leaned the nape of her neck on the back of the sofa and looked at the wall right across the living room. Not all mysteries are pleasant. Who painted this wall white? As long as I can remember, five years ago, when I could afford to rent this miserable apartment, everything was yellow: the color that I hate. Walls, floor, doorframes, ceiling, even the old rug under my feet. I don’t think the greedy landlady sneaked into my apartment to give the wall a fresh paint job as a surprise gift to me. I don’t hate white, I fear it.

She wanted to put her leg on the long sofa to stretch, and then lie down and rest. There was another smell mixed with the aroma of the tomatoes which didn’t leave her free from thoughts. Normally, she was able to ignore her problems, to skip over them and forget her bad memories. This was a technique which her eight psychotherapists had taught her in over eleven years. The plausible technique did not solve the problem; nevertheless, she could waste her life without worry. She gave up on the idea of resting on the sofa, with so many thoughts whirling and wandering around in her mind it was not possible.

She blamed, it was his fault, the ninth one, or I should say the first psychoanalyst because of the method he chose for me after the failure of treatment of the eight psychotherapists before. On the other hand, maybe not. Maybe I’ve mixed it up. He had to change the trend completely. I guess he was right because I remember none of what the eight before had said, but word for word the talk of the last.

‘Consciousness was your enemy for the last twelve years; it removes the problems to allow the comfort of routine, because it cannot stay for long under the surge of inexplicable questions, let alone the benefits that it provides. That being the financial support of Victim Support Organization, and public pity for a presumed rape survivor, the common assumption.’

‘But I have been suffering for twelve years. I cannot remember anything; all I remember is blankness. I have spent these years in fear of something hidden behind a white flash.’

‘Nothing is behind white; it is in the white.’

‘Why do you always speak in codes?’

‘It is the language of the subconscious and we must communicate on its wavelength. Words are associated with rigid common sense notions, plausible but not genuine. On the other hand, signs and symbols can float in the mind until they shed light on a real thing.’

‘I can never claim to understand psychology in theory, nor other scientific branches but you forced me to read, and I studied for five months until the last two months when you adopted a new method. Now I lean back on this comfortable sofa and describe my nightmares. I watch you scribble something in your notebook. You have never told me about your writing or your diagnosis. I was deadly curious to read the notebook, waiting for a moment of your distraction. It happened a few days ago. While you were busy on the phone in the waiting room, I took it and skimmed through. No words. Page after page was filled with strange signs and unfamiliar symbols. I looked through the whole thing, even the blank pages until the last. Not a single word.’

‘I was waiting for your curiosity to overpass your ethics. Which symbol did you find the strangest in your mind?’

‘The one on the last page of your notebook, the one that I found after I scanned through the blanks. I did not know what it was.’

‘Words have no meaning; they just block our search for identity with a false satisfaction of understanding. Just look at them, each is a combination of meaningless letters. You put them in a row to make sentences and then narrate the combination aloud; they make a paradox in peoples’ minds. People falsely believe they have found an answer to the question of the purpose of life. Then they follow the narrator stupidly like slaves. The invention of words changed the direction of progress in the wrong way. We should have found ourselves in a wordless world. Now we live in the illusion that we know something. I confess that I am master of words; my job requires transforming frightened people who catch a glimpse of the devils of society into obedient zombies who work quietly, pay endless mortgages, stay in, and accept the meaningless loop of social life. I have acquired quite a respectful career in that. There is something precious though dangerously wild within you. I would jeopardize my career to release this wild thing, to deal with society, to find its own way, which is inherent in your biology. The strange symbol on the last page was of a woman inside a wolf.’

‘You have dragged me out of the darkness but left me at the border; one half in the darkness, the other in the light. What if someday I wake up with the savage desire of my biology to kill all the people in goddamn Milwaukee?’

‘It would be good the next day when you woke up and remembered the last night’s massacre. You would get out of bed and break the window from the frame. The fresh air would replace the dampness, you would inhale and enjoy listening to the chirping of free birds singing in the snowfall.’

She wiggled on the sofa and leaned forward, saying to herself, ‘and now the wall in front of me is all white.’ She leaned forward, narrowing her eyes as if spotting something odd on the white wall. What are those two nails sticking out of my wall? Who hammered them down there?’

There were two nails aligned four feet apart, three feet below the ceiling. She stood up, stepped forward, fixed her eyes on the nails, and placed her hand on the wall close to one of the nails. She could smell the paint, it was fresh. Raising her other hand, she stretched her index finger to touch the nail but refrained, afraid that some frightening image might electrify her brain.

She turned on her heel and leaned her side to the white wall facing the opposite direction of the window. A kitchen with some second or maybe third-hand appliances: an oven- broken, a refrigerator- noisy rather than cold. A bedroom, or shall I say a small windowless dog den in which hardly a single bed could fit. Who condemned and sentenced me to this twelve-year misery? I have become twenty-two and my only job qualification is how to get a support allowance for the next month. Thank god I could afford to buy a long sofa a month ago. It is not as comfortable as the natural leather one at the psychoanalyst’s office but at least my cheap artificial leather sofa fits me to sleep on at night.

The Window

Frustrated with the discovery of her misery, she turned her body to face the window and stared out the only window in her apartment. It had not been opened in the last five years. She walked toward the window, barefoot over the stems on the floor, careful not to smash the tomatoes. The sill was deep. There was a bunch of tomato plant in her way to reaching her hand to the brass handle. She leaned forward to the ledge, trying to avoid bursting any of the ripe tomatoes on her new dress, which she had bought specifically for the psychoanalysis sessions. Her fingers reached the handle and pressed it down; the lock was too stiff to yield. She pushed her body more, and a ripe tomato burst, the red juice flowing down her white skirt, penetrating through it onto her body. She felt the cold wetness.

“God damn window!” she cried out. “Why should I care? Today was my last session, I don’t need the dress.” She leaned fully toward the plant, grabbed the window handle tight in her hand, and pressed it down. It broke, but still the window was jammed into the frame. “God damn Milwaukee,” she pounded the frame of the window hard with her palms. The wooden side doors broke with a loud crack, and one of the doors tore out together with its frame. They fell down to the backyard of the building, she heard the sound of smashing glass. The other door was dangling half-connected to one hinge of the broken frame, swinging back and forth. “Wow,” she was amazed, she did not expect so much power. After a few swings, the other door and the frame attached to it fell down to the vacant backyard. A view of the landscape beyond appeared in the broken space.

Why do I hate this city? Where did this hatred come from? The wind of the suburb of the city brought in a damp cold air from Lake Michigan outside. She said, “Ugly green flatness, thank god I cannot see the lake; it would have been even uglier. Surely I don’t belong in this area; I should have been born somewhere else.” She looked up at the night sky, “Some clouds, I wish snowfall would hide all the land.”

She left the window and walked back over the plant to the carpet, rubbing her feet and smearing the red color onto the yellow. She took off her dress and threw it on the bed, went to the wall closet in the bedroom, and without attention took a dress hanger from the rack and came back to the living room. She looked at the dress on the hanger; it was a one piece, semi-transparent. She had recently bought it to start tennis training. “I will never wear it. How can I pay back the price with my credit card while my only income is a pitiful $400 weekly victim support?” she said to herself while turning the hanger back and forth, staring at the dress.

What should I do now that the sessions are over and his conclusion is that I am cured? I will not be eligible to receive any money. Now I am jobless and without any work experience. He did not exactly use the wording that I was cured,

‘You are subconsciously cured; all you need is to remove the blockage in your consciousness.’ He ended the sessions unexpectedly, left me alone after just seven months of his unique therapy, expecting me to solve the complication of the meaning of his words all by myself.

She ended the dress observation. Why not wear it? I am not going out now, surely not in this dress after that horrible thing that happened to me twelve years ago. She pulled on the dress; it was light as a feather, putting it on felt as if there was nothing on her body.

The shame I feel is a desire to see you. She stood facing a huge wrapped object, which had been placed between the sofa and the frame of the entrance door, leaning against the wall. It was a huge mirror she had bought a few days ago on the morning of her last session. I wonder why I bought such an expensive mirror, and so big that I had to pay the same amount to two strong men to carry it up the stairs. The guys carried it up and placed the mirror at the entrance door while struggling to carry it in.

Exhausted, one of them said, ‘Ma’am, have you ever considered if the mirror would fit in the elevator?’ There was an extra charge for carrying it up the stairs: five stories. I didn’t have an answer to their next question when the overtired men asked me,

‘Ma’am, are you sure the mirror can pass through the apartment door?’

I opened the door, the space was not enough. They had to remove the wooden frame from the wall. The mirror was carried into my living room. I could read their next question, Ma’am why the hell do you need such a big mirror for such a pitiful dwelling? Their politeness stopped them from asking.

I guess they felt sorry for me because they put the doorframe back and plastered it to the wall for free. They leaned the mirror to the wall and opened the thick cardboard, pulling it away except for the last thick paper covering the surface, due to my loud objection. It’s strange; I was afraid that they would see me in the mirror. In the end, a hefty price for something that I am now standing in front of.

She took a step further and stood in front of the wrapped mirror. Why did I buy a mirror as big as a king-sized bed, and bigger than my tiny bedroom? Looking at the wrapping, she remembered her psychoanalyst’s answer to the question.

‘To see yourself in full, of course.’

‘It’s much bigger than me.’

‘You feel it is not. That is the reason I am going to end our sessions, and inform the Victim Support Organization of your total recovery. I can read in your worried face that you feel you are not ready. Let me explain. Twelve years have passed; you have become a complete woman with no trace of a ten-year-old girl. You cannot hide this tall and strong body behind a child anymore. Two months ago, I noticed an odd phenomenon, which dared me to refrain from the routine of molding the zombie disposition into you. I noticed that your true biology has started to reveal itself, out of hiding.’

‘Don’t say I am a werewolf or an alien.’

‘Those are stories that we fabricate in response to complicated phenomena. Two months ago, your smell changed. The tiny glands in some specific areas of your body emit a peculiar sort of odor. As a result, I concluded your nature is very different from normal people. I have exclusively adopted a new method for you, with emphasis on analysis rather than treatment. This was my hypothesis; no treatment of the so-called trauma was possible since there was no trauma at all. The tax money has been wasted on you, for you to waste your life.’

‘And that is why you started to draw signs and symbols in your notebook, instead of writing.’

‘Exactly, the two pathways of smell receptors end at an isolated, primitive part of the brain with no connection to language, as they evolved long before any speech abilities.’

‘What is the purpose of my new smell?’

‘Your biology has started to remind your consciousness of your identity which had been hidden there for a reason. Your consciousness, afraid of any unpredictable consequences suppresses the message.’

She raised her hand and grabbed the top corner of the paper, snatching it off the mirror. A tall woman with long black hair appeared. “This cannot be me,” she exclaimed, staring at her unexpected image.

Long, coarse black hair waved down in abundance, passing her shoulders and resting covering her chest. The tall mirror well matched the woman’s height. Hazel-brown eyes surrounded by thick eyelashes were shining below naturally plucked eyebrows. Aquiline nose over well-formed lips and prominent cheeks, the true character of her origin. The twelve-year-old had not passed in vain; the dusky red color of her teenage skin had changed to a shade of light brown with the rosiness of circulating blood under her cheeks. A straight neck stood high over wide shoulders and a broad chest. She enjoyed for a moment the upright breasts. There was still a lot to see, if she could overcome the shame of looking down. She paused for a moment and lowered her face to see how rude the semi-transparent dress was.

The skirt’s edge ended short, an inch below her white panty. She cast down her eyes, overlooking the area belonging to the white panty. She lowered her hand to touch her thick thighs, making sure they were real; so hard. She slid her hand upward along her arm, a pleasant surprise. Not of a very feminine type, but strong, well matched to the legs. She murmured, asking the image, “Who are you? Are you the same woman at the psychoanalysis sessions asking for help each time for seven months? How could the wise man see any notion of a victimized ten-year-old girl in this image?” She could not stop her eyes from going down past her belly button; just a glance was enough to pass through the thin dress. “Shame on you, woman,” she told the image. She closed her eyes, just one glance was enough to find the true meaning of what the psychoanalyst advised. There was a message in the scent: “Remember your origin”.

She recalled the last session with the psychoanalyst. ‘But I need more sessions with you, I still feel my soul tormented.’

‘Open the door and go out, spread your wings into a dangerous engagement. Your consciousness has created and preserved the image of a desperate ten-year-old girl in your mind, to make you afraid of any adventurous effort to decipher the message.’

‘What is the message?’

‘There is something wild in your nature. The interpretation is beyond the field of psychology.’

‘Aren’t I normal?’

‘No, you are not. What if we don’t have psychological terms to describe your behavior? What if there are some silent genes in you, belonging to a very long time ago, that now, due the torment of the event have started activating? You get your consciousness by mirroring the behavior of society. This works for the people who are evolved in the same trend. You can communicate through your smell; this is a very primitive ability in humans. Evolution of the language area of the brain has made this capacity weak and non-applicable. I cannot verify my analysis by your verbal responses, but I can feel its correctness by your change of smell, as has happened recently.

‘So I belong to the wild.’

‘You must go out’

She noticed the woman in the mirror was smiling; not a simple smile, there was some peculiarity to it. The lips were gestured in a smile formation more to show the whiteness of the teeth than the happiness of coming across a friend. An idea came to her mind: why not flirt with her image? Or do some oddity she wouldn’t do normally. She took her underpants off and twisted them around her index finger. The scattered scent widened her nostrils, a strange feeling. A white flash blurred her eyes, frightening her. This is not a woman you can have fun with, she thought. The smile was gone. She was shocked to see that her eyes were not hazel-brown as they just were, but blue; two shining blue irises were glowing in the mirror. The shock made her threw the panty from her index finger. Swirling in the air, it flew behind the opening at the back of the mirror.

She turned back and walked to the kitchen. She needed some distraction from the mirror. The smell of tomatoes had filled the room. She found an appetite to eat meat, which was a strange desire for a dedicated vegetarian. She acquired the new desire from the time she had added those tomatoes to her food. Yesterday, when her downstairs neighbor was barbequing, she could not resist the smell and opened the window, looking down to his balcony; the juicy steaks were sizzling on the rack. It was strange to her that after eating two juicy tomatoes, the meat-eating desire was quenched as if the tomatoes had fresh blood in them. It was not only the taste, but something peculiar in the scent, which had filled the whole apartment. The nostalgia of her past blurrily traveled into her memory, a reminiscence of wildness belonging to a time far before she had been born, like a dance of ghosts around her.

She looked into the dustbin at three empty silver bags of fertilizer. She took one of them out and read the information: ‘Miracle Fertilizer. Add this magic additive to the soil of your pot. The miracle of creation; you will be amazed that your plant grows 15 times faster with an unbelievable taste and strange aroma. Effective in 24 hours compared to the 15 days needed for competitor brands. ‘Certainly 15 times more expensive. It is odd that one would describe his fertilizer with the word, ‘miracle’.

She had bought the additive and tomato seeds from a shop in a remote area out in the suburbs. She was seeking a new way to fill her free time, of which she was going to have plenty. She thought to go and look at different items in shops until she figured out a hobby. It was three days ago that as she was driving aimlessly and talking to herself that she lost recognition of the time and the road. Unknown streets started and ended with shops on both sides closed, until she found one in a place with the least possibility. In a large parking lot, a light on the other side attracted her attention. She drove closer across the lot. Strangely, it was a big store located in the middle of nowhere, in a deserted area at the end of a huge vacant parking lot. She parked her car by the store to ask for directions. It was a big botanical store, with no customer and one old botanist owner standing at the cash register.

She could remember her first encounter with the man vividly. As she was going to ask for the directions, he said smilingly,

“Hello, my beautiful vampire, what has brought you here? Unfortunately, we only have flowers, not human flesh or blood.”

“My mistake, I can’t catch the smell of anything here but dead flesh and rotten blood,” she retorted and amazingly, the brief offensive conversation changed her mood, making her relax and she thought to buy something.

She remembered the botanist got in the mood too; his smile grew wider and he started narrating his life story,

“My dear father saved his money all his life to buy this land, in the hope that someday the rich people would build a road, passing by this area. Then we would be among the rich people. As he was dying, he gave his savings to his only child, me, as well as his last and only unfulfilled hope in life. Unfortunately, the rich people were too rich; they built a highway instead of a road, and along that highway were stretched guardrails. The not so busy area became dead empty. However, I kept the promise, and could not spend his money otherwise. I purchased the land and built a store and a big parking lot, the same as he had always described for his beloved son. I am old now and have not saved much for myself. Nevertheless, I was able to save him in my memory.”

“Sorry, I was wrong. Your blood is not rotten.”

She did not feel lost anymore. She turned her head to look around, and walked down the aisles of the store browsing the items, sometimes taking an interesting piece to look at. At the end of one of the aisles, she entered a large open area; a simple advertisement on a sign caught her attention:

‘Many humans were engaged in the production of these fertilizers. They put soul into it.’ Below the banner, there was a cardboard box filled with silver bags of Miracle Fertilizer. She bought three bags, some tomato seeds, and a large rectangular flowerpot.

In her apartment, recalling the story she said to herself, “I’ve run out of the god damn good fertilizer; have to go see the botanist again,” she was talking to herself in the kitchen, looking at the empty silver bag in her hand. She turned on her heels from the dustbin to the kitchen cabinets at her back, raised her hands up, and opened the cabinet door. There was a glass jar filled with crumpled bills and some coins. She took the jar, opened the lid, removed a ball of money, then placed the jar back. She snatched her car keys from the cabinet counter and rushed to the door, it was already late at night.

Upon one last glance into the mirror, “Oh, I am not wearing my panty,” she said with a shameful laugh, noticing that the white underpants had fallen on the floor, in a gap between the back of the mirror and the wall. She crouched down and stretched her index finger while holding the ball of money in her palm. As her finger reached the underwear, she hooked the tip of her finger to the elastic band and pulled it toward herself. The elastic stretched but it was like something was holding it back. The panty was stuck to something at the back of the mirror. She dropped the money on the floor and moved her head toward the gap as close as possible to see what had been tangled in her panty. Her left eye saw in the darkness deep behind the mirror, a wooden frame. She stretched her arm into the gap, felt the wood, and grabbed the outer side of it, sliding it out. A small part of the wooden frame appeared from the back of the mirror. It had canvas stretched over it.

To get the whole of it free from the back of the mirror, she stood up and dragged it out until the frame reached and leaned onto the apartment door. She lifted and carried it to the wall in front of the sofa and placed it on the floor, its back leaning to the wall. She stepped back to figure out the painting. The canvas had been painted with a white paint, no drawing or figure on it.

Whose is this painting and why it was hidden behind my mirror? At least now I know why the nails are on the wall. She hung the painting on the two nails above. It fit perfectly stable on them. She went back and sat on her sofa, leaning back with a fearful thought in her mind, I am living in the house of the wild beauty in the mirror, these things belong to her. The new puzzle gave life to the idea that the woman in the mirror was responsible for all the unsolved cases. She had brought things which belonged to her into the apartment. On the other hand, even if the idea was an illusion, how she could trust her mind? Her fear was gradually escalating, she couldn’t sit on her couch and seek peace of mind anymore. She felt trapped by the woman in the mirror. She had never felt surrender like this, like prey willingly embracing the hunter.

Troubled minds can better communicate with horror. She leaned back to the sofa, feeling the dampness of sweat on her back. She dug her fingers into the sofa fabric, twisting the leather, staring at the painting. Have the courage; there is no session for help tomorrow. She sensed something in the painting, in the whiteness.

There were various shades of white and grey: the landscape of a snowy day. The ground was covered with deep snow, thick fog in the air, and some movement. Grayish shapes were appearing very vaguely, in the mist, and before acquiring a clear shape they disappeared. Then there was plain white again. Nostalgia. She turned her gaze to the window, wishing she could see the same scenery in reality outside the window. She said with a soft voice, “Oh tomatoes, I completely forgot the shop might close any minute.” She jumped off the sofa to her feet, grabbed the car keys, and rushed toward the door. Strangely, all fear had been removed; either the woman in the mirror had captured her, or they could share the room. She had a desire to smile like the woman with glowing blue eyes. She took one last glimpse in the mirror; the reflection of the mysterious shades of the painting appeared once again. This time they brought to her mind some reminiscence of the past; she had been there.

The Book

She opened the door. The ball of money and her panty stayed behind on the floor. The elevator door was open and she entered. She looked at the buttons, waited, and thought, how can I manage this time to deal with the landlady’s scolding complaints; to calm her of my two month’s overdue rent, given the money I spent on the mirror. She was there when the men were carrying the huge mirror up the stairs for me. I cleverly walked behind the moving mirror past her front desk. Last time she caught me, I had to listen to her nagging for more than half an hour. Her husband doesn’t seem like a bad guy, though too obedient to her. I have never seen him look at women straight in the eyes, bashful and afraid of his wife’s wrath. Apparently she is the real owner of the building, the business, and her husband. Fortunately, the couple is asleep at this time of night, I hope. She pushed the first-floor button, and the elevator door closed.

The old landlady and her silent husband were working behind the counter at the side of the corridor, exceptionally late this night. She was declaring the apartment numbers of the tenants with overdue rent with her husband bent over the countertop, submissively as always, writing them down on the day’s collection sheet paper. She used to stand at the elevator side of the counter with her husband in her shadow; by the time the elevator doors would slide back, she was there to corner the renters in arrears before they had time to escape. They would either pay with many apologies to lower her naggings as much as possible, or run away to save their eardrums from the nastiest insults, all the way through the long corridor while being followed by her and her mouth.

The elevator cabin was hot. Sometimes the heater did not work, and sometimes it overworked. The air conditioner was always broken. She had been sweaty before entering, and was now sweating further going down five stories in the heat; the perspiration had completely saturated her thin dress. It molded her body like a transparent wrapping. She tried to pull the dress out, to reshape and conceal her cleavage, but the displaced fabric reversed like a magnet to its sinful position. The confined space filled with a strange body odor.

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