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: New Fiction in Dreamscapes

NIGHT, MORNING, NIGHT.
Lauren Almey


T
he coldness crept up Frankie’s legs and torso as she lay, repulsed, on her hard lumpy old mattress. Each creak of her mother’s bed came scraping down the corridor intending to scratch off her skin and burrow into her veins, determined to pollute Frankie further. Her icy defences thickened in response; her blood congealed. The coldness reached her head and made her feel dizzy, like when she ate ice-cream and it made her back teeth zing.
She preferred this smothered state.

Only once had it frightened her, that first night when she’d heard the noises and understood them. From then on, Frankie dreaded nightfall for reasons other children weren’t even aware of. She had longed to believe in monsters under the bed, or the bogeyman, or other childish creations of fear existing homicidally in the shadows. She had sat up and stared for an hour into the gloom, picturing the most horrific creature she could, trying to instil a new, normal terror into her young heart.
But the creaking shattered all. It warped Frankie’s imagination, bringing the adult world crashing in on her innocence. Only internal, nightly numbness stopped the sounds from her mother’s bedroom twisting Frankie into adolescent madness.

As she walked slowly now out of her room and into the painful artificial brightness of the corridor, a dark blend of wrath and jealousy spurred her towards her mother’s open door. A street light’s garish beams spilled out from that bedroom’s window towards where Frankie stood, unhidden, uncaring, in the doorway.

She waited until her eyes had accustomed to the striped gloom, and then blatantly watched the two figures punishing the mattress. One was her mother, Ms. Singleton, barely visible beneath the giant stranger between her legs. His shoulders swarmed with hair, as did his buttocks, which slammed into Ms. Singleton again and again as if she were a stubborn nail in a plank of wood. With one hand, he was holding her jaw. The other gripped, squeezed and molested breast, thigh and stomach. Sometimes he chewed and sucked, roughly, angrily, dragged his tongue, ignoring Ms. Singleton’s yelps.

The giant’s vocals were roars of effort escaping from unloving lips which shook each of Frankie’s vertebrae in turn. However it was the lusty, crude grunts of Ms. Singleton that caused her daughter’s fists to clench. She felt a sudden swarthy churning in her belly. Being only thirteen, Frankie ran to the bathroom and vomited.

The morning came. Frankie began her day clearing up in the kitchen, putting empty Chinese takeaway containers and wine bottles into a bin bag so that she had room to make herself some breakfast. When she checked the cupboards, she found no cereal, bread or milk. One of the chairs squeaked sharply behind her and she whirled round from the fridge. The giant from her mother’s bedroom was doing up the buttons of his oversized, food-splattered shirt as he fixed Frankie with a stare.
"Morning sweetheart." He said. He was much younger than Frankie had expected, unshaven, curls of hair creeping up from the neck of his shirt, dark eyes like plates which seemed to work like tractor beams on the girl before him. She closed the fridge door and gawked back at him. He grinned, and reached under the table to pick up a slim suitcase which Frankie hadn’t noticed. He opened it and rifled through various papers, as if checking everything was there, and then pulled out a leather wallet from his back pocket.
"Shouldn’t you be at school baby girl?" He asked as he counted out a handful of notes.
"No," Frankie answered, injecting as much confidence as she could muster into her voice, "I don’t go to school."
The giant locked his inhuman eyes on her again. "You don’t go? What, are you old enough to have left?"
"You have to pull the door hard behind you when you leave, it doesn’t always shut properly." Frankie turned her back on him and opened up the fridge again, bathing her face in its buzzing light. Its chill seeped into her body through the pores of her face. She shut her eyes as she heard the man approaching the door on her left. But instead of leaving, he bent to peer into the yellow depths of the fridge just as she was doing. Frankie could smell her mother on him, her cigarette smoke, a stale, nauseating odour of sleep, sweat and wine, he had blobs of sleep-crust in the corners of his eyes and faint scratch marks on his cheek.
"Not going to make yourself much of a breakfast from this lot."
"No."
"How old are you then?"
She glanced at him, shivering, gripping the fridge door so hard her nails bent. He was looking at her immature chest.
In seconds, Frankie had leapt backwards and simultaneously yanked the fridge door, catching the giant’s jaw right where she’d wanted. Eggs fell, beer bottles screamed, plastic and metal smacked flesh and bone with a ludicrously loud thump and the giant barked out a surprised yelp as Frankie stepped back and surveyed the damage, an unearthly smile on her lips.
"You fucking little sh…you little shit!"
"Get out! Get out of my house and away from my family!"
"Smashing my face in the fridge, what the fuck’s wrong you little bitch…" The giant wasn’t stunned for long. He flung himself at Frankie as he spat his insults, she screamed as he wrapped his awful frame round her and whirled her hard back against the fridge. Her neck snapped backwards and her head cracked, she screamed again and he called her a bitch again and fought off her scratching hands and kicking legs.
"House of fucked up women don’t you ever think you can make a fucking fool out of me!"
"Mum! Mum, mummy! Mum! Mum please!"
Frankie yelled for her mother as the giant rammed her onto the mucky, peeling lino of the kitchen floor. She kept calling out to her, her voice dying down eventually to a beaten, broken whisper as her young body was violated and her spirit murdered. Even as the giant recollected his money and suitcase and left the house, Ms. Singleton’s name danced over her daughter’s mouth, until she looked down and felt the blood on her thighs, and then she fell silent.
Evening fell.

Frankie was in the overgrown murkiness of the back garden, watching the makeshift bonfire she had made burn her adolescent clothing into oblivion. The smoke was heavy and thick, billowing up and away from the house over the tall weeds and bushes.

She stayed out there, skin goosebumped, abdomen throbbing, until the moon was high and full in the night sky. With the waft of the breeze, she thought she heard the sound of a woman crying floating upon it. It spilled over her and then drifted away in sad, dream-like waves, and she wondered if it was her, hearing herself grieving, but when she touched her eyes she felt no tears.

The fire still glowed but she couldn’t feel anything anymore. She wandered back into the house, bare feet crunching over and ignoring the jabs of stones, thistles and glass. As she walked zombie-like through the patio door and through the living-room into the hall, the sobbing noises got louder, and louder still as she walked down the long corridor past her mother’s bedroom, the spare room, her own bedroom.

The crying was faint, pathetic even, coming in between gasping for air, from the bathroom. Frankie had heard men sobbing in here before in the middle of the night, after the creaking had stopped. She’d never known what could possibly be making them so unhappy. Curiosity rather than care made her push open the door.

Frankie hadn’t seen her mother yet that day until now. Ms. Singleton was in the bathtub, topless, her sagging breasts bruised, soaking in a shallow pool of pungent white wine which was discolouring the blood oozing from large, messy gashes dug into her wrists and upper arms. Two demolished halves of a wine bottle were placed, somewhat strangely, on a pair of fluffy pink slippers beside the bath. Ms. Singleton’s mobile phone was precariously placed on the sink next to her.
"Fran…Frankie…" She gasped out at her daughter from her self-inflicted scene of guilt, disgust, hate and desperation. With surprising strength, she lifted her abused right arm and waved it towards the sink, and the phone.
The coldness had flooded Frankie like a tsunami the minute she saw her mother’s blood draining down the sides of the bath. She wasn’t in shock, she wasn’t frightened. Instead, her young mind perversely found amusement in the fact that both of them had bled that day.
"Fran…you understand…I don’t…call help. Call help."
So she didn’t want to die after all? She wasn’t actually that full of hate? She’d chickened out, she’d had enough of the agony, she wanted to carry on living the life she’d made for herself and her daughter?
"Tough. That’s just tough Mummy."
She’d made her bed. Now she would have to lie in it.
A bed creaking somewhere, nowhere, filled Frankie’s icy head as she picked up her mother’s mobile phone and dropped it into the bath of skin, glass, bubbles and blobs. It thundered, echoed, determined to disturb Frankie’s sleep for one final night. As she pulled the bathroom door shut behind her, Frankie smiled. Tomorrow would bring a morning with no night to fear.

© Lauren Almey October 2005
Lauren is a final year English/Media student at the University of Portsmouth

See also Ebb Away

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