night

II: Sad

I: Sad

 

The shape obscuring the stars becomes more visible as I adjust to the silhouette. The tired yet piercing eyes of a stranger, all-observing and all-watching, move subtly, and he takes in my whole form. Scanning, as if he’s searching for something within me. A heartbeat, electrical impulses, blood cells. And yet, I still refrain from moving. I am as limp as a doll, as sturdy as a rock. I am part of the earth, and I stare back with my own star-speckled eyes while he looks into my being. I would ask him what he is searching for within me, though there is no pressure for me to do that now. Plus, revealing my life at this moment would be disadvantageous. How would this perfect stranger react? I remain silent, mute. Deadly and cunning as a snake, silent as grass.

He moves. And yet, each movement is muffled, and his grace is akin to a ballet dancer’s. His legs, seemingly more of a strange addition to his body than a permanent fixture, carry him. He is a king atop them, making no effort himself. His arms are lost within a dark garment of some nature, too swamped by night to make out, his hands lodged in the pockets. The night is cold enough for that.

Once he’s satisfied, having looked me over from other angles, while I remain corpse-like on the ground, he retreats a few steps and rummages inside his coat. His hands, silver light illuminating them, are merely shaking slivers against the darkness of his chest. He mutters to himself, shushing out white mists into the air. Before long, he is drawing in the fug of a cigar, letting down sparks and dead matches into the grass below. Instead of white mist, he breathes out grey smoke, trading purity for impurity. By the fat glow of the cigar’s end, I can make out his beard, overgrown and uncared for. Nicotine-stained moustache, and deep blue craters around his eyes. It seems as if sleep is an alien concept to this gentleman.

He crouches in front of me, before lurching to one side, leaning on his elbow. His eyes are back locked on me, that orange light connecting us.

He breathes out his fumes onto me, “Your skin is canvas, your flesh is stuffing, but yet you live,” his voice is familiar, gravelly, ravaged by tobacco. “I can tell you’re alive. Don’t try to avoid me.”

For the first time tonight, I move. I shift my head. Sideways, to look at him, to let my large eyes meet his once again. And he cannot tell where I am looking exactly. When I move, when I turn my head, I hear the creaking of my wooden skeleton, the shifting of the stuffing inside my cloth skull, the needles I have stuck in my head dig in closer and my eyes, the two differently-sized buttons, shifting the light between them.

I am alive.

In my head, my conscious shifts like a young tree. Firmly rooted, but still new and discovering. I will withstand the winds that threaten to snap me, though I am still vulnerable to them. I will continue to grow, nurtured only by myself and my experiences. I needn’t move but I can spread myself, spreading pieces of myself around. Leaves, fabrics. Seeds, string. I repair myself, I spread myself and I am stronger than I seem. And I am conscious. A living doll, a moving cloth child. And yet, older than any child.

The stranger speaks again, knowing he has my attention, knowing he is able to pull my strings, control me at his every whim, because he knows I live. No one else has known. All they have seen is a soft statue, resting demurely on the ground, happy with himself.

But the stranger, his cigar between his teeth, knows more than the rest of this world does about me. Two beings in a field, the only two who know who and what I am. The rest of the world is blind. And yet this man, with the familiar voice and the constant stare, a shadow of any other human, is wise enough to realize, or to remember, that I am myself an anomaly.

I listen to his every word, “What were you before? A spirit, a poltergeist, a restless demon? Finding itself comfortable inside the soft body of a child’s plaything. Such an atrocity. It is below you,” he shifts, and grunts as he pulls himself to his feet. “Rise. Let me hear your body work.”

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Luna

Perhaps it was too tempting for me to resist, but looking back I still cannot believe I did that. I have no regrets, no sorrow, no emotion. You’re allowed to think I’m a monster, a tyrant in need of a sedative so deep I never wake up. I wash my hands in warm water, immediately imagining the warmth is viscera and the water is blood. I am transported back, and each time I expect to feel the hopeless awareness of guilt pushing at my brain until I cannot take anymore, but I feel nothing. I wish I did, because then I could at least perceive myself human.

I feel nothing now you’ve asked me, either, what I did. Surely I should have a pain in my throat, tears in my eyes, a knot in my guts, but I have nothing. My mind is clear, pure, indifferent to this topic.

I should have no difficulty in telling you.

Once I killed a cat. It wasn’t my enemy’s cat (I have no enemy), it wasn’t a cat I had taken a dislike to prior to this event, it wasn’t a cat of any significance. I knew of it before I found it though, but only from a Missing Cat poster. Its name, Luna. Like the Moon’s name. Missing. Call this number if you see it. We want her back. Thank you.

I found it though. The world is too loud for me during the day, but I decided I needed the air on this particular day. Coincidentally, the moon was out. Luna was smiling down on me. I don’t believe in fate. Not at all. That’s just a convenient excuse people use when they need a reason to do something, or to not do something. The moon was useful to me though, that is certain. A spotlight, pointing down only on me, as I was the only one outside at the time. It was silent, save for my footsteps. I had strayed from any path; I felt much safer, much more comfortable dragging my ankles through brambles and my hands over tall nettles. No nettles stung me though. I touched them confidently, didn’t give them a chance to overpower me.

I was in complete and total control.

And I never lost control either, I want you to remember that. I was always thinking, always there, never losing control to some outside urge or repeated prompt. It was me, the one who killed the cat, all me. I am the one who saw it, I am the one who went towards it, I am the one who grabbed its neck. I am the one who gave it a much longer death than it deserved. I could have killed it quicker, in a mostly painless way, but I didn’t. Not because something made me drag out its death, but because I didn’t allow it to die quickly.

Here. We’re here now. I will not digress again. I’ll start right here. The park. Dark, dull olive greens, sparked silver with the moonlight, an orange tinge from streetlamps along the pavement, my white shoes between brambles, breath creating haze in front of me. Some musty smell rising from wet dead leaves below me and a crisp freshness nipping my face. My head was clear, my mind a blank slate. No sound pollution from the throats of others, no one was around. Just a hiss from high above me in the trees. I could breathe, and breathe easily. My chest felt loose, looser than it ever had that day. I was able to smile. A genuine grin parted my lips. Peace.

I walked on, eager to find a place I could not just smile but laugh. A proper happy laugh instead of just the façade chuckle I let people hear. The moon was behind me, and I had a clearly outlined shadow on the leaves. Sharp, black. Roots trying to ensnare my feet I stepped over as if I had travelled this path many times before. I could feel the park around me, growing, fighting for space. A silent warzone, a thousand lives being born and taken away every second.

And one of these lives I was about take away.

It started with a sound. Something I thought I misheard. I didn’t let it slip from my mind, and I stepped back onto the grass to locate the originator of the sound. Just as I thought my brain was tricking me yet again, I heard it louder. I scanned the surroundings again, looking for any inconsistency that I had not seen before. She stepped out into the moonlight then. Luna into Luna. Her eyes, sparkling at me.

I remembered her from the poster, a tortoiseshell cat with lighter brown around its eyes. Light yellow eyes. Dark paws. Pink tongue touching its nose. Cautious of me, but not scared. Then, my mind had no death-related thoughts running through it. No voice whispering at me to kill, kill, kill. I merely crouched down where I was. I usually would do no such thing, but then I did. It came towards me, quickly, wanting my attention. I stretched out my hand, it rubbed its head against my palm, and I grabbed its neck. Immediately, its legs leaped and it twisted, trying to free itself, wanting to struggle away, but I simply held it there, its neck between my thumb and fingers, feeling the muscles in its neck bulge with effort. It stopped after a few moments, testing to see if I’d let it go if it was still, but then it started again, this time stronger, this time more panicked. And I did nothing but hold its neck to the ground, a feeling of immense power rising from within me.

My next course of action was to push its body down. It fought with every inch I pushed it, but I leaned on it, calmly, its tail and hind legs thrashing, front paws struggling for purchase on my flesh. I let it have no such thing. I grabbed its hind legs, pulled them towards me and it lurched, trying not to fall. Fall. Fall now. I moved my hand from its neck to its muzzle, my palm to its mouth, ignoring how its teeth, pointed little daggers, stabbed right through the skin.

I felt no inclination to take revenge, only a deep desire to hold it down, to make it submissive, for me to feel power and authority over it. And it was only a cat. I had all that already.

I didn’t stop, didn’t let it go, just held it while it continuously struggled and swallowed my blood. Staring. The moon, the silver glow on the fur of the cat, the man holding the cat to the floor, it would have made a beautiful artwork. I raised my head and felt the pain and saw the mist of my breath as I took in the moment. Copper in the air and a rough softness under my fingers.

As I told you before, I was in control. Do not forget that. My mind was clear, a straight path with no shortcuts, no diversions. Just a path towards the inevitable death of this creature. There was no other alternative for me at this stage.

The ground was firmer than usual, the cold sting of the winter evenings freezing the soil. It made my job easier and the cat’s existence much harder. I took the scruff of its neck in one hand, and pressed down on its body with my knee. Then I lifted its head slowly. Euphoria flooded me as I pounded its skull into the earth. No smile formed on my lips, no frown corrugated my brow. Only a huge burst of pleasure as I felt the impact resonate through its neck. Again. Again, again, again. Again.

I was gasping at this point. My body had given way to emotions and I was shaking. Adrenaline overflowed in my sweat as crimson stained the silver grass. My tongue was heavy, head floating. Eyes invaded by exploding dots at the power in my arms. I grew more violent, thudding its head down, crashing down with my knee, each time feeling something inside the helpless body weaken and give under my weight, allowing my body to force it and mould it. It wasn’t dead, it kept making sounds, its voice weak, throat husk with the blood in it. Paws twitching, and I noticed. I took my hands away, confident it would never move, and snatched up the paws in my own animalistic hands, pushing my hands together, twisting the limb, pushing it the wrong way, straining against the bones and tendons, forcing it to first fracture then, with a final shove, break, and the sharp shards piercing the skin caused more blood to flow until I couldn’t tell what was my blood and its blood. I did this with two more of its limbs, and the last one I just raised up and smashed my bootheel into.

Finally, maimed beyond repair, it sighed its last. A muttered half-mewl into the moonlight. And me, crouched above it. Staring at my handiwork. Slowly returning to the feeling of indifference I had beforehand. I had no panicked feelings about knowing I’d just killed someone’s pet. I had no guilt that I had taken away a life, either. Just a slowly fading ecstasy. I straighted and exhaled. The last of my excitement left my body, the shaking stopped just after, and my heart returned to a trot.

I didn’t regain control. Because I never lost it. I always had my hand on the rudder, always was part of the grand scheme. But in that moment my mind wandered and it was directed to the poem ‘The Cat and the Moon’. In my case, both with the same name.

Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon,
For, wander and wail as he would,
The pure cold light in the sky
Troubled his animal blood.
Minnaloushe runs in the grass
Lifting his delicate feet.
Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance?

I stared at the moon.
I wandered.
Luna should have warned you, cat.
Your blood on my hands.
You will never run in the grass again.
Your feet are apart from your legs.
Dance. Just try to. Dance. Luna. Now.