“Welcome to Midnight Galaxy Sir. Is this your first time here?”
“May I know exactly how did you come to know about Midnight Galaxy, Sir?”
“ A friend bought me the ticket couple of days ago.”
“And this friend has been here before I am assuming.”
“How did they describe their experience to be?’’
“Could you elaborate on that please?’’
“No. I don’t remember much of the conversation. Only that his uneasiness made the whole incident unforgettable.”
“I see. Do you have an diseases we should know about?’’
“Are you aware of The Bell?’’
“Yes. I am to press it when things get too much. There’s a novel too. The Bell Jar. Read it sweetie?”
“No, I haven’t. And you’re right about the pressing part.”
“Not honoring the origin. Ain’t that sweet, sweetie?’’
“Did your friend press the bell?’’
“Yes, he did.”
“And what made him do that?”
“Spiders. He finds them creepy.”
“I find babies creepy.”
“ I see. Have you read all the terms and conditions carefully, Sir?”
“Yes and I agree. Here’s your agreement. I’ve signed it. Now could you please lead me to the goddamn room? I am here for the show and not to play twenty questions with you, sweetie.’’
“Sure Sir. Please press the bell immediately on feeling even slightly disturbed. We will take you out right away.”
I’m pregnant. Nothing could be scarier than Audre’s announcement this morning. Definitely not some dark room where nothing could be seen except for darkness. Absolutely nothing. Like Milton’s Hell. Scott had bought him the ticket last week as a late birthday present and insisted he check it out. For the place was lit. How could such a pitch black room be even considered lit!
They had made him sit in some fancy looking chair with a head and foot rest before closing the door and engulfing it in complete darkness. With some light the place could’ve given major spa vibes. If he allowed his irritation at Audre to slide for a second or two, he might even bring himself to laugh at their attempts to make people all comfy before scaring the shit out of them. Some horror house surely it was!
For a horror house, everything looked quite normal. Everything that he had seen before entering the Room that is. Except for the stupid rule. Only one allowed per day. How was that even profitable to the business!
Of course, he had no clue about the pricing of the ticket he had deposited at the reception counter. But how much could it really be! He made a note to ask Scott after the show which he was told would begin in about 5 minutes by the annoying receptionist.
She could annoy the hell out of anyone. Probably her charm scared people more than any show playing on the giant lifeless screen before him. Or forced them into feeling scared and pressing The Bell. More than any show, her twenty questions did the trick.
And who wrote these ‘shows’ anyways? There was nothing available on the net. How did they even advertise themselves without a legit website in this tech-driven age? Scott-himself- was gifted the ticket by another friend. He wondered if some secret cult was at play here. One that he didn’t know about. Just like he didn’t how Audre managed to get pregnant on his watch.
He had agreed to partake in Scott’s buffoonery only to buy some time for himself. Back at home in Audre’s presence, he was feeling suffocated. Looking at her, filled him with a great sense of rage. And he didn’t want to hit her.
A brass bell with the “Don’t be scared” sticker caught his eye. So, this was the infamous Bell. The safety alarm. He wondered if anyone had died before pressing it. Because of a heart attack caused by the extreme terror unfolding before their eyes. Extreme terror caused by tiny spiders.
A joyful chuckle escaped his throat. Afraid of spiders at 40. And a fucking surgeon. Ha ha! Scott should’ve his license taken.
His phobia put the credibility of the cinema house under a big question mark for it might have milked on a sheer coincidence. Who knew if the spider was on the screen or outside it! All he remembered about the conversation he had with Scott was his uneasiness at spotting a spider. With his blossoming rage, focusing on anything else had been a bit too difficult. He could only remember the spider part for Audre once had a tarantula. He had fed it to an eagle his friend was training for some show.
A light flickered somewhere on the giant screen cutting through the darkness of the room. A woman could be seen stroking her baby bump. The foolish wind was trying to pose a silent challenge to her cascading tresses not knowing she’d look divine even with messy, wind destroyed hair. Audre has jet black hair just like her that floated like boats in trembling waves passing the arch of her shoulder ending somewhere above her tailbone.
How he loved playing with those! Running his fingers through them while she slept past her rising time, he would often marvel at his luck. How very lucky he was! To remind himself he was not in some dream, he would often pluck a few strands out. She would wake with a start: shock and pain swimming in the oceanic pools of her cobalt blue eyes. The moan escaping her lips always reminding of the sounds she had made the first time he had entered her body and made his. With a promise never to share.
He would later keep the loose hair strands with him in his breast pocket. Sometimes it would be a broken nail soaked in her blood. Or a fiber or few issues from the various parts of her body. A body he owned rightfully. By the virtue of love. Legalized by the rights granted by marriage. He liked to keep her with him. All the time. In whatever way he could.
He liked the reminder of someone waiting eagerly for him back home. A home he had locked from all sides before leaving.
It had all started as a test. Him locking Audre inside their one bedroom apartment to ensure she would never run away from him. Like all his past girlfriends had. Audre had aced the test. Once he’d forgotten to lock the windows in hurry for he’d received an urgent call from the hospital. Audre had called him back from one of the windows reminding him to lock it.
He had found her on the streets. Homeless. Orphan. And a junkie. She was barely 18. He had just turned 35. He had to fix her up from the scratch. Using his surgical hands. In that process, he had ended up marking her in every possible way. Ways no one would ever understand. Ways that defied all norms and ethics. He had started from her breasts.
His mother had stopped breast feeding him from a very early age. He would always leave teeth marks. Unlike his angelic brother-Simon. The pretty little wuss always made a fuss whenever he talked about the hunting adventures he could enjoy course to his father. He had once puked at the sight of the game his father had brought back home to keep as a treasured souvenir and refused to eat for two days.
Audre never complaint when his teeth sank in a bit deeper than she would have liked. She understood his need to be with her even when they’re apart. She understood how he wanted for her to carry him in her bruises. In her scars. Think of Bad Things at the max or Fifty Shades getting even greyer.
He gave her her first scar when the teeth marks had started feeling inadequate. A few women including his mother had bore those a few times. She deserved something no other women had ever received from him. There needed to be something that was exclusive only to them: adding to the uniqueness of their relationship. Making it even more special.
The idea had struck him while she sat a few inches away painting arrows on some toss pillows. Something to do with those DIY videos she loved so goddamn much. Probably more than him.
He had laid her on bed that night undressing her gently down to her socks. Audre hated dirty feet and would always wear socks. The only time she would take them off was when they’re on bed.
The swiss knife felt hot against his palms. It was a gift from his father on his tenth birthday. How he cherishes the hunting memories! He bonded with his father because of that only love of his no one else approved of. Especially his upright mother. With a low pain threshold. Almost a non-existent one.
He had made three long cuts right at the middle. Two smaller ones on either side of the longest one. Just where the heart is. His Audre struck by the Cupid’s bow. Destined to be his forever.
She had been as still as a dead buck. Suspended in time. Denied motion. Beautifully still. Just like an empty canvass before an artist breathes life into it.
She had appreciated his art on her body and said it felt exactly the same as needles prickling her skin. Laughing she told him how she always wanted a cool looking tattoo. He had cleaned everything afterwards so that she wouldn’t get infected. He had also kissed her scars repeatedly appreciating her easy acceptance. How beautiful she looked in the crescent moonlight with her eyes rolling back into their milky sockets in sheer ecstasy!
On the screen, the woman was talking to the unborn child unaffected by the phone ringing in the background. The ringing finally ends and a voice message can be heard reminding her about a husband who is waiting in some fancy restaurant for her. It was their marriage anniversary.
The scene of him hitting Audre the first and only time flashes before his eyes. She had forgotten all about their movie date in tending to the perennially sick tarantula that was slowly draining the life out of their relationship.
On a whim, she had decided to turn a mother suddenly and adopted the tarantula from one of his buddies who did magic shows. In his rage, he had lost control and the sheer force put behind the punch ended up breaking a tooth.
Audre forgave him for her smile bore no resemblance of the broken tooth. It was towards the very end of her mouth. She looked the same in the mirror. There was no trace of the punishment left. At least a visible one.
He had learnt stitching barbells into her skin as an apology. She felt doubly hers that day. The strong and shiny silver sat perfectly against her tender pink folds. Yin and Yang.
Later, he had taken the tarantula to his friend’s place to put it out of its misery. The eagle looked happy at having something different for its dessert.
Sometimes, he wondered if Audre put up with everything because she had nowhere else to go. No one else to turn to for comfort and companionship. In short, no any purpose to live.
Surely a psycho lover was better than living on the streets. With nothing and no one to call home what other options were she left with anyways!? The streets were surely no safe place for any women with predators lurking everywhere to tear her open and devour her every day in ten different ways. Or twenty. She would have ended up just like her beloved tarantula.
He had shown her all the documentaries he could find online where homeless women shared tales of horror so that she could learn to appreciate the life that he had given her. He remembers one such tale even to this date where a woman (who had a blurred face) was talking about how she was violated by a group of 20 something men while on her periods. Her perpetrators had only been aroused at the sight of blood gushing out of her body. They had recorded the entire thing and posted it online under “Horror Porn” category. It’d received few hundred likes too. Audre used to watch the video repetitively.
She had just turned 19 at that time. He’d taken her to some exotic resort in Fiji to celebrate. She looked so happy in her satin polka dotted dress. It was lime green in color from what he remembers. She’d found the documentary in her “Recommended for You” section. She had pleaded him to make love to her that night. That would be their first time. He wanted to wait till she felt ready. 18. 20. 30. It hardly mattered to him.
Besides, sex had never been truly gratifying for him. Some women had an aversion towards pain while others wanted too much of it. The balance had always been missing; making him lose interest in the activity altogether. Until Audre arrived on the scene. Her inexperience and total submission resuscitated his libido. He molded her to his liking. Her body was his personal slice of heaven.
The memories of a certain ex had started fading away by then. She had wanted for them to have “surgical sex.” He had named her Death Drive. DD had a thing for doctors. Or two. On her repeated insistence, they had turned the bedroom into an operating room. She was given a little dose of anesthesia too. To give everything a more realistic appeal. He was two seconds away from cutting her open.
Later she had laughed at his apologies saying he should have. That would’ve made one heck of a news bulletin. He could’ve made her famous. She was found dead in her apartment three days later. A bullet straight to the head after slitting both her wrists open. She had been pregnant at that time.
The woman on the screen was now pushing the baby out of her giant belly. Barbells were falling out of the inner folds of her vagina. By then, he had started feeling tiny shards of pain in his chest. The more the baby came out, the further his pain intensified.
With an unbelievable swiftness, he had ascended towards the breasts of the woman and was lapping at it like a snake at some water-tap in a Lawrence’s poem. Her body started transforming before his eyes. Gone were his arrow marks. Her breasts looked horrifyingly clean. The few drops of milk that had spilled out of the baby’s mouth painting it white having wiped all traces of red he’d shed while shooting his arrows into Audre’s bosom. Instead fresh cuts were made on the entrance of her vagina so that the baby could come out easily.
Her stomach looked like it had roots growing out of it. From each root, hanged pictures of the changes her body was going to witness further because of the baby. Of the sagging breasts free of his Cupid’s arrow. Of the irreversibly ugly stretch marks and surgical scars on her out-of-shape belly.
Everything he took so long to create would all come crashing undone.
Audre would become a stranger in a few months. All he would see on her body was the baby’s marks. Undoing each one of his. One day nothing would be left. His Audre would be gone forever. In her place would remain a mother who forgets anniversaries and despises the touch of her husband. For her body would always be tired. Her body would become her baby’s plaything.
Suddenly DD’s face floated before his eyes. She was sitting right next to Audre. Something was coming out of her protruding belly and crawled its way inside Audre’s lithe frame; pumping it up like how you fill air inside a balloon.
DD had bought balloons for his nephew’s birthday. He had donned the entire It makeup; dressing as the clown-ghost. All in jest and humor. Daniel-not too different from his father- had spoilt all his fun. He had taken a leak in his expensive looking chinos making his mother as displeased as Rebecca Whitmore used to be whenever her husband went out hunting.
A trio had formed somehow and he felt greatly mismatched. He wished he had his father by his side. Or even his swiss knife.
He felt unbearably vulnerable against the pain in his heart that kept on increasing as his hands reached for The Bell. It gave out before he could ring for some divine intervention.
The baby smiled at him from his mummy’s lap. There were balloons floating everywhere in the air.
Rituparna Mitra,24, belongs to the luscious and exquisite lands of Assam, India. She has been previously published on the online platform of Induswomanwriting, The Criterion and Indian Periodical. She holds a Post grad degree in English Literature and also did an online course in Fiction Writing from The Open University (based in U.K).