Posted in Secondary Sundays

SS: Screws Pt. I

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following story contains descriptions of torture, vomiting, panic attacks And violence. Reader discretion is advised.

I don’t have enough time so I’m just gonna jump right into it, okay?

Oh, yeah. Hi.

So it’s me and you again. I’m sorry if I scared you or made you feel uncomfortable with what I said the last time I talked to you. Funny thing, I am guilty of talking about guilt.

It’s been a long couple of weeks and… well, you probably saw that someone messed with this place for a while. Not to worry, Duke (The idiot from before) and I managed to get everything back on track. You will be able to find everything where it was supposed to be. I would have written sooner, you would have needed for me to write to you sooner, but I only just was able to escape their custody again.

There are places where people like me can go to. But I don’t want to go there.

I don’t expect you to understand that.

I’m not sure understand that all that much, but I just know that I can’t leave, yet. This kind of life is dangerous, and no life at all, to be honest. But it is the one thing I have left.

You have seen us all talk about each other, talk about people in your life (Daisy is okay, in case you want to know. After you packed up and left, a team of people came to pick her up an relocate her. I’m sure wherever she is now, she is helping someone else like she helped you).

I won’t talk about other people today, much as I want to. No. Today I will talk about myself, and the things that led me to this point. I think you have earned that much.

I was born Carmen Delgado about 27 years ago. I had three brothers and one smaller sister. I lived in Palmstrick Hull, far away from the montains and woods, somewhere you’d never expect to exist. In the winter time, the snow would pile as high as your knees, and if you dug deep enough, below the crips whiteness you’d find an almost golden orange seeping in from the ground.

I loved it there. I know that most people, when the talk about their pasts, they don’t sound too fond of them. But I was. I didn’t have identity crisis, or lived in a poor area. My family was never attacked by illness or misfortune. I led, by all accounts, a good life.

But, just like anyone who’s ever been in my past position, there was something wrong with it all– no. There was something wrong with me.

I know others have talked about this before, but— I think it’s best to hear it from the source, you know?

So, I’ll tell you about my experience with reconditioning.

We all first go through the Recondition process at age six. Or well, that’s what everyone says, but in truth, it’s different for everyone. It’s not about brain maturity, it’s about the signs. I would know, I actually worked on this for a while. So, you just keep an eye on the brats, and when they stop being, you know, all kiddy and happy, and start to question things, that’s when you act.

I did actually go through the Recondition process at six, most of my class did. As I mentioned, most of us had good lives and didn’t have much reason to question things. A group of us (five to ten children) were asked to go to the main office. We thought it was strange since there were no meetings planned for that day.

Oh, right. I was in one of those experimental schools that had children go to different offices to test their cognitive development. I don’t think I’ve seen many of them still functioning, just one or two here and there.

I remember the walk there, the sound of my shoes on the linoleum floor, and the way Penelope Abilene’s plaited pony tail swung from side to side as we walked, like the tail of a curious cat. We were all holding hands, something encouraged on children but discouraged in adults. I guess it’s because we needed more tangible things to hold onto in our infancy but we need to be distant as grownups.

When we got to the office, the head mistress was not there waitig for us. Instead, there was a tall woman with a pinched expression. I remember her the most. I remember I used to think she looked exactly like a stern scientist should look in horror stories for children. I also remember feeling… excited. If this was an adventure book, then me and my peers would be able to defeat this great and stern evil… sadly, this was not a children’s adveture book, and my peers and I… well, we had no chance against a group of adults.

But we didn’t know that yet.

Some of them would never know.

We just stood there. I remember that. My shoulders felt so weak and small. I don’t remember how that thought even entered my head, but I do remember rolling my shoulders, as if to take care of a great weight. I guess, we all knew, we could feel it in the air, that that day was different from all others.

“Delgado,” The stern lady called my name with a surprisingly soft voice. I raised my head to look at her and stopped fidgeting. There was something like approval in her face. “You are on group B8.”

Group B8, I would come to realise, meant my process would be more… thorough, than the other groups.

Camila Salsedo, Eric Soza and I were the only ones in group B8. We had to watch as the other kids were led away into other rooms while nurses and short men with lavender lab coats took samples and asked them questions.

It wasn’t at all like other monitoring sessions or screenings. There were no upperclassmen, or fellow students warning you before hand of the questions, or even scaring you about the procedure. No one knew which ones were the right answers and which ones were the wrong ones. We were all flying blind. And for a group of six-year-old children, that was terrifying.

It’s funny how you never learn to fear adults until they are showing you all the reasons why you have to.

After what felt like hours, another short man came for us in group B8, and led us to another room, further away from everyone else. Looking back on it, it was obvious that the guy was new to what he was doing. He kept smiling at us and trying to start small talk.

“Those are very lovely shoes,” I remember he said to me. “I had ones just like those growing up.”

I shrugged.

“Now I know you’re scared,” He carried on. “But there is nothing to be afraid of. They just need to ask you some questions, do a medical check up and then you are free to go!”

He didn’t tell us that “medical check up” meant that we were going to be taken somewhere else. He didn’t mention anything about the machines, and the scalpels, the many people in lab coats and the overflowing questions. He definitely didn’t say anything about electricity.

I will not bore you with the details of my interview… It’s so boring, looking back, that even I have managed to forget most of it.

I will give you the questions, though. I happened to stumble upon one of the questionnaires a while ago, and I kept it.

So here it is:

  1. Please state your name, age and address.
  2. How many people live in your house? Are they all relatives of yours?
  3. Describe your room in as much detail as possible.
  4. Describe each member of your household in detail.
  5. Describe yourself physically.
  6. What do you wish to do when you are older?
  7. What is your favourite colour?
  8. Name all of your classmates.
  9. How many windows are in this room?
  10. Describe the route you took to get here?
  11. Name all your teachers.
  12. How do you like living in (Insert name of place)?
  13. Describe yourself emotionally.
  14. Do you have any friends? If so, name them.
  15. What is your latest memory?
  16. What is your earliest memory?
  17. What is your favourite song?
  18. What is your least favourite thing about living in (Insert name of place)?
  19. Who is (Insert name of person no relevant to the subject’s life)?
  20. Describe this picture. (Picture provided by the Institute of Developmental Sciences and Psychology, formerly known as INTS.)

Don’t worry if you tried to answer the questions and you couldn’t. The point of Reconditioning is that you can’t answer any of that.

After the interview, we were asked to perform the same tasks of any evaluation (physical tasks).

After that, there is a whole bunch of things I either repressed (yay for trauma!) or The Machine did its job right and I actually don’t have those memories anymore.

Next thing I remember is getting out of a white van and walking into the INTS building. Unlike the tales and pictures I’ve seen from other people’s experiences, INTS was not located in an old creepy house on the outskirts of town. It was actually a big white building with windows covering over 60% of the walls. It had the name written outside in bold silver letters and anyone knew that if you wanted to get better, you didn’t go to the hospital, or many small clinics in town, you went to the Institute of New Technologies and Sciences.

I had never actually been sick in my life, and no one in my family had ever needed to go into INTS, so everything was new, scary and exciting for me. Eric had had a very serious illness just a couple of months before this all happened, and he was greeted by all the pastel and monochromatic personnel we encountered. Of course that that made him practically a celebrity in our eyes.

Too bad we wouldn’t remember this later, this was Eric’s only moment of popularity and fame.

Upon entering the building, the three of us were immediately separated. Again, this was done accordingly with our test results which dictated who needed a longer procedure and who was beyond salvation.

I never saw Camila or Penelope ever again.

I was the last to go in, and now, I want you to stop reading. This is not for you.

I know I am supposed to write this for you, that you need it, wherever it is that you are. I know we all promised them that we would help sort you through this. I know we said we’d get you to Cromly Park even if meant losing them, but— I need to say this, okay? And me saying this will not help you in any way. I know because I was not you but I had someone like you.

Screws, we… we’re not meant to own things, to want to own things. We’re not supposed to have feelings, or wants, or needs, or people that we need to love and protect above it all.But fuck sakes, we do. We are people, okay? Despite everything and whatever they do to us, they can’t change that fact. The can’t change me or you, and God knows they won’t be able to change them. You can break people, tear them apart and then try to piece them together in a different order, but the pieces are still the same. They still come from the same place as before. They are still someone. They are still us. And there is nothing the machine, or the lab coats, or the Institute can do to change that.

We are all dying in this God forsaken island. We are an experiment and we don’t even know it until we cease being useful. And nobody fucking cares, okay?

Out of every single person inside and outside the borders, us, the most broken individuals, we are the only ones who care. And caring is killing us. Literally. We care and we are being hunted, extinguished like the spare parts that we are.

You can tell people that caring is wrong, that they are part of a well-oiled machine, but you can’t make them stop being who they already were.

So I know, okay? I fucking know that I shouldn’t be telling you this, that I should sugar coat it because the truth can only hurt you but I feel like if I don’t say this here I will die and nothing will have changed. I will still be a Screw that got loose.

And I am tired of being that.

Read if you want or need to, but if you know that it can only hurt you… then please don’t read what comes next… not until I tell you to.

*** I was the last one to go in. By this point in the afternoon, school had already let out for the day. I had heard the bell and the sound of children moving all over town, while I was locked up in a small white office on the third floor of INTS.

When the ladies came for me, I didn’t fight it. I didn’t know it was an option, for me this place was a sanctuary for healing, somewhere people went to get better. I foolishly believed I was there to get better.

I was not.

The three ladies in matching seafoam green robes took me to the elevator and then down, down, down, down, to a place where there were no numbers to express the level.

The longer we stayed there the more I panicked and fidgeted. The woman standing right behind me pinched me on the arm and told me to be still.

That’s when I started crying.

Once the doors opened, I didn’t want to leave. I couldn’t even raise my head to look out. It felt colder than it should have been, and it smelled metallic and moist, and decaying. The woman behind me grabbed me by the arm. I tried pulling away, but she was stronger, so much stronger than me. I grappled with her, I tried scratching and punching, but I was small and I couldn’t.

When one of the other women came closer I hit her with my recoiling arm. That’s when the woman holding onto me slapped me. Hard.

I peed myself. I had never been hit before, my only punishments were time outs and quiet introspection sessions.

To this day if I focus enough, I can feel the imprint of her large hand against my face.

The other women made a disgusted noise, and the one holding onto me squeezed my arm so tight I felt my hand go numb from lack of circulation. She then pushed me off the elevator. I slipped on my urine, and she only laughed. One of the other women slapped me on the back of the head and called me a nuisance.

I was crying so hard I could barely see a thing as they dragged me deeper into the room. I could hear things, though, screaming and pleading, and people reciting words too fast for me to hear. On top of the medical and surgical smells, I could taste the smell of my urine with every gasping breath I took. I blubbered, and snot ran down my nose and neck, even going into my mouth in between inhales. My throat started aching, parched from my gasping breaths. I got dizzy and not long after I started dry heaving as they dragged me through the corridors. The smell, the blurred out walls and tiles made me even more nauseous and I would have thrown up on the floor had it no been for the dirty look one of the women threw me. The sour puke got stuck in y throat and I had to force myself to swallow it back. I didn’t want to incite the women’s anger.

My shoulder, which felt so small and weak through the thin cotton of my shirt earlier that day, burnt under the woman’s ministrations.

They dragged me through long white corridors, through screaming and whirrings and beepings of machines, until we got somewhere with an open door.

I was still crying and gagging intermittently, and the woman holding onto me had to shake me a couple of times to get me to stand on my own.

There was someone inside the room, a tall and stern looking man. He looked nothing like the woman from earlier. He looked everything like the woman from earlier.

He didn’t talk to me. From this moment on, no one talked to me again. It was like I wasn’t there. No. It was like I was a broken utility that was there to be repaired.

The women left me there, and someone everyone referred to as the Wrench -Yeah, you can see that for a shady evil organisation, these people aren’t that creative- grabbed me and pulled me further into the room.

I don’t know much about the Recondition process, other than my memory of it. The whole thing is need to know basis, and only the five people who work on it are allowed to know. And even the identities and tasks of those people are mostly unknown by the rest of the Machine.

The only ones I remember from back then are the Wrench and the head doctor. Everyone else has remained nameless and faceless in my head. But I do know there were five of them, two men, three women.

The Wrench was tall and willowy. He had dirty blond hair… not dirty blond as in the shade of colour, but dirty as in untended. Like he didn’t have enough time or care about personal hygiene. His eyes had deep circles under there and they were sunk so deep into his skull it looked like he had no eyeballs at all. He wasn’t wearing a lab coat like the others, just sweatpants and a loose, shirt. He had a recorder in his hand and he was constantly writing things down on a notepad that seemed to always move without me noticing. At one point I spat blood on him and he didn’t even grimace. It was as if nothing would ever bother him again.

The head doctor had a stern… well… everything, but a surprisingly pleasant smile, which… I don’t know if it was for better or worse. He looked older but not wise beyond his years. His face had more wrinkles than features, but he had steady hands and a grim determination. His hair was dark, and well taken care of. He was wearing a sort of plastic, lime green scrubs that one of the women (the youngest one) teased him about. He only smiled once at me, when his hand was pushing the first needle through the corner of my left eye.

The head nurse was also the youngest of the bunch. She was ruthless, her hands didn’t shake once, and her lips were permanently pursed into a frown. I don’t remember much about her except that she seemed… tired, and her pink scrubs had strangely scattered splatters of blood in them. The head doctor asked her, at one point, why she didn’t change and she said, “there’s no point. This is one of the busiest days. After this one I have three other scheduled and it would be a hassle to be changing in my ten minute break.”

She was the one that scared me the most.

The other two women, the assitants whose names and designations I don’t remember wore clear scrubs and plastic gloves that got stuck to every bit of skin they touched. One of them made a gagging motion and pointed to my soiled legs. She asked if they could do something about it. The head doctor, head nurse and the other assitant (from now on Ass1 and Ass2) considered the option for a moment before the Wrench shook his head and told them, “it will get messier. It’s best if you change its clothes after we’re done here.”

It. I was “it”. If I didn’t know any better I’d say that depersonalising us made their job easier… but it’s not that. They honestly don’t think of anyone who walks into their facilities as human, not before and not after reconditioning.

The assistants led me to a chair-like contraption. It was way more uncomfortable than hospital beds have ever been allowed to be and it bent in sharp angles an turn to allow easy access to… Everything, I guess. They sat me down first, while the Wrench went through some papers and notes and the head doctor and head nurse talked about what needed to be done.

don’t remember the exact words, so I will not bother transcribing any of the butchered recollection I have. They used long words and overly complicated jargon. The cost if it was that I was complicated, and they needed to do things to me that would be easier if they just split my head open. But I was too young and “it’s her first infraction. Let’s wait until its second before we ruin its soft little head.”

I choked on all the things I wanted to say, things like “please” or “help” or maybe even “why?”. My throat ached and I could feel the beginning of hysteria bubbling in my chest, ready to burst out of me in peals of laughter.

One of the asses (not sure which one) gave me a dirty look, slapped me (albeit a lot lighter than the woman from before) and gave my hand a sharp tug. My vision swam and I could see black spots of varying colour dancing behind my eyelids, and before I realised, the asses had strapped me to the bed-chair. There were thick leather straps separating my legs and securing them to the legs of the cushioned chair, they did the same to my arms, waist, and neck.

They were all tight enough to almost cut off circulation to my limbs, but it was the neck one that still gives me nightmares. Being strapped down while a group of people with bloodied clothes and cold eyes ready to hurt you, is one thing. But being there while someone is restricting your breathing, when your chest is ready to cave in and your eyes don’t even know if they can ever be eyes again, after what they’ve seen, and your lips are dry, and taste like, vomit, tears and snot, while the world flickers in and out of existence and the air is thick and not enough, never enough, never again, and your hands and feet are no longer yours, they never were, that is when you know true terror. That’s when you realize you have a body, and that body needs and want things that you thought it would always have, but nothing is ever assured. So your body that was supposed to be always yours, isn’t. Cannot be. Who are you if you don’t have a body? What can you own, is you don’t own yourself?

opened my mouth again, to ask, beg, cry, anything, but the asses were faster than me, and in seconds a new item had joined the other restrictions: a thick cloth covering my mouth, or no… Shover inside my mouth. It tasted like humidity and it made me gag again. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t speak or move. I had turned into a thing, that could be experimented on.

After I was properly secured the doctor, nurse and Wrench approached us. The Wrench analysed my bindings with cool detachment. He even pointed to my left foot where I had managed to -somehow- loosen one of the straps, so they could tighten it again.

In that moment I loathed them so much. I though, if I lived, I would never be able to feel anything other than hate and fear for the people in the room.

The doctor and the nurse seemed to have come to an agreement and… That’s when the true fun began.

I know I said to stop reading this, but let’s be honest, apart from that one time that you did what Duke told you to do and checked your cat’s name tag, you don’t have a very good track record of doing as asked or expected from you. So I would not be wrong to assume you’re still here. In case that you still are, which let’s be real, you totally are, this is where shit gets ugly and vague… So either skip it or… Well, try not to think too hard about this.

My reconditioning had four stages:

  1. Priming.
  2. Setting.
  3. Condition.
  4. Recondition.

Some people have more and some people have left. And not all stages are the same.

For me, Priming came after everyone had made sure I was not going to be able to hurt anyone in my desperation (actual words uttered by someone while I tried not to choke on my tongue and one of my nails sunk into my palm).

The asses grabbed a small tray with what looked like knitting needles, but thinner. They were connected to a small machine that whirred and beeped in an uneven rhythm. I didn’t figure out what they were for until I the doctor started to steadily push the longest and thickest one into the meat of my thigh. It’s crazy how I don’t remember it hurting, and how it just went in and in and in like I was made of bread dough. There were eight in total, and they were all pushed into place in the same fashion. There was one in each thigh, one in the arch of my feet, the back of my hands, one in my right forearm arm and one in the exposed section of my neck.

I whimpered a bit, I think, but one seemed to listen.

Then came lightning. Or it felt like it. Uneven intervals of a sharp pain that seemed to slice all the way to the bone. My eyes teared up and I screamed and and screamed, not even pausing to breath, until the work was nothing but pain and crying and screaming, and vile rising up and then being pushed back in my throat. My feet shook, my hands squeezed shut, my eyes unseeing towards the unkind faces of asses 1 and 2. In that moment I thought I would never be able to feel or see or be anything other than what I was in that table. I was six, and the only pain I’d ever felt was that one time I fell off a tree trying to rescue a ball.

I don’t know how long the Priming process was. I only bow that when my ears stopped buzzing, I was still screaming, and the head nurse was removing the needles from my body. Some seemed to have gotten stuck to something, but she didn’t care, she tugged and pulled until it left my body with a trickle of blood. The air smelled like sweat and urine, and feces (mine of course) and for a moment I relished in that. I might be strapped here being tortured but you guys have to put up with my smell. I willed my body to smell worse, to rebel and rot and die in their hands. I wasn’t relieved for the reprieve because I knew that whatever came next, could only be worse.

I wasn’t wrong.

After the Priming came the setting. If you think having electricity shot through your body was bad, that’s because you don’t know its third uglier cousin that catcalls you from a car as you walk by: electricity through your brain. Now, this didn’t hurt. At all. It was mostly strange and made your mouth taste all weird and your nose and eyeballs buzz but in comparison to what came before it wasn’t as bad.

The only terrible part about it was how the electricity came to be there. Well, its preferred method of travel apparently was needles through uncomfortable places.

Did you know you can’t put things in your eyes? I mean, you get used to it, yes it’s easy. But your eye at first will rebel against the idea of having anything against its gelatinous surface.

The solution? To ply your eyes open with something. Maybe your fingers or maybe another machine created for this very nefarious purpose.

Guess which one I got?

Yeah.

Don’t worry, though. The needle didn’t really go through my eye, just next to it, through the corner of it. Where eye and nose meet.

This, I don’t remember.

After the setting comes the Condition.

They unstrapped my neck and made the chair lean into a gentler angle.

This was the point where the Wrench came to me and I spit pieces of lips, tongue and vomit to his already disgusting attire. He looked at me, pulled a sheet of paper out of his clipboard and asked me the same questions as before.

I would like to say that I spat at him again. That I was defiant in my youth and aggressively demanded answers and explanations. But I didn’t. Instead, I cried. I cried and I couldn’t stop once I started. I tried to beg then to stop, to set me free or kill me, but I was crying to hard to breath and form coherent words. They just stood there, unmoved, looking at me, waiting for me to answer the fucking questions. There were no false platitudes. They didn’t tell me they stopped if only I answered. They just stayed there, looking.

Once I had no more tears and my body was ready to give up, as I sagged against the chair, the Wrench asked me again. And this time, I answered.

I was honest I said I knew or didn’t know and every time I got something wrong, I’d feel it again, the sharp buzzing behind my nose. Only it seemed to reverberate through my entire body, reminding my hands and legs that they could feel pain again, that hey had felt it before. It was a promise of what would happen if I got it wrong.

I answered everything. Again and again and again. Until I stopped feeling the promise.

Then they brought another needle… A thicker one. And the told me to calm down and be still. And I obeyed. They told me to keep my eye open and I did, they told me to count to ten and I did. The meddle pushed something into my head, something other than electricity and fear. I would understand until later that it was a small apparatus that allowed them to keep tabs on me.

The nurse told me to sleep and I did.

Shit! Fuck!

They’re here. I don’t know how or why but they’re here. Shit. I’ll talk to you later. Finish my tale and shit but now I just got to

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Posted in Secondary Sundays, Writer's Block

About This Week’s Secondary Sunday

Hello!

This is not an excuse! yay me!

We will have a new Secondary Sunday this week and I’m actually excited about this one (not that I wasn’t for the other ones). As I mentioned at one point (eons ago) we are reaching the end of Secondary Sundays! Wow.

After this week’s SS, we have two or three parts left and the story is done. I might come back to it later on, but yeah, this is it.

I’m not excited because this is the end. I’m excited because the new SS sheds some light on things. It will not be as vague as the old ones, and because of that it might be a bit difficult to read. It is not my idea to trigger, squick, or bother anyone with this. And I know that I’ve been sort of building up to this point in the narrative so it won’t be as surprising. But still, if it triggers or squick you, then you need to be warned.

** Warnings are: Detailed descriptions of torture, medical procedures, and panic attacks, mentions of vomiting, and trauma.

I will add the warnings at the beginning of the SS as a reminder, but I still wanted to write it here. Writing this part was very… interesting. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either, so I’m really looking forward to see what you guys think about it 🙂

-L.

Posted in Secondary Sundays

SS: Time Could Be Enough

Hello,

I was told to write a letter for someone. Day didn’t tell me to whom it would be addressed. She doesn’t really give me details about things, but she does tell me when things need to be done.

I was supposed to talk to you sooner, I think. She mentioned something about this a while ago, perhaps a week or two. But I was occupied with a new show. Oh, she said you might find my job interesting.

I never really thought of myself as an artist. My thing was never art, I was more about numbers and the rational thought behind irrational decisions. But I guess people change in time -I changed in time- and we become irrational beings ourselves.

I happen to enjoy art now. I’m not good with drawings and, quite honestly I am horrid with colors. Day says that my color combinations come closer to a headache than anything I’ve ever tried to express.

But well, art is subjective and everyone has their own version of what is lovely, and painful.

But “the color of vomit” is apparently quite universal. Or so I’ve been told.

So paintings are not my thing. Well, they are my things in the way art is now mine, whether I want it or not. But art and commercial are not always holding hands. And if I want to survive, to make something out of my art, then my thing has to be photography.

It’s not easy. There are a million things that must be taken into consideration before you are able to take a picture. Of course that you must think of the message. What is it that you’re trying to capture? But there are also more technical things: lights, angles, lenses, and bits and pieces of edition that make your image speak for itself.

As someone who is not very good with words (I should be talking to you about something inspiring or nice, but instead I’m trying to explain art to you… who does that?) I very much prefer to allow my photographs to talk for me.

I have a favorite one. I didn’t actually take it. It arrived on the mail for me.

It seems like it was taken quickly, before the artist could decide what they wanted it to mean. It is a lovely image. In it, two people are standing in what looks like the edge of a platform. They’re not touching, it doesn’t look like they need to. The picture is so shaky and obscure (taken from the inside of a train. The couple is framed by the closing doors) that you can’t make out the features of the people in it. In the background, a couple of passersbys walk briskly from somewhere to somewhere, adding even more motion to the shaky capture.   Everything is in motion. Everything but the couple.

It looks like they might reach out for each other, in another life, in another frame. But the artist didn’t know that they wanted them to touch, that they wanted the picture to have another meaning.

All things considered, the picture shouldn’t have a meaning. It should have never told a story. But by chance it does.

It is telling you that it needs and wants and regrets. The picture tells you that something happened before it was taken, and something happened after. It tells you that the people in the picture were probably loved at one point, that they were still loved in the picture, but were never loved afterward.

Whoever took the picture probably didn’t know that. How could they?

The couple were the only people that could’ve really known, but they are less than a memory now.

I was supposed to talk to you about healing and changing. Day said I was a good example. That maybe you’d want to hear from me to know that things are not as finite as we might believe they are.

But I guess that is a bit obvious by now. We all heal and change. Not too long ago I led an unhappy life. I was a caged bird that was never allowed outside. I wasn’t even a song bird. No one came for me for songs or entertainment, the less people saw the better.

Then I got sick. I don’t quite remember how it happened or why or when or what. But I know I was gone for a while. They took me to some medical facility. It wasn’t a hospital, or at least not a common one. My father, he said a friend of his took me there. They kept me inside for ages. Can barely remember a minute of it.

All I remember of it is a name. Four months, all that treatment, my brain going through a blender, and all I remember is a name.

Shaun.

For hours upon hours all I remember is screaming a name. And then something else.

Cromly Park.

It doesn’t make any sense. I know it doesn’t, but I still know it happened.

I remember it happening so clearly it doesn’t feel like a memory. Day says I probably made it up. That my mind simply tried to make sense of all that happened during that time.

I was so sick, and heavily medicated. I couldn’t possibly remember a thing about it all.

But I do.

Day knows that I do but she gets nervous and jittery whenever I mention it so I try not to. I don’t think saying it here counts, since she asked me to relate and be nice.

And if I was asked to talked to you is because you probably understand. Maybe you have memories that don’t belong, or know names you shouldn’t. Maybe you had to visit strange medical facilities once when you were sick. Or you weren’t allowed to leave your home until you were.

Perhaps you understand that that was the price you had to pay to be free.

Free of your cage, or wherever it was that you were being kept. Maybe freedom from yourself or your thoughts.

The point being that after all the uglyness we still manage to be free.

Because you are free. Even if you cannot see it.

You are free in a way that caged birds are not.

We are free in a way we were not. And that is absolutely okay.

You just need to find a way to express that freedom. If you’re like me and you were sick, and then were not, you will need something that speaks for you, and about you.

Maybe it won’t be art, but something will come up.

Eventually, you’ll have your own voice.

You just need to give it time.

 

Emi.

 

 

Posted in Secondary Sundays

SS: Them

It has taken me a while to gather all the information needed to make this happen.

People in this kind of position have sealed records, and barely any paper trail.

Which is why it took so long for me to put everything together for you.

Unlike the people who wrote for you before, and that indiscretion last week, I am not doing this for them. I am doing this for you.

I am doing this because I think you need it. I’ve known people who would’ve needed this. And I guess that I feel like we already know each other. Or at least you know about me. You know about love and what it does, but you don’t know that much about what guilt and impulsiveness do to a person.

That is where I come in, I guess.

I am not here to talk about myself and everything that’s happened since the last time I was inside the borders. I am here to tell you a very short story, the only kind to be enjoyed.

This story begins, as most stories do, with a character that does not yet suspect they are a character. It is easy to dismiss oneself as a character when one does not know about the genre they are living in.

Our great society thrives in your ignorance. No. Your compliance. It thrives on your comfort and lack of questioning.

The point is, no one thinks of themselves as a character until plot comes knocking on your door. By the point it does, though, you have long since ceased being complacent.

Our character lived in a small area near the woods, not too far but not too close to where you used to live. You might remember this part of town referred to as ‘The Pit’. Partly because of its circular shape, and the fact that it was surrounded by thick woods, which made it feel isolated. And partly because it was in one of the poorer parts of town, which made it prone to delinquency, and other illegal dalliances.

They lived in a small house near the mouth of the pit. They had three older brothers and two little sisters. They regret to realize that they do not remember their names anymore. They do remember their home. It’s yawing doors and windows, and the well preserved sickly yellow of the walls.

The thing about the house was that it had always wanted to be more than it was, to hold more, to be better. Houses, however, don’t always get what they want. This house in particular never held more that eight bodies inside. In fact, as time went by, it progressively held less and less.

The first thing it lost was a child. It lost one of its inhabitants to the bitter end of a knife. It was not uncommon out there. People was lost and killed in The Pit all the time. There was nothing siblings and parents could do to hold onto people that wanted to be taken, to be lost.

That was a bitter lesson, something that our character couldn’t, and didn’t, want to understand, but had to.

That was their first step into losing complacency.

Usually when people are lost, others don’t know about it. No one hears about other people going missing. Not even from their own families. People cannot possibly remember ever having someone who was lost.

Of course that it is sad, but it is part of reality.

People go missing, and people forget. That is that.

But our character couldn’t forget. They didn’t know that they desperately needed to but their minds could not allow them to. It’s about the mind, you see, the way it works in a different way for some people.

The first -and hopefully only- time you go through reconditioning at age six, The Machine makes sure to change everything that makes you who you are. The Machine makes forgetting easier and you mind more malleable. For most people, it works. But some people work differently.

Our character is one of those people. People who after their first reconditioning can still remember, and question things. Of course that they were different for other reasons as well, but you cannot remember this. You cannot remember them and who they were for you.

That is okay. That is in fact, part of your nature.

Our character had learnt so many years ago that life is unfair. That it takes and it gives and it trades.

Or not. That was the machine.

The machine took and gave and traded. It traded body parts for people and things that it had taken before. The Machine never asks what you want because it thinks it knows you better than anyone. Almost every time, The Machine is right.

Trades are as easy as they are painful, and our character made them all once they realized there was a place where people would go.

The old house. Remember that? Over on the other side of the town? It was beyond tall gates and thick shrubs. It was a place that, anywhere else within the borders of this little country, would have carried the scent of sweet, smoked flesh.

They heard it said around town, that people would go there. That people wouldn’t return, unless someone was ready to make a trade.

So they did.

Years after the house had lost a son, it lost a mother. And our character went there.

They made a stop on the way to school. They were so nervous that they dropped their bag. Someone stopped to ask if they were okay. They smiled and said they were fine (they were not) and life carried on.

They went to the big house that afternoon.

They traded nimble fingers and memories for their mother.

The trade was simple. They only had to enter a big room with mirrored walls and sterile looking people. They faintly remembered entering a room similar to this in their childhood. The contraption and procedure were still familiar enough that they welcomed pain and discomfort as if they were long lost friends.

The people in that room cut into their head and pushed and pulled and took and gave, until our character was nothing.

And that is how they lost their hands. And that is how they gained a mother.

It was not the same mother (it could never be), the same way they were not the same character (they could never be).

They made this trade several times over the next years. It’s addicting, you see. You give something to the Machine and in change it keeps who you love safe.

The Machine can never give you safety, it can only take it away from you. Once you become aware, once reconditioning stops working, that’s it.

You will never be safe in your home. You will never be home.

But our character didn’t care about safety anymore. Had they ever cared? They wore soft shirts and flowing skirts at home, but never to school. And after a while, they stopped even wearing them at home. Why would they? They weren’t a person anymore, they were nothing. They even stopped asking to be called Rosie instead of José and stuck to clothes more suited to the bulk of their bodies. They no longer tried to hide that their body was not equipped with soft arches and curves.

And then the Machine came for them.

It did not plead for it was not necessary. They were coming for someone who had long since lost parts of their body and being, and when they asked if they had anything else to give they already knew the answer.

Because what else can you do? When the Machine asks for your compliance you have to give it. Especially when it’s the one thing you can still give. Because when the Machine comes for you it’s because it needs you, because it thrives on it, because otherwise you’re useless.

Nothing useless ever survives.

And so they went.

No one will ever tell you just how much that decision hurts. How it pulls and scrapes something out of you as you walk away from the only home you will ever know. I guess it’s because Screws are better off not discussing pain with people who know nothing but the unkindness of the Machine.

At least if you pretend you’re part of the Machine you can stop feeling the void in your chest where something used to rest.

At least when Dan walks into their home (out in Pullman Street where plants grow in muted colors and people without an ID can’t go in) they can, for a second, pretend they are not Rosie Marquez. They can avoid thinking of pale yellow walls and a house filled with the smell of ever baking bread. They can pretend not to be home.

They are not a teenage girl in a boy’s body living on the most dangerous part of a town that will never understand her. They are not Rosie losing friend, after friend, after friend, as reconditioning and The Machine take them away.

Or at least, they could pretend and be Dan until their eyes fell on a familiar name and a familiar face. They saw the stamp and ID number of a town off by the woods, with little creaking houses that have yawning doors and windows, and all at once, she was back there, sitting outside school on a random morning, about to make her first trade.

And you linger over her as you see her. You pause and she wonders, for a flickering second if you see her. You do not.

But she asked for you, before her body could remember that she was no longer Rosie but Dan, a Screw. They forgot and asked, and The Machine agreed, because The Machine doesn’t care as long as you do your work. For the Machine, you have no needs and wants, because you ceased to be human years ago. Even before you were bought.

They observe you long enough to learn your routines. They figure out what you do and don’t. It is plain for them to see why the Machine chose you. Why you need to be watched and kept in line.

They keep tabs on you, often handing you something you forgot to buy at the store, telling you you dropped it. Sometimes they see you on the street and greet you. They’re not scared to do so, they know you won’t remember. There is a certain amount of power that comes from knowing no one else remembers, and no one else can see. As Screws, sometimes we abuse that power. 

They were planning on carrying with that. They planned to push you back into normal patterns and helping you become complacent again. But you were more problematic than they anticipated. You made questions that had no answers and noticed things you had no business noticing.

You could not understand that you needed to be complacent.

And so they started to lie. They made up your routines and called in favors to help keep you in check. They knew it was useless, they knew you were not the friend they remember (you could never be) but they desperately needed to save you.

If they saved you then they would finally be useful, then they’d saving at least something. As Screws, we never help anyone.

But then the lies were not enough.

And they had to be Rosie and remember you. She had to remember the feeling of soft shirts and wide skirts against hairy legs. She remembered sharing ear buds with you, and listening to hoarse signing through her hammering heart. She remembers how it felt to laugh with you, and cry with you, and fight and kiss and regret with you.

And she remembered how much you loved stories. She remembered how you carried them along with you in books and clothes. And she wanted to give that back to you, to reach you.

And as she reached you, she tried to warn you.

But you never listened. You became paranoid. You became reclusive.

And they had to face that they had gone too far. And retreat.

But by then it was already too late and The Machine had noticed you and wondered. And so as a Screw, they did the one thing that Screws know how to do. They deflected the attention, planted small bits and pieces of evidence that would all point toward their own incompetence. And they made sure to show that you were complacent, that you were useful. 

They put themselves in jeopardy for you. They were not being complacent but could they still be useful?

Well, I guess that’s what the Machine is trying to find out.

I just hope that she is.

Posted in Secondary Sundays

Secondary Sundays a PSA

Hello!

Today there’ll be no Secondary Sunday, but for plot reasons.

I know we’re used to not having updates because I’m an idiot and forget to post things /write things. But this time it’s not about that.

During the next couple of updates we will be reaching the end of the story arc. Because of plot and what’s been happening in the story, there will have to be pauses and silences. I swear it will make sense at the end.

Thank you for your patience 🙂

 

-L.

Posted in Secondary Sundays

SS: Mr. Fluffkins III

Aaaaand I’m back!

I mean hi, it’s me not them.

I guess you can tell by now that they’re not here… And that they probably won’t come back. At least for a while.

But hey! That just means I can keep talking to you! Wild, right?!

I mean, yeah. This is weird for me, and probably for you but like, I don’t know you? So honestly I have no idea what you’re thinking right now.

Honest, cross my heart and hope to like get all my memories back or like maybe lose an arm. I heard that’s kind of painful? Must be.

Anywho, I’m here, you’re here. Let’s talk about something interesting.

I’m not like the person who wrote to you last week. And by that I mean that I don’t live right next door or really anywhere near you. There are ways in which people like us can slip through cracks and holes in doors, floors and walls.

So I did. It’s a bit nicer where I am. Actually anywhere is nicer than where you are. Maybe your cat would like it here.

Maybe their quest would bring you here Where it’s nice and warm. I believe they would like it here, where the sun hits you just right at all times. There are no sandy beaches, or any other paradisiac features. Here there are only trees, warm and wet earth, and fresh air.

I guess, I want to talk about that. Not my home. It’s not wise to talk about homes.

I want to talk about what your cat, Menace, would like for you to do. I guess their wants and needs would be different now.

I’m not good at storytelling and assuming things. I’m not good with lies, I mean.

I mean, yeah. If I really needed it, I’d probably be able to lie.

In a pinch. That’s how you say that.

But I do think I can pick up this thread, if I think about what I know about you and how things have changed. If I were the cat from that story, from all those Sundays ago. If I knew and felt what they did.

If I cared about you…

If I knew…

I’d feel like this: I would want you gone. I would wonder about what could have happened to make you move through your home like you were a shadow, and everything else was the sun. I would sit down by the window, and I would ask myself when the day would come. When will you just not show up anymore? When will you be gone? Would I even know? Would anyone tell me? Or will it be like losing a memory? Suddenly there but also not really. Not at all.

I would, I think above all, ache for you. I’d ache for the person you used to be, and never could go back to, and for this unrecognizable stranger in our home.

I would fear for you. I would regret not giving you a way out when I could.

Because Mr. Fluffkins III, had a sidequest for you, but was never able to tell you. It was a long one, a good one. It was going to take you far, far from where you are but definitely closer to where you’d want to be.

Most anywhere in this world could be somewhere you’d love to visit. “Anywhere is better than where you are,” Mr. fluffkins III tells you sometimes. Not often. They don’t like to talk.

I mean, cats don’t really talk. But like, you already know that. That’s why this is a story and not a, well chronicle or whatever.

Mr. Fluffkins III doesn’t know us or them or anyone who is not Daisy and you. Most days they don’t even know you at all.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I guess, they must feel bad about you here, about leaving and staying and moving and breathing and forgetting.

Forgetting is super important. Mr. Fluffkins III probably knows that. But you don’t. And if you do maybe you don’t care. Maybe you don’t want to care.

But that’s where you’re wrong.

You do care, you can’t stop caring. Even your cat can see that. And if you care you’re in danger.

Which is why you cat would fucking love it I’d you could just get off your ass and do something for once. Stop sitting around and pretending like this is all happening to someone else. Because it isn’t. It’s happening to you and it will keep happening to you.

So please, get off your ass.

Get up.

Open the fucking door and run the fuck away.

Do anything before someone else does it for you.

There are cracks and holes that can help people like you and me to run away. You just need to ask the right questions and do the right things.

So look at your fucking cat. They have something they want to tell you. They have wanted to tell you this for a while.

You know their name is not Mr. Fluffkins III.

You know.

What is their name?

Look at their collar.

Go ahead

Look.

NOW.

Posted in Secondary Sundays

SS: Guilt

I want to talk about guilt.

They said I could talk about whatever I wanted and I chose guilt.

Not yours or mine, that’d be boring.

I want to talk about your neighbor, Daisy.

Chill, chill. I’m not one of her observers or Screws or whatever. I’m actually so far removed from this that it might be cool to hear what I’ve got to say.

Right, yeah. You have no idea who I am. Cool. It’s best if we keep it that way.

I’m not Trader or Jones or even the buffoon that talked to you the other week.

My name doesn’t matter, though. We’re talking about Daisy.

So here’s what I know about Daisy.

She is a 26 year old Asian woman of unclear ascent. I say unclear because I have no idea, because I don’t care enough to know or to tell the difference between features. I guess that might piss someone off. Not you, though.

You look like someone who doesn’t give a crap about anything at all.

Or maybe you do.

It’s hard to tell with you guys.

Anyway.

I digress.

Daisy Kim, apartment 208, doesn’t have any pets. Communication with her folks is non existent. She has had two boyfriends in her entire life and they both have broken her heart.

I mean, yeah she had “girlfriends” in the past but we both know it was just a phase.

I mean-I- God I don’t really know what I mean, okay?

It’s just. A jumble. A mess.

A wrinkle I guess?

I’m just tired.

But I promised I’d talk about your friend. They said you’d want to know about your friend and I know that maybe, I too, would like to know about my friends, if I had friends, right? You know? So I said, I said “okay, I’ll talk about his friend. I’ll tell him she’s okay. She’s like super fine but super sad and that’s fine, you know? We’re all sad. That’s kind of the point, right?” So here I am. I’m talking about your friend who is fine, but also sad, but also fine.

She is currently sitting by the window of her apartment. I can see her very clearly from my window. She has your cat on her lap, even though I’ve seen her hunt down every single stray piece of hair he leaves behind after she is done with him. I guess she must really like him. And you, by extension.

She just looked up and noticed me watching. She didn’t frown or blush or anything like the others do. She actually just waved at me. I waved back and then pointed to my laptop with a shrug.

She smiled -I think. Expressions are hard to distinguish from this far away- and then carried on petting your cat and looking out the window.

You have your curtains drawn. It might be because you’re still at that stage where you think closing your curtains will make any difference.

It won’t.

If they want to see you they will. There is nothing you can do to stop them.

I’ve tried.

We’ve all tried.

But sometimes it’s best to stop trying to give up. There’s no shame or guilt in that, right?

Right.

Guilt.

Not yours or mine but hers.

I don’t think a day goes by where she doesn’t feel guilty about something.

I can see it.

She’s the kind of person that never draws her curtains. I don’t know why. Everyone else does it on this side of your building. They’ve got nothing to hide, right? Nothing they’d ever need to hide from an almost abandoned building overlooking them.

I saw her when she as with him. The boyfriend that went away. That had to go away.

He knew too much but this is not about his guilt or regret this is about her and how she feels.

She loves you, the way people oftentimes forget they love their brothers. It’s a sickening and naïve thing.

She feels guilty about visiting you, about right now not telling you that she had work, so much work piled up from the time you went away and she took over your life for you. She feels bad because she might not be able to do all the things you need her to do. She might neglect you a bit in order to work and have food and live and survive.

That’s another thing she feels guilty for: Survival.

I guess in a way we’re all guilty of it. Of making it through less than slim odds.

I never really cared though.

Survival is about doing whatever it takes to make it out of whatever impossible situation you’re in.

We’ve all done terrible, horrible things in order to survive. Not because we think we deserve to live more than others, or that our lives are somehow worth more than other people’s suffering. It’s just because we are all scared, terrified even, of what could happen to our bodies if we don’t comply. If we’re not part of a machine that is constantly demanding and cajoling and convincing you to just give it all up. It could all be better if you just give it all up.

Of course, that is a lie. There’s just no way that anything could ever be better ever again. Once you make the trade, once you give it all up you will never be able to live again, to move on.

Survival is what happens after you stop living.

Oh, she’s standing up.

She turned around to talk to someone, don’t worry it’s not you. Her body language speaks of pleasantness and surprise. She’s not mad that this person has showed up, opened the door to her home just like that, but she is surprised.

She’s turning to look at me. She points to your cat with a smile and then closes the curtains. I frown, because she never draws her curtains.

I guess this is about something she doesn’t want me to see. Someone.

You will hear about his, I guess. All in due time.

The curtains of your apartment flutter for a second, I almost think I imagined it but- oh! There you are staring suspiciously at me.

I smile and wave, but you duck back into your apartment.

It’s okay.

I don’t blame you.

Anyway. This was all for today.

I expect someone different will be here to walk you through a new Sunday later on.

At least if the insistent ringing of my phone is anything to go by.

You’d think that after so many years, they’d finally learn to leave me alone. But that’s another thing about the machine: it’s insistent and constant. It will never give up.