o f e l i a h u n t
from Today & Tomorrow
The house sits at the base of two hills surrounded by identical two-story houses, separated only by tall chain-link fences. There are two separate attics, hundreds of segmented windows, a two-car garage. A neat hexagonal lawn before it, lined with brown shrubs, dead snow-covered flowers, a narrow pumice-border. I tell Aaron to stop. "We're here," I say. But I feel desperate and disappointed and I think the word, home-invasion. My body's not tensed or vibrating and I'm not anything so I hold my hands in a little knot and carefully stop my thoughts.
Erik snores against the window.
"Where are we?" Aaron asks.
"Here," I say again. "We're here, here," I say.
The garage-doors are open. I study the matching silver Cadillacs. From hooks in the garage-ceiling hang two bicycles—curved handlebars, black brake-lines, toothy pedals. Along the garage-walls are steel grids from which hang power-drills, hammers, screwdrivers, skill-saws, routers, spare blades—packaged and unpackaged—then drill-bits, bolt-cutters, a rake—all blue or gray or a dull silver and marred here and there with dirt or oil. There are no flags. I open the car-door and slowly step onto the icy sidewalk, then move toward the garage. There are no icy garages in Lisbon. Parking-lots and driveways are theoretically the same thing. Could one transport you to the other? A line of light slants beneath the door that leads from the garage into the house, an elongated light-rectangle very thin and asymmetrical. I move toward it.
"Wait," says Aaron.
"Yeah wait," Erik says. Erik's awake and standing. His face’s very tight and small and wrinkled, slack somehow, like folded bed-sheets sliding slowly from a closet shelf. "Where the fuck are we?"
I move at a steady pace. I can feel Aaron and Erik's bodies approaching, but when I turn Aaron and Erik's bodies are still distant so I continue into the garage. Over my shoulder, Aaron and Erik's faces are little red balls floating above their necks. The mouths on the little red balls open and close rhythmically. I can't hear any words. Their mouths move secretly and I want suddenly to be the mouths, to understand mouth-movements, to form solid, specific words with the mouths and later to write the words in my diary. My hand’s on the doorknob, my thumb pressing the keyed lock. I could write 'Lisbon doorknob' somewhere. I could write 'flag safety.' Anastasia once told me it was good luck to touch all doorknobs—that if you miss a doorknob you’d probably die. I didn't believe her and tried for many years to touch no doorknobs. "That's stupid," I said. I was small and my hair was long and thickly braided.
"It's true," Anastasia said. "Everything's true."
I followed Anastasia into the backyard and onto the rough patio where we sat cross-legged, knee to knee and watched worker-ants in the brown grass-patches. We wore white crepe skirts that fluttered when we moved and the sky was a soft blanket above us, wide and long so that no matter where we looked there was the sky falling down.
"Don't be so gullible," I said. "I could say, 'You're the ant-queen' and that wouldn't make you an ant-queen."
"I'd be kind of an ant-queen."
"If you tell me something then the thing you told me is a real thing and real things are always true."
I looked dumbly at Anastasia. "Follow me," I said. I walked slowly into the garage, this garage, and Anastasia followed. We moved crab-like between the Cadillacs. I leaned against a bare white wall-sliver and removed a battery-operated power-drill from the wall-grid, then held it there in my hand. "You're a robot," I said. "We put you together on your birthday. You came in a kit from Wal-Mart because I wanted a new sister. There was this ad—you were so pretty in the ad." Anastasia didn't answer. She leaned against our mother's Cadillac. I imagined opening its four heavy doors, sprawling Anastasia lengthwise across the massive windshield, strapping her down with pink bungee-cords. "I made your head. That was my job. I used this power-drill to make your head." I showed her the drill, pulled the trigger for a moment, listened to the whirring buzz of it. "There were complicated instructions and I couldn't read well so I probably made some mistakes, which's why you're broken probably. I don't think it's fixable, not completely, but that's okay. I know I should love all moving things. And really I love you. Your little head." I adjusted the drill-bit in the chuck and tightened it. "Anyway, I'm bored now and I'm going to take this head apart. It's okay. Don't move even a little. I'll fix everything." I pulled the trigger and stepped forward. "Don't worry about the pain. Shouldn't hurt that much, and anyway you're a robot and so can't really feel pain. Pain, for you, is just part of your programming and nothing much to worry about. I know these things."
"Don't," Anastasia said. "Please."
But I did.
First, I removed the eyes.
Set carefully on a nearby shelf, Anastasia's eyes were very large and round—like billiard-balls, maybe—and the eyes were soft and pliable and I pushed them with my fingers and my fingers pushed into Anastasia's eyes, through the irises, the pupils, and Anastasia's eyes began to leak slowly a clear fluid, as though punctured. The eyes shrank and became shriveled things, prune or raisin-like. They dried there on the shelf, staining the wood. I touched them and touched them again. I kept them in pockets, wrapped them in a white silk scarf. I took them to school, showed them to the other girls beneath my flip-up desktop. Placed them in a shoe-box diorama, surrounded on all sides by tiny mirrors, shined on them a little LED flashlight. The mirrors, the light, all within the shoebox together with the little shriveled eyes.
Which's wrong, I think. I'm wrong.
Erik’s touching my shoulder softly from the side and Aaron’s staring directly into my eyes.
"You stopped," Aaron says.
"You said something," Erik says. "But I couldn't hear what you said."
"Nothing," I say. "I was thinking something." I touch the door. "Home-invasion?"
"Why this house?" Aaron asks.
"Because they're rich. The house’s huge. They're rich and have things we can take—laptops probably, televisions, gold watches, platinum mirrors. We'll go to the pawnshop and get rich."
"Who lives here?"
"They live here. Them."
Aaron watches me. "Why're we here?" His voice is monotone.
"I removed Anastasia's eyes with a power-drill," I say. "Maybe I was thirteen then or something, maybe fourteen. I put them here once, on a shelf." I open the door into the house. There’s a long hallway with hardwood floors and a high white ceiling and very flat white walls, all well-lighted with regularly placed fixtures made to look like torches but instead of fire there are fluorescent light-bulbs. "Follow me," I say. I step into the hallway. I listen to my shoes on the hard-wood floor. "Home-invasion."
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