The Brailler – Part 1
A Studio chaotic and house of Imp Creation.
Sound Design JennyK – Inspiration and encouragement by Dave.
A few words of wisdom after the story – Listen carefully!
JennyK and Imp – Making it real since 2010.
By Jenny K Brennan
Part 3 of 3
The ring was thick, hard, and would not open. It pulled at the skin around the scarred knot and tore through flesh and Kris howled , by instinct pulling away and off Denny, and that’s when the ring opened and ripped free in a gush of fresh blood. Forgetting the weapon, Kris rushed to her feet, turned and kicked. Denny rolled away but Kris followed, kicking without aim, at her back, head, anywhere. She had one hand clutched at her bleeding stomach and was unable to aim so she turned and staggered a few steps, stopped several meters from Denny, ragged stuttering breathing slowed, turned shallow and regular, almost inaudible, as she took back a bit of control over muscles and purpose.
She turned, raised the trembling gun and pulled the trigger.
Denny rolled away from the viscious but ineffectual kicks and the ground fell away from beneath her . She scrambled and twisted, stopped falling. Hainging over the edge of the platform with both legs and the lower diagonal of her ass, she stayed for only a second. Glaring adverts looked down at her sprawling agony with bright smiles and suggestive promises. “promotional text for life insurance here.”
. body burned. She couldn’t move. The agony was exquisite, so sharp her stomach turned. Even her shallow breathing spiked the pain for each inhale. She forced herself to lie still, but she knew she had to move. Sounds of steps moved away from her, but not far. They stopped. Other steps moved in another direction, hurried, shuffling. She looked towards the sound. She caught a blurry glimpse of a cowering shape as it moved out of sight up the stairs. The old drunk had made his escape in the momentary stillness. She closed her eyes. Thanks for the fucking help asshole. The thought was bitter, the light too sharp to be stopped by her eyelids, the tile cold and hard, slick with patches of blood. She squeezed her eyes hard but opened them wide as the danger hit her. Where was she?
She fought against a new assault of pain from her back. A wave of nausea burned its way through her body and she broke out in cold sweat.
She had to move. But everything was quiet, or drowned out by hissing air, her own pounding heart. She couldn’t hear her. Where the hell was she? The pain was fading though. Just a bit. She lay on her side and she could see the floor stretching out before her until it ended abruptly. The tracks. Where was the other track? She heard a sound, a step? A breath? A laugh? Denny didn’t think, she rolled away from the kick she knew with absolute certainty would come. It didn’t. The ground fell away from under her. She had rolled onto the very edge of the station platform and one leg was now hanging in mid air, pulling at the rest of her, twisting her back. The pain exploded anew as her spine turned and stretched. She scrambled and clawed at the floor in panic. She turned her upper body to get back on the platform, on the safe surface. It all happened in an instant and the surge of adrenalin and pure panic made her move. She got her leg away from the edge and rolled panting and groaning onto her stomach. Just as the momentum caused her head to drop down on the cold tile, something whistled in her ear and a sharp crack echoed in the large space. She felt a fresh stream of blood run down her face and she raised a hand to the wet warmth as she stared at the shattered tile just centimeters from her face. Her heart pounded as she pulled out a ceramic splinter from the soft flesh just below the right eye. She couldn’t move. Paralyzed, chocked. Not understanding.
“Get the fuck up bitch!”
Kris watched the pathetic creature, the stuck up bitch, pull something out of her face. The forehead had swollen up and most of the face was already smeared in blood. Now there was fresh red stuff oozing out of a brand new hole in that pretty cock-sucking face.
“Not so pretty anymore are you?” Kris spoke with a calm that was long practiced but as false as water. The gun was steady in her hand. It had a perfect grip, it was made for her. Anyone who refused to listen would listen when this baby spoke. Matt black polymer grip. The weight of the gun was perfect for her small hand. She moved the barrel sideways, slowly, along the entire length of Denny. Blue eyes followed the movement, back and forth. Staring silently. She didn’t move.
“That’s right Bitch. You didn’t know I had one did you?” Kris laughed.
She knew that gun. Through her own shallow breathing she could hear a keening sound, a hoarse whine. Someone shouted. Someone else spoke rapidly from some distance away. The voices mattered not. Not through the pitchy sound that seemed to flow out of the darkness of a barrel of a gun. The endless void that stared at her. Kris screamed and the blackness trembled somewhat before it steadied itself into its cold stare. It glared at her. A small black circle in the control of a…. a what? Kris sidestepped, waved the gun, and stepped back into position. The entire front of her shirt was drenched in blood. The baseball cap had fallen off at some point and was not in sight. Kris’s hair was cut short in the neck and sides, left unruly and messy on top and dyed deep purple and black. She was fit. One could see that now. Perhaps she wouldn’t have picked a fight if she had known this woman for what she had become. A fighter. A hateful pit-bull, with a gun. One smiled inwardly at her own stupidity.
Then she was still. Calm and cold. Nothing but a dog, a bitch. Someone who should be put down for her own good and everyone else’s safety.
She knew that gun. She remembered. The other woman wanted her to get up. She would get up. She spread her palms on the cold tile and pushed up. The dislocated disc in her lower back set every nerve on fire, broke every barrier of pain but she ignored it.
She struggled to her feet. Slowly, she got up on her knees, watching the maniacs one-eyed murderer that stared at her, held her in check. Her hand slipped in a puddle of fresh blood and she screamed from the pain. She realized then, that she had been screaming all along. That keening had been her. She bit off the scream and made it up on her feet, forced into a hunching posture as her back didn’t work. She took a steadying breath and stood up as straight as she could and moved her eyes from the gun to a set of blue eyes so like hers, so different from hers. So full of rage. So full of fear. Why was she afraid? She was the one with the gun after all. Denny felt something rise in her. As it rose, something else fell away. Decision. The end result. It was coming. She was coming. Finally. At long last, she found her voice. Calm although ragged.
“Kel-tek p36.” She kept her eyes on the face watching her, noticed the eyes widen in surprise. It showed only for a moment, but it was there, the fear. She knew that what she had never admitted would finally be told.
“Don’t you remember?” Suddenly she smiled. It was a grim sight where only few patches of pale skin remained visible in a mask of glistening and drying blood. Kris took an involuntary step back. . Denny stepped away from the edge— one step, another —towards the weapon and its mistress. The gun trembled again, the barrel lost its perfect aim but it was still point blank deadly.
“You showed it to me that night. Don’t you remember?” Another step, another retreat.
Kris didn’t realize she was backing up to start with. She was too numb. She heard the words. That bitch was talking about that night. That night. Which night? Daddy. She shook her head. No, it was all a lie. The cunt came closer. Too close. She jerked her arm forward and pulled the trigger. But she was shaking. That night. Daddy didn’t mean it. Fresh blood exploded out of a small hole in Ones left shoulder and she reeled back but didn’t stop. The bullet had only penetrated the soft flesh on the outer edge of the shoulder and had done little damage. One gasped and looked down at the ragged hole in her fancy sweater. But she didn’t fucking stop. Shouts were nearer now. Panicked, calming, desperate cursing.
“Call the fucking cops you asshole!” Shrill shouts, frightened whispers.
“There’s no fucking signal in here. Someone has to get someone. Don’t they have security here? Why isn’t anyone coming?”
“I’m not going past those fucking maniacs. Are you stupid? That’s a real fucking gun!” The voices faded in and out. Faded totally.
Denny took another step while tearing her eyes from her ruined sweater. She didn’t look at the gun now. She stared into Kris’s face and a look of mocking disbelief came over her. Her eyes widened and she raised one hand to point at her arm.
“You ruined my favorite sweater you bitch.” She pulled her upper lip back and showed her teeth.
“Now, why would you do that?” She tore her eyes from the other woman for a split second and closed her eyes. Just a blink. Just a moment when all became clear. And it was all so perfectly clear now. It had all been heading this way, moving relentlessly to this moment. Was always the way it would end and nothing could stop this. Not now.
She listened. Heard something. Everything was pain. But physical pain. Physical pain didn’t matter. The body didn’t matter. Perfection and appeal didn’t matter anymore. Perhaps it had never mattered, had only been a mask. She listened again. Yes, it was coming. She listened to Kris’s breathing. It was shallow, had an undertone of a moan, a whining, deep in her throat. The gun trembled.
“You said you would use that gun on your Daddy Kristina, don’t you remember? You would take it and use it for what he did to you.” Denny faltered for a second as Kris gasped and took yet another step back. One staggered, and it brought her closer. Closer to the gun that shook, steadied, exploded in a ringing echo among the screams of people watching in shock. Kris keening increased, louder, a pitiless whine totally out of her control, beyond stopping. A sound from deep within her chest, her body, her mind.
She didn’t stop. The cock-sucking liar kept coming.
“No!” She had missed again. What was wrong with her? What was wrong with her arm? She couldn’t keep it still. She uttered a groan of pain, of frustration, of memories biting its way out of cage after cage of suppressed shame and fear and unconditional love. Unstoppable realization. Forgetfulness shattered. Unaware of her own keening. Not realizing that she could have pulled the trigger many times over by now. But she couldn’t. Something was wrong with her hand.
Denny listened, stepped forward, calculated.
“But you never did anything to your daddy did you? You just let him fuck you didn’t you? And then you let him fuck me you fucking cunt. I thought you were a friend. You let your daddy do….” She had no more voice. She couldn’t talk as something broke inside. She choked off the last words. She closed her eyes for a moment as she calmed her breathing. There was nothing more to say. Nothing more to do. She was lost. They were lost. The rumbling of the coming train increased, grew louder. She listened, waited. She had nothing more to say.
Kris’s keening stopped was replaced with a deafening silence. Even the kids were quiet. One watched the eyes change. She knew what it meant. Cold control had taken charge once more. Back to denial, back to forgetting what couldn’t be forgotten. Yes. She was taking control again. There was not much time. She was getting ready. She had had enough. One kept her eyes on the eyes that narrowed, the mouth that suddenly grinned. She looked at her friend. The edge of the platform, the tracks. The gun stared at her, steady, moving upwards until it once more had a perfect aim. But the gun was pointing at her chest, not her head. One more step and she would have been able to reach out to touch the cold metal. But she didn’t take another step. She wouldn’t have to. She was close enough. Kris tightened her grip, tensed the finger, squeezed. Kel-tec, no double action trigger, there was no more time.
Denny threw herself at her former friend, her former alter ego, her childhood confidant, the betrayer. The traitor. The hate, the resentments stored for all this time. As she threw her body, the trigger made its initial catch, the click that meant imminent firing. Kris took another step back and squeezed, pulled, point blank. The momentum was too strong and although the bullet entered Denny’s chest, it passed through just below the collar bone and only managed to turn the approaching body sideways somewhat.
Then she was over her, arms wrapping themselves around her neck. Held her, pushed her backwards. She pulled the trigger. Denny’s stomach acted as sound suppressant and muffled the fatal shot. But they were already falling. The gun exploded again, killing what was already dead, but the momentum had already taken them both over the edge of the platform. They were falling. The gun fired one last time into Denny’s soft ruined flesh, dying flesh.
Denny’s dying gasps, the shots, Kris’s anguished scream of shocked realization, was all drowned out by the approaching train. In that endless second as they fell towards the tracks, everything was bottomless black grief. The final grief. Kris’s grief. The final moment. She hit the electrified track and her heart burned its last beat as she fried on the rails. The train bore down on them, Kris friends embracing one another for the last time. As the warning whistle roared and tons of steel bore down on them, they could no longer hear it.
Something new stood at the very edge of the platform, looking down on the sad remains on the tracks below, partly concealed by the silent train. Emergency medics, station staff and police officers surged around her, passed her, passed through her. They paid no attention to her. She was not really there. She was only the essence of the Kris recently dead below. Not quite there, not quite gone, but getting stronger. Her hands were loosely clasped in front of her. Shoulder length hair billowed slightly in a wind that was not there. She tilted her head to one side and smiled gently, dreamily shutting her eyes and sighed. It was a sigh as from a million ghosts. Ghosts of fluttering silken wings of memory where the edges had burned away. Dreams, wishes and released resentments. A collected gasp of absolute freedom sounded in the almost there. The place that was void but close, near but unreachable.
An ambulance driver, fed up with waiting in the vehicle and now standing at the bottom of the stairs smoking a cigarette, paused as he moved his nicotine stained fingers to his lips. He shuddered and looked around. He was searching for something he didn’t know existed, feeling it.
A medical doctor, kneeling next to the blackened torso and head of Kristina Andersson, felt his grip on the useless stethoscope weaken and it dropped back on his white clad chest. His breath caught for a moment and he looked around, searching for something that must have disturbed him.
Tad Peters, The teenager that was the only one in the group with a cell phone, a useless cell phone, jerked his head towards something, he didn’t know what. Something had caught his attention. There was something there. At the very edge of the platform. But there was nothing there. He had watched them fall. He had taken a step, a useless step and then he had turned around. He had held his phone, staring blankly at the signal indicator that suddenly went from no bars to Kris, then three. In a moment, the signal had reached full power.
. Something flowed through everyone present, although no one would know what had made their heart skip a beat, or what had caused the shiver, the sudden hesitation, a shudder through bones and earth. Then stillness.
For a few moments, as time held still in reverence, the essence of Denny and Kris came together in a blast of universal energy, fused, melded, and grew into something vaster than the individual parts had ever been.
Time started, remembered its duty. The she who simply was, now took a name; she would be name, so much more than her fragmented selves could have ever imagined, turned and started walking away, moved slowly over the tiled floor and started up the stairs. For each step she became more real. Each second she collected more flesh and blood. For each step she materialized, came together, atom by atom, cell by cell, she became clearer, more solid. At the bottom of the stairs she was only a strange refraction of the light for those who would have seen her. Half way up the stairs, a soft whisper of steps could have been detected if it had been quiet, and she would have been seen by keen eyes if they knew where to look. At the top of the stairs, she reached out to touch the railing and she felt the cold metal against her skin.
Someone did see her then. An old man, worn by a life of addiction, saw a ghostly shape solidifying, each moment becoming clearer. Faded watery eyes watched her colors sharpen for each breath and He raised a bottle to his mouth and drank greedily, getting some but far from all of the clear liquid down his throat. He blamed a life of alcohol for imagining flowing hair suddenly settle around the shoulders, taking on a shine and luster he suddenly and violently wished he could touch. He blamed the poison that was his life for imagining a ghost becoming real before him, skin losing translucency, clothing achieving texture, Shoes friction against floor suddenly creating real sound.
The woman turned her head as she passed him. She stopped and regarded him for a moment, meeting his eyes with hers. The serene look on her face made him stop breathing for a moment, overwhelmed by all that was lost, all that was broken, all that could still be fixed. Hope surged through him when she smiled and put her palm against the side of his face. A warm, living hand. A soft vibrant touch. She looked at him for a long moment, just keeping her hand motionless against his sagging skin, herself not moving, not hearing, or not caring, about the noises around the Kris. People hurried about, some descending the stairs to the place of recent death, some standing in shocked silence or murmured conversation.
She spoke then. Her voice was real, no ghost, no apparition. It was not much more than a whisper but he heard it clearly and he would never forget.
“It is never too late.”
If you are so inclined, please leave your comments here. 🙂
By Jenny K Brennan
Part 2 of 3
She leaned forward and met the hateful glare without blinking, spoke in a velvety smooth parody of concerned curiosity: “Did you like it?”
The hand came from nowhere and hit Denny in the chest, shoving her back, staggering. Kris shoved again before Denny could even raise her hands and she was forced back further. When Denny glanced around, knowing the platform edge was near but not where, Kris lunged and snaked a hand around Denny’s neck, grabbed a handful of hair and ripped it to the side, twisting her head. She pressed her lips to Denny’s ear and said in a singsong snarl, Liar liar, pants on fire.”
Denny cursed herself and tried to take hold of the hand pulling her forward. The back of her neck burned in pain as hairs came loose. She twisted her body to ease the pull, but she was powerless to do anything but follow. Kris had a good grip and wouldn’t release it, just kept pulling her along, grunting. Denny went where the steel grip led her, gasping for air, clawing at the hand around her hair, staring with unseeing watery eyes at tiles, shuffling feet, and finally a cement wall and the bottom of a filthy steel door.
They had rounded the corner of the utility building and stood between it and the stairs to the world several meters away. Two sets of tracks flanked them with deadly functionality.
Useless things flickered in Denny’s mind, a thousand flashes of faded imagery reborn in Technicolor abstraction, innumerable memories, in a useless search for an end to this. All in an instant everything came to her. Everything was clear now in the midst of pain in the moment that was now. Before could never come again, shouldn’t come again. It was too late. She didn’t understand how it could have taken so long. Everything past suddenly flowed forth, a torrent of what had been and what must be converged in a hard icy knot of understanding. The time for flight was over. So was the hiding.
Kris shoved her, pulled up on the hair she wouldn’t let go of and pressed her sister’s face against the door, caught the flailing arm and pulled it up behind her back.
Denny gasped but choked the cry of pain, she wouldn’t scream, she wouldn’t give her the satisfaction… Kris breathed hot gusts of old pub fair and stale tobacco across Denny’s face, the suffocating smell of marijuana and beer made her gag, revolted despite the pain lancing up her arm.
“Think. You’re. Fucking. Clever?” The beer stench spoke into her ear, one hot breath for each word.
Denny tried to collect her thoughts and grind them into something that could help her. She cursed, silently, as there was no room in her chest for speech. Groaning, she forced herself to stay still; she had put herself there; she would have to get herself out. She clawed uselessly at the hand holding her hair but she was pinned.
Denny was fit but Kris was obsessive, possessed by the power trip of control and the endless need to make someone hurt hurt bad.
Kris suddenly pulled Denny back, jerked her sideways, and pushed. Denny didn’t see the concrete wall rush at her before it hit. The thick layer of paint covering the rough surface did little to protect her. If anything, the uneven application of paint made an excellent scrubber. It shredded the skin on her brow, peeled strips of it away as her face slid sideways. Kris jerked her back, let go of Denny’s arm, and put both hands on the head she wanted to crush, the wall flaunted Denny with a brand new shiny red stain just before it hit again. Kris pushed, grinding her sister into the blood smeared cement using her body to hold her in place. Denny’s arms were free but for how long? She clawed at the hands tangled in her hair with her free one, but there was no time. Kris pulled, jerked her out of balance again and shoved.
She wouldn’t stop. would never stop.
Denny couldn’t see through the blood running into one eye, the flashes of sickly light, and the pain that suddenly registered in her head and shoulder.
She took a small step back, away from the wall, while letting her head stay still in Kris’s grip. She let her knees fold beneath her. She bent her head forward, ignoring the pain in the back of her neck. Kris played along nicely; she followed the sudden movement with a move of her own, reaching the conclusion Denny wanted her to.
“The fuck you do!” Kris screamed in disappointed rage. She let go of the hair and reached to pull the faltering body up. She wouldn’t get away that easy, the bitch, the fucking bitch. She had it coming. This was it.
She grabbed the back of Denny’s sweater with both hands and straightened up, caught for just a moment by the sight of blood, her blood.
One moment was all Denny needed and she pushed herself up as hard as she could, threw her head back toward the growling, panting thing behind her. So fitting, the image that came to mind in that instant: Snarling and foaming, like a bitch with rabies. Time seemed stuck in that moment of explosive movement. She had her; she should learn to shut up. The back of Denny’s skull met Kris’s face with a sickening crunch. Pain shot through her head but it was nothing; the satisfying howl of surprise and pain was all that mattered, and Denny was part of the game now. Distant voices from excited but passive spectators broke through the sudden not quite silence.
Kris’s grip fell away and Denny didn’t know what to do. She hadn’t been thinking, just acted. She nearly smiled at the sudden pleasure of payback but reality snapped back; it wasn’t over yet. She turned and the world tilted, wavered, and resisted being focused before grudgingly deciding to make sense once more. Her head throbbed, legs felt weak, blood flowed into her eye. She rubbed it clean with a sleeve but didn’t touch the rest of her face. The world tilted and she fought the fog. Was she okay? She felt strange. As if her brain figured out something wasn’t right. La dee da., she told herself, don’t fucking fail. Think! She stared at a hunched over and dizzyingly duplicated Kris who had both hands on her face while pushing and pulling air through blood and wreckage.
Kris opened her eyes and stared at her, vibrating and shimmering in Denny’s vision.
She closed one eye. Better. But hell, it’s not fucking funny. She shook her head and almost gagged at the feel of warm trickling down her face and a suffocating coppery smell. She didn’t have time for this. Kris slowly uncoiled, taking her hands away from her face. Her eyes didn’t leave Denny’s. For the first time, since she had been dragged off the bench, Denny was afraid. She pushed at it and made it feel more like anger, something she could use. If she knew how.
Kris couldn’t quite grasp the new twist of things; un-fucking-believable!? Hurt her? Nobody did that to Kris, nobody! Kris watched Denny reel backwards, off balance, and she started to take her hands off her face. The pain was nothing. The bitch would pay for every drop of blood. Every single drop, every single lie, every accusation, every insult. She would pay. She started to straighten. The bitch had no more fight in her. She could tell. She was a chicken. A snotty little preppy slut. She wouldn’t.
Denny threw her body forward. Kris would be fast, but Denny was faster, was on Kris again, caught her in the chest with both palms and landed with all her weight on top, tried to dig a knee in to her stomach, but as it slid away from its suddenly moving target and cracked down on the tile, Kris’s elbow came up and slammed into her face. She rolled away and into airless ringing pain. She lay on her side, heard Kris scramble to her feet cursing under her breath, wondering what was broken in her face, it felt so wrong, like something had moved. A splash on a tile caught her limited awareness and she focused on the red splatter while waiting for the pain to dull, but it didn’t. Waited for the kick she knew would come, but it didn’t. So much blood everywhere— smeared, streaked, —already mixing with dirt, and seeping into humanity-stained grout between tiles; splattered on the shoe that stepped through the mess and stopped before her. She looked up, passed the green with many pockets, the hands opening and closing— so like hers, so different.
All was still. Denny finally looked at the face. What she saw scared her more than the threat of violence had. Emotional void; There was nothing in those eyes, no sign of pain, just cold resolve. Their eyes locked. Denny blinked to clear her eye from blood. All the red.
Maintaining her stare, Kris adjusted her shirt, pulled the sticky fabric away from the skin and held it there for a moment before letting it fall back into place. She grimaced.
Then she dived for Denny. Before the other woman could move, Kris dropped down on top an threw one leg over, straddling the thrashing body before it could roll away, pushed Denny’s shoulders down. She drew back and slapped her, hitting at the waving arms that tried to find something to grab. Kris groped at Denny’s throat, found what she wanted and ripped it loose.
Denny stopped moving and stared at the small pendant and broken chain hanging from Kris’s hand. Kris sneered at her. As if commanded by the dis-coloured links moving back and forth, as from a hypnotist’s gruesome pendant, Denny made to take it back from her sister. She always did that. Kris always took things and broke them. Kris pulled it away, collected the chain in her palm, and slammed it against Denny’s mouth, pushing and grinding the chain down between her lips, trying to force it into her mouth. Denny turned her head from side to side and grabbed Kris’s wrist, but Kris had all the advantages and used her hand as a vice. A hard thumb pressing against something already broken forced Denny’s mouth open.
“Eat your shit!” Kris singsonged, absorbed by the sight of Denny who gagged as the chain slipped down her throat. “Eat up and I’ll feed you more.”, she sang again as she leaned back to watch.
Denny coughed, swallowed convulsively, and resisted wretching. Gasping in pain and cold nausea, she attached her teary glare to Kris. The black cap was gone but absurdly, the IPod still hung at her waist, illuminating its array of endless options . The ear buds were gone. She caught a moving hand and she knew what Kris was after, and what it meant, before the words came to her. Kris started to grin as she opened the flap on her side pocket. “Don’t…” Denny groaned and jerked violently and groped for Kris who leaned back further, grinning wider. The movement exposed her belly; pale and hard, centered by a bellybutton drilled and hung with a puter-black ring. Denny tried to sit up and push, but had no strenghth and Kris started laughing, swatting away her feeble attempts. . Denny’s vision edged with darkness and she shook her head, igniting pain that cleared it for a second. Kris dug her hand into the side pocket, Denny groped and clawed, Kris pulled the gun out, Denny clawed and caught the puter ring and pushed a finger through it. Kris fumbled for a second before the safety clicked off and started turning the gun, Denny bent her finger around the ring, made a fist, and pulled.
By Jenny K Brennan
Part 1 of 3
Includes violence and a shitload of bad words. Be warned.
Denny waited and kept her head down. She listened and shrank in the sudden unease that made her skin crawl, thoughts roil, and fingers flutter uselessly when attempting to turn a page in the book she tried to read. There was nowhere she could go. She was trapped, caught in the open, unprepared. The only protection she knew was within. Feigning superiority, pulling that blanket of numbing arrogance over her and cower below its brittle protection.
Maybe she would go away, the woman approaching. Hope flared, faded. Because Denny couldn’t lie to herself. But she wouldn’t show weakness, because no one could ever be allowed to se the trembling echo of the her that could have been. Never.
Maybe she could run. Maybe she could avoid the confrontation. It would mean revealing her fear. By standing up, closing the book, and walk to the stairs that would take her out of the sub way platform, through the upper level, out into the night. She could catch another train. But she would have to use the stairs to go that route, and that’s where she was, on her way down.
Footsteps, a metallic hollow echo. Denny knew. She shouldn’t have known. They were just steps coming closer. But the vague recollection instantly turned to knowledge. She shouldn’t be surprised. It had always been that way. She should after all know herself.
Even after dying, the sound of boots on stone whispered of fear of its own echo. Kris stood at the bottom of the stairs, lingered for a moment, then stepped on to the tiles. A thin squeak as damp rubber scuffed glazed ceramics cut through the air, intrusive, sharp. There was something about those strides, and then the pause. Something Denny had always hated. A deliberate slowness, the way they seemed to have a goal, yet never hurried.
The lower level of the Stockholm central station kept its peace, chilly, reeking of indifferent infrastructure, rushed humanity in uneasy rest. Stairs descended and dipped down between two parallel train tracks which framed a mosaic tiled floor in grays browns and misty blues. They continued into darkness and destinations determined, scheduled, and mapped. Straight ahead, in the centre of the big floor, a square cube of painted concrete, a utility shack of today, took pride of place. A metal door, dotted with subway art halfheartedly scrubbed and scraped at by unenthusiastic cleaning crews, faced the stairs. A single bench, bolted to shack and floor, faced the south tracks.
A solitary woman and a homeless man, each in their own destitute universe, shared the bench in silence. Denny waited for the next ride home and the old man, seeking a moments haven away from the world above, would be escorted out soon enough, along with his bottle of forgetfulness. Further along the man made cave, a triad of teens stood mumbling, smoking, waiting for their own coach to come and bring them to wherever.
Denny kept her eyes on the tale of horror opened in her lap; but words became Senseless scribbles. What was fiction when existence was fear, gloom, and riddled with “what if”?
She listened, inwardly recoiling from the stride she knew so well.
A low rumble became audible, matured into racket as it approached. Denny trained her eyes on darkness turning bright, watched as the tunnel spewed out its metallic traveler. It wasn’t hers; the next ride to Haninge was still twenty minutes away. It never crossed her mind to get on the train and go somewhere other than there, anywhere. Maybe that was her train. She would get on it and…
The train slowed, stopped, opened all doors with a release of pressure and tension of springs and coughed up its load.
An old woman stepped out and stood still for a moment, adjusting a purse strap. A pinched face permanently etched with apprehension, tightened further in disdain when she noticed the old man, turned to fearful when the triad of young men broke out in laughter.
Denny assessed the gathering of kids for a moment and deemed them harmless. Loud didn’t mean dangerous. If you come across a silent person where thoughts are hidden, intent impossible to extract, then by all means beware. Those kids had a mouth, no brain, no harm. She dismissed them.
She turned to the plump old lady making her way along the platform as the train pulled away.
Annette Larsson glanced at the young woman and the sleeping bum as she passed, meeting Denny’s eyes for a split second before looking away, hurrying past. Click clock, scurrying heels sang, click clock, square hard surfaces replied.
Denny watched her as she approached the bottom of the stairs, the only way out, besides endless dark tunnels of rail, rats and who knows what else. Denny didn’t like it. Kris wouldn’t bother an old woman would she? Oh yeah, she would. Click clock, click clock. As Denny turned to observe, she saw Kris. How long had it been? Not long enough.
Kris couldn’t give a shit. No matter what the subject was, she just simply didn’t give a fuck. A generous portion of skin and a metal studded navel showed between camouflage pant lining and sleeveless top. From one belt loop dangled an I-Pod, one front pocket bulged. Either a cell phone or a huge chunk of pot. No, Denny thought, thinking of all the times Kris had been picked up, questioned by frustrated police, and been set free. They never got her, because she never carried.
She stood with her head bent to the IPod, adjusted a set of ear buds, nodding in sync with what she heard. A wide silver band on the thumb scraped against the plastic. Her lips moved in silent sing along. She let go of the player, straightened up, and noticed the old woman coming toward her. She grinned. Denny froze, wished she could fade back into the pretend world that lay open in her lap.
Kris was the same, just worse. Black T, frayed edges, black cap turned backwards over a short tangle of purple hair. She used to be beautiful. Like Denny, actually exactly like Denny, but Kris had hated the constant comparisons. And now she had done it again. Found something else that would make Kris Kris, and not just Denny’s twin sister.
Her face was clean, from make-up if not from embellishment, Denny noticed, surprised. Kris never appeared in public without layers of protective paint, until now. Denny found it impossible to look away. No makeup could enhance, or restore, Kris’s face. Permanently etched in skin, a blue dragon stretched out lazily on one cheek with its tail trailing down and across her neck in a possessive strangle-hold. The resting dragons head lay high up on the brow while the only visible limb, the front left leg and paw, dug its sharp claws into the edge of Kris’s left eyebrow.
Kris stood still, blue eyes assessing, calculating. Watched the approaching figure. She stood where the old lady needed to pass. She waited, baring her teeth in a predatory grin.
Annette kept walking, deliberately not looking anywhere but at the stairs. She was almost there, almost home free, almost… Hurrying, passing.
Kris liked what she saw. White knuckles on a chubby hand gripping a floral embroidered purse. As if Kris would bother with that crone’s petty cash.
She moved, pushed head and shoulders forward, and shoved her face up close to Annette’s.
“What sup girlfriend?” Loud and mocking it achieved just the reaction she wanted. The little old lady jerked back and gasped, stumbled, nearly crumbling to the floor.
Laughter erupted from the idling teenagers.
Annette released a pitiful shriek as she absorbed the girls beautiful, horrible, face in a split second. She had never seen anything like it. Why would anyone paint something so terrible on one’s face? She stumbled on, cared not for dignity, and hurried up the steps. Up and out, home. Oh dear, oh dear, A hand flew to her chest; calm little heart, Oh dear, calm yourself. It’s only a girl.
Kris chuckled and shook her head, watching the old fraidy-cat disappear from sight. She liked the look of fear, the scent of power, and some bitches were easier than others. Granny was no challenge, but still a quick fix for boredom. Oh, Granny, hope you sleep well tonight.
She sighed and looked around the station, grew still. Just sitting there with her sticky fingers in a book. Why read words on fucking paper when there was music? Movies? Parties? Well, that one did. She went to college to prove she was smart.
Kris stood still for a long moment, frowning. She tilted her head and reclaimed her mislaid grin as she watched Denny pretend she didn’t see her. The bitch sat as far away from the sleeping old drunk as she could. Kris let her eyes glide over the closer figure, ignoring the old man. Denny, fashionable and proper as always, leaned back. Leather pants covered legs that stretched out, crossing at the ankles. Dark brown boots in brushed leather with modestly high heels. Oh, isn’t’ that precious. Little sister learned to dress finally. Kris raised her eyebrows in reluctant admiration that she would never admit to, a feeling shredded and disbursed almost immediately by disgust and a hot flash of contempt. Denny wore a black v-necked sweater, and long mahogany hair fell over her shoulders, placing half her face in shadow.
Denny, you bitch. Surprise at seeing her sister after years of chosen distance, sputtered and disappeared among old feelings. That face, so like hers it was atrocious. It stirred up Sparks from sores of inflamed memories buried deep, but forever smoldering. She checked the blaze with a pinpoint of control beneath a rockslide of resentment. She exhaled, hissed through her teeth, reshaped her features into cold diffidence, and started toward the unavoidable.
Denny heard her approach but refused to look up. She stubbornly kept her eyes on the words in a story she failed to remember. Deliberate steps slowed and stopped. Ear buds produced a tinny beat that Denny recognized as Kris’s own; from an early album. She dug through memories and found the title— Bitch fight —among the cacophony of Kris’s music. Fast, hard and violent. What else was there? It was not only dark and violent; it was a message, a promise. She sighed as she remembered the lyrics, “I heard you’re playing tonight, let’s have some fun, I’ll bring my gun.”
A song about hatred, a song about Denny. She pushed the disturbing thought away.
The tinny beat faded and for a moment, breathing played solo. She tensed. She wished it wouldn’t bother her. Kris stood over her, polluting the air between them with all things untold. She couldn’t pretend to read so she lowered the book and raised her head, focused on the middle distance, avoiding her sister’s eyes, and waited. Denny could wait, Kris didn’t have that ability.
The wall beyond the track, on billboards impossible to avoid, products delivered their sales pitches with beautiful faces, well thought out camera angles, and calculated sticky phrases. Only colors, shapes and useless information.
Kris stared down at the stubborn head. Up close, she noticed a thin gold chain hanging from Denny’s neck, holding a pendant “S”. She stared at the gothic script for a long moment. She put a finger on the gold letter. Denny didn’t twitch. Kris smiled; the tension in Denny was palpable, fake cool nothing but fear. She pinched the little pendant between thumb and index finger, turning and twisting it, felt an urge to dull the mocking shine, scrape polish into ugliness, and break that disgusting glare of perfection. She licked her lips.
“So you’re fucking the word-fag are you?” Denny said nothing. Kris started grinning.
Denny sighed and looked up at her other self. Their eyes locked in communication that needed no words; it was all there, sharp as a knife, but distorted and muddled by time, newer edges, different shapes impossible to unravel. History twisted and disjointed, but after so many years established as fact.
Denny jerked her head up and smiled. “At least I’m getting something real. Not like you.” She let a slow gaze travel along Kris’s appearance and crinkled her face in distaste. Then she closed the book, shrugged and displayed her palms, spreading fingers in exasperation, as if it was self evident and she couldn’t believe it had to be explained, “You know, like someone with a real job? Someone that won’t fuck you just to get that shit you sell.”
Kris sighed. She had heard it all before. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you’re trying to piss me off.” Shrugging. “My shit is the best.”
“I wouldn’t know.” Denny said, straightening up. “I’m not a junkie.” Nice face-paint. Who did you have to blow to get that done?” Kris nodded and grinned, dropped the necklace and pulled on Denny’s bra strap, let it snap back. Denny grimaced. “Is that the best you can do?” She clenched her teeth and forced a smile, keeping her eyes leveled on Kris.
“Maybe…” she said in a low even voice.”Maybe you shouldn’t touch girl’s bras. It might give people the wrong impression.” Kris face darkened. A weak point in that façade had collapsed, an exposed nerve ignited. She rocked back on her heels, scraped the back of her neck with ragged nails, considering. Her eyes fell on the old drunk. “Is that your new daddy?” she asked with quiet menace.
“Yeah, he doesn’t fuck little kids as far as I know.” Denny pushed on, “Speaking of kiddy fuckers, seen daddy lately?” Kris said nothing, but had turned a shade more flammable. Denny moved the thriller from her lap, dropped it on the bench, stood up and faced her identical twin. She knew what not to say and What she said next ranked high on the top ten list of No-no’s.