Nail varnish slid out of the overturned bottle, deep red onto the white kitchen table. She wasn’t going to clear it up and watched it turn into a pool. Lucy spent the last half hour wiping mould off the bathroom wall with bleach. Watching the polish spread was more appealing. Her hands were very white though, and she dipped the little brush into the polish to paint her nails.
Her mobile phone rang. It felt heavy in her hand as Jennifer talked quietly. Jennifer thought Lucy would react badly, she talked softly to let it drift into her more subtly. The room encased Lucy’s body in all that had once meant something to her. Possessions lay scattered around her flat, decomposing into bitter memories and then to nothing. She leant one elbow on the table as she listened to Jennifer, getting bits of red nail polish in her hair.
The afternoon was drawing on and the light was softer now, it had been brighter earlier. Firm against her flesh, it made her muscles tense, like a spotlight was on her. Pressuring her to do things in a way more manic than was advisable for a person in her condition, and setting into motion events that would take her far away. Her path was drawn as surely as the paths of the planets that swung inexorably around her. They pulled the elements in her cells around and made the connections that her emotions needed to flow through the skin. The stars took her limbs and moved them in the pattern that would lead her where she needed to go. The Sun and the Moon diverted photonic energies and pushed through the atmosphere into her broken heart.
Jennifer told her that she would not be welcome there anymore. That she couldn’t come around again to see her husband. Jennifer said it was all too much now, and that they’d have to stay apart. Lucy hung up, because she already knew. What she didn’t know was that none of this would matter to her soon and nothing, not even planets, could stop her now.
* * *
She’d have to look her best if she was going away, and her nails were ever so red now. Polished up shiny but with little slither-flicks from her hair. Still, nothing else was perfect either. Nothing was ever completely perfect with anything, not really. There was always something wrong with it, a nagging doubt, a whisper in the psyche, something always something. Lucy was not yet aware, but this was an imperfect world made out of tainted perfection. Getting things as close to perfect as you could was the best you could do.
Even in the most corrupted of vessels there is a trace of the infinite just below the surface. Around the corner at the next decision, that infinity could come flooding out and wash away what seemed so set in stone only seconds before. There was no chronic failure only temporary setback. The twisted could turn back. The fallen always get up. There was hope of salvation for those who had lost their way. And Lucy had surely lost hers.
She wasn’t paying close attention anymore and was now relying on instinct and the general overview of her surroundings to tell her what to do next. The way the light hung in the room, the texture of the humid air around her body, the messages in the tones of people’s voices on the TV rather than what they were actually saying. This went beyond words, there were no conscious thoughts in her head. It’s the subconscious that drives you anyway.
Lucy went into the bedroom and searched out a few things to use up, little envelopes containing special substances. Squirreled away for just the right moment. Her fingers worked with a steady precision as the task was delicate, but finally she made what she wanted. Layers of cigarette-paper wrapping an array of hardcore drugs. Each massive dose of class-A destruction a deadly weapon in the wrong hands.
The decision was irreversible, sealed with a few swallows of blackcurrant cordial. Lucy could feel the contraption sticking in her throat. This was it, this was the moment. It was on – could it be more-on?
Only a thin coat was needed, and in her bag everything else she could possibly want. A bank card, a phone, makeup, and in case of emergency, a syringe wrapped in tissue, full of narcotics. Anything else could be purchased along the way.
Lucy didn’t look back but felt the room around her as she padded softly to the door. And all those things around her were just bits of cloth, and scrap and electronics that would soon only mean something to those curious of the obsolete. She had what was important around her. It moved with her bones, and muscles pulled it in so many different directions to turn the handle and open the door. It was the last part of her to touch the things she left behind. It played with objects with a kind of forgotten familiarity, like you might pick up an old child’s toy. It governed her now, now that children’s games had been left behind. It was called flesh.
No one else could see Lucy’s body how she did in the mirror, in her mind. We all live our lives in our heads. Lucy thought that if she got rid of her heart, then the mind, the body could be free. But she had yet to age within it long enough to realise that if she didn’t take control of her body and mind while she had the chance, someone else would and before very long, her flesh would become obsolete too.
Will you follow her? Through this world of splits and mirrors. Deviations on a theme. It’s almost time to break free and become whole again. The terror will stop soon. It’s coming to an end as we realise we are all pretending to be many people, and remember that we are actually only one.
Before that Lucy has some more horror to come. Because Lucy’s actions take her by staccato rhythm and Fibonacci sequence, to cum and blood, and death and love, and guess what? You’ll get a kick out of it – you sick bastard.
* * *
There was no time to call a cab from home now Jennifer had called. Lucy walked at top speed towards the train station, she looked along the busy street for a taxi with its available sign lit-up. She wanted to find a cab with its light on before lights came from behind her, spinning around blue and ready to lock her up. She felt unsafe on the street and looked round every corner before stepping out, she didn’t care about cameras, convinced they already knew where she was going and would set up an ambush. A roadblock, she thought and almost smiled.
No lit cab passed her. Some thriving Metropolis this was. You couldn’t just walk into the street and get picked up. She wanted to immerse herself in noise and commotion. Hide in the crowds. There were at least ten things about living in this town she would not miss. But there are always things you become fond of when you stay in one place for a while.
Life was relatively normal at first, she moved there for a boy. She remembered walking back with him and their friends after clubbing, laughing and playing around and climbing over the fence surrounding the carousel that had been set up on the high street. They all laughed as she rode one of the horses, and fell off.
Usually Lucy felt safe in the city, even if the streets and avenues had been described as “kind of scummy” by a club DJ who was obsessed with her. Everybody thought it was Jennifer and Richard who lead her astray. Lucy was never an angel, but it was definitely when she met them that she’d gone from bad to worse. Although it was her that got them into drugs.
Every office and shop window contained Police eyes. Staring at her, waiting. She hid in a toilet cubical for thirty minutes, heart going too fast and scanning shoes, pulling her feet up out of sight when she saw anything polished or formal.
At one point she caught them, on the edge of the park that she needed to cross, staring at her from a bush. She realised they were staking her out. Just like they did to Drugan before the London riots, she thought. She’d watched the original witness reports on the Internet. All of them said that undercover officers were seen lurking in bushes prior to the shooting, and that the cab had been taken away and brought back after being tampered with. Good job I didn’t get that cab, thought Lucy. Those eyes twinkled at her among the leaves, and she decided to get on a bus, a wild detour, but worth it for the safety of the vehicle.
This was a short-lived comfort, for she quickly realised that you could predict bus routes with ease, and she was trapped in a metal box.
The back of her neck began to tingle as she played through 101 things that could happen when they apprehended her. There could be a van with police in riot gear, there could be armed officers. Maybe Richard and Jennifer would be with them. There may even be dogs. And what would it take to make them shoot her? She’d put her hands up straight away, but would they set the dogs loose anyway? She had a fear of vicious dogs and she’d seen officers let the dogs loose on pinned down people… This is what I get for taking revenge.
The bus journey lasted hours for her then as she noticed every detail of those around her, watching her. The teenage couple sitting across the aisle, sportswear, white trainers, and just enough tacky jewellery to make it look like they might be wearing poor disguises. And the boy in front of her who must have only been seven, he kept turning his head around unnaturally far to scrutinise her. Do they put kids on the payroll these days?
Sitting two rows in front was a lady with neat black hair in a long grey coat, nursing a micro-pig wrapped with a baby-blanket. This immediately made Lucy trust her. The woman flinched as a man outside on a street corner took a photo using his camera-phone in the direction of the bus.
“Stupid new technology,” the black haired woman burst out, “ever advancing modern gizmos with their super new-age controversies, why do we continue to indulge in such intrusive items of unemotional discontent,” she said, “watching us like flies on the wall, invading our privacy to disrupt and influence these young ones,” she turned and gestured to the seven year old boy, then to Lucy, then to the couple in the sportswear.
“You’re mad you are,” said the young man.
“I am not mad,” the woman looked at him coolly, “I am not mad I just think aloud and choose to express myself in this way, maybe more of us should speak up about the things that concern us in life.”
Lucy had little idea where she was now. She got up to press the stop button.
“Are you alright?” she said as she approached the woman.
“I thank you dear for your concern, but I am fine,” the woman said and hugged her pig.
Lucy got off at a stop miles from where she wanted to go. It was a very long walk back to the station. This sub-de fudge cost her over 2 hours. As she began to recognise where she was she picked up speed. She felt surprisingly good.
* * *
There were many waiting cabs outside the train station, vacant-lights beaming at her. Lucy swore at them under her breath as she walked in.
“Take me to a better city,” she said to the ticket guy. The queue was getting restless and he was inexperienced so he just punched some buttons and charged her fifty nine pounds, when he could get no further response from her wide dark eyes.
He did wonder what qualified him to decide this girl’s destination. And he never forgot that moment, there was something behind those eyes that made him think she was capable of fulfilling his wildest desires. He wished all through his shift that he could’ve gone with her. On the bus ride home he tried intently to picture Lucy. She was in his dreams that night. He concluded the next morning she was the ideal image of a woman as he masturbated over her. And obviously Lucy never thought about that moment again. He was like a magic 8 ball to her.
The train arrived on time at seven fifteen. There had been a slight disturbance in the coffee shop when the decision between coffee and beer had caused Lucy so much tension that she was forced to cry out and ask questions to those around her, put it to a vote. She enquired about the sort of person they thought she was, and how they viewed a girl at seven o’clock on a Monday evening drinking alcohol on her own. Upon receiving snubs, bad looks and being told she looked like a slut, she told them, a bunch of inbred fucks like them wouldn’t know the difference between style and a plastic Mac.
She was asked to leave and of course resorted to beer following the incident. So the public did decide. It was a legitimate move.
And she felt better for it. She got a seat on the train, sunglasses on in the setting sun, and taking in her beer. The train pulled out of the station and she could relax. A few hours with her muscles at ease, and forgetting for a while, going somewhere else. Her clothes felt good against her skin. She touched her stomach through the cotton of her T-shirt and felt just the right temperature. Lucy was armed for anything right then, she was in good shape, escaping. Her trousers felt like armour, thighs pulling the material into a reflective surface and she could see her face. Pale, she’d been indoors a lot lately, but not alone.
She’d always loved those trousers. They fit just right hugging her thighs tight and then boot cut straight down over her boots. They were some strange material, rubber or something, she’d never figured out what they were. Her jacket was leather, slim cut and both of these items brought out the black in her hair.
The train punched through a tunnel and she could see her reflection more clearly in the window. She looked at the hair resting neatly on her shoulders and realised she was black from top to toe, even her eyes, and looking good. How come they didn’t want me? God knows she’d done everything right. She thought she knew how to keep people satisfied.
And they’d been good to her, kept her well fed. She wasn’t thinking of food, her mind sped through chemical fuelled nights and cocktails of sweat sticky on her skin.
Now the nights would be long and she’d wake clammy from dreams she’d lock away. But they were still part of her and out of the tunnel as the light came back in and bathed her she knew. She did not fit into the bracket of necessity, the things that meant a lot to lose. She was not a fundamental but a frivolity. A floozy, she thought and almost laughed.
The realisation hit her hard. She closed her eyes, the light red under her lids and flicking dark blue with every passing object. The daylight was red from the Sun, and she should’ve let that guide her, but with the presence of the Moon it was always tinged with blue. Even in the day.
The shadow of each tree and bridge and station and building turned her vision blue, and each flick of the light brought another vision of the past and how hot it was shivering over her skin.
And Richard, strong and muscular behind Jennifer on her knees in moonlight. Lucy looking into her eyes, kisses and safe from the day, all in love.
And them together as Lucy sipped at good wine, the union of perfect souls, ideal forms, like she wasn’t there.
And Jennifer with her in their bed, dreaming of when Richard got home and loved them again. Tired from loving each other.
“Ticket, ticket, ticket!” said the train guard.
And she came back from the visions of lust and happiness, pulled out the ticket from her pocket without saying a word. And now just her eyes were wet.
“Yeah, you look the type,” he said as he read the destination.
“Type?” she managed to raise her voice at the end of the word. She blinked away the tears.
“You’d better watch it up there, you might get sucked into something,” he nodded and she didn’t like the knowing look. He was completely oblivious to her upset.
“How long will it be now?” she asked.
“How long’s a piece of string?”
“It depends where you cut it,” Lucy made a little cut in the air with her fingers.
“You can cut it anywhere you like in that place, you’ll still end up covered in leftovers,” he looked at her like what he said made sense.
“I doubt you could cut it outside this train,” she looked over her sunglasses at him, “I could make a prime cut from you and feed it to the animals,” she had no idea what she meant by that.
He looked a little scared as he walked to the next person, he kept looking back like she might leap up behind him.
She thought about it, but the wall of the train rippled and a slow shudder pushed through her shoulders. The bones flexed like she was trying out her wings. Lucy sat up straight and started picking out the nail polish from her hair. She wondered how fast she could get sucked into something.
Lucy’s phone rang and she watched the screen flash the name Dick. He warned her at midday that he would have to let Jennifer ring, that he couldn’t see her anymore, that he was sorry. Lucy chewed at her bottom lip, the drugs were making her feel like seeing him. She knew that if she’d just kept calm and let things go on, she could’ve easily seen him again. But she didn’t want that. Lucy was an all or nothing kind of person. Events had been set into motion. You hear people say it’s never too late, but in a lot of instances that is simply not true.
* * *
The announcer’s voice had a sharp edge as he announced Lucy’s station. It was the same guy that collected the tickets but Lucy didn’t put that together. She was in a state of bliss, staring steadily out of the window at the darkness, her inner mind already dancing. She got up and walked to the door as the train slowed, put a hand on either side of the window and peered through. Like a caged Tiger she was ready to pounce. Let go of her restraints and be taken in a spiral of chemicals and fate to the things that really turned her on.
Glass towers rolled out of the night, lit from inside with blues, and white like pearls up each edge of their spires. Wow, thought Lucy, this town is fun. She wouldn’t have been so impressed if she’d known it was the Inland Revenue building.
The Nightmare Effect