UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION
The first time Annie Bleach tried to kill me I was twelve hours old. She was sixteen and the late seventies was the time for rock-and-roll, not for being a teenage mom. Annie took an emergency contraceptive
For months Annie never rubbed her stomach and imagined who I might be or what I might look like. She stared at me though, while high, at our reflection in a cracked mirror. She had broken it after realizing the contraceptive had failed. Her thoughts were as toxic as the heroin-laced blood she fed me.
The second time Annie tried to kill me was seven and a half months into the pregnancy. The procedure involved injecting a high-concentration salt solution into the uterus. I was supposed to gulp the solution and thereafter, my insides would melt so that Annie could deliver me several hours later still born.
Red-faced, I screamed upon arrival. The dumb-founded doctor placed me in Annie’s loose, reluctant arms. She cried with me, saying, “No, no, no.”Andrew's fiction and essays delve into the murky waters of theology and have appeared in over a dozen venues online. He is the founding editor of Divine Dirt Quarterly, blogs at The Dirty Prophet, and is the creator of Project Conversion.
Swaddled in a white blanket and pink beanie, Annie carried me out of the hospital without a word. The cold air nipped at my fresh cheeks. Everything was blurry. I heard cars honking, people yelling. Annie’s heartbeat raced. The light dimmed around us as the street sounds subsided. I whimpered as the heat from her body dissipated. The air suddenly became thick and sour as cold darkness wrapped around me.
The third time Annie tried to kill me, she dropped me in a Dumpster. I screamed until my voice gave out. Rats and roaches were the first to attend to my pleas for life. I still wake at night to the phantom tingling of insects crawling over my face. Cosmetic surgery hasn’t fully veiled the wedge of missing flesh from my ear where a rat helped himself to a taste test.
I was found an hour later by a homeless man with a thick, scratchy beard. He cursed the vermin as he swept them away and wrapped me in his arms.
“Hey you. How’d you get in there?” His breath was as bad as the Dumpster and his body odor nauseating, but the warmth of his skin and voice soothed me to sleep.
* * * *
The homeless guy sold me to Richard Nobel for twenty-five bucks…enough to purchase his next line of snow. Richard was an educated man and raised me as his personal student. The other women were jealous of the attention Richard gave me and he was harsh to anyone caught teasing me. Melissa, a girl who had been turning tricks for Richard since she was fifteen, carried two black eyes and a broken arm for calling me “white trash.” She never bothered me again.
By seventeen I could read in Latin, French, German, and Japanese, was conversant on Western political systems, economics, and foreign policy, skilled in tai chi, and a veritable expert on the Renaissance. I dropped occasional hints about college, but on my eighteenth birthday Richard revealed the true purpose for my education.
Richard’s girls were generally cheap tricks—prostitutes, whose nightly quota ranged anywhere from five hundred to a thousand dollars a night. But me, “Cassandra,” he called me…I was fashioned for his more affluent clientele. My job was to regale clients according to their interests or profession. Sessions could last for several days where I would act as the client’s personal tool for intellectual and physical stimulation—all for a 10,000 dollar-a-day premium.
I performed for two years. On the rare occasion that I was allowed to sleep in my own bed at Richard’s house, I’d beg God for an answer. Why I’d been born, was this my fate? Was he getting the same morbid pleasure out of my suffering as the countless men and women Richard had rented me to? I spent hours contemplating, subconsciously rubbing the scar on my ear as I wandered down the snowy, uncharted paths of my past and future.
* * * *
God was silent and soon I quit asking. Then, on my twenty-first birthday, Richard denied my request for the night off. So I refused to work.
“Excuse me?” he said rhetorically.
Sweat beaded along my skin. His tiny blue eyes pierced me like so many of his customers.
Words clogged in my throat. “I can’t—I won’t do this anymore.”
Thick, creamy smoke seeped out of his mouth. “Won’t…” he growled.
Tremors of fear rippled over me. I remembered Dante’s Hell and tried to keep my composure by imagining him there with me as Thais in the deepest circle, whipping him for eternity alongside horned demons.
“I took you in, educated you, gave you the best—”
“You made me a whore.”
He slowly clasped his hands behind his back and gazed out the bay window at a starry night. “Such a waste. My brightest celestial light.” Richard turned from the window and sat behind his broad, cherry desk. “Craig…”
One of Richard’s body guards walked into his office.
“My little muse here needs to be softened. Just don’t break anything.”
Panic overtook me. I looked at Craig, then back to Richard. “Wait, please, I—”
“Yes sir,” Craig said and clamped down on my shoulder.
Adrenaline flooded my veins. Instinct took over and within a second my tai chi training had Craig twisted and moaning on Richard’s freshly polished hardwood floor.
I ran out of Richard’s mansion in the city and raced down the dark street. The thump of his men’s footsteps boomed behind me. Every breath burned in my lungs. A piece of glass sliced into my foot as I turned a corner into an ally. Voices came off the night air from the street ahead. I was surrounded. I looked around for a place to hide. Trash and debris littered the ground. Four Dumpsters lined the crumbling brick walls. With no alternative, I crawled into one of the Dumpsters and buried myself in the putrid waste.
Richard’s men searched the ally and even looked inside my Dumpster before moving on. I waited, having vomited twice due to nerves and stench, and emerged from the Dumpster ten minutes later.
I sat outside a closed grocery store beneath the orange glow of a streetlight and pulled a shard of clear glass from my foot. A full moon watched me from above. Once the adrenaline seeped away, the reality of what had just happened took hold. My lips shook. I wrapped myself in my own arms and cried myself to sleep on the street.
I woke later that night in the dark backseat of someone’s car. A migraine prevented any sort of focus but there was a woman beside me.
“Don’t worry dear. We’ll get you cleaned up.” She had a mature, Southern voice which, judging by her breath, had been loosened by a few glasses of champagne.
* * * *
Senator Annie Bleach lived in the same plush neighborhood as Richard. Paranoia took over. I would glance at the tall, dark windows as we chatted in her living room, fearful that Richard’s silhouette would appear against a flash of lightning.
Turned out, Senator Bleach, a powerful conservative, had her eyes on the gubernatorial race for North Carolina. She realized my knowledge of politics and a few glasses of wine later we were talking strategy and policy. I was a liberal, so while I didn’t agree with her on some issues, it felt good to share my interests with someone who didn’t have ulterior motives.
“Ya know,” she said and swirled a glass of merlot, “I like you. You’ve got wit, charm, and you’re smart as a whip.” She took a gulp of wine and set the glass on a long coffee table between us. “We may not see eye-to-eye on everything, but I think you can help me.”
“That’s very generous, senator, but I don’t have any experience.” The alcohol brought a warm blush to my face. “And with my past…”
She smiled and shooed away my doubts with a lazy flick of her wrist. “You were forced down that terrible path, dear. God forgives and forgets the sins of those willing to accept him.” Senator Bleach’s smile faded as she stared ahead. She cleared her throat and took another gulp of wine.
“Well, I don’t know,” I said and tucked my hair behind my ear. My finger bumped against the gap in my ear’s flesh. “I have a lot of scars. And if anyone found out about me, your campaign would be ruined.”
Senator Bleach blinked out of her daydream. “We all have ghosts. The good book says that everyone falls short of God’s glory,” she said and glanced into the blood-red wine in the glass. “I hate to pry but, I couldn’t help but notice your scar when we picked you up.”
I sat back in the plush, leather sofa and rubbed my ear. “Um…”
She waved her hand and smiled. “I’m sorry. None of my business.”
“No, it’s fine. All I can tell you is what others have said. My former pimp said he bought me off a homeless man who told him that I had been abandoned in a Dumpster as an infant. When the homeless man found me, well, apparently a few rats had gotten their first.” I laughed and draped my hair over my ear. “So, he saved my life only to sell me into prostitution.”
“He…he found you in a Dumpster?”
I took a sip of my wine and nodded.
Senator Bleach wore a thousand mile stare that bore straight through me. “Were you ever told where you were found?”
“Ironically enough, the same alley I hid from Richard’s men in this evening.” I cradled my face in my palm and swirled the wine in my glass. “Funny. It’s like I’m a roach or something, you know? Damaged but stubbornly alive.”
“Indeed…well,” she said as she perked up and stood with a grin. “I think we’re running low on wine. I’ll grab another bottle.” She touched my shoulder as she walked by. A chill crept along my scalp and I shivered as I gulped down the last of my merlot.
* * * *
The fourth time Annie Bleach tried to kill me was with a blow to the back of my head. I woke the next day to the stench of blood, my own piss, and the sting of ants from inside the sheet I had been wrapped in. She had me driven out to the middle of nowhere and dumped me in the woods. My head was pounding and my mouth dry from dehydration.
It took what was left of my strength to peel away the blood-stained linens. I emerged and cried out in pain and anger like a vengeful spirit from its long sealed chrysalis. Sunbeams cut through the canopy and cast warm slices of light over my skin. I took in the vast forested depth of my surroundings. Under normal circumstances I would have been terrified, but I had been born immortal with miles to go, nothing to lose, and a mother to drag into Hell.
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