All the Way Down

1. I am not asleep. And that is nothing new. I study shadows, the ceiling overgrown with shapes. In the dark, they almost look like bodies.

2. I’ve tried the standbys, whale-song, flutes of the rainforest. White noise.

3. Warm milk, weak tea, vodka and cold medicine and all those things that work for other people. They catalogue their sorrows, count sheep and stars and broken hearts. Sometimes, they just close their eyes.

4. But my heart is a creeping thing, not in my chest, and under the sheets it twitches in a raw, sticky convulsion, disquieted. It is all corners and edges.

5. Put a grain of sand inside an oyster, it becomes precious, wrapped hard and smooth like stone. It transforms.

6. My own uneasiness oozes and festers. It beats inside my throat, a kiss I can’t spit out.

7. I count reasons.

8. He left five months ago for Spain, and since then, my nights have gotten strange. I shiver in my bed. a faceless angel curled against my back. It whispers in my ear until I feel my skin get tight and my lungs squeeze with panic. I am full-up with desperation.

9. Sometimes, in Economics or History of Modern Drama, I dig into the palm of my hand with a pin, try to get the worry out. It wells up, thick as ever. I think of him in crowded hostels, noisy bars, and dig harder. In the daylight, I am foolish enough to believe it will work.

10. Night is when the angel comes, elbows digging into my back. It lies beside me in a flurry of feathers, says love and kisses. Says today is the day he forgot you.

11. Time is a monstrous thing. It goes on and on. I think down through the layers, excavate the hours like strata.

12. The worries of the day decay like dinosaurs, immense and broken, turning tarry by the second. One false move, one slip, and down you go to breathless depth and blackness.

13. I sense that he is always moving, somewhere on an eastbound train, flirting wordlessly with a girl from Amsterdam, kissing a waitress in Prague outside a grim cathedral.

14. He calls from unknown places, less often than he said he would. I hear his voice and want to scream. It makes something ache in the small of my back.

15. On the phone, he says, “The girls are different here—more self-reliant. They’re not so insecure.” He told me it was only for the summer. He told me, “I’ll be back in two months.”

16. Two became three and then five and then forever. The bed is deep as dreamless sleep and it is a hard thing to keep a secret. Even now, with the angel at my back, I don’t believe in them. I don’t believe in demons, angels of our basest desires.

17. The first kiss was impulsive, became a compulsion, weak but justified. Nights of bodies, lips and hands. Revenge but not betrayal. They mean nothing to me. And anyway, I’m sure he did it first.

18. His voice on the phone is fond, but tired. I miss you. He talks more and more about coming home. I want so badly to believe him but the angel only laughs. It says He thinks you’re stupid. It says, That tremor you hear—you think he’s homesick for you, but that’s just his conscience.

19. I don’t know if I believe in anything so prosaic as a conscience.

20. I know the nights are long—a wilderness. I know that I will never sleep again.

The prompt today is “Princess and the Pea (The Real Princess),” by Edmund Dulac

33 thoughts on “All the Way Down

  1. Creeping and dreamlike and evil and beautiful… I especially like the images of 4, 6, 12 and 13.

  2. WOW! This was gorgeous…definitely a bit creepy, and very dream-like and haunting. I want to quote phrases from this: “a kiss I can’t spit out,” or “excavate the hours like strata.” Loved it. : )

  3. I’m sure Jung would have a field day with this. I’ll just enjoy it. Fragments! There’s a title for a disjointed ride through someone’s mind. That’s bloody clever. You feel timeless to me and powerful.

    Only, at heart’s utmost joy and triumph, terror
    Sudden turns the blood to ice: a chill wind discencharms
    All the late enchantment! What if all be error –
    If the halo irised round my head were, love, thine arms? ~ Robert Browning’s Ferishtah’s Fancies

  4. Thanks! I don’t actually know how it wound up so dark, considering the prompt is so colorful 🙂

  5. Glad you like it! Sometimes I just get on these lyrical kicks . . . (still recovering from Book 2 Draft, and let me tell you, the voice is way more lyrical than in The Replacement)

  6. on all levels, literally

    Hahaha—I couldn’t pass up doing something with all those mattresses!

  7. 6 and 12 are particular favorites of mine, too. Apparently I’m into festering and decaying?

  8. I’m sure Jung would have a field day with this.

    Definitely! I mean, the shadow self? I suspect this is a character whose world-view is heavily colored by archetypes . . .

  9. Apparently. Personally, it was the dinosaurs and the rhythm of the phrase ‘a kiss I can’t spit out’. Kisses and dinosaurs sound like far more sane interests than festering and decaying, right?

  10. This chilled me to the bone. Seriously as I kept on reading I got more and more scared as if I was the girl and stuck in the bed with the angel. I liked how you listed everything and you leave it sort of wondering if he is coming home and was faithful or he’ll be gone forever with other girls.

  11. Really, really amazing…
    And dreamy, dark, cold even…
    Everything great, in short…
    Though I think the angel was creepy… Yeah, he was the best part.
    But it reminded me a little of Macbeth, right in the end… (The whole long description of sleep given by Macbeth, the sleep he will never get… That)
    But it was creepy.

  12. I’m glad you liked it! I have such a fascination for lists, because as you go farther, certain items can make previous items take on new weight—creepy builds on creepy 🙂

  13. Ooh, good point about Macbeth—I didn’t even think of that! And yes, the angel totally freaks me out . . .

  14. Never knew I could get into such darkness in writing, but you made me want to write this way! Perfect for short stories especially…
    By the way, are there any books you would recommend that feature such fascinating darkness?

  15. Never knew I could get into such darkness in writing, but you made me want to write this way! Perfect for short stories especially…
    By the way, are there any books you would recommend that feature such fascinating darkness?

  16. I think darkness lends itself *so* well to short stories—partly because that same darkness might be a little too much for a whole novel 🙂

    As far as good examples, I think it’s going to be different for everyone, but the the books that do it for me are collections of short stories by Shirley Jackson and Stephen King. I just love how atmospheric and creepy they are!

  17. I dig into the palm of my hand with a pin, try to get the worry out. It wells up, thick as ever.

    Blood that is not blood! My favorite kind. Rawk.

  18. Fabulous and sad and twisted and… yeah, like that.

    This is a perfect dissection of how long distance relationships (and some marriages) break down. The angel didn’t feel corporeal at all, and I don’t know that he (or she) had to be. #17 could merely have been angel-approved infidelity. It makes the angel no less insidious.

  19. Thanks 🙂 I’ve never actually been in a long-distance relationship, but I have to admit, they scare me! There’s so much room to be alone with your own thoughts . . .

  20. Oh my god I love your story! These are my favorite lines: “my heart is a creeping thing” and “a kiss I can’t spit out.” LOVE them! I can’t wait to read your book!

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