THE LIGHTED HEART part 2 (by Abra Hunt)

…..CONTINUED…..

In the reek fatted air half an hour later the door opens and a voice swills the grease between their teeth and spits out sweetened breath.

WOMAN’S VOICE

I’m home Vasil-eesa and I’m very hungry. I hope you’ve cooked me something piping hot.

Steam rolls off a plate of glistening, gluttonous stew. Even from up high we can smell the gluttony.

VASILISA

Err it’s, err stew. I made you stew for… dinner.

WOMAN

Hm.

At the homely sight she sucks in the air and her cheeks along with it, then her lips and the beginnings of her lower jaw.

WOMAN

I. See.

Her eyebrows seek closer communion with the sockets of her eyes. She lowers herself into a chair. Picks up a fork. Condensation gathers in the creases of her forehead. From behind we see the horsey bristles of her hair swing forward as she inhales and the bone white of her nape is exposed.

WOMAN

So you can. Cook. How delightful.

VASILISA

Water?

The girl has found a moth-bodied glass and, at the sink, she twists the taps till vehement water gushes and overspills into the bowl and the little moth corpses float to the surface of the glass and tip out.

     The woman’s exposed nape glares white accusation at Vasilisa. Her tread is soft upon the tiles but before she can set the glass on the table her blackberry nails are slicked with water.

WOMAN

What is this for?

VASILISA

Um, I thought you might be thirsty?

WOMAN

What of it?

VASILISA

At home, we always have a glass of water with dinner. I just thought…..Would you like me to take it away?

WOMAN

No.

The sharpness of her jagged glance shatters. Her eyes roam, directionless, fragmentary, for moments unseeing across the horizontal plain of the table top. Water catches Vasilisa’s thinking stare against the glass but the woman has not noticed. The fork in her fist clatters beside her food and for seconds unrecognisable in their protraction, time surrenders to silence. Eventually:

 WOMAN:

Thank you. That’s the first time….no one else has ever…..well.

 

She drinks until the glass is empty.

Illustration for The Lighted Heart

An illustration by Merle Hunt.

WOMAN

Thank you.

 Vasilisa wipes her hand on the back of her jeans then………..oh god, then, no, no, what? Not possible. Can’t watch……….look, window. The wind slides in rapid sheets across our back. Window. Window. Window. Window. But there’s no escape for the wicked. Too late, we twist and the long lucent glint of steel is buried in the woman’s neck. She is laughing, stew all over her hands. Laughing and standing and Vasilisa, eyes blinking, fringe flicked but forever falling back to blind her, looks far closer to death, in that moment, then the woman with a knife in her neck.

WOMAN

That old trick. Well thank you for being so bloody obvious. I should have known, ha, of course.

A sleek suckering. The knife, extricated.

WOMAN

But you’ll find I don’t bleed easily I’m afraid. 

Vasilisa is pinned against the cupboard door, white and gaping.

WOMAN

I think you’ll bleed better.

A wretched wail, spitting venom, splitting vents in the wounded air, wrenches the woman’s teeth and tongue from their roots in a fury. And a kitchen knife, dressed in blood, finding inexplicable wings, speeds through the unresisting air towards Vasilisa’s rabbit hopping heart. Her hand on the door knob twists and as the flickering tip pins itself between the boards of painted wood, she disappears in a tumble of mops, bottles and bleach.

WOMAN

Perhaps now would be a good time to get started on the cleaning. Scrub, scrub, scrub. Would you like that Vasil-eesa?

Plastic slosh, tin kicks, scrabble and slip amongst modern products of hygiene. An ironing board clatters against shelves of polish which promptly rain. Drip.

Silence.

WOMAN

Don’t forget carpet cleaner, I want the rugs spotless before the day is out. I’ll keep you alive that long at least.

Silence.

WOMAN

Scrub all those dark corners Vasil-eesa, I want your fingers to bleed. Then, when you’re raw with exhaustion I’ll let you feel the warm gush of your own blood drenching the neckline of your shirt red.

Silence.

WOMAN

Won’t you come out now Vasil-eesa. Vasil-eeeessaaaa.

Vasilisa explodes from the door and a clear liquid sprays from a bottle straight towards the woman’s eyes. A dizzying stench of chlorine and cherry blossom scour our noses clean. The woman reels. Vasilisa becomes a streak of blue and black, a hand closing too late about the absence of her hair.

WOMAN

There is no way out for you.

Her clogs lead the woman blind passed the loose tile, through the black door mouth and in an instant we are on our own with only the debris of war. We could leave? Or…………..???

     Within the hollow insides of the corridor my buzz echoes. Vasilisa is half way up the stairs, beneath her fleeing fingertips the rough collapse of plaster and tearing wallpaper. But claws enclose her ankle, she tips forward, chin stair chin stair as she descends.

VASILISA

Get off me.

Her hands find the turned bannister struts. Legs lacerate the air.

WOMAN

Stop it you undeserving wretch.

The bannister strut splinters, gravity takes a hold of them both and arms-head-arms-legs-legs-torso-head-hands-torso collapse in concertina to the foot of the staircase. A discombobulation of limbs and bruises. The woman’s head attaches itself to an arm and with it reaches to take Vasilisa’s pale, lithe young neck between her twisted fingers.

WOMAN

I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you…….

VASILISA

No, no.

Vasilisa pulls at the foot of the bannister but the length of her legs are stapled beneath the knees of the woman. Her voice is loud and scratched.

VASILISA

Why are you doing this to me?

WOMAN

Because I hate you!

VASILISA

But you don’t know me.

WOMAN

I hate every one of you. I’m sick to the back teeth of being your whipping boy. I don’t know you? Hypocrite. Who am I? who am I? All I get from you is abuse, subjected to unconditional hate and for what? Because you’d rather fear me than know me and you know what, mostly, I can deal with that, you know, but I can’t live everyday like I’m some sainted martyr who doesn’t give a shit. I’m not a saint and I’m certainly not a devil either, I feel the stabs and the sideways glances and now I’ve had enough.

VASILISA

Please let go….are you.. please, you’ll kill me.

WOMAN

Yes I will, I will. And why shouldn’t I? Why shouldn’t I wring your neck till you’re nothing?

VASILISA

Don’t chop me into little pieces.

WOMAN

Oh, is that what they’re saying now?

VASILISA

Oh god, no, are you?

WOMAN

Is that what they’re saying? That I dismember people and and…..bury them in the garden? Is it?

VASILISA

Who?

WOMAN

Eat them for a tasty snack?

VASILISA

I don’t know.

WOMAN

What?

VASILISA

 I don’t know. I’m not from round here. Who? My step mum sent me. All she said was that you would know what to do.

WOMAN

Eat you, you mean.

VASILISA

No?

WOMAN

She meant I would know how to cut you up into fancy little portions and eat you with my two veg at dinner time.

VASILISA

Who are you?

Blink. Blink. Fringe.

The woman’s eyes grow large. Then small. Then quiet. Her talons retract. She sits back. 

WOMAN

Don’t you recognise me?

No. 

WOMAN

Maybe if I had a black beard and a Qur’an in my hand you would know me. 

No. 

WOMAN

 I’m your fear.

NO?

WOMAN

 I don’t need you to accept what I’m telling you.

VASILISA

 I……

WOMAN

It doesn’t make a single bit of difference so stop thinking.

VASILISA

It’s just that you’re not making any sense.

WOMAN

So I’m crazy now? Well you know what? I couldn’t care less so go ahead and think that if it makes you feel safer, I’m. Crazy.

VASILISA

No, seriously, for crying out loud…..fear is an emotion, it’s not a person. So you can’t…

WOMAN

Okay. Whatever you want to believe. You couldn’t understand anyway.

Now there is nothing but breath between them.

VASILISA

Why, would you like me to understand?

WOMAN

Ha.

VASILISA

Well maybe locking me in your house and then trying to murder me wasn’t the best way of getting me to see your side of things or whatever.

WOMAN

If I hadn’t you wouldn’t have been so afraid.

VASILISA

Yeah but if people like, got to know you, if you made an effort to like, talk to people………

WOMAN

You think I go around enjoying the fact that I am constantly misunderstood? If I’d offered you a cup of tea and started to share my feelings would you have been my friend? That’s naive. If I smiled at someone they would think it was because I was about to rob them, if I gave them an apple pie it would be so I could poison them. To look me in the eye and know me, is to look at your fear in the eye and see all the way through to its messy heart. Not a lot of people have the courage to do that.

In the gloom it is hard to distinguish thoughts and conversation bows itself into a corner. We try and unstick their words from our feet in the darkness, for it seems important that they remain said.

      She stands. The woman stands. And disappears into another room with the vestige of morning stealing grey over the newly vacated corridor, the bringer of nightmares end, highlighting only emptiness. Vasilisa releases her legs from the wooden boards and uses the walls to drag her limbs upright.

     She’s crying.

     Again.

VASILISA

Wait.

She is unsteady, and in the dim beckoning of dawn, insubstantial as she crosses after the fleeing shadow. And it seems just possible that there is someone terribly afraid that she has not come home.

VASILISA

I can imagine that it must be pretty horrible for you? Being hated? Like, I don’t know, is that, is that what happens?

WOMAN

Something like that.

VASILISA

 Sorry?

WOMAN

Humans are cowards.

VASILISA

Well, it’s not much, but….. I’m looking at you now…….. I see you, and… you’re not so scary.

Deep blue eyes meet those that are a strange conglomeration of green and brown and purple and black. One blackberry nailed hand reaches out across the gloom.

     The woman glances, askance, at the disintegrating wall.

WOMAN

Your stepmother was right.

VASILISA

Pardon?

The woman pulls open the drawer of a bureau and responds only with the deflated agony of detritus scrabbling from side to side.

WOMAN

About it not being a power cut. These ought to do the trick.

She holds out a box of 40W light bulbs.

VASILISA

Oh. Is that really all it was?

WOMAN

I don’t know. Like I said, I’m not an electrician. But you can tell her the next time she wants anything she can come to me herself.

VASILISA

Right.

They stand close enough to touch, but they do not. They could say all the things they have never said, to anybody, but they do not. They are still. For that moment they are understood. In a church-bound hush they walk into the hall. The door is opened and we watch Vasilisa. They do not say farewell. She goes down the steps, passes the hollow eyed sentinels at the gate, sixteen year old angles prominent against the edges of morning, and sidles out of sight with the light bulbs in her hand and a new light on in her heart.

     The door closes. The woman turns around.

WOMAN

 And if you thought I didn’t know you were here the entire time, watching, you’d be mistaken.

She can’t possibly be talking to us.

WOMAN

Yes you. Get out.

Well, manners, really. All the same we use an up draught to carry us through the crack in the window, out of the house and into the cold birdsong dawn. That’s when we see them; A walker with a chocolate Labrador and Jeremy Earl, occupant of number 50 (with a cup of tea in hand). Already beginning to congregate. A jogger with Nike trainers materialises outside 38 and spots the coagulation of traffic. Begins to slow down.

     Shall we leave them to it? But then that would be no fun.

WALKER WITH THE TWO LURCHERS

We know plenty.

JOGGER WITH BULGING BICEPS

Yeah but nothing concrete, like nothing we could go to the cops with.

WALKER WITH SOME RANDOM MONGREL

It’s like CSI around here.

Yes. It is.

 

 

 

 

Are you still doing it? What can I say. Call it human nature.

 

THE END

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