Well. Here it is. It's something of a...step aside, I suppose, from how I've been writing before. Something of a...what I feel. Inside me. And this book is very much like that. So. I tremble. I wonder. Wonder what you will think. I have made changes. Big changes. Really, this book is nothing like what I've written before. Each draft is a complete rewrite. Complete. The story is the same, though. I made big changes, yes, like I said already. To the voice, and to the style. It's 1st person now, instead of 3rd. It's present tense now, instead of past. It's choppy, almost as though it's a stream of thoughts, instead of the usual narrative. And. Well. What am I blabbing about it. See for yourself.
A Novel by Ksenia Anske, Draft 3
Chapter 1. Boar, catfish, jackal, mouse, cockroach, herrings, Lenin, woodpeckers, tapeworm
I wake up. I feel for it. It’s there. The boar. And the catfish. Snoring. It’s cold. September already? Yes, today, the first. I’m not going to school, so why...but yesterday. The fur, so greasy, so disgusting. The bed in the woods. We share it. He said, the boar said, “Go to Vova. Do him. Come on, you’ll make some dough. I’ll give you one ruble. Buy yourself milkshake, and potato chips, and some gum, Irkadura.” I wouldn’t. So he beat me. Then he fucked me. They both did. Took turns. Ripped my thighs, the boar and the jackal. Drunk. I swam in my blood.
It’s good you have a fat dick, I think. Something to hold on to, while I gut you.
It’s like it heard me. The boar heard me. Its eyelids flutter, breathing quickens. The boar and the catfish, Lyosha Kabansky and mama. Prostrate in their own filth. Parasitic. Naked. And I’m just a mouse. A grey little mouse, mute. Sixteen. Then where? Where would I go?
No matter...I’m leaving.
Try to wake mama?
Mama said, “Lemme alone.” I said, “Dua!” My first word. I was two. The curtains. The orange curtains. The creaky parquet, pissed through by cats and dogs. “Dua!” I said, so happy. “Dua, dua, dua!” I poked mama. She grunted, “Go away.” I touched her shoulder. “What?” She sat up. “Whaddya want?” “Dua?” I said. “Dura? Who’s dura?” And then, comprehension, spite. “Who taught you this, Irka, huh? Who? Answer me!” Her words, slurry. Her face, etched with hard life. “Won’t tell me? Stupid girl. I’ll show you how to say dura.” Her movements, swift and precise. She struck me. I flew to the pisspot, knocked it over. Urine. In my shirt, on my face. She beat me. It. Mama gone. Catfish. Big scary catfish. Over me, with its open suckermouth. Stagnant stink in my face. It hurt, hurt me. Everything. I bit my tongue. By the curtains. Right by the orange curtains.
I hate orange.
I was two. Then.
Now I’m sixteen, and I still hate it.
No. No talk. I don’t talk. I stopped. They stopped bothering me. They think me an idiot. Good. Get bored of me faster, leave me alone. Grubby bastards. Like to stick cocks in the first hole they see. I give myself bruises. After.
Lyosha grunts. Gurgles something.
I freeze. My right leg halfway down. My left. Still.
“Where ya going?” This is half-asleep.
Where pigs like you get quartered, I think. Where they’ll teach me how. How to do it.
He mumbles something, cuddles to mama.
I touch the floor. It creaks. I’m petrified. Balance on one leg. Skin you alive, I think. Crush your ribcage with steel-plated boots. Burrow into you, me, the little harmless mouse. Eat your guts.
I hold back spit.
The day he showed up, Lyosha Kabansky, I remember. Last year, September, like now. Red carnations, a bottle of Stolichnaya in his hand. The butcher, discharged after three years in prison. I remember his eyes. The glint in them. And the very first night. He got mama drunk, he did me then. And every night after. I was fifteen. Not a virgin, though. He was so disappointed. Angry. He beat me. There were scores before him. Dogs, stray dogs eating my soft parts.
I pinch myself. Go, you dimwitted moron, go! Get out of this. Lenochka’s taunting. Their explosive laughter. Auntie Sonya’s smelly rat. Cat piss, everywhere. Cockroaches. Mites in bed. Dirty rags on the floor. Dog sex under the kitchen table. Grandma drowning newborn puppies in the bucket. Dishes. Piles and piles of dishes. Shouting, who’d be washing them, yelling, screaming, fighting, pulling hair.
Yes, yes, I’m going.
I dress quietly. Snatch five rubles from mama’s stash, under the vodka bottle. My backpack. A change of clothes. Tiptoe. The corridor. All the spots, I know them, the ones that don’t make noise. The door. I click it shut, gulp, skid down the stairs, eighteen flights, into the open.
Out. I’m out.
I crane my neck. Grandma, from above. Ninth floor. Brezhnevka. Cream colored thirty years ago, now ugly, streaked with mold. “Where ya off to? It’s seven in the morning, stupid! You don’t need to go to school no more!” The cockroach. It cackles, retracts.
Auntie Sonya next. “Idiot! Get back! Take the dogs out!”
Lenochka now. “Irkadura lost her mind! Irkadura lost her mind! Irkadura—”
Sonya slaps her. “Quiet. People are looking.”
She wails. The herring. The little herring wails at the big herring. The big herring slaps it, harder.
I better get going. Head low, I dart. “Hey! Wait!” Behind me. I ignore it. Bump into a bright-eyed boy. Dark-blue uniform, the little Octobrist star on his lapel, asters high in his hand. Scattered on the asphalt. His mother, bedizened, spiteful. “Watch where you’re going!”
Feet. In sneakers. Bound along familiar route. The long apartment block, the grimy porches. Snowberry bushes. Leaves wilted, yellow, dusty. Grocery store. Ice cream kiosk. It sells gum, coffee gum, my favorite. Sports store with bicycles on display. Kama, Salut. I want Salut, but it costs one hundred rubles. A bottle recycling unit, closed. Small square in front of the school. My school, number 318. Chestnut trees. Begonia flowerbeds around a life-size statue of Lenin, one arm pointed at the bright proletariat future, another one on his coat’s lapel, eyes dead, splotched with bird poop.
I stop, catch my breath. Lean on a bench. Kick at the chestnut shells, some cracked, kernels inside. I pick one up and throw it at the flock of pigeons. They scatter in indignation, crying. I throw more, miss, pick up another.
It’s eight. Is it? Must be, almost. There they are, scores of them. Marching. First of September, fucking Knowledge Day, so full of annoyingly festive children. Sick. They make me sick. I hate them. Boys in uniform suits, girls in white lacy aprons over shit-brown dresses, braids tied with gauze. Mamas, papas, grandmas. I gather a handful of chestnuts, gaze at some girl. Eight, plump, smiley. Two pigtails. Hand held by a lipsticked mama.
Too bad these aren’t stones, not heavy enough to take out your eyes, dummy. I throw. I miss by a meter. This gets me. I gather more, arch, fling. Suck it, you so happy, suck it! What do you dine on, sturgeon caviar? Fry your fat little belly in hot Krymsky sun?
I whirl around.
“Come to me, citizen. Closer. I have an important question to ask you.” The statue of Lenin, talking. Animals, yes, but a statue? “What is your goal in life?” I stare. “Don’t know, citizen Myshko? I’ll tell you. Your goal is to devote your life to the Soviet state. Grow bigger. Become a Bolshevik.” The chestnuts roll out of my palm. Lenin shakes an admonitory finger. “And who is a Bolshevik? A Bolshevik is the one who leads our revolutionary work.” He rolls his ‘r’ in this strange crippled way. “You know what work I’m speaking of, Myshko?” A thundering step off the pedestal. Begonias, smashed under his boots. My palms sweaty. I back into the bench, drop on it.
“No, I see you do not. What a shame. Shame and disappointment. Ten school years, wasted. You, citizen Myshko, are of Menshevik faction.” One more step. Five meters between us. “A mouse. A pitiful rodent, selfish capitalistic vermin.” Four. “You’re a criminal!” I can’t move. “Your crime is in that you do not understand the essence of the Soviet power!” He’s flanked by pioneers. Where did they come from? Girls and boys in red neckerchiefs. “Are you ready?” He asks them. “Always ready!” They answer, and...morph into giant woodpeckers. Eyes shiny, hungry. And their cries. Their cries.
“You forgot your neckerchief again!”
“You didn’t iron it!”
“You’ll be banned from Pioneer Organization!”
Beaks hammer my head. I cower.
“You know what happens to bad pioneers?” That’s Lenin’s voice, one meter away, laughing, mocking. “Pioneers who refuse to join the communist revolution?” They turn into you, I think, no, scream in my head. You deranged idealistic maniac. Their brains get raped by your bogus equality theories. “Their necks get snapped like those of chickens.” Says Lenin, snatches a woodpecker, flips it around. There is a bone crunch. Two wings flap spasmodically, hang limp. Dead woodpecker at my feet. “Want another demonstration? This is what happens to those who don’t believe in the Soviet power, those who don’t fit.” He’s in a rage, in a fever. “The Soviet power will triumph all over the world!” A second woodpecker’s neck snapped in a blur, it happens so fast. “Necessarily!” A third. “Inevitably!” A fourth. “Permanently!” I lost count.
I believe in my own ass, noting else. I face him. I wish I could shout this. Your government is shit. Your propaganda is lies. I’d rather die than fit in your fake forced egalitarianism. I whack the statue across the face with my backpack. It topples. Woodpeckers scatter, screech. Or was it pigeons? I take off. Don’t look back, just run. Under the arch, across the mutilated playground, by busses, trolleybuses, over the avenue. Honks. Shouts. Subway. Belyaevo, radial orange line station. Same hated orange. Down.
I go down. Sweaty crowd, flapping glass doors. Nausea in my gut. Sour bile. I spit, push the door open, pass by the booth operator. She yells at some pensioner, at the outdated permit. Thumbs into turnstyle barriers, I skip without paying. “Hey! Get back! Militia!” I bound to the platform. It’s noisy. Rush hour. Marble columns. Steel panels embossed with fairytale firebirds. I halt on the edge, watch the train emerge from the tunnel, the bowels of Moscow metro. It crawls along the tracks, a green-blue tapeworm with five eyes, eight segments.
I gag, queasy.
Doors slide open. I cannon forward, propelled by the mass of bodies pouring inside. Packed, like a can of sardines. No space, no air to breathe. More of them, pressing from the platform. A squabble breaks out. “Let go of the doors!” Machinist’s voice over the intercom. I grip the handrail, hang over those seated, sandwiched. Next station announced, doors slam. Measured staccato of wheels. We’re moving, accelerating. Bodies shift. Bad onion breath in my face, unwashed skin odor, yellowing teeth, dull eyes.
And. A hand on my ass. A squeeze.
I stiffen. Again? You degenerate pervert. I try to turn, can’t, no room. I wonder what noise your eyeballs will make when I push them into your skull. Only then...my vision swims. That bile again, up in my throat, acid. Puke. I will puke. Freak forgotten. Hold on to the rail, Irina Myshko, hold on, don’t you dare to faint. Hold on!
They turn yellow, the walls of the cabin, that shade of rotten yolk. Lights dim. A trickle of sweat down my back. The hand is still there, feeling around. The walls wrinkle, fold with a squelching noise. Shit. Is the last I think. Not right now!
Now a mouse.
There. There it sits, squealing, on top of the bed. The bed in the woods, in the dark. Something else. Long and slimy. Sloshing. Moving. A thing, a white ghostly thing touches the mouse, slides inside. It’s the boar. The boar has squirted it out, through its sinuous dick. It uncoils, that thing, lodges in the mouse’s belly. Sucks on the walls of its stomach, feeding. The mouse is frantic. It shrieks. Claws its way out.
It’s a girl.
I blink. Hold on to cold stone. Lean my head on it. White marble. Bright light in my eyes. Stale metro warmth. The hum of commuters, trains, coming, going. Some solicitous face, asking. “You alright?” A pat on the shoulder. I nod. I almost fainted. Not good. The thought, it’s back at me, again. I don’t want it, but it stays. It nags. It drills me, impales me like a hot iron rod. Note even a thought. Just one word.
But...I stuffed in the lemon wedge, I think. Douched with potassium permanganate. Why didn’t it work? Why didn’t it fucking work? I don’t want this inside me. I don’t want it! I lift my sweater, grab a handful of skin, twist it, pinch it, scratch it. Tears drop. You deserve this, you retarded bitch, you deserve this. My diaphragm lifts. I throw up. Hot sour swill, on my sneakers. Wipe my mouth, disgusted. Walk. Somewhere. Need some air. Need to come up.
I read the indicator board.