Irkadura excerpt, Draft 2

by Ksenia Anske

Wow. I don't know how I forgot to post an excerpt to the 2nd draft of IRKADURA. Like, drown me in a tub of vodka? I started writing it in February and should've done it then. Anyway. A bunch of you asked how I'm planning on adding magical realism and horror to this book, so here you go. You'll see what I'm doing in the first sentence. Also, a bunch of you asked if you can beta read it when it's done. Yes! I'm about 82K words in (the total is about 148K words), so it should take me another 5 weeks to finish this draft, which will be 12 weeks total. End of May? Something like that. I know. This is a hard book because I was asked to write it by a friend, who is also a writer, to whom this book will be dedicated, and I didn't realize it would cause me to go back to the pain of being a pregnant teen in Moscow, in the midst of constitutional crisis and general chaos that came on the heels of Soviet Union collapse. And boy, it is hard, so hard, to go back every day. But. Here it is. How does it compare to the plain no-magic-no-fantasy-no-other-shit sample of the 1st draft? Let me know, guys. I'm all ears. Oh, and the post on what I would've done differently when publishing my 1st book is coming next.


A novel by Ksenia Anske, Draft 2

Chapter 1. The Bed in the Woods

Irka Myshko woke up at a quarter to six in the morning next to a boar and a catfish, on a bed in the middle of the woods. She looked them over and her mouth tightened. Nothing changed since yesterday; on the contrary, they looked a bit less threatening, peaceful even. Morning sun sent feeble rays through dense ceiling of leaves. Light greased the boar’s fur with shine. Its snout wheezed in guttural snores, the bulk of its beastly body heaved. Irka passed her eyes over the shape next to it. The bloated sot of a bottom feeder. Parasitic. Naked. Its barbels fluttered like a mutated mustache. As big as the hog, the fish opened its suckermouth and wiggled. Old bed’s springs whined under its weight. The boar snorted and turned to the side, exposing its paunch. The kill zone area.

It’s good you have a fat dick. I’ll have something to hold on to while I gut you. Thought Irka, seething, forcibly immobile. It was important not to wake the boar. Last night she failed to change into a mouse, to scurry out of her mind, to hide behind the subliminal barrier of indifference. Last night that swine has dined between her legs, the usual, only it didn’t get satisfied with what it tasted, it went farther. It crunched on her spine, it ripped her in half, from thigh to thigh, it devoured her all the way to her heart, sucked on her lungs, leaving her no air to scream, and stopped only when it chewed the last of her neck, kicking at the head to swim in a pool of soaked sheets.

It fell asleep after, but Irka didn’t, couldn’t. She waited for two painful hours until all was still, then gathered her remains and washed them one by one in the narrow bathtub littered with chipped enamel spots, with cheap soap. She endured the sting, taking care to lather and rinse every fold, douched with pink water of potassium permanganate, then dried herself with a large bed sheet since no towels were big enough to wrap her body in, and returned to bed, to plan her escape. Only where? In the whole of the overwhelmingly vast Moscow, there wasn’t a single place for her to disappear into.

Except one.

Every day Irka hitched a ride to a feral sub-reality inside her head. It made life bearable. It made her forget the violent faces of the family that hurt her. She turned animal. She turned them animal. Boreal. Wild. As wild as the wildest taiga devoid of people. People were pain, they brought suffering. It was easier to descend into numbness, to beat confusion with the macabre, the bizarre, the prankish and the clowny, with the grotesque over-exaggerations instead of the stark reality of aggression. Cruelty. Malice.

Detachment helped Irka survive.  

The boar’s piggy eyes fluttered open for a moment, closed. Its breathing pattern quickened. It started losing its fur, shedding at an alarming rate. Clumps of dark hair littered the camel wool blanket stuffed into a duvet cover with a diamond opening in the middle. Swine trotters morphed into callused hands and feet sticking out from under threadbare cotton. The snout shrunk to a pear-shaped nose riddled with veins. The stink of a wild pig gave place to that of an unwashed man’s body. Irka had to make up her mind, fast. Soon the hog would turn back to Lyosha Kabansky, her mother’s drunkard boyfriend of one year, the longest any of them stayed.

Irka glanced up. The ceiling acquired the density of a soot-darkened plaster in place of leaves. The bed didn’t float in the woods anymore, it plopped right on the creaky parquet, each leg slammed snugly into a hole from missing boards, either worn out by age or pissed through by dogs and cats. The gigantic catfish next to the boar stirred. Fat arms and breasts sprouted on its girth, spilled unsightly over the blanket. Its whiskers grew small, thinned to a mustache on a face of a sleeping woman, bloated from the alcohol consumed last night.

I wish we weren’t related. Thought Irka. I wish you weren’t my mother. I wish I was never born. Gritting her teeth, she glanced at the window and retracted fourteen years past, to when she was two, to a sunny September morning. The catfish wasn’t a catfish back then, it was Marina Somina, the woman Irka, in her absolute toddler naïveté, loved and feared above anyone else. She just got done peeing into an enameled pot with bright crimson peonies painted on it and waddled over to her mother, proud. She learned how to say her first word.

Dua!” Said Irka brightly. She couldn’t roll a proper Russian ‘r’ yet, so it came out wrong but recognizable. She heard the word dura often, unaware that it meant ‘female fool’, under the best of circumstances. Under the worst of circumstances, it meant ‘retarded bitch’, which is exactly how it was used in Irka’s household, at the time comprised entirely of women: Irka’s mother Marina Somina, aunt Sonya Seledkina with her daughter Lenochka, grandmother Valentina Tarakanova and great grandmother Nadezhda Koza, all crammed into a three-room flat on the last floor of a nine-story Brezhnevka.

Dua, dua, dua!” Irka poked the snoring shape on the naked mattress.

Marina grunted and opened one eye. Her normal morning started with a couple bottles of beer. Money ran scarce that month. She couldn’t afford her hangover remedy and suffered the consequences in the form of a blinding headache several days in a row, dousing it in vodka. The sun didn’t help.

Marina turned to the other side.

Dua! Dua!” Irka chanted on repeat, clapping hands, her feet doing a little dance.

“Go away. I’m sleeping.” Marina mumbled into the pillow.

Dua.” Said Irka uncertainly. In her short life she learned to recognize her mother’s tone of voice, predicting the future with astounding accuracy. It went down two paths, bad and not so bad.

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IRKADURA excerpt, draft 1

by Ksenia Anske

Well, as is my custom, and by popular demand (many of you have been asking me for this) I'm posting the excerpt from Irkadura, my 3rd (wait, already?!?) novel, a literary novel this time, based on my experiences growing up in Soviet Union and being a teenager right on the cusp of it falling apart and becoming Russia. It will be dark, very dark, perhaps darker in some ways than Siren Suicides. You be the judge. Please, bear in mind though, this is only 1st draft, and all 1st drafts are shit. So, here you go.


A novel by Ksenia Anske, Draft 1

Chapter 1. Dura

Irka stopped talking the moment she learned how to talk. It was a sunny day. She just got done peeing into a pot and waddled over to her mother for panty pulling.

Dua.” She said brightly. Only two, Irka couldn’t roll a proper Russian ‘r’ yet. “Dua, dua.” She heard the word dura often, not knowing that in meant female fool, under the best of circumstances. Under the worst of circumstances, it meant retarded bitch, and that’s how it was used in Marinova household, comprised entirely of women: Irka’s mother, aunt, cousin, grandmother and great grandmother, all crammed into a three bedroom flat on the last floor of a Soviet apartment building.

Dua, dua, dua!” Irka poked the snoring shape on the mattress.

Marina Marinova grunted and opened one eye. Her normal morning started with a couple bottles of Zhigulevskoe beer. Money ran scarce this month and she couldn’t afford her hangover remedy, suffering the consequences in the form of a blinding headache. The sun didn’t help. Marina sat, reeling.

Dua! Dua!” Irka chanted on repeat, clapping hands, her feet doing a little dance, as much as fallen panties permitted.

Che? Wha…?” Marina blinked.

Dua.” Said Irka uncertainly. In her short life she learned to recognize her mother’s tone of voice, predicting the future with astounding accuracy. It went down two paths, bad and not so bad.

Comprehension dawned on Marina’s face. “Che ty skazala? Whaddya say? Dura? Ya te pokazhu dura! I’ll show you dura!” Her movements, swift and precise, indicated years of practice.

Irka flew across the room, slammed into the pot and knocked it over. She bit on her tongue, hard. Warm urine seeped into her shirt. A shadow blocked the sunlight. Irka instinctively cowered. Later, she didn’t remember how she got beaten or for how long. Fortunately, toddler memory blotted out most of its contents by the time Irka turned sixteen. She did remember one thing. The garish orange curtains, they way threads hung off the frayed bottom, they way they flapped in rhythm to her mother’s fists. Since then she couldn’t stand orange things, and she stopped talking, for good. At first, due to a swollen tongue, then out of terror, then out of sheer habit.

Irka learned that being quiet had its advantages. One, women in her family stopped bothering her, thinking her an idiot and nicknaming her Irkadura. Two, men got bored of her faster. What do they always want with me? I’m so ugly, thought Irka. She hated her mousy hair, her midget height, her sizeable boobs and ass that developed way too early. School uniforms never fit her and boys constantly attempted to lift her skirt to see what panties she wore. She ignored them with stubborn silence. It was nothing compared to what she endured at home.

To remedy their financial situation, Marina occasionally brought home men, picking them up like stray dogs, the filthiest, the smelliest, and the hairiest she could find. None of them lasted long, kicked out in a few weeks by sharp glares and colorful words of Nadezhda Marinova, Irka’s great grandmother. In one case she successfully used the broom as an aid to convince a particularly stubborn specimen. With years Nadezhda’s health deteriorated and she spent her days in bed, shuffling out only to use the bathroom or drink tea. Irka’s grandmother Valentina, or Valya for short, turned a blind eye to her daughter’s antics, camping out with Sonya, Irka’s aunt, and Lenochka, Irka’s younger cousin, in the adjacent room, complete with three cats, two dogs, a rat, and a hedgehog. This left only one room for Irka to share with her mother, and, subsequently, with any man she brought home. All of them took ample advantage of this fact, using Irka as a convenient mutie pet, until they tired of both women, stole whatever was worth stealing and disappeared, leaving Marina drunk and wailing.

All, except Lyosha Ivanenko, who stuck.

He showed up at the door one day, flowers in one hand, a sack of vodka in another, a butcher who spent last three years in prison for thievery and just got discharged. He became Marina’s glorious achievement in finding the lowest scum on the streets of Moscow, the likes of which didn’t exist in the recently disbanded Soviet Union according to its newspapers and television. Irka was fifteen. Her bust burst out of the bra that didn’t fit anymore, her body showed through the hand-me-down housecoat.

Lyosha’s eyes glinted. To ascertain his fatherly position, on the very fight night he pumped Marina with alcohol until she passed out, then pressed Irka into a corner and fondled her with a sick grin. He did it in their room, but with time grew bold, handing her in the kitchen in plain view. Old Nadezhda, the only woman who would’ve given Lyosha a piece of her mind, barely showed her face. Valya turned a blind eye, coming home late and leaving early for her nursing job. Sonya and Lenochka were gone to meet young men qualified for a potential marriage.

The only positive change Lyosha brought was forcing all Marinova women to stop walking around the house in underwear or plain naked. And so, unchallenged, he stayed for a whole year, spending his days watching the small black and white TV, drinking vodka, singing post-war songs and fondling Marina in the kitchen while she cooked, winking at Irka every time she happened to look. It signified the oncoming of her nightly regimen. Marina served as an appetizer. Irka’s body was what interested Lyosha most, her ripe breasts, her fleshy thighs, and the lack of virginity between them, taken a long time ago by one of Marina’s passing boyfriends. When, Irka couldn’t remember. Resistance never crossed her mind. Trained to give up her body for the use of others, either as a punching bag or as a source of pleasure, she turned herself numb and escaped into her head.

Irka grew up with three types of touch. Hitting. Groping. And sinking of filthy limbs into her very being, making her want to puke. She always contained the urge, emptying her stomach after, while crouched over the toilet bowl on the cold floor. None of the episodes lasted long anyway, the potency of her mother’s boyfriends fluctuating roughly between a few jerks to a couple minutes at the most, that is, if they could get it up after drinking for hours. Not the case with Lyosha. He happened to maintain both a boar’s stamina and looks, or perhaps his job of slaughtering pigs rubbed off on his personality. Over the course of the year Irka’s patience ran ragged, until one night he hurt her so bad that something snapped in her. She couldn’t stand it any longer and decided to run.

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