|The Taylight Zone - Anthology Four
16 - In these Silences Something May Rise - Lily
I stare at the blank page, my pen poised but inert in my right hand. The silence is beginning to deafen me like the scream of white noise, searing one’s eyeballs and frying them against the backs of their sockets.
The light from my 40-watt bulb is a sickening jaundice yellow, old and faded into a bath of manila sludge. The air is thick and dry and stale, and I taste it in my throat and on my tongue - that swollen, cracked numb piece of dead flesh in my mouth.
My mind can’t focus on any one thing. Moths fly around inside my head, beating their dusty, ragged old crepe-paper wings against the bleached walls of my skull, which is illuminated by a sickly yellow 40-watt bulb.
"It’s 5:34, you know," Taylor says from his position on the wall.
"I know," I say, and avoid looking at him. My voice sounds flat in the musty, dead air.
"You should be in bed," he says with a hint of condescension, "not up writing nonsense stories."
"I wasn’t," I say in my defense.
"Are you arguing with me?" he asks.
"No," I murmur.
"If you argue with me, you’re going to lose."
"I’m sorry." I just want him to shut up.
"Don’t be sorry, just be quiet. If you open you mouth, people will know you’re stupid," he says scornfully. I swallow, but my mouth remains a desert. I hate him so much.
"What are you thinking about?" he asks suddenly, and my pen jams on the paper, spitting globs of black ink onto the grainy white. He doesn’t chuckle, but I can hear the disgust in his silence.
"Nothing," I say, hoping that it’s the truth.
"Don’t lie to me." His voice is callous; vicious. "That you would even think you could lie to me is pathetic and stupid. I always know what you’re thinking.
"Look at me."
"Look at me, damn you," he repeats, and I obey. He’s so beautiful. His tourmaline eye trip me and watch as I tumble and fall at his feet, small and vulnerable. Ocean-blue and ocean-deep, but no thicker than the glossy paper they’re printed on. They take on a cruel sparkle that makes him much more dangerously lovely. I hate him so much.
"That’s a good girl," he says. My heart sings at his praise; I’m starved for it. I await an order.
"You just keep looking," he instructs. I couldn’t stop if I wanted to.
My eyes move down to his mouth, pink and curvy and glistening slightly where he wet his lips vefore the shutter snapped. His lips will always be wet now, for ever and ever, and they’ll be cemented into that heartless slight smile that tugs at the corner of his mouth.
His skin is a porcelain cream, so fair and soft and unblemished. His cheeks are kissed with cherubic pink, his nose is tiny and round, and his ears are delicate seashells half-hidden by the fronds of his saffron hair. He’s perfect.
"Like what you see?" he says, and I watch his mouth as it speaks, yet doesn’t move. Do I? What does he mean? I pray I can answer right.
"Yes," I say.
"That’s right, good girl," he says. "You know you’ll never be beautiful like I am, isn’t that right?"
I don’t answer, and look back down at my dalmation paper.
"You think you might be pretty," he says, "but you’re not. You’re ugly. You ought to be ashamed for thinking you might be pretty."
I don’t reply.
"I’m not a silly girl," I protest.
"You are a silly girl."
"I can’t help it..."
"You can help it. You just don’t try."
"I do try."
"You’re lazy, you never try."
I clench my teeth silently. I am not lazy.
"Yes I do. I’m not lazy," I say.
"Don’t be a fool. You’re a silly, stupid girl."
"I’m not stupid..."
"Yes you. You’re a stupid girl."
I hate him so much.
"I don’t want to be stupid."
"There’s nothing you can do. You’re stupid now, you’ll always be stupid."
"You told me I could help it..." He always does this to me.
"You can’t help being stupid. But you could at least try."
"I’m sorry...I want to cry, but I’m empty. He’s beautiful and I’m filled with moths.
"There’s no point apologizing. It won’t do you any good."
"But I want to be forgiven."
"No one cares. No one will forgive me."
"Why?" I demand.
"You demand!" he scoffs incredulously. "I forgot I was talking to the Princess of the Whole Entire World! Well, your majesty," he says, ripe with contempt and sarcasm, "I’m afraid no one’s going to bow down to you. No one bows down to an ugly, stupid, selfish princess."
"I am not selfish!" I object.
"Aren’t you always thinking about yourself?" he says. My throat locks.
"Isn’t that true, princess? You’re always thinking of your stories, and your art, and your friends?"
"Shut up," I mutter. I hate him so much.
"Why should I?" he says darkly. "I’m here to keep you from getting any worse. Without me, you’d be the most horrible person in the world."
I don’t want to, but I believe him.
"Haven’t you got anything to say to me?" he says.
"No," I say quietly.
"Good girl. Now go to sleep." His voice is softer now.
I close my book mechanically, and put them away in my desk.
"I love you," Taylor says.
"I love you, too," I reply faintly, and turn off the light.