"gradually I've come to realise that my house is haunted by the ghost of a dead astronaut"

Sunday, 23 May 2010

54. Breaking a Promise - Part Two


"What was it the judge said to me in summing up? 'Stephanie Fey, you appear to have no ability to control your actions. It's as if you have no centre of gravity'"

I shouldn’t be communicating with anyone at all - that was the promise I made to myself when I moved into this house. And it was a promise I made for my own good, as well as the good of another.

No technology meant no temptations. No TV and DVD player meant I couldn’t watch old Kidman movies or hear news of her life. I couldn’t feed my obsession with information. I would remove the oxygen from it, cast it into the void. No telephone meant I couldn’t make unwanted calls to her agent. And being out in the Scottish wilderness was to keep me away from the mainstream media and the general gossiping conversations which are the staple diet of cities. All would play their part in ensuring that I didn’t infringe my court order. If I infringed then the stakes for me would be high. Next court appearance would see me end up in jail.



Jail! Jail? I remember the word 'incarceration' being said to me in court and I was amazed at the sound of it. For such a word to be directed at me! The shock. The shame. How had it all come to this? What had I been thinking? What had I been doing? How could I have sunk so low? How could it all have gone so wrong, to the extent that I was on the verge of being locked away for the good of another? Who had I become?



Putting in this internet connection in Mordan House was a gamble though. A security blanket of sorts, yes – like I said at the start of this blog, just in case I needed to find out what was going on in the outside world. But I was always worried about having it, lest I should exploit it by using it to try and contact her.



I haven’t though! Really I haven’t! This blog has been everything, believe me!



Wasn’t it Lotte Lakeside who asked me in one of her comments on this blog why I hadn’t let my best friend Dizzy Lizzie email me? Why Lizzie had to go through the rigmarole of sending physical letters when I could send her an email address? You see, I couldn’t let Lizzie know I was connected to the internet. She would have worried. I’m not sure she would have trusted me to refrain from contacting Kidman.



Kidman? Well, Nicole. She had always been Nicole to me before Mordan House. Only the Imaginary Kidman was called Kidman. But, really, Nicole had never existed. There was a space inside of me, a vacuum, and her shape seemed to fit it. What a deception for us both! No, she never fitted that empty space. I cajoled and kneaded the properties and the idea of Kidman into a shape that seemed to fit. I jammed it into the space as best I could. And it was Nicole Kidman – the real Nicole Kidman! – who suffered as a consequence. She felt the physical and emotional pain of my attempts to make her fit the shape of my needs. What was it the judge said to me in summing up? "Stephanie Fey, you appear to have no ability to control your actions. It's as if you have no centre of gravity."

The real Nicole Kidman? Even as I type the words I wonder what I’m on about! I don’t know who the real Nicole Kidman is. She probably doesn’t know either! It’s not for any of us to know or even care. It’s all just illusions of identity, all just characters, all flat and at best colourful and dazzling, but still just images and all entirely meaningless. It’s like falling in love with a totem pole or an ancient statue of a mythological entity. It no more exists in our so-called real world as does the Cyclops, or Circe or the Sirens. In this myth of my own making that I’m perhaps living, I’m not Penelope waiting for her husband to return from the wars, I’m Odysseus, bound for home and charting a path through a world of illusions. Most of my own making! How many of us are exactly that in our own lives?

"There was a space inside of me, a vacuum, and her shape seemed to fit it. What a deception for us both! No, she never fitted that empty space. I cajoled and kneaded the properties and the idea of Kidman into a shape that seemed to fit. I jammed it into the space as best I could. And it was Nicole Kidman – the real Nicole Kidman! – who suffered as a consequence"

But I know I've been getting better. I know I have. My Imaginary Kidman was not quite my ideal. In therapy, I had to confront the hurt and damage and fear I'd caused. The voice of the Kidman that has possessed this house had contempt for me, mixed in with everything else. When I was pursuing her – following her, communicating with her – my idea of Nicole Kidman contained no contempt at all. So, although my fantasy was a fantasy, it was a contaminated fantasy, somehow contaminated with truth!

How dark the ideas in me! What words are these? Whose voice? I don't recognise any of this. I don't recognise me! I used to. Before Philip. But that’s what’s happened by degrees. Everything inside has steadily been chilled and darkness has grown in me like tight, clambering, unstoppable ivy, its leaves black and icy.

It’s not all over for me though. Now there’s no more Kidman to keep me company, and I’m left with the bitter feeling of what I’ve done and who I’ve been. Yet also with the bitter emptiness of self-realisation, and the hole inside seems greater than it has ever been before.



There are times when the wind encircles this house, its dark teeth eat away at the stone fa├žade, gnawing the wooden window frames and the slate roof, making holes for itself to push through. Looking for a cold companion to huddle together with. Looking for me.

Cold winds love personal history. Personal history is cold like itself. History is empty, as shallow as palimpsest, as fragile as a child’s cough. And this house is full of empty history more than most. What love has it ever known? What arms have welcomed it? What plans have been made with hope and joy within it? What kiss has ever warmed it? What new life has gladdened its walls, revitalised its shape and reminded it what it was like to be alive? None, none, none.



"It’s like falling in love with a totem pole or an ancient statue of a mythological entity. It no more exists in our so-called real world as does the Cyclops, or Circe or the Sirens. In this myth of my own making that I’m perhaps living, I’m not Penelope waiting for her husband to return from the wars, I’m Odysseus, bound for home and charting a path through a world of illusions"

So here I am, waiting in the cold of this house. James drove off without taking me back to my car in the neighbouring town, leaving me stranded. I could walk for about four hours to get to the neighbouring town but I haven’t the energy. Or the inclination. I deserve to be here. Stuck. Land-locked. Waiting for life to visit me. Life never calls here though. That’s why the void of space dropped down and settled in and around this house where I am. There’s a funnel. Of emptiness. From space, all the way down to the ground where I am.



The dead presences can smell me from up in the empty heavens. I know they will descend soon. I've started to pull at my hair again, to feel the delicious sting and to look at the clumps of hair round my fingers. I've never been so frightened. Yes, I know they will descend soon. And soon it will be my turn to be plucked.

Next instalment: 55. My Turn Now

Saturday, 22 May 2010

53. Kidman's Gift - Part Four


"I knew what was behind me as I walked to try and get away. Kidman, like some furious banshee. Fiery hair blowing in the wind and her dress billowing around her. Hair like snakes and eyes like dark pits. Breasts pushed forward, indomitable and untouchable. Face set like something permanently carved in marble and protected by curators. An idea pursuing me. An idea that didn’t exist. A sprite. A nymph, a brownie. A delusion. A myth, most certainly. But one of my own design"

I don’t know when, but at some point I’m sure that a white light ghosted by on the other side of the window behind me.


Who does it seek out, this dead, dropped presence? And what does it want from what it seeks? Do other similar dead presences haunt this world, haunting the night skies above our heads? When we’re not fully aware of this world and when our senses are dulled? That sheen of light that we sense behind us as we walk in the dark – is it a streetlight, a headlight, a light from a window? Or is it a dead aura, a hanging presence in the sky above, just glimpsed between those buildings, momentarily glimpsed between those trees, vaguely detected far off in the distance just to one side of that church’s steeple? And there, on the opposite side of the sky from where the sun is setting, suspended above that roof? Or there, just above that hill? Could that be a human form, shining white, but with a black face that reveals no form, no detail, no soul? And why does it just hang there? Is it looking at you? Could it be looking at you? What does it want? Is it moving? Did it move just then?



"Who does it seek out, this dead, dropped presence? And what does it want from what it seeks? Do other similar dead presences haunt this world, haunting the night skies above our heads? When we’re not fully aware of this world and when our senses are dulled? That sheen of light that we sense behind us as we walk in the dark – is it a streetlight, a headlight, a light from a window? Or is it a dead aura, a hanging presence in the sky above"

As I sat there on the floor, I could see such dead apparitions all across the world, everywhere drawn to emptiness. Smelling it out and hanging above it in the night, staring coldly and blankly, and drawing it all into itself. The cash machine mugging with its vicious threats and its drawn weapons. The gang consuming pills and booze on the street as they watch with avarice the women walking by. The man sitting in his flat, hands rung-out and brow tight, staring at the names of all the people who have wronged him. The bombers pulling their ingredients together in between prayers to the elevated image of their own reflected hatred. The one car speeding through its second red light, the one driver intent on suicide, empty of any thought for others: “My hurt is everything,” he thinks, “it is all that matters”. The woman thinking of all the moments in one day and wondering how to fill them up, how to enact something physical within them, while the future lies dead at her feet, and while everything inside echoes dull and hollow. The buying and selling and hoarding, the buying and selling and returning and exchanging, the buying and selling and throwing away and buying again. The knowledge of things, of bits, of stuff, of nonsense. The gun. The invasion. The rhetoric. The locked door. The overflowing bin. The acerbic lie. The empty fatness and the empty thinness. The empty muscle. The empty face. The dead hands. All of it. All of it the dead ghost-men hang over and feast on, ingesting ever more deadness.
 Our empty world mirroring theirs.


At some point it became morning. Morning! Delicious morning! The universe saw a spark and it blew on it. James lay asleep on my bed like an empty cave, and I lay there beside him. I felt the components of me scattered into pieces. But the pieces weren't there in the room – the dead, dropped presences would have eaten them up in the night. Somewhere up in space, in the bleak void, parts of my soul now floated in their natural, lifeless home.

I sneaked out of the bed and away from him. After all, who was he? What did I know of him? He was a stranger, lying large and heavy and heaving with unknown life, right there beside me, and I had to get away from him.

My mouth was horribly dry and distasteful, my stomach queasy, and my head felt bruised inside. How much exactly had I drunk the night before? I had absolutely no idea.

But that was not the question that I really needed an answer to. That was not why I had to get out of bed. Yes, I needed to get away from this ‘James’ person, but I also had something else to do. I threw a dressing gown on and a pair of slippers and went out of my suite of rooms and into the main hallway of Mordan House. I looked everywhere, it seemed. Everywhere logical, at least. No sign. Then I glanced out of a window to the front of the house. There she was: close to the trees on the other side of the driveway.

"I felt the components of me scattered into pieces. But the pieces weren't there in the room – the dead, dropped presences would have eaten them up in the night. Somewhere up in space, in the bleak void, parts of my soul now floated in their natural, lifeless home"

I went outside and walked over to her, my arms folded – not indignantly but self-consciously – only just holding together the great fragility I felt inside. Soon, I was standing behind her and she remained with her back to me.

“How could you do that? Why did I let you do that? That was my moment. My moment to be me. And it became your moment. It shouldn’t have been your moment. How could you do it to me?”

I said the words in a slow and measured manner. The emotion in my voice was restrained. The words were conceived and executed so as to get an answer, not a response.

But Kidman responded and answered in a way I had not anticipated. She spun round so quickly that I found myself stepping back. Her voice had that sing-song quality that it took on from time to time, jovial but laced with sparks that could ignite the world around it at any moment. In her eyes, something demonic smouldered.

“Well, what exactly could I do? When I entered the room, there it was, extended like a pirate’s plank – he wanted action, and action was what he needed from you. But you weren’t exactly going to give it to him, Steph, were you? No man wants to be screwed as if he’s a character in a Walt Disney movie! That's all you'd have given him ..."

I didn't know how to respond. Again I was on the back-foot, as I had been the previous night, and I felt my mind was racing to catch up with what she was saying.

“… and did I feel like a hungry shark as I circled below that plank, waiting for food! Here’s what we did in bed, Steph. Listen, you’ll like this. I started off by giving him a minky, but it went a bit wrong and he ended up with sneek all over his polty. Should have used the Hepelpfaft technique! Then we did the Auntie’s Hoover. Oh, oddly he likes a bit of General Lee on his face – never sure of that in a man! Also – now, this will interest you – he liked giving my schubin a right good dose of milp by using his linny-loo on the bossa-mobleys! You might want to remember that, but keep your bossa-mobleys pretty tight or the wenf goes everywhere! Jeez, show me a woman who doesn’t despise getting her  face full of wenf! Then we finished up doing the Poor Man’s Tractor! One of my personal favourites! You should thank me for it. I gave him a good time ...”


To my mind, she just didn’t seem to stop – just endless descriptions of her sexual exploits with my man. I felt as if I was somewhere, but I wasn’t sure where. Birds flew overhead and the trees swayed behind Kidman, and I wasn’t sure where they ended and I began.

“… Oh, of course, you do understand that he’ll never date you, don’t you.”


I looked at her quizzically. No, I didn’t understand.

“Oh, Steph! You had sex with him straight away! Okay you were drunk, but he’ll not want anything to do with you. He shouldn’t have had sex with you, really. Not in your condition. But I didn’t see you complaining! But as a strategy to win a man over, it’s about as appealing as a face full of wenf!”


She was right. It was all ridiculous. What had I done? How was any of this a foundation for a relationship? And I felt love for him too. Actual love.  But what would he feel for me now? Actual contempt and disgust.

"To my mind, she just didn’t seem to stop – just endless descriptions of her sexual exploits with my man. I felt as if I was somewhere, but I wasn’t sure where. Birds flew overhead and the trees swayed behind Kidman, and I wasn’t sure where they ended and I began"

I repeated the only question that was in my mind, this time though I wanted a reaction: “How could you do it to me?”

Yes, I felt it was all Kidman’s fault. All I could feel was my own position. My own shame and my own uncertainty, and her role in it all. I looked at her. I know my face was pathetic. Full of self-pity. Full of empty scratching, clawing for help from someone, anyone. No, not anyone! Clawing for help from Kidman. As, it seemed, I had been doing for so long. So long.

But Kidman’s face was different. Physically, she loomed larger and her face was piercing: her eyes, her nose, her eyebrows, they seemed to be leaning towards me with sharpness and a sense of intent.

“How could I do it to you?” she asked, her tone incredulous.

There was something she was intent on saying. I could feel it rising to the surface. What was it? Whatever it was, it was coming. And it had always been there. These words, just under the surface of her. What were they? I could vaguely remember something. Something about Kidman. What was it? What were the words? What did she want to know? What was it I had spent all of my time in this house trying not to think about? A bird swooped by and a branch dived down in the wind. Which was me? The bird? The branch? This empty thing standing here before the looming presence of Kidman?

Then she asked it: “How could you stand outside my house every day for months?”

House? House? Yes, there had been a house. Sometime. Somewhere. I seemed to remember a house. Whose house was it though?

"How could you stand there, day after day? How could you follow my car? How could you haunt every step I made? How could you send those letters? How could you send those emails? How could you terrify me? How could you terrify my family? Even when we travelled to another country, you'd still be there! How could you be so crazy? How could you let yourself get so damned crazy?”

"There was something she was intent on saying. I could feel it rising to the surface. What was it? Whatever it was, it was coming. And it had always been there. These words, just under the surface of her. What were they? I could vaguely remember something. Something about Kidman. What was it? What were the words? What did she want to know? What was it I had spent all of my time in this house trying not to think about?"

Yes, I was remembering some of this. I could see me standing outside of a house. Was that Kidman’s house? And flights. I remembered those. And I think I remembered the driving too. I felt sick. Disgust. Anxiety.

“How could you make my life a misery? You made me sick. I had sores on my face. My hair was limp and dry. I lost weight. I was depressed. I was scared to go out. I bit my nails - bit them! I'd rip off my false nails so that I could gnaw away at them for some relief from the fear of you! Why did I have to get lawyers involved? Why did I have to get a restraining order? Why did I have to stand up in court and tell them how you were destroying my peace of mind? Clawing your way into my world, my emotions, my fears, my family. Why did you scare me right down to the bone? Why would you do that?”

The answer came before I’d even thought if what I was saying was true. “I was sick. I was unhappy. I thought you could help. I got help eventually. From a doctor. I’m much better now. Much better. All of that is … not even a memory, quite, now.”

Yes, my words were all true. But the truth came from some deep place inside that I wasn’t aware of. Memories were speaking without me being able to quite see them. They were so small as they came out of me.

“Yes,” I said quietly, “I’m much better now.”

And I found myself starting to walk away, in the direction of the Clansman mountain, still hugging my sides, my face looking at the ground, my mind making great turns but turning as if on a pinhead. The last thing I saw though was Kidman’s face, the anger and venom in it, the indignation, the horror that she felt towards me. I could walk away, but that wasn’t the same as getting away.

“You feel better? Well, good for you! Good for you! Am I better? Will I ever be better? How do I recover from being stalked by someone like you? Yes, Stephanie Fey, stalked! You stalked someone who doesn’t exist! It was just a flattened image of a person – just an illusion – and you followed me and haunted me and demanded that I be what I can never be, what I don’t want to be! An idea of a person! I’m not responsible for that idea! It’s just bits of a person joined together. Because I sleep under a quilt, does that make me a quilt? Am I not still a complex, multi-faceted human being? The world doesn’t want me to be real! People can barely handle the idea of reality existing within the people they claim to know and love! They don’t want it from their stars, their celebrities! And then you pursue me demanding that I be what you’ve created! Because you, in your sickness, need me to be it! If you want an ideal, Stephanie Fey, then you be it! Accept responsibility for your own dreams and your own inadequacies! And leave me and my family alone! Leave my life alone! Accept you don’t know it, you’ll never know it, and you’ll never be a part of it! Because it only exists for me! Do you hear me, you sick, stalking, uncontrollable bitch? Do you? Get your own life and keep the hell out of mine, you sicko!”

Did I hear her? I certainly heard something. It was a car. James’s car. And it was leaving. Kidman was right. He wouldn't countenance a relationship of any kind. I stopped to watch him leave and then I turned away to continue walking, trying to get away from Kidman. Or perhaps from myself.

"The last thing I saw though was Kidman’s face, the anger and venom in it, the indignation, the horror that she felt towards me. I could walk away, but that wasn’t the same as getting away"

“I’m asking if you hear me? When will people like you ever hear?” she called.

I heard. And I saw. Yes, there had been a house and me standing outside of it. That was after Philip. I wasn’t quite myself then. I wasn’t right. I knew I wasn’t right. I needed a friend. I needed someone strong to help me through it. Someone who had herself been through so much and come out the other side. Someone who was like a goddess. Not me. I couldn’t be that for myself. But Kidman, I thought, could be it for me. Yes, there had been a house, and a car, and journeys overseas, letters, emails, endless following of her and her family, screaming in the street, ugly scenes, a court appearance and a restraint order. Publicity. Humiliation. Therapy. No, I hadn’t quite been myself. Had I really done all of that? Did I really plague her like that? Was that really me?

I knew what was behind me as I walked to try and get away. Kidman, like some furious banshee. Fiery hair blowing in the wind and her dress billowing around her. Hair like snakes and eyes like dark pits. Breasts pushed forward, indomitable and untouchable. Face set like something permanently carved in marble and protected by curators. An idea pursuing me. An idea that didn’t exist. A sprite. A nymph, a brownie. A delusion. A myth, most certainly. But one of my own design. Kidman’s haunting of me was just my own haunting of myself. Huh! Clever line! Clever notion! But it didn’t make it go away!

“Stop.”

Kidman again. But her voice was suddenly different. Not hollering and filled with frustration and rage. So I did stop. And I looked round at her. She was calm now. Still billowing, but the face was softer. I yearned for it, even as I knew it was just a mixture of a basic human template with make-up and graphics and marketing and technical wizardry and popular mythology, giving it that power and allure. Oh,  and money-spinning entrepreneurialism, of course. Huh! Mustn’t forget that!

She said quite calmly: “Just remember this. When you finally come to face your demons – and maybe you will now – you don’t just do it inside, in a nebulous, vague way: one part of you questioning another part of you, like bits of cloud trying to interrogate and influence other bits of cloud.  You do it with everything that you are. Changing yourself doesn’t just happen on the inside it’s a real, physical act! Not ethereal. Not just some inner exercise carried out in the darkness of your own mind and emotions. Real! It takes place all around you, and with everything that you are!”

"She was calm now. Still billowing, but the face was softer. I yearned for it, even as I knew it was just a mixture of a basic human template with make-up and graphics and marketing and technical wizardry and popular mythology, giving it that power and allure. Oh,  and money-spinning entrepreneurialism, of course. Huh! Mustn’t forget that!"

Was this to be my last glimpse of Kidman? And it was of her giving a little kindness. Some wisdom. Advice. Like a goddess. You know goddesses, those things that don’t exist but that we all crave for! And I turned away from the beautiful concept who was like a goddess but who wasn’t really a goddess at all. Just a concept.

"But I doubt you'll have the chance to change, Steph. The dead things are waiting to pluck you from the earth. Some day soon they will all descend to pluck you. And you'll be alone. Because I doubt you'll find the ability inside to change. Darkness will eat darkness."

The clouds seemed to roll ever so quickly and portentously above my head as I again turned away from this presence. I needed to hide and to think. The sky itself seemed to throb above me, as if the empty void was marshaling its forces, biding its time, its dead heaviness growing. 

“Oh, Steph! Sorry, one last thing!” I turned back and looked once more at that face and that body of elegance and poise. For a second, there was that mischievous quality about her that I had come to know here at Mordan House.“I forgot to say that you’re mother asked me to say ‘hello’!” And she laughed, if not cackled, as she turned away. For my part, my face fell, my scowl returned and I looked after her suspiciously – in fact, long after the sound of her laughter had disappeared.

In the distance I could see Mordan House. Just me and it now – that was all there was. Yet it was so totally me, this house. Rooted to the earth. Stuck there. Empty of all ambition other than to feel differently about myself and my life. And these feelings were chilled by cold winds that found so many ways of getting inside. And all taking place within a home that had never ever been a home. And haunted by a dead presence that was intent on dragging the last embers of my life into extinguishing space. Yes, it had been a long time since I’d thought of killing myself. But, I suppose, deep inside, it had never really gone away. It had been hovering above me in dark rolling clouds all the time.

And that was Kidman’s gift to me: a beautiful delusion giving me the ugly truth of me. I knew now that she wasn’t anything that concurred with my mental image of her. And, for the first time since my life had started to go horribly wrong, I could see my life – including all the things I’d tried to hide. It ached. Every bit of it. It was horrible! What a horrible life! It was so horrible I couldn’t even arouse any tears for it! And it was all so lonely! Especially now without Kidman in it. How would I survive without the image of her? All I could do was imagine flying overhead and beating my wings, and rustling my leaves as another cold breeze moved me, and wonder who I am and where the hell I was.

Next instalment: 54. Breaking a Promise – Part Two

52. Kidman's Gift - Part Three


"So many things flashed through my head, so many past hurts, so much damage and so much endless and congested aching that has never found a way out – all turning round and round like different coloured clothes in a washing machine, the groaning engine of its turning matching my own groans"

The ‘battle’ started with, of all things, a handshake.

Now, on the surface, this would seem so formal as to be irritating to any woman who was encountering the man who sends her pretty darn wild, as James did to me. But, under the circumstances – remembering my stupidity when he’d visited Mordan House, remembering how offended he’d been, remembering my own anguish at his failure to turn up at the cafe – a handshake was almost a romantic gesture. Certainly, to the outside viewer, it would definitely have appeared peacemaking.

As I stood outside the pub, the image of James was swimming slightly in my vision, floating on a gentle sea – so much so that I couldn’t quite focus on him. Alcohol was deadening every nerve-ending, making them all jarred and unsure of themselves. I could imagine them squabbling for ‘first rights’ on what reality actually meant and what it looked like. And there was me, in the middle of it all, just wanting some little thing that I could be sure of – and there were my senses and my intellect giving me nothing!

There were words spoken between us. I can’t remember any of them. The words didn’t seem important. It seemed more important that words were being exchanged and how they were being exchanged than what they said, and, at their heart, they were kind, sensitive, conciliatory words.

Although James was just a blur of darkness and light – darkly tumbling hair and white skin gently rocking before me – one thing that I couldn’t deny was the intuition that was beyond what my corrupted body was able to detect, and this inner sense told me that there was some warm feeling coming from him. It seemed right up against me, close and familiar, in both his words and presence.

I recall little droplets of words. Something about getting home. Something about my car. Something about alcohol. Then a look in his eye – the split-second of a particular look, and one of the few that my mind was able to capture, process and hold onto. I’m not sure what it said, but it was focused and complete like a ball. There was something in it that I liked, but at the same time made me shiver slightly.

Then I was walking and I think there was a flutter of hand on my arm as we walked towards his car. I was too drunk to drive so James was going to give me a lift back to Mordan House. I’d be in his car. I’d be in his company. He’d be in my house.

I’m sure that I glanced behind me at some point to see if I could see Kidman. Was there a hint of her pale dress somewhere in the distance, in the dark, ghosting our steps? I can’t be sure that this was the case. Did I feel her presence though? That unmistakable essence of Kidman, that fire, that bravura, that steeliness, that gentleness? Yes. Completely. All the time.

"I recall little droplets of words. Something about getting home. Something about my car. Something about alcohol. Then a look in his eye – the split-second of a particular look, and one of the few that my mind was able to capture, process and hold onto. I’m not sure what it said, but it was focused and complete like a ball. There was something in it that I liked, but at the same time made me shiver slightly"

But where exactly was she?

 Where was she, in amongst the time it took to drive to Mordan House and during the endless beck and call of conversation between me and James, and the constant sweep of stuff and nonsense that moved so quickly past the car windows? Where was she as we arrived at the house and I found James walking me to the front door? Where was the sound of her feet under the crunch-crunch of our two pairs of feet on the gravel? What space and time did we leave around us that might allow her to enter the house before we closed the door behind us, and, if time and space enough were left there, then did she make use of them? And if she did indeed follow us in, then where was she as we moved into my suite of rooms? Where was she when he kissed me? Where was she when I let him? Where was she when I kissed him back? Where was she when every pore of my skin opened for the sunlight of another’s touch? Where was she when two forces, unique and separate, succumbed to the allure of dropping weapons, removing armour, and allowing all the particles of each other to get mixed up forever, never to form quite the same two individual people again once they had finally regrouped? Where was her red hair when my red hair so completely nourished the needs of a man’s mouth and governed the movements of his fingers? Yes, where was Kidman?

To each other we were both made of just water and mouths, drinking with amazement at each other’s generosity, all the while a hot desert lay around us, spurring us on with its threats of drought. But where was my own giver of liquid, my refreshment, my sustenance? Kidman. Where was her body when my body felt a lightning conductor of hardness electrifying it, a dichotomy in amongst all the subtleties and softness? Where was she when my muscles flinched, creating another hardness, but this one of resistance, and where was she when I realised that my sudden tension indicated that I needed a breather?

"But where exactly was she?

 Where was she, in amongst the time it took to drive to Mordan House and within the endless beck and call of conversation between me and James, and the sweep of stuff and nonsense that moved so quickly by the car windows? Where was she as we arrived at the house and I found James walking me to the front door? Where was the sound of her feet under the crunch-crunch of our two pairs of feet on the gravel?"

I was aware of myself pulling away from James and the bed, and frivolously pressing down my hair as I stumbled for the door of the bathroom, but I don’t remember seeing Kidman. Yet I felt her to be somewhere, but I just couldn’t quite see her. Where was she?

I closed the bathroom door and gripped the wash hand basin tightly, breathing hard as I looked into the mirror above it and into my own face. At the very least, it bore some startling similarities to the face I held in my mind’s eye. But so markedly different in some respects too: my face looked so loose upon my bones, like an ill-fitting rubber mask containing great ghost-holes of eyes, haunted caverns with the most pathetic pools of dirty water way down there at the bottom and making the tiniest plash as pebbles from the outside world struck it. The adornments of hair and make-up, of preened eyebrows, of curled lashes, of purged pores, gave me a bandaged look, as if underneath there was some debilitating condition.



Then there was another face beside mine in the reflection of the mirror. This one wasn’t bandaged for life. This one was perfect.

“You like my present, don't you?” she asked.

I hesitated to answer and I hesitated to look her in the eye. I didn’t know how to answer.

She reached out and stroked my hair gently and spoke ever so soothingly. I felt myself consoled by the touch and I relaxed, feeling all of a sudden secure.



“What are you going to do when you get back in there? He’s waiting for you. Waiting to take you. To have you, Steph. Yes, that’s right, to have you! So what are you going to do?”

I didn’t know what answer she was looking for, but also I didn’t know what answer to give. I knew though what she was asking me. She knew why I’d stepped into the bathroom: to compose myself, to focus, to try and be sure of this, to know with what attitude I should approach it all.



Still gentle, still caressing, she continued: “Are you going to remove your clothes or have them removed? Have you not even decided that yet? No? Tell me, you worthless piece of nothing. What are you going to do?"

On hearing those words, my eyes opened wide but I didn’t look at her. My senses were instantly sharpened to her presence. Worthless? Nothing?


“I’ll tell you what you’re going to do, shall I? You’ll start to remove your clothes but you’ll be hesitant, you’ll go part of the way – maybe the top of your dress – but then you’ll go all hesitant again and you’ll stop and look down at the ground. You’ll be inert – just a little useless! – and you’ll need him to finish off removing them, as you sigh and shiver. And as he takes them off – feigning sensitivity, forcing himself to be slow! – you’ll still avoid his gaze, and your eyes will dart around, nibbling at the edges of his body, yet eating and tasting nothing. You won’t even sip at the experience, you’ll hold back and every taste will just be an imagined taste from very, very far away. At one point though, you’ll look up at him plaintively, looking for reassurance. He’ll smile and perhaps kiss you gently, but you’ll know what he’ll be thinking, don’t you? You useless piece of nothing!”



I gasped. Flinched. Tightened. Kidman tugged sharply at my hair and I winced.

There was a knock on the bathroom door and an enquiry as to whether everything was alright.

“Yes, lover! Everything’s fine! I’ll be back out shortly. Go and make yourself comfortable.” Not my voice. Kidman’s. I stared into her face, my mouth wide open, and I saw her start to move towards the door. I should be the one moving towards the door. Me. But, no, it was her.

"You’ll start to remove your clothes but you’ll be hesitant, you’ll go part of the way – maybe the top of your dress – but then you’ll go all hesitant again and you’ll stop and look down at the ground. You’ll be inert – just a little useless! – and you’ll need him to finish off removing them, as you sigh and shiver"

She turned back to me and looked hard into my face. Her eyebrows were raised and her eyes were sharp and fierce – every muscle of her face was poised like the body of a tiger. I shrank back a little and felt myself diminishing, diminishing in her presence.

“No man wants what you have to offer, Steph. No man wants it. Not ever! He doesn’t want your insecure shivering, your doe-eyed flinching, your uncertainty, your insipid coy glances, your jagged and pathetic girlish touches, your unlearned ways, your disgusting hesitancy, your pathetic faltering little sounds so cheap and sad and infantile your fumbling, your should-I shouldn’t-I stop-and-start meekness! Your hiding away, your crouched, tucked-in, sheepish sexuality. It makes a man sick! Sick, I tell you! Your head all cocked and bashful, and your eyes all sad and timid and recoiling – cowering! - and your hands all loose and weak and insubstantial and without conviction. Useless hands, useless folded up body, and eyes that should be gouged out of any real woman. Men lie for you! They lie! Every glance, every movement, every word! All lies! And they despise you for your nature! They despise you for making their bodies and minds have to lie so. Let me say it again: no man wants what you have to offer, you useless piece of nothing!”



Every word was spat at me, rapidly and venomously, and with every word she uttered something inside me lowered and contracted more and more. I folded up. I hid away.

 Diminishing, diminishing.

Kidman surveyed her destruction, then walked purposefully out of the bathroom door and headed in the direction of my bed and James. Slowly, I followed her, watching as her shape swirled along the corridor, all fire and bluster and drama.

I passed an umbrella, all in shade and all idle on the floor of the corridor. There was a shadow above me that stretched across the ceiling, shaped something like a kitchen bin. At the end of the corridor was the main door to my suite of rooms, locked and bleak and with nothing to do. There was an old scented candle on a unit, round like a ball. It reminded me of Philip’s words telling me that I was just a ball, and I should just let other people bounce me!



"Every word was spat at me, rapidly and venomously, and with every word she uttered something inside me lowered and contracted more and more. I folded up. I hid away.
 Diminishing, diminishing"

As I entered the main room where my bed lay, and entered its subdued lighting, I saw shadows on the wall that moved like dying animals that were eating each other alive. It was all violence and purpose, and I heard their brutal cries, shamelessly gorging, and almost filled with anger and agony. My stomach knotted and I felt sick.



I found myself sitting down on the floor underneath the window-sill. I folded my legs tightly into me, draughts descending on me from every direction, and I found myself starting to cry quietly to myself. So many things flashed through my head, so many past hurts, so much damage and so much endless and congested aching that has never found a way out – all turning round and round like different coloured clothes in a washing machine, the groaning engine of its turning matching my own groans.

All the while, Kidman fucked the man I loved. And all I could do was sit in the room, as their shadows and shouts taunted me, and cry over and over again, and without any sign of an end, in any moment or any day to come.



I don’t know when, but at some point I’m sure that a white light ghosted by on the other side of the window behind me. It didn't need to enter. It didn't need to even try. Emptiness was already feasting on me.

Next instalment: 53. Kidman's Gift - Part Four

Friday, 21 May 2010

51. Kidman's Gift - Part Two

"Then Kidman turned and looked at me: 'Hope, I think, is a little like going down on a man: once you see even the tiniest spark, you should blow on it gently!' I smiled, blushed slightly and turned away. Then I heard her say mischievously: 'I know I always do!'"

The noise of the bar bombarded me as soon as we entered the main door. After so much quiet and solitude living in Mordan House, after the silence of the town library, even the genteel rise and fall of voices in any of the town’s cafes, a bar full of people and music felt like being dropped from a plane into the centre of a cataclysmic war zone.

Voices scurried around as if for dear life, and all struggling with each other in noise-to-noise combat. It was a colossal onslaught of sound and I almost held my ears at every aural explosion sounding around me. Kidman though just smiled, wiggled as she walked and bounced on her heels slightly as we pushed our way through a crowd of people on our way to the bar. It was at some point on that short but brutal journey that I realised how terrified I was, how much I wanted to turn tail and run, taking the full consequences for desertion, willing to face the firing squad rather than endure this conflict.

So, what kept me there? Kidman’s hand.

It hand was holding mine and guiding me through the people. If not for this, I’d have been in a corner of the bar already, knees tucked up, body shaking, thumb in mouth, and with, probably, the distinct scent of urine emanating from a leak in the lady cupboard. Kidman, man, Kidman! She was getting me through this, as best she could. And I was holding on to her, as if she were a rifle or a shield, or a locket containing a lock of hair from a loved one.

We finally reached the bar and Kidman nudged me, telling me to try and get the barmaid’s attention. Kidman looked into my face and I saw her recognise the fear that was there. She grinned falsely, but as a different kind of nudge, one that said that she wanted me to smile, even if I didn’t feel a smile anywhere inside me. So I did. It felt horrible, like lobbing a grenade into a crowd of civilians.

Before I even had the chance to try and get the barmaid’s attention I heard the woman's voice and looked up with surprise. She was looking right at me! She saw me! I was curiously amazed at being noticed, at my absolute visibility in such a place of visual and aural violence, and I swallowed and tried to remember how to speak.

Kidman hollered at me: “Bourbon. And water. A stiff double too. Hit me.”

Nothing would have given me more pleasure, but instead I avoided physical violence and said instead: “Uh, one double bourbon and water, please.” Bourbon? Where did that word come from? When had I last been in the States and ordered bourbon? I corrected myself: “Or whiskey, I should say. And a glass of red wine.”

"Kidman looked into my face and I saw her recognise the fear that was there. She grinned falsely, but as a different kind of nudge, one that said that she wanted me to smile, even if I didn’t feel a smile anywhere inside me. So I did. It felt horrible, like lobbing a grenade into a crowd of civilians"

I did it! What a sigh came out of me, but what a jangle was still going on within my nerves at the same time. Shell-shock is a terrible, terrible thing: one minute you’re all laughter and confidence, then some totally thoughtless prick slams down a paperclip and you’re suddenly behind the sofa playing with your bottom lip!

Yes, the barmaid cocked her head slightly when I mentioned the bourbon, and there was some choosing of wine and whiskey to be done, but I rattled through it without much thought. Aside from that slight cock of the head, she treated me as if I was normal. Nor-mal! How the hell could I be normal? I was ordering two drinks when there was only one of me! What was I to say if challenged? “Oh, it’s for my Imaginary Kidman. Oh, don’t you have one? Everyone should have an Imaginary Kidman. Mine’s the latest model, complete with back-chat, ENP, lifelike hair and nails, and a lady cupboard to die for! You better get on eBay then, huh.”

But she was unlikely to ask; the bar was too busy for her to notice that there was only one me and two drinks. Strange, I know, but I felt I had to order this 'presence' a drink – I felt it was the only way I could get through the night. Without my idea of Kidman I couldn’t do any of this. Yes, I was a part of it all – all this Kidman stuff – enthralled by it, but I could see something of its absurd, frightening shape at the same time.

We found a table; two people leaving just as we walked by them. I sat down, feeling suddenly secure to have a chair beneath me. So many things in life take on the role of chairs, and yet, when it comes down to it, you can’t beat having a real chair to give you security and rest. In a sense, I sat on a chair as I sat beside my other chair, Kidman. 


The bar was typical of the drinking dens that you find in Scotland, especially outside of the cities: it was all old wood on the floor, ceiling and walls; low, beamed ceilings; lots of little corners where you can tuck yourself away; little lamps emitting yellowy light that cast warm shadows everywhere; candles here and there, and flickering in conversation with each other just like normal paying customers; and full of all different kinds of people in different kinds of dress, and all appearing unselfconscious and relaxed and boisterous. Funny kind of war zone, I realised. The chaos of war, but with the euphoria of a war just ended. Like VE Day. Intense celebration, but with the ghosts of the dead weaving in and out of the embraces, subverting every tear of happiness.

"Funny kind of war zone, I realised. The chaos of war, but with the euphoria of a war just ended. Like VE Day. Intense celebration, but with the ghosts of the dead weaving in and out of the embraces, subverting every tear of happiness"

Kidman, meanwhile, was still buzzing. Her head swayed from side to side as she tried to take everything in, smiling and laughing endlessly. Her euphoria began to give off an electrical glow, just as a group of musicians, huddled on small chairs in some corner of the bar, began to play traditional Scottish music. The giddy little notes skipped through the crowd, and bodies began to sway as the notes weaved all around them. Kidman began to tap her foot and shoogle little unnameable bits of herself rhythmically. Yes, my elemental creature was in her element!

After a while, I started to stop seeing things through my own eyes and my own disposition, and started to see through Kidman’s eyes. What she was looking at was all the little glimmers of hope that existed in the world, that people ordinarily don't notice when endlessly bombarded by the dark and destructive bombs of this world, those that explode around us and inside of us, in this midnight world of ours. She looked with glee through all the darknesses piled high and spread wide, as if seeing bits of humanity everywhere – admittedly small, but bright in themselves and filled with potential.

Across from us, through wall upon wall of hollering bodies, we could just make out a man and woman sitting close and looking at each other, then kissing tentatively but then with avarice, everything uncertain but guided by a great red helium balloon inside them that rose up and pushed to get out. Ordinarily such a display as this would disgust and annoy me, but through Kidman’s eyes it seemed like a spark of hope. Sure, it might turn out to be nothing but a one-off sexual act between them, but, for those moments, there was a chance to flower, the possibility that something might grow that would give this blistered world a chance.

Kidman watched them, then nudged me, saying: “Always remember that hope starts from the smallest glimmer of light, a spark even, and what you try to do in life is slowly but surely create a fire out of it. To hell with the darkness and to hell with how much of it there is!” Then Kidman turned and looked at me: “Hope, I think, is a little like going down on a man: once you see even the tiniest spark, you should blow on it gently!” I smiled, blushed slightly and turned away. Then I heard her say mischievously: “I know I always do!”

"What she was looking at was all the little glimmers of hope that existed in the world, that people ordinarily don't notice when endlessly bombarded by the dark and destructive bombs of this world, those that explode around us and inside of us, in this midnight world of ours. She looked with glee through all the darknesses piled high and spread wide, as if seeing bits of humanity everywhere – admittedly small, but bright in themselves and filled with potential"

What happened next happened incrementally, like a surfer being carried ever-faster and ever-higher by a swell that rises ever-so gradually as it moves towards the shore. On the surface, I seemed to be exactly the same, but as little events gathered themselves together around me, I felt them having an effect on me, lifting me up and carrying me along. I went from being in a place where I knew no-one, and where I was on the outside of things, to being gathered into the fold of all that was going on in that bar. People came over to talk to me. Those selfsame people then mentioned “the American girl from Mordan House” to other people, and they then came over too. Soon there were drinks being bought for me and I was paraded to different quarters of the bar to meet all manner of people. At what point I started to be up and dancing with complete strangers, as a fiddle played exuberantly, I don’t know. But it happened.
And, somewhere behind me, Kidman’s drink sat on a table untouched. In fact, I lost sight of her completely after a while, even though I occasionally craned my neck to see if I could still see her 'presence' in amongst all the people.

It was wonderful! A permanent smile was on my face and it eternally billowed into laughter. It was the most wonderful evening I’d spent in such a long time. Even before Mordan House and its dead presences, I found it hard to remember a night like this – especially since everything that had happened with Philip, my ex-boyfriend, back when I lived in Glasgow.

Not sure at all what time it was when I left the pub. Not sure what prompted me to leave either – although I’m pretty sure that it was round about time for the pub to close. Not sure how much I’d had to drink, but it was a considerable amount of wine and whiskey. Not sure of anything much that was said or done within that last hour either. But, what I do remember was the face of flawed perfection that I saw as I stumbled out of the bar.

He was talking to someone at the other side of the street and he saw me almost instantly, his eyes suddenly fixing on me with recognition. I think I whispered the name “James” out loud, and no sooner had I uttered it than he walked towards me.

I had thought that the war was over, and that there had been a glorious victory celebrated by me inside that bar and in amongst the downpour of sparks of hope contained within it. But perhaps it had all been a skirmish followed by a Pyrrhic victory, and the real battle was just about to begin.

Next instalment: 52. Kidman's Gift - Part Three

Thursday, 20 May 2010

50. Kidman's Gift - Part One

 
"It was to be an eventful night and an eventful morning, revealing hard and uncomfortable truths. Oh, too many truths. Truths about me that you, the reader, may not be able to forgive me for"

Just the other night I dreamt I was in a spacecraft, floating alone and with some distant world as my only company.

I looked out of the porthole for solace and in hope that I might see something that might distract me from my own sense of isolation, from my own numbing, reverberating presence. And there it was. Just hanging there, in the distance, and appearing to stare right at me and through me. The image of an astronaut.

I grew fearful. I felt my vulnerability and it made me feel instantly smaller and more frail, almost old and dying in my own body. Without warning, the craft began to shake violently from side to side. I held on to something as tightly as I could – it felt almost like some handle on the side of the craft. As I held on, I managed to look back out of the window to notice that the image of the astronaut was still there; eerily still, fixed in space while my craft was buffeted uncontrollably. Then I lost my grip and found myself suddenly weightless and unable to control my movements – I put my hands over my head to protect myself and I tucked my legs up to my body. Then, in amongst the shaking of the craft, there came the sound of hammering on the side of the spacecraft. All I could think was that it was the astronaut outside, now hammering a gloved fist on the metal exterior of the craft.

Then something caught my eye. Something close to me. A white human shape at the far end of the inside of the craft. A second astronaut, face hidden by the glass of its helmet, one hand banging slowly, repeatedly against the wall.

Unexpectedly, the violent shaking ceased but the hammering of the astronaut did not. Was I panting? Was I pleading? Was I moaning to myself in fear, or sobbing uncontrollably? I can't recall. But I can recall feeling that I was about to throw up as I watched the astronaut stop beating the wall and instead move his gloved hands up to the visor of his helmet and slowly begin to raise it. As it began to rise, right above me I heard the hammering begin again and I felt each pound inside of my temple, pounding, pounding, and the visor rising, rising.
 
As I recall that dream, I know that I have to tell you about Kidman's gift. The visor has to be lifted on that too. I have to peer inside and face that gurgling, pounding demon. The dream of the other night confirms it to me.

"I watched the astronaut stop beating the wall and instead move his gloved hands up to the visor of his helmet and slowly begin to raise it. As it began to rise, right above me I heard the hammering begin again and I felt each pound inside of my temple, pounding, pounding, and the visor rising, rising"

As I sit here, typing away on my laptop, I can hear a slow and insistent knocking on the door of my suite of rooms. Kidman. She’s demanding that I tell you about her gift. And, if she was paying attention to what I’m typing, she’d understand that that’s exactly what I’m starting to do. Just in my own way, that’s all.

It seems like Kidman believes me. The knocking has stopped.

*************************

“Darling, I’m home!” I called.

Okay, that was a lie. No way I said that when I got back from taking a stroll round the base of The Clansman, my local mountain, and my head still spinning with thoughts of James, Josh and the statement Mrs Ormsley had made about seeing astronauts in the neighbouring town. I’m pretty sure that what I actually said to Kidman was: “Ho! I’m back! Where the hell are you?”

“Is that you?” called Kidman in reply. “My best pal? My only true friend? The one I can’t do without? The one who knows me better than anyone? The one who will stand by me forever? Can it really be you?”

Okay, that too was a lie. There's no damn way Kidman greeted me like that. Not in this lifetime! I think what she actually said was: “Stephanie Small-Tits? Is that you? Are you home? Let me just put my glasses on. Ah, yes, it is you, Tiny-Tits, it really is you! Oh yes, I recognise your puny puppies now!”

I was dismissive. “My head is full of questions, so many questions –”

“Do you want your present now?”

“Present? Oh, yes, my present. Of course. I didn’t like to ask …”

That’s another lie, right there! I’d forgotten about Kidman's gift, to be honest. My head had been so filled with events and fragments of information about the dead presence in Mordan House, that I’d forgotten all about the fact that Kidman had said that she was going to give me a gift of some kind.

Kidman went on the offensive: “Didn’t like to ask? What does that mean? Always ask! ‘Where’s my freakin’ pressie?’ that’s what you say! Is that too tricky for you? Need a training course? Want a certificate at the end of it, do you?”

“That’s great advice, Kidman. Thank you so much for that.” I was doing dismissive exceptionally well. You know, I very nearly didn’t type that last line, I was going to throw it away almost as soon as I’d become aware of it in my head – you may, in fact, have heard the initial pre-throwing-out scrunch. Yes, that's how dismissive I was!

“It’s upstairs! I’ve got everything ready!”

“Upstairs? But it's starting to get dark! I don't go upstairs in this place when it's getting dark! You know that! And you want me to amble up there when the sun’s starting to set? Oh, yeah, let’s see how fast I can amble! Kidman? Thickman, if you ask me! You get a real poor grade for intelligence, so why don't you go flunk yourself!”

That’s right, reader, that last quote was a lie from beginning to end! Here’s what I really said: “Oh, okay.” Yep, both barrels, that’s what I gave her.

She took me upstairs to a room that she said had the best lighting. Inside there was a chair and a small table covered in make-up. There was an ironed and ready-to-wear dress, plus accessories, draped over the back of the chair, and another table to the side of it that had many of those modern tools of the trade that women use regularly to preen, prune and prissify.

Kidman declared: “We’re going to get you glammed-up! Then we’re going into town – in fact, going out on the town, I should say – to get your man! Or a different man. The days of women being picky about penises are long gone! There’s a storm, you’re a ship, and, hell, if we find a freakin’ port then we're gonna get you docked senseless!”

I could tell there was no persuading her to drop this plan. I said nothing and found myself being marshalled into the chair, before my body was pulled about and scraped and seasoned and varnished, and had various things applied to it in a variety of places – some conventional, some a tad more obscure.

“Like the way things are shaping up, do you? Like my little pressie to you?” she asked as she put the finishing touches to my make-up.

I grunted in the affirmative. That was all. Merely grunted.

But here’s what I was really thinking: “No, no, no! Don’t do this to me! I can’t possibly do this! No! Make like a sheep, Kidman, and get to flock! That’s a nice dress, but get naked and frock off! Make like dust and go fleck yourself!” I wasn't ready for this. I recalled a line from when I moved into Mordan House and it sounded like a timpani in my head: 'I shouldn't be communicating with anyone at all – that was the promise I made to myself when I moved into this house'. To myself? Was it only to myself that I made that promise?

"Here’s what I was really thinking: 'No, no, no! Don’t do this to me! I can’t possibly do this! No! Make like a sheep, Kidman, and get to flock! That’s a nice dress, but get naked and frock off! In fact, make like dust and go fleck yourself!'"

My feelings were oh so complicated. I experienced dreadful dread but with exciting excitement that was mixed with nervous nervousness, in amongst the most awfully awful fearful fear you could imagine imagining! And that was just the start of starters!

Soon we were ready to go and I thanked her for her such a thoughtful present, yet quietly and uncertainly. It was dark now. I could smell my own perfume swirling round my head as I moved towards my car.

But that was just the introduction to the gift that Kidman had in mind for me. Yes. It was to be an eventful night and an eventful morning, revealing hard, uncomfortable truths, too many truths. Truths that you, the reader, may not be able to forgive me for.

Next instalment: 51. Kidman's Gift – Part Two

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

49. Shit-Bugger-Fanny



"Now my arms were folded. Now my eyebrows were arched. Now I was looking down on him from the doorway and sitting up on my toes a little. My nose was angled towards him. My nipple guns pushed up by the corset. Had I remembered to load them? I couldn’t quite remember"

I anticipated what his first words would be: I’m really, really sorry. I’ve been away for a few weeks. I’ve been longing to come and see you. I hope you’re not angry. I’ve never met a woman so generous before. I really couldn’t believe you would knit something so perfect. Can I come in? I’d love to apologise properly.

“With his love sausage?”

Hush, Kidman, not now! Of all times, not now! Go on, James. Say them. Say those words ...

“Is that a gas mask?” he asked.

Shit-bugger-fanny! I thought. It hadn't registered with me that I still had the shit-bugger-fanny gas mask on! No wonder James looked so far away. No wonder he looked as if he had a scratch right from his forehead down to the belt on his trousers. No wonder his nose blurred into his eye.

I moved with lightning-speed to remove it, forgetting about the hat on top of my head, which proceeded to get tangled-up with the gas mask straps. I started to get a bit anxious that I couldn’t remove it with ease. My heart was racing and my mouth was dry. Eventually I left the mask dangling round the front of my neck with the big straw hat tangled at the back of my head. In a feeble attempt to portray comfort and poise I leaned against the door-frame, but as I did so the strap burrowed into my throat and I gagged slightly. To ease the tight pressure on my oesophagus I yanked the strap hard and coughed a couple of times.

“Are you all right?” he said with a mixture of concern and incredulity.

“All right? She nearly freakin’ died there!”

I ignored the voice of Kidman as best I could and found my hand was up at my hair trying to flatten it. “Oh, yes,” I said. “I’m quite at ease, thank you.”

“Quite at ease! What the hell century are you in all of a sudden?”

I still ignored her. I looked at James and waited for his apology to come – at worst, a heartfelt expression of gratitude. I was ready for it. My throat was ready for it. I was quite at ease.

"In a feeble attempt to portray comfort and poise I leaned against the door-frame, but as I did so the strap burrowed into my throat and I gagged slightly"

I noticed that James looked puzzled, lost for words. “Uh. My aunt,” he started. “She got it into her head that you’re a … detective. Some kind of spy, as she put it. From MI5 or something. That’s why she was looking at your … chest.”

“Oh, I see,” I said, softly and in a highly understanding tone of voice. "That was when I went to see her at the library. Yes, I remember that. I did think it ... unusual."

I was saying: Oh, I see. But I was actually thinking: Chest? She couldn’t see my chest, James! My tits were in the way!

“Oh, good thought, Steph. You can be proud of that thought. It’s just your words that are humiliating you!”

She was right. Kidman was absolutely right. I’d sat up all night knitting a shit-bugger-fanny scarf for his tit-loving aunt, he fails to even acknowledge the work I put in, comes nowhere near me for ages, then turns up, still says nothing about the hard work and the scarf, instead says some total claptrap about his aunt and shit-bugger-fanny MI5!

So I said: “Well, actually that just seems a bit plain silly. Of course, I never keep my nipple guns loaded when I’m off duty. And I always close one eye and cup a boob when I shoot, so that would have given her plenty of time to skedaddle.”

He blinked hard but then stared hard, slightly open-mouthed. He looked a little like a zombie staring into a shop window trying to decipher if a showroom dummy is a zombie too. All of a sudden I could see that he was taller but at the same time scrawnier than I remembered. Also, I was convinced that his teeth were less white and his feet were smaller than they had first struck me in the library that day.

He swallowed. It was a small sign of life. “She never thought you were a down-and-out,” he continued. “It was just that she couldn’t figure you out. She thought if she annoyed you enough that you would come clean about what you’re doing here. Then she started to think that you were a government agent. And, for some reason, she thought – that day in the library – that you had a microphone concealed …”

“In between my nipple guns?”

“I’m loving it, Steph! Loving it! This is pure Kidman! Kidman all the way up, Kidman all the way down!”

"He blinked hard but then stared hard, slightly open-mouthed. He looked a little like a zombie staring into a shop window trying to decipher if a showroom dummy is a zombie too"

“And why would a secret agent be in your town? Or even in this dilapidated old dump, for that matter?” I asked.

Now my arms were folded. Now my eyebrows were arched. Now I was looking down on him from the doorway and sitting up on my toes a little. My nose was angled towards him. My nipple guns pushed up by the corset. Had I remembered to load them? I couldn’t quite remember. I was dramatic. In control. I was myself. My own agenda. Putting my self and my thoughts first.

“Well, on account of Josh,” he said diffidently.

There was that name again. That blasted Josh.

“Josh tosh!” I exclaimed and pulled my folded arms up a little higher and felt myself lean back on the doorframe. The gas mask strap tightened again and I emitted a small splutter.

Kidman would be loving this, I knew. She’d be cheering me on. Punching the air. Doing karate chops along the hallway.

James turned to walk back to his car. His hands dug deeply into his pockets and his head fell. “Josh was loved by everyone in our town. It destroyed the heart of the place when he disappeared.”

His words were forlorn and destitute. Grieving and lost. I wasn’t sure what to think. As he got back to his car, he called back to me, his tone still sad and quiet: “Thank you for the scarf. I’ve been out of the country. I’ve wanted to come and see you for so long. It was beautiful and very generous of you.”

Then he drove away and I eventually – eventually – closed the door. I walked down the hall and saw Kidman in a light that had at some point turned in on itself, as if hiding some part of its nature, shame-faced, under a cloak.

"His words were forlorn and destitute. Grieving and lost. I wasn’t sure what to think. As he got back to his car, he called back to me, his tone still sad and quiet"

Kidman was looking at me with a scowl on her face. “Screwed up there, Steph! Should have asked about Josh. Don’t forget that this is still an on-going investigation into the ghosts of dead astronauts.”

I knew she was right. I knew also that I’d been hard and unkind. “Shit-bugger-fanny,” I mumbled.

“Quite! Well, no point going to visit him now! He’ll tell you nothing after that display! Hell, you might as well take your love and ram it up your shit-bugger-fanny! That's all the action you'll be seeing!”

I didn’t want to listen to her anymore. I looked away and walked passed her with a shrug and a grunt.

I went straight back into my rooms and my brain immediately started to piece together all the components of how James had looked. All the while there was a knot of nauseating anxiety in my stomach. He was taller than I remembered. He was thinner than I remembered too. His eyes were darker. His hair was browner. His fingers a little longer. His dress-sense a little less considered than I thought it would be. His chin was more pronounced and his cheekbones less pronounced. His neck moved more fluidly. He was more uncertain in his movements. He was more steely-gazed. His feet were smaller than I recalled. His teeth less white. His nose shorter. His eyebrows thicker. Was that a mole? And what did he think that shirt colour would do for him?

I lay down on my bed and held a pillow tightly to me and I thought about it all, and concluded that he was, in short, more perfect than I remembered.

But when I thought of his words about Josh, I felt more anxious and more sick, and all I could say over and over again was: “Shit-bugger-fanny, shit-bugger-fanny, shit-bugger-fanny ...”

Next instalment: 50. Kidman's Gift – Part One

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

48. Brimming with Girly Glee


"I was in here alone, fending off the fallen dead as they tried to pluck me out of the world and drag me into the upper echelons of God-knows-where, while you exchanged pleasantries, sweet nothings, how-do-you-dos and oh-I-says with a woman carved from the wood of the bitch tree!"

It wasn't me that noticed the smashed window. It was Kidman.

"When the hell did that happen?" I looked at the star-shaped hole in the bathroom window, at the same time taking in the shards of glass littered everywhere across the floor.

"Last night," said Kidman in a matter-of-fact fashion, as she scrutinised an apparent flaw on a nail upon a sleek and elegant Kidmanian finger, "while you were busy hobnobbing with that hard-nosed, barb-wired bitch Ormsley."

"What?" I exclaimed."How is that possible?"

"Oh, yes, Steph. I was in here alone, fending off the fallen dead as they tried to pluck me out of the world and drag me into the upper echelons of God-knows-where, while you exchanged pleasantries, sweet nothings, how-do-you-dos and oh-I-says with a woman carved from the wood of the bitch tree! Feel guilty? Feel like shit?" All of a sudden she looked up and clapped her hands briskly, saying, "Yes? Oh, goody! Oh, goody goody!"

I looked around the floor of the bathroom, looking for whatever had been used to smash the glass. "What was it smashed with? There's no rock or anything."

"A helmet, Steph. One of them smashed it with a helmet. Pell-mell it pelted towards the glass, banging its head off it, over and over again. I tell you, I nearly soiled my lady cupboard! Eventually the window smashed. Glass went everywhere. You know what I did then? That's right, I ran like a bastard, I'm happy to relate. Puppies squealing and wriggling like nobody's business."

"You run away a lot, don't you?"

She looked me straight in the eye, her expression cool and entirely unselfconscious. "Yes," she answered. "A bloody lot, in fact."

All of a sudden, I clutched my nose and screwed up my face, suddenly realising the implications of a broken window. “Oh no! That means the Smelly God again!”

Kidman pursed her lips and nodded sagely. “Yes. Illuminous odour of unmitigated foulness, that's what I say to that!” she exclaimed, as if it was some kind of standard exclamation.

The only person I knew in the neighbouring town who could fix a window was a handy man with personal hygiene issues. The Smelly God.

“Oh, super-sensory murder by stenchy ponginess!” I uttered as I again looked helplessly at the broken window and the array of small bits of glass everywhere.

So back into the neighbouring town I went. I dreaded these journeys, but some feeling of expectancy made me think that I might meet James, the man from the neighbouring town that I had a crush on, and he would tell me that his absence was all a big misunderstanding – his failure to turn up for our 'date of sorts', his lack of thanks for the knitting of his that I corrected, his lack of anything, in fact! Yes, it was all the result of a silly misreading of events! And then we’d laugh – ha ha ha – at how silly I’d been and how much he’d worried about how I must have been feeling about it all – hee hee hee. And then I’d kick him in the leg and tell him never to do it again – ha ha ha. He'd rub his shin and look at me with a slightly worried look on his face – yeah alright, Jeez that flamin' hurt! But no matter how many times I entertained this fantasy on the way to the neighbouring town, it never came true. Yeah alright, Life, Jeez that flamin' hurt. Again!

When I got to his door, I found that Emperor Pong, General Odour, the King of Stink, wasn’t in. So I put a note through his grimy letter-box, wiping my hands on my skirt afterwards. The note explained, in very precise terms, the issue I was facing. It said: ‘Small window broken. Come soon please. Stephanie.’

When I got back to Mordan House, Kidman had been rummaging around in some of the old rooms upstairs. She was fearless in many ways, this Kidman thing. Yes, she always seemed to run away when the astronaut descended, but her running away always seemed so practical, so pragmatic. Aside from that regular display of abject terror, she appeared to be keen to investigate pretty much anything and everything with little hesitation. In this case, she was again looking for clues to the house’s recent past, but finding things that interested and amused her instead.

"Yes, it was all the result of a silly misreading of events! And then we’d laugh – ha ha ha – at how silly I’d been and how much he’d worried about how I must have been feeling about it all – hee hee hee. And then I’d kick him in the leg and tell him never to do it again – ha ha ha. He'd rub his shin and look at me with a slightly worried look on his face – yeah alright, Jeez that flamin' hurt!"

When I found her, she had her head in a wardrobe in a room on the first floor, and she was looking through a pile of old clothes.

“So,” she said emphatically. “Did you go to see James while you were in town?”

“Of course I bloody didn’t.”

“Or that bitch Ormsley?”

“No. I thought about dropping by the library, but after last night ... I’m not dressed appropriately anyway. I’ll get nowhere with her in this big old blousy jumper and raggedy skirt. With Ormsley, I have to dress to impress!”

“How about we dress you up to go see her?”

Kidman appeared instantly excited. Positively brimming with girly glee, in fact. She had already found a collection of silly things to wear and she delighted in showing them to me: she had a corset, a high frilly blouse, a long bright skirt covered in blotches of flowers, a gas mask, a battered blue cord cap, odd shoes, odd sandals, a waistcoat, a parasol and a large floppy straw hat. She was delighted at her finds. I looked at them with uncertainty. What was the point of them?

She clapped her hands and jumped a little off the ground. “Let’s find more! You look in the room next door!”

For some reason I found myself doing what she asked. After looking through a number of rooms, I found two high brown boots, a man’s white shirt with a big collar and cuffs, a dirty vest with stains from a variety of cleaning products on it, a dinky little belt and a very, very large white bra.

"Kidman appeared instantly excited. Positively brimming with girly glee, in fact. She had already found a collection of silly things to wear and she delighted in showing them to me: she had a corset, a high frilly blouse, a long bright skirt covered in blotches of flowers, a gas mask, a battered blue cord cap, odd shoes, odd sandals, a waistcoat, a parasol and a large floppy straw hat. She was delighted at her finds. I looked at them with uncertainty. What was the point of them?"

Kidman was jubilant at my discoveries. “Oh well done, Steph! Well done!”

I laughed, more at her childlike enthusiasm than anything. Kidman laughed too. I'd never encountered her like this. And then that was it for the afternoon. All we did was laugh and run about Mordan House, the sun streaming in from outside, as if playing alongside us and scampering in and out between our legs. We both dressed up and acted out ridiculous little scenes that mostly involved women being seduced by landlords for rent arrears, or poor, innocent landlords being seduced by predatory women who were ahead in their payments.

“What?” Kidman would say in corset and high boots, and in a twee, birdlike voice. “You can’t repay my deposit? Well, come here you stocky moustachioed hunk. I may have to take the payment out of your tight bahooky!” Then she’d chase me through the house, while I shouted out, in a deep-throated voice, something along the lines of: “You can’t have my manhood! I’m saving it for a lady who truly loves me!”

At one point we decided to re-enact a similar scene but in what we decided was a World War 2 air raid shelter. Yep, that’s how silly it was all becoming! I put on the gas mask Kidman had found – right over my eyes and my mouth and with this bulbous filter thing sticking right out – along with the floppy straw hat, the corset, with the man’s white shirt underneath and clumpish odd shoes on my feet, and brandishing the parasol above my head. Kidman wore the big bra over the dirty vest, with the blotchy dress and the blue cap on also.

Down the stairs I ran, shouting in a deep, raspy cockney accent: “Lawd luv us!  You ain’t gunna git yer dirty mits on my love sausage not now not hever!”

And Kidman in a squeaky, ladylike voice, followed after, hollering: “Love sausage for my tea, please! Mama, he won’t give me love sausage and I’m damnably peckish for it too!”

I ran to the front door and threw it open to run out onto the gravel at the front of the house. The bright sunlight enveloped me, but it also enveloped the Smelly God who was standing with his smelly assistant right outside the door.

I stopped and stared. They looked even more grimy through the scratched and murky glass of the gas mask I was wearing. But one thing was clear and that was the look of consternation on their faces as they stood and stared back at me, tools in their hands.

I realised that there wasn’t much I could say to explain my look or behaviour, so all I said – and in quite an elegant manner too – was: “I'm so pleased you got my note. You’ll find it’s the window in the bathroom.”

At the sound of my own muffled voice, and the sudden self-image that I had of myself in gas mask, floppy hat, corset and odd shoes, I laughed a little, but not so much that they could see or hear me. But then I realised that I was standing before one of the smelliest men outside of the Democratic People's Republic of Stinky and wearing a gas mask, so I laughed some more, though still trying to conceal it. But then it exploded. It charged out. A great raucous laugh that I couldn't suppress. I bent over slightly and put my hand up to my face. As soon as my hand encountered the hard rubbery surface of the gas mask, my laughter doubled, so much so that I turned and ran back into Mordan House giggling all the way. I giggled down the hallway, into the suite of rooms and into the bathroom, where I closed the door, sat on the toilet and tried to compose myself.

The laughter was wonderful. It coursed through me like a new kind of blood, and seemed to gush out of the top of me and down over me, rich and warm and bright. I started to breathe deeply as I sat there on the toilet seat trying to control myself. Just then, the door to the bathroom opened, and Le Big Stink and Le Petit Stink were standing there, still silent and still looking bemused. I remembered that this was where the broken window was, but I also realised that I was in the toilet with a gas mask on. It suddenly struck me to wave my hand in the air and say out loud: “I wouldn’t come in here if I were you!” So I did.

"The laughter was wonderful. It coursed through me like a new kind of blood, and seemed to gush out of the top of me and down over me, rich and warm and bright. I started to breathe deeply as I sat there on the toilet seat trying to control myself. Just then, the door to the bathroom opened, and Le Big Stink and Le Petit Stink were standing there, still silent and still looking bemused"

And this started me off again. Worse than before. I got up and stumbled out of the bathroom door, leaving them to look at each other and listen to my laughter, twittering and screeching, as I went back out into the hallway. There was Kidman, sitting on the stairs and smiling at me.

I could of course have taken the gas mask off, but instead I decided to leave it on for as long as the workmen were in the house. From time to time I would wander into the bathroom where they were working and say something in a serious tone, like: “Good work, boys. That’s going very well.” Then I’d start chuckling away again and I’d soon fall out of the bathroom in fits of laughter. When the job was done, I scrutinised the window up close through the glass of the mask, and said in my muffled voice: “Good job. Oh, I so love frosted glass.” This started me off again. I'm pretty sure that both men were just looking down at their feet and making some uncertain throat-clearing sounds.

“Oh, let me pay you!” I exclaimed and went hunting for my purse. When I found it, my eyes were full of tears of laughter; I found I could open the purse but I couldn’t see the money. In response to the blurred contents before me, I started to laugh in one of those silent ways where your body starts to move involuntarily and eventually the laugh tries to choke you from the inside.

“Don’t worry. We’ll get it next time,” said the Smelly God in a resigned, somewhat defeated voice.

“Oh, are you sure?” I asked with a slight hint of concern. But my attempts at behaving normally were making me laugh all the more, and all I could see were little glimmers of him and his assistant walking out through the door as I sat down on the hall floor exhausted from laughing. “Come back soon!”

After a few moments, and as the silence of the house started to reassert itself, I could feel the giggles easing off, though I was still reluctant to remove the gas mask.

“Oh, dear,” I said to Kidman, who was sitting and smugly surveying me from a distance. “You know, I think I got a little fit of the giggles there.” And I almost started myself off again. But instead I was saved temporarily by a knock on the door. Oh, no! I thought. They must have forgotten something! And I wondered if seeing them again would start me off all over again. I wanted it to start all over again. I was reluctant to lose this feeling. Fearful of letting it slip away. So I couldn’t help smiling to myself expectantly as I clumped to the front door, opened it with grace and poise, and said to the whiffy workers in a charming sing-song fashion: “Good afternoon!”

But it wasn’t the Smelly God and his assistant standing at my front door and looking at me. No, it wasn't them. It was James, the man I'd fallen for from the neighbouring town.

Next instalment: 49. Shit-Bugger-Fanny

Thursday, 13 May 2010

47. "Did You See Them? The Dead Spacemen? Did You?"


(This is a third scene from the screenplay of the movie version of ‘Nicole Kidman stars in: The Astronaut Dropped’, starring Nicole Kidman (as her delectable self) and Julianne Moore (a Kidman lookey-likey who opens supermarkets here and there and occasionally strips off at staggies) as the remarkable, indefatigable Stephanie Fey. This scene is dedicated to Mr Indigo Wrath at, uh, well, IndigoWrath. Why? Because he keeps bugging me to get off my lazy ass and keep writing! Grr!)

THREE. EXTERIOR - OUTSIDE MORDAN HOUSE. NIGHT.

It's cold and there's the lightest peppering of snow descending from the night sky above Mordan House. Stephanie Fey stands at the edge of the wood that surrounds the house. She is holding an open bottle of wine in her hand. She is unaware of this - it has been in her hand since she left Mordan House earlier that evening. Two bright headlights from a car situated on the gravel at the front of the house are trained on Stephanie. As she catches her breath from running through the wood, she also squints into the lights, trying to see Mrs Ormsley, the driver of the car, who is completely in shadow, standing at her car door.
     Steph
What are you doing here?
     Mrs Ormsley
     (Only her voice heard)
What are you doing there?
     Steph
     (Looks confused)
What? Me? Hold on, I live here - I can be wherever I damn well like!
     Mrs Ormsley
And you choose to be running out of the woods?
     Steph
Yes, as it so happens! Today I decided to be in the woods!
     Mrs Ormsley
And are the woods where you keep your wine cellar?
     Steph
My -?
Steph slowly raises her arm and looks incredulously at the bottle of wine still in her hand.
     Steph
     (Looks confused and mutters to herself)
Running, falling, leaping about - and the damn bottle's still in my hand?
     (She slowly drops the bottle to the ground as if it's not there)
Did you see them? The dead spacemen? Did you?
There is no reply from Mrs Ormsley.
     Steph
Goddamn it, will you come out from behind the headlights? I can't see you!
Mrs Ormsley steps forward into the light. She is wearing a long, dark coat and a woolen hat.
     Steph
Did you? Did you see them?
     Mrs Ormsley
No doubt if I'd consumed as much wine as you, then yes, I'd be seeing dead spacemen.
     Steph
No, dammit, for real! Did you see them for real? In the woods. Glowing. Flying, for Christ's sake! Did you?
     Mrs Ormsley
Not since the Seventies, dear. Look, maybe we should continue this conversation another time.
     Steph
What conversation? I wasn't aware we'd started one yet. Why are you here anyway? At this time of night. That's the conversation I want to have.
     Mrs Ormsley
     (Glances at her watch)
It's 10.30. I'm sorry if it's too late. I just closed the library at 10.
     Steph
10.30? Oh. I thought it was later.
     Mrs Ormsley
I'm sorry I cut our conversation short the other day at the library. When I got back you were gone and I've been looking out for you ever since. I wondered if there was anything else that you wanted to ask about the history of the house, that was all.
     Steph
     (Rubs her forehead)
I can't think. I have too many questions. I don't know where to start. All I can think about is the dead spacement, you see. That's what I've got in my head. You know, it all seemed so real a moment ago. And now I'm not so sure.
     Mrs Ormsley
You should go to bed. I'm sorry I disturbed you. Come back into the library or come over to the house. We can talk some more then.
     Steph
I'm suspicious when you're nice. Why are you being nice? I much prefer you bitchy. Kidman prefers you bitchy too.
Mrs Ormsley walks back into shadow and begins to get back into her car.
     Steph
Wait! Will you wait until I'm back in the house before you drive away? Please?
     Mrs Ormsley
Uh. Yes, of course. On you go.
Steph walks back to the front door of Mordan House. Mrs Ormsley climbs into the car, starts the engine and rolls the window down.
     Mrs Ormsley
Stop by the library again sometime soon. How does that sound?
     Steph
Are you sure you didn't see the dead spacemen?
     Mrs Ormsley
     (Beginning to close the window)
I'm sure. Well, not tonight anyway.
Steph's expression changes and she stares at her, not sure if Mrs Ormsley's humouring her or not.
     Mrs Ormsley
I've only ever seen them in town. Never out here.
Mrs Ormsley drives away. Steph remains standing at the front door and continues to stare after her.
     Steph
     (Mutters)
Did she say what I thought she just said? Did she really? Kidman! Kidman? Where the hell are you, Kidman?
We see Steph from a distance, standing at the door and calling into the darkness.
     Steph
Kidman? Kidman!
END SCENE

Next instalment: 48. Brimming with Girly Glee